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WalletPop Interview w/ ATWFF

Jeff Schroeder finishes going 'Around The World for Free' and visits WalletPop first


Jason Cochran

Nov 4, 2010

Jeff Schroeder, a popular alum of CBS mainstays The Amazing Race and Big Brother, has just arrived back in America after completing an inspiring challenge to travel all the way Around The World For Free and document it online through videos and photos for a legion of fans who followed his every move. Schroeder left the starting line in New York City in early July, and after 105 days, 13 countries, countless snafus, and incredible connections, he arrived back in Manhattan this week. Schroeder made a beeline for WalletPop.com, where I asked the budget Ulysses how on earth he saw Earth without spending any cash:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-personal-finance/walletpop-around-the-world-for-free/659515751001

Schroeder, (wearing the vest his girlfriend BB11 winner, Jordan Lloyd, bought him when he passed through in Italy) was accompanied by his producer, videographer, and editor Zsolt Luka, or "Z". He accomplished the same journey, except with the added pressure of having to shoot, edit, and upload video segments as they went. While Schroeder worked to figure out the onward path, often graciously accepting help from strangers who soon became friends, Luka and a third production companion, Josh Bolton, uploaded photos & videos of their adventures daily.

After announcing the trip on WalletPop.com, I followed the team closely as they traveled over the summer and fall. Not everyone has a network TV fan base to draw upon in assembling affordable travels, but one of the lessons of his journey is that you don't have to be famous to make friends. After all, outside of America, Schroeder's an unknown.

Midway through their odyssey, I noted on my blog the sensitive way that Schroeder handled the financial disparity, even volunteering for a humanitarian group in the poorest provinces of Cambodia. His up-for-anything spirit, which defied a modern American temptation to judge each experience as a product, was just as admirable. But most impressive was watching him navigate the uncomfortable reality of having to ask for freebies from people who were less fortunate than most Americans. In Laos, he is shown going thirsty rather than burdening locals who are all too eager to share the little they have. It convinced me that the way Schroeder traveled was "world class" and I said so.

When I published that, the outpouring of praise from his fans proved that far from presenting himself as the Ugly American who presses his advantage, he taught some emotional lessons about the connection between money and brotherhood, and erased the cultural stereotypes that have calcified in the minds of Americans who cannot afford to see other countries for themselves.

Because international travel is financially out of reach for many of us, some distasteful and dismissive impressions of other cultures have been allowed to rise unchallenged. Schroeder's adventures, accomplished without a cent, blow those false impressions away.

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