COTF April Traveler Of The Month: Brent Folan
I am pleased to introduce you to April's COTF Traveler Of The Month, Brent Folan from Folan Finds. Brent and I both are graduates of Texas Christian University (TCU) and his brother, Evan, and I were fraternity brothers. Brent didn't physically win any medals at the 2016 Rio Games, but he would have won gold in the superfan category if it existed! He quickly became a media darling after taking selfies with tons of different athletes, such as Michael Phelps. As a result of the media coverage from the Games, he was able to start a partnership with InspireMore. I'll let Brent explain the rest:
1. Brent, Thanks so much for joining me! You have quite the story and I’ve been following your journey from afar. How’d you decide to first head down to the Rio Olympics in 2016?
I have been a massive sports fan my entire life! Since I was a kid, I was always either playing sports or watching them. I was very fortunate to grow up in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a massive baseball town even though I'm a diehard Red Sox fan thanks to my grandparents. I witnessed the Red Sox Reverse the Curse in 2004, the Cardinals cliched the World Series in 2006, plus countless other regular and postseason games. In addition to baseball, I attended quite a few St. Louis Blues Games and Rams games. The last sporting event I attended in St. Louis was the MLB All Star Game, the perfect way to say goodbye to my childhood city. It was just a few weeks later that I moved to Texas to start at TCU. The college and professional sport events I witnessed over the next four years were remarkable. The year which’s tops them all was 2011. It was this year I saw in person. TCU win the Rose Bowl, the Packers win the Super Bowl, The Mavericks play in the NBA Finals, and the Rangers play in the World Series. So as I mentioned before, it was all about being in the right place at the right time. After seeing some of the biggest sporting events in the US, I had my sights set on the Olympics. It just always seemed like a very difficult dream to achieve. In 2013, my good friend, Joe Brown, and I decided we would attend the next summer Olympic Games. I spent the next three years preparing to make it the best trip of my life. I applied to be a global Olympic volunteer which was a two year process, and also secured two clothing sponsors. On August 3, 2016, I started the journey that would change my life forever.
2. I’m surprised they didn’t give you a medal for being a superfan! Once you got home from the Olympics, how did you do what everyone dreams of: quitting their job and traveling the world?
2016 was my “year of yes”, so anytime someone invited me on a trip, I would say yes. This made for a fun and exciting year of exploring various locations in the US. It just fueled my hunger for exploring the world even more. I had no clue that I would be able to get sponsored while at the Olympics. Plus getting coverage from the Wall Street Journal, the Kidd Kraddick Morning and Good Morning America gave me exposure like I never could have dreamt of. When I returned home from the Olympics, I received an email from InspireMore. They wanted to discuss me hosting a Facebook Live series for their page. I knew that this was my moment to see the world, I had to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve always wanted to host a travel style show, so this was my chance.
3. Tell us about your partnership with InspireMore. How’d that come about?
I really enjoyed working with InspireMore during my travels. Originally, we agreed that I would host the series for 4 to 6 months. My plan was to travel to Asia and South America, and then return back home. I was still calling it a trip around the world because I was literally flying around the world. One night I was talking to my dad about my plans and he said that I couldn’t call it a trip around the world because I was skipping a few continents. The next day, I decided that I would visit every continent except for Antarctica, and my Trip would be at least a year long. I called InspireMore, and they were all in with this idea! The rest is history.
4. Do you think you’ll continue traveling full-time or settle down somewhere?
I finished my 412 day 57 country journey on Jan 25 of this year. I had only seen my parents twice since I had left, so I spent a month back home catching up with family and friends. After just a few days back home, I was itching to explore some more. Only my initial journey, I skipped two part of the world: Antarctica and Central America. The only wonder of the world I missed was Chichén Itzá, so it made my decision to travel more very easy. I took off again on Feb 28 to backpack through Mexico and Central America for a couple months with two Aussies I met in Africa! So for now, I’ll continue to travel. I’ll eventually settle down somewhere to raise a family, but I will never lose my love for traveling.
5. What’s your traveling style? Spend a few months in places or a few days?
I’m more of a fast paced traveler. I don’t usually spend more that 5 days in a city. With that being said, I don’t sleep that much, so I still experience what most would see at a normal pace in two weeks.
6. Where are you right now? How did you end up there?
7. What’s your normal fitness routine?
When I’m back home, my routine mainly consisted of organized sports. I was on two softball teams, a USTA Tennis team, a competitive kickball team, and I’d play a lot of pickup basketball. I always had at least one game or match every day of the week. In addition to sports, I love to hike. On a rare occasion of a free weekend, I’d find a new trail to hike. I’ll lift when I can, just don’t always have time to squeeze it into the schedule.
8. How are you staying fit while traveling?
The keys for me are: Fruits, walking, a carrying backpack, and playing local sports. Your diet is one of the most important things to keep in check when traveling long term. Whenever I make it to a new country, I find the first grocery store or fruit shack to load up on apples and grapes. I rarely rent a car, I prefer to walk. Walking not only provides the opportunity to get your bearings, but you can find fruit shops and meet fun people along the way (Great article about traveling and walking by Tomislav Perko). I also use public transportation if I have over a few miles to go or I’m on a time crunch. But still, I typically get off a stop or two early to walk more. One other trick I use is that my backpack is carried in my hands rather than on my back. It helps to keep your arms fit and you don’t even realize how beneficial this is. This is one way to keep your muscles rather than lose them. Lastly, I never pass up on a pickup game no matter where I am. In India, it was cricket. In the Philippines, it was basketball. All over South America, it was soccer. Like I said, I love sports. If I’m not watching them, I’m typically playing them.
9. What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Why?
This is always the toughest question. My three favorite Countries to visit are: Brazil, South Africa, and Lebanon. Each of these countries have mountains for hiking, beaches for surfing and scuba diving, and incredible locals. Can’t go wrong with any of these three. My favorite cities are: Sydney, Rio, Hong Kong, Mumbai, La Paz, Cape Town, and Singapore. Long list I know. But each city is so unique and I feel in love with each!
10. How do you balance healthy eating while sampling the local cuisine?
My strategy is each cheap but balance with healthy. I’m the guy that’s willing to risk food poisoning by eating Street food everywhere (Maybe these people know a thing or two about not getting sick). Street foods are typically meats, cheeses, or carbs. Rarely do they include fresh fruit or vegetables. That’s why you will rarely find me without a couple apples in my daypack. Fruit makes up a majority of my diet. What makes this fun is that each country usually has some unique fruit or vege to their region. So this another opportunity to try something unique.
11. 3 words to describe your fitness regime
Sports. Fruits. Walking.
12. What is your motto when you travel?
My biggest motto is always so yes to experiences. Traveling is about getting out of your comfort zone, pushing yourself to new limits. You will be amazed at everything you can achieve just by setting your mind to it and going for it.The other is that everyone has a story to tell. The more stories I hear, the more I learn there’s no right way to live. You have to do what makes you happy because life will be is too short not to.
13. What is your most embarrassing travel story?
It takes a lot for me to be embarrassed, so honestly nothing really comes to mind. but I’ll share a story that more embarrassing for the other person involved. I was invited to a wedding in the Netherlands by a couple I met hiking in Thailand. I invited a girl to join me as my date. Let’s just say that the Dutch know how to celebrate a wedding. The next day, she and I had to catch a train to Amsterdam. I could tell she wasn’t feeling very well due to the party the night before. We had a seven minute bus ride to the train station. We got on the bus and it was packed. There must have been close to 40 people on this bus. The girl I was with sat in the only open seat and I stood with our bags. I’m enjoying the scenery of Maastricht for about 30 seconds before I feel someone tap me on my shoulder. It was my date, with her hand covering her mouth. She had already blew some chunks but held them back with her hand. I luckily had a plastic bag with me so I emptied it out almost in time. I put the bag open in front of her just as she spewed like a bottle of champagne. It was like she was letting the devil out of her, a pretty horrific scene for some of the people on the bus. If that wasn’t bad enough, when she lifted her face out of the bag, she looked at me and pointed to my arm. She puked in the bag, on the floor, and all over my arm. (This story might be more embarrassing) It was this moment I just started laughing, laughing so hard I started crying. That is a moment I will never forget!!
14. Solo Travel or Partner/ Group Travel?
My last adventure was all solo. But what's amazing with solo travel is that you are as alone as you want to be. You make friends everywhere, so you are never truly solo. Each leg of my journey, I almost always had new or old friends to enjoy the experience with. Its the people, not necessarily the location, that makes the adventure. So to answer the question, both.
15. Any advice for someone that wants to stay in shape while they travel
No matter where you are get up, get out, and live. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to stay in shape if you are constantly moving and have these items.