By Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17
For competitive BMX rider Robert Barranco ’17, thriving on new experiences is more than a way of life. It’s a business model.
The business grad started riding BMX bikes when he was 15 and made his first impromptu trip to Texas for a BMX competition while a first-year student at UCF. With very little money and a supply of peanut butter sandwiches, he pulled off the trip. He’s since made it his mission to visit skate parks all over the world, applying thrifty travel methods to visit 29 countries and hundreds of skate parks.
“You don’t always need a plan, and you don’t need a ton of money,” Barranco says. “I’ve always kind of been spontaneous, but traveling has definitely enhanced it even more. Just seeing something for yourself will give you more of an understanding than anything else ever will.”
Taken with this idea of trying new things, Barranco and some friends started a clothing company in 2015 called FTE Collective, or “For The Experience.” The online store sells items — such as T-shirts, patches and mugs — that embody their tendency to try things for the sake of experiencing them.
His travels and company are gaining followers and sponsors, including Timex, which recently sent Barranco and his colleagues to London to document his trip as part of an advertising campaign. Timex also sells FTE Collective’s products in its Japan store.
“At this point in my life, all I want to do is ride my bike with friends and travel,” he says in the 30-second commercial that premiered earlier this year. “You realize you have one life, and you can do whatever you want.”
“I feel like I get more out of traveling without a plan because I have to interact with locals who really know the area.”
Robert Barranco '17
I was in the northwest working on a video project when my friend James Corbett took this shot of me at a skate park in Vancouver, Washington. It’s one of my favorites parks I’ve ever been to. A year later I ended up camping in the full pipe of that park with some friends, and our tent flooded from the sprinklers.
My friend Zach Ozment took this photo of me in the deep end of a bowl at a skate park in Athens, Georgia. We’ve driven to Georgia countless times to ride.
I shot this at Monument Valley in Utah. I’ve been here three times with three different groups of friends, and each time I was on this road I didn’t realize where I was until the famous landscape slowly came to view in front of us.
My friends and I were driving from Florida to California and back to Florida. On the way back, we decided to go completely out of the way and stop in Canada for a little to camp and see some of the lakes. This one is Moraine Lake in Alberta.
This is a film photo I took of my friend Danny Josa at a DIY bowl in Puerto Rico. It’s in an area known as La Perla, which is considered the most dangerous place on the island.
My friends and I were driving through the night with nowhere to camp in Brookings, Oregon. Some of my friends and I ended up waking up and jumping over our tent with our bikes while one of our friends was still sleeping in it.
My friend and I found a skate park we wanted to ride in Denmark and decided to book one-way tickets to Copenhagen. We ended up wandering around Europe for a couple months. I experienced some of the best hospitality I’ve ever encountered there. Some random strangers offered us a place to stay after they heard we planned on camping in the city. This shot shows off what’s probably one of the most famous, stereotypical view of Copenhagen.
This is a DIY bowl built by skaters in Copenhagen, Denmark. At night, my friends and I ended up setting our tent up in the bowl and sleeping in it while it was pouring rain. Using leftover wood we found, we built a platform for our tent to sit on so it wouldn’t flood.
Several years ago I saw a picture of this vert wall and wanted to ride it ever since. I didn’t know where it was, but told myself I’d go there one day. About four years later I came across it in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Every morning in Bagan, Myanmar, hot air balloons are launched at sunrise. One day my friends and I woke up before the sun came up to climb to the top of a temple to watch.
Batu Caves in Malaysia was on my bucket list for years, and when I finally made a visit it exceeded my expectations by far.
These are some children who live in a village in Cambodia. They were playing with trash on the floor and very few of them had any clothes or shoes to wear. But they were the happiest, most carefree and thankful kids I’ve ever met in my life.
During a 15-hour layover in Kunming, China, my friends and I were exploring the city and came across this storefront area. We needed to pay for our flight in cash and almost got stuck there because we couldn’t withdraw any money from our accounts.
My friend Danny Josa took this photo of me in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the Petronas twin towers. We were on a month-long backpacking trip throughout Southeast Asia where we went to Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.