KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Are you bold enough to trek over 1,000km across Europe for seven days?
Of course, there is a catch. No cash or credit cards, no individual electronic devices, minimal personal items that must fit into one bag pack shared with two others and 24 cans of Red Bull energy drink to barter your way through.
Universiti Malaya dentistry students — 22-year-olds Kayla Teh Khe Sin, Jason Lee Jia Wei and Alston Teoh Yeong Chee, who call themselves Hibiscus Tigers — beat 43 other local teams to represent Malaysia in the Red Bull ‘Can you make it?’ global challenge this week.
This was the first year the contest, open to college students over the age of 18, reached Malaysian shores. Each group-of-thee submitted minute-long videos explaining why their team should be chosen. Winners were selected by public vote.
A total of 165 teams from 50 countries will be taking part in the challenge.
Malay Mail caught up with the trio before they left for their starting point in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Team leader Lee said he was initially reluctant to recruit his course mates, as they carry a heavy workload, but the three of them decided to give it a shot, never expecting to be selected.
“We marketed our sportiness and musical talents and I think that made us stand out among the other contestants,” said Lee, a keen sportsman, while Teh is a pianist and Teoh plays the erhu.
Teh, who described the challenge as a “once in a lifetime experience”, said: “We are trying to set an example that studies are not the only thing.
“There is a lot to experience in life and as students, we should widen our horizons while maintaining a healthy balance.”
“This also proves dentists are not nerds,” Teoh quipped.
The trio appeared all revved up to bulldoze their way through Europe.
“I’d like to flash my six-pack to barter for stuff we need,” Lee said teasing, although he would like to take a guitar so they could busk on the streets to earn treats or favours as they are not allowed to accept money.
Each team is only allowed to carry two bag packs — one for their personal belongings and the other, with items provided by Red Bull like the cans for bartering and a smartphone.
“It’s going to be very tight. I don’t think we will shower and maybe the boys can share clothes,” said Teh.
On what made them choose to study dentistry, Teh said: ‘It’s less taxing compared to a medical degree. You have more personal time and I value that.”
Torn between medicine and dentistry, Lee felt the medical profession would be at a surplus in Malaysia when he graduates and made a “no-brainer” choice.
Teoh, the quietest of the three, said: “I just want to make money. Also, I don’t think medicine suits me, I don’t want to do surgery.”
Teh and Lee have two more years to complete their degree while Teoh has three.
The university has also been supportive of them taking part in this project and their ability to represent Malaysia and the dental faculty on a global platform.
To prepare themselves, the students have been working out and doing lots of research online.
“Mentally, we have to be strong, the bombing in Brussels was a wake-up call, but it has not deterred us,” said Lee.
Selected teams will be flown to five starting points around Europe — Barcelona, Florence, Berlin, Edinburgh or Prague.
All teams will start at the same time tomorrow. They will route their own journey for the next seven days which must include six checkpoints before crossing the finish line in Paris on April 19.
Checkpoints are spread across 40 European destinations such as Copenhagen, London, Budapest, Geneva, Bordeaux, Venice and Madrid.
At every checkpoint, upon successfully completing a particular task, each team will be given another 24 cans of Red Bull. Teams can earn additional cans, at the organisers discretion, when they garner “traction and traffic” from the public, through their social media site.
Each member of the overall winning team will be awarded an all-expenses-paid European summer adventure as ambassadors for Contiki, a travel agency.
Asked how their families felt about this adventure, Teh said: “I was surprised when my parents shared our video link via social media and WhatsApp to help us get more votes — that was awesome”.
On the name Hibiscus Tigers, Lee said: “We wanted something Malaysian so we picked the national flower and the cat from the country’s emblem.”
NOTE: Contiki is not a travel agency but a youth travel company targeting 18-35 year olds (travel agencies sell their trips).