Cultural Experience | California

Dialogue with: Snook, Outdoor Enthusiast

how this international student made his college experience worth it, one weekend at a time…

By Diana Odero, Chapman University

For most of us the college experience involves a lot of late nights, a lot of partying and a lot of trips to Vegas. And that’s basically it, but for my friend and fellow travel lover Snook Chaipornvadee, the college experience was a much different one. He never cared much for the party scene, or the late night lifestyle but instead was more interested in early morning hikes, weekend camping trips, theme park and museum visits. And oh yeah, he has never been to Vegas. Snook started his adventure seeking lifestyle in his sophomore year and decided to document it in a blog called ‘One Cool Thing Every Weekend’ because he wanted to make sure he had done one cool thing every weekend throughout his college life. And now having recently graduated, he still stays true to his mantra and his blog clocks about 1000 views daily with visitors from all over the world seeking information on different places to hike, or just following his sense of adventure as they plan their own.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks student travel image

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

What inspired you to start ‘One Cool Thing Every Weekend?’

I remember distinctly at the end of my sophomore year when someone asked me what was my favorite place in the U.S. I didn’t know the answer. After being in the U.S. for over 6 years, I couldn’t really pin point on where my favorite place was. Not because I couldn’t decide where but because I didn’t really know much about the U.S.
The question made me think deeply about my time in the U.S. My time here is as good as the student visa allows me, so in two years (from when I was a sophomore), I would have to leave the U.S. permanently. The thought scared me. I was disappointed that I took all of these years for granted and never really tried to explore and take advantage of this wonderful place. I promised myself to do something cool and see a new place every weekend. I always enjoy writing, so I decided to originally start the blog just for fun. It would be a way for me to journal and keep track of things that I’ve done and revisit later. But today the blog has grown with over a thousand readers daily so I’m even more motivated to keep it up.
Mount Whitney student travel image

Mount Whitney

Did your choice of study have any influence on your blog?
No not at all. I majored in Public Relations and I want to do marketing for living but it has nothing to do recreationally. But the knowledge that I learned from school will hopefully help me start my own outdoor / tour company one day to help inspire others to travel and explore as well.
What is you current profession?
I am currently doing graphic design and account management at a phone application company.
Mt Langley image and Inyo National Forest student travel image

Backpacking on Mt Langley, Inyo National Forest

Do you find it useful to your future career goals?
Yes, the job I have now helps me acquire many more skills in design which will be very helpful. Also very useful is the new knowledge that I learn about phone technology in general by being surrounded by developers and people who are really well versed about technology.
Grand Canyon student travel

Grand Canyon

How did you make time for outdoor adventures every weekend while still in school?
I think that there’s always time. People just waste that available time. We always wish that there was more time in a day but we waste our limited time doing things that don’t matter. We have to set our priorities straight and just go!
I think that laziness is the number 1 reason that prevents people from going exploring. A lot of time people know where they want to go but they don’t because travelling involves work and it actually takes effort to go and do fun things.
First, you should make a list of places that you want to go.
Second, research everything about them; from directions to accommodation and what to do once you get there. By researching about these places, you will feel comfortable about going and once the weekend comes around, you already know what to do. This will prevent you from giving up last minute. Normally you can just get up and go to the grocery store spontaneously because you know exactly where it  is, what to expect, and what to do there. You will feel just as free to get up and go to a place that you want to go even if you haven’t been to before by preparing beforehand. By researching it makes you feel comfortable and more motivated to go.
Third, set a date and tell people that you’re going, invite friends, make yourself feel committed. When you’re involving other people, it’s more difficult to cancel last minute. If it’s just you, then you have to talk yourself into committing.
Backpacking image Mt Whitney student travel image

 How do you make time for it now?

As a recent graduate, I find that there’s more time now to do what I want to do. There’s no homework, so there’s plenty of time after work and on weekends to do whatever I want to do. It’s the greatest thing.

City of Chicago student travel image

Chicago

Where do you see yourself in 5 Years
My passion in life is to make outdoor activities and travel cheaper and easier for people to access. The biggest barrier that keeps people from travelling, aside laziness, is cost. Gas, plane tickets, food, campsite fees, hotel costs, and all the gear you need for these activities all cost a lot of money. I want to make it more affordable. I’m not 100% sure how and that’s why I’m going to find out in graduate school.
In 5 years, I hope to co-found a startup company that help make adventure travel and outdoor recreation more affordable.
Snook has now travelled all over northern and southern California, and Utah, hiking the vast deserts, fishing, free falling in San Diego, bungee jumping, discovering the weirdest yet coolest museums such as the Joshua Tree Desert Art Outdoor Musuem in Joshua Tree National Park and so much more in just the past 2 years alone while still in school. Now with more time on his hands he is making the outdoors his permanent travel buddy and inspiring all of us each day to do a lot more on weekends then just laundry and catch up on Law & Order.
Join Snook on his adventures and get some inspiration from his blog: onecoolthingeveryweekend.com

Diana Odero

Chapman University | 19 stories

Diana is a recent graduate of Chapman University having studied Graphic Design & Sociology. She is an international student from Kenya and is currently working in Atlanta. She is an adventurous person who views the world with an artistic eye. She loves to travel, to read & write, design, cook and meet new people. In addition to writing for The College Tourist she is also working on building her brand as a freelance designer and lifestyle writer. Check out Diana's blog http://www.wrytersden.blogspot.com .


7 responses to “Dialogue with: Snook, Outdoor Enthusiast”

  1. andreabouchaud says:

    This was an inspiring blog but my only question would be how did this
    young man afford to travel every weekend? I did not see mention of a
    job. Did he already pre-plan weekly travel when he was planning his
    study abroad budget? Travel in the US is not cheap especially when you
    are leaving the state in which you are studying. What about mid-terms
    and finals? Were those weeks that he traveled as well? It is bold to say
    that they average American student is lazy. Many American students work
    almost full time, in addition to going to school and trying to have a
    social life as well. Although I do support travel, I would be concerned
    if my college aged child was traveling every weekend as school/work
    would not be keeping them busy enough. Remember, American students have
    extremely high college debt- the money spent for recreational activities
    could be saved to start paying back those college loans (they creep up
    quicker than you think). Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • D.od Michaela says:

      Hello, that’s quite a lengthy comment there:) It’s my mistake that I forgot to ask him the question of HOW he was affording all this. But knowing him personally I can respond for him as much as I can and ask him to clear up the rest as well.
      He did have a job while in school working part time because as international students we aren’t allowed to hold full time jobs while in school. He just happened to pick a job that allowed him the time to plan these trips every weekend. He was working as the ‘explore SoCal director’ for Chapman university’s University Program Board and thus his job was basically to plan trips around souther California for students esp incoming freshmen to let them get to know California at a better level. Aside from his job, he did do trips with just his friends and since he worked all the time he could afford to do so. As an international student he was fortunate enough to not have student loans to save up for & what have you but he always made sure the trips were cost effective especially because he had to cater to students from many different backgrounds who still would want the same experience. Most of these parks have free passes or discounted entry for large groups. Travelling out of state is also quite possible with various deals & packages found online. If you have a car and are going with friends you can easily split the costs of gas & food for the road etc. he does do a lot of research before any trip to make sure all bases are covered depending on whether he is travelling alone or with a group.
      I’ll ask him to respond here as well to clarify all that. And thanks for the comment and for reading the article!

      • D.od Michaela says:

        Oh and about Finals and midterms, its all about good time management skills. He was never behind on his work and has never failed a class or missed an exam. Planning your time well will ensure you get the best of both worlds:)

        • andreabouchaud says:

          Thank you Diana! I apologize if I came across as if I did not believe that Snook was not a good student. I did not think that at all from your article- just was curious how he was doing it and affording it. You have both been extremely helpful and kind to answer my reply. Thank you for the intriguing blog post. I look forward to things from you in the future 🙂

    • Snook says:

      Hey Andrea! I am glad that you enjoy the article and I’d love to answer your questions!

      I completely agree that traveling isn’t cheap at all. There are things that I cannot do because of the cost. That’s why I want to make outdoor recreation and travel cheaper for people in the future. There are so many students who work everyday and weekends to support themselves and help out with family and traveling will be very hard for them. However, i do believe that in most cases, particularly California, there are so many awesome things that you can do locally within a couple of hours drive that cost very little money or completely free. By researching, you will find what’s nearby and what’s possible for you.

      To your question on how I afford it – I had a job and an internship every semester since sophomore year, so i put a lot of what i make toward traveling. Most of the time, I explore very locally in southern california or the eastern sierra. I spent the most on gas on multi days road trips. I have a little backpacking stove so i cook almost every meal (although i like to eat at one good restaurant in each state). I usually don’t pay for accommodation or not very expensive. I utilized BLM land where you can camp for free, campground in National Parks, sleep in my car, or stayed with friends.

      Also, as D.od, mentioned above, i worked as a weekend trip coordinator last year in college, so I was being paid to organize outdoor adventure and weekend activities for other students.

      I cannot agree enough that school must comes first. I did sacrifice a lot of sleep to make sure that i either have a sunday or saturday off if i can’t be gone for the whole weekend. I stayed up pretty late every night to finish works (often with D.od). I went on day trips before midterms and finals. My favorite memory was waking up at 3am and drove to the mojave preserve and hiked a sand dune before coming back to school that night and finished my paper. But i must confess that my workload was probably not as intense as students in the science or math majors.

      I hope that this answered your questions! please feel free to ask me whatever or email me at onecoolthingeveryweekend@gmail.com. Thanks again for your comment.

      • andreabouchaud says:

        Hello Snook,
        Thank you for your response! I did not realize that you were traveling locally- that makes much more sense and is a great way to get familiar with a state 🙂 also- the mini stove is brilliant! I think that you are an inspiration to college students as you did take a break from the books (which is necessary to keep one’s sanity) but did it smartly. Thank you for sharing your journey and how you did it. I love the idea of creating affordable outdoor/recreational activities. I would like to keep up with what you are doing in the future- do you have a twitter account?

        • Snook says:

          Thank you very much for your kind words! I am a firm believer in taking breaks. I find that i’m more productive and have more energy. I do have a twitter account. It’s @OneCoolWknd. Feel free to tweet me whenever.

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