In 2011, my father bet me $100 to do one backflip a day for the entire year. I accepted the challenge and recorded the flips every day, capping the experience with a four and a half minute video montage. The video went viral on YouTube and immediately got me thinking about my next backflip challenge.
One afternoon several months later, I was flipping (no pun intended) through photos of my grandfather’s travels and was struck by his willingness to brave the unknown and venture to foreign places. In his lifetime, he had traveled to all seven of the world’s continents. I decided in that moment that in an ode to him, my new goal would be to backflip around the world, touching down on each continent over the course of my lifetime, just as he had done.
That summer, I set off on my adventure and began a backpacking trip around the world.
I didn’t plan my exact route before I left, though I knew my starting point would be Israel. I decided I would map out the rest of the details from there. I knew, of course, that I wanted reach as many continents as possible; I also had a rough list of countries that I hoped to make it to in the process. I liked the idea of traveling with a bit of uncertainty, though. Uncertainty, coupled with confidence, made me feel like I could go anywhere and do anything. The world was literally my oyster.
I packed a small backpack with some clothes, a camera and a mini skateboard, and set off for the airport.
I had decided to start my adventure in Israel as I had been accepted to participate on Birthright, a 10-day, all-expense paid trip with 39 other folks who identified as Jewish. It was a way to make my way across the Atlantic without having to spend a lot of money, and because I didn’t have to worry about planning my time there – everything was arranged by the trip organizers – I only had to focus on the physical experience of traveling. It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable in a country that was not my own and with people who, just days before, had been strangers to me. The experience was fantastic and really got me excited to continue to explore.
After the trip ended, I went to stay with relatives of mine who live in the north of the country. It was fascinating to share their daily lives with them. It also gave me time and a place to figure out my next steps; I was on a mission to backflip on every continent in the world, after all. I reached out to my friends on Facebook, asking for advice on what my next destination should be. A friend from college responded and said that she was finishing up a semester abroad in Istanbul and had some time to travel around. My decision was made; I booked a flight to Turkey.
“I love travelling because it’s total hedonism; for the most part – you are completely responsible for where you go and what you do.”
After several weeks in Turkey, I reached out to others on Facebook again, seeing if anyone wanted to join me in Africa. A friend from high school said he was up for meeting in Egypt. Bingo. I booked a flight and met him there.
And so it went.
I continued to plan one country at a time, always making decisions on the fly. I was flexible with my time, as well as my accommodations. Sure, there were challenges. I had to sleep in airports and train stations on numerous occasions; once, I booked the wrong flight to Oslo, Norway and had to stay in the Stockholm airport for over 24 hours. I accidentally got on the wrong 8-hour ferry to the wrong Greek island. But there were also plenty of feats. I met new friends and reached out to old ones, traveling with them to different places at different times. I went skydiving and canyon jumping and did a backflip off a horse in front of the Pyramids in Egypt.
All in all, I travelled to 21 countries on 5 continents over the course of 107 days — Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Italy, The Vatican, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and the USA.
I did a backflip in each place I visited.
I love travelling because it’s total hedonism; for the most part – you are completely responsible for where you go and what you do. Travelling alone means you can almost always play by your own rules (within reason); you’re not always required to compromise or settle. When you’re confident in your quest, whatever it may be, travelling is incredible – with each step, you get closer to what you set out to achieve and you can watch your goal come to life in front of your eyes.
My father’s challenge to do a backflip every day of the year is what started this journey; it is my grandfather’s history, though, that inspires me to finish it. I have two more continents to reach in order to attain my goal – South America and Antarctica – and I’m confident I’ll make it to both of them one day.
For more pictures, stories and videos, visit SamTheCobra.com and check out the hashtag #Cobraflips
Words and Photos: Sam Morrison