Grads use skills learned at Quinnipiac to win unique experience

December 23, 2016


Nobody who knows Matt Andrew and Hillary Federico were surprised to learn that the couple had won a national contest seeking the “perfect adrenaline-junky duo” to go on a summer road trip of a lifetime. After all, the Westerly, Rhode Island-based couple had been having adventures together since they started dating during their senior year at Quinnipiac.

After graduating in 2010, they chronicled their travels, including sleeping in an igloo on the Matterhorn, in their blog, There They Go.

Still, their 2016 summer road trip, sponsored by LifeProof, an outdoor accessories company, took the concept of adventure to a whole new level. Their mission? To document an astounding array of outdoor adventures and to share them with the world. In May, the duo departed from Dacono, Colorado, just outside of Denver, and headed to their first stop, the Valley of the Gods in Utah. They spent the next 106 days criss-crossing 12 Western states in a luxury, off-roading motorhome. They traveled 12,586 miles, explored 16 national parks, went hot air ballooning in Albuquerque, mountain biking near Lake Tahoe and whitewater rafting near the Hood River in Oregon. Those were just a handful of the planned excursions. They also got the $500,00 EarthRoamer motorhome stuck in a sand pit in the Moab Desert, lost their drone on the side of a cliff in Big Sur, and endured all types of extreme weather, from dangerous flash floods in Zion National Park — “The water was so high that it was starting to swallow cars up,” says Federico — to hail in Colorado. All the while they documented the good, the bad, and the simply stunning with gorgeous photography, videos and daily blog posts on several social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

“It was an amazing, life-changing experience,” says Andrew. “But it was definitely exhausting. We were constantly tired because we were always on the hunt for a better photo or a better experience. For example, at Yosemite we hiked 14 miles just to get the shot we wanted.”

Both Andrew, an Emmy award-winning photographer and videographer, and Federico, a social media and marketing specialist, are committed to landing the money shot. In fact, one of the main reasons they won the LifeProof contest was their proven ability to produce great stories. Federico credits the couple’s experiences at QU with transforming them into top-notch storytellers. Andrew graduated with a degree in Media Production; Federico majored in journalism. Federico says they appreciated the teachers and classes they had at Quinnipiac. “All of that prepared us well,” Federico says. “We were able to go into this knowing about the nuts and bolts of good reporting.”

There was a lot of ground to cover. “We started and ended most of our days with headlamps,” says Federico, noting that the long days consisted of either driving, exploring — or occasionally both. Most evenings they happily collapsed into the comfortable EarthRoamer. “It has a king-sized Tempur-Pedic bed, a bathroom with a shower and a toilet, an induction stove top, reclining sofas — everything you could ever want,” says Federico. But occasionally they holed up in a hotel or pitched a tent. One of their most memorable nights was in the EarthRoamer at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “We joined friends we had met earlier on the trip at a free campsite on top of a mountain,” says Federico. “We had unobstructed views of the Tetons, like we were sitting in our living room. It was very special.”

Neither Andrew nor Federico can pinpoint a favorite experience. “There were just too many spectacular moments,” says Federico, noting that the social media post that garnered the most engagement was a photo of Andrew jumping near a cliff edge in a very quiet section of the Grand Canyon.

Federico says that they were both impressed by the sheer diversity of the western United States. “Temperatures ranged from 28 degrees in the morning in Montana to 110 degrees in the desert right outside Las Vegas,” she says. “We were in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon for the 4th of July and Andrew was actually making snow angels. What an amazing country.”

“It was an amazing, life-changing experience. But it was definitely exhausting. We were constantly tired because we were always on the hunt for a better photo or a better experience.”

Looking back, Federico says that their sense of wonder, combined with overcoming the challenges of life on the road, created an unforgettable experience. “Sometimes people ask if we traveled with a crew. But of course, it was just us,” she says. “We wore a lot of hats. We were the mechanics, the janitors, the drivers, the documenters. It was stressful at times but it was also liberating. You pick up a lot of skills and learn and grow as a person, professionally and personally. It was a lot of work but also incredibly worth it.”

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