How This Alumna Made Her Way Across Europe … With Only Red Bull as Currency

June 7, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

A year after walking the Lawn, she walked the side of a 27-story building.

A year after asking fellow University of Virginia students to attend a choir concert, she was asking strangers in a foreign country for train tickets.

And a year after taking photos for the Cavalier Daily, she was hastily shooting and editing videos for a media company with nearly 3 million followers.

Khuyen Dinh graduated from UVA in May 2023. Twelve months later, over a seven-day stretch in Europe, she completed what she calls “an adventure of a lifetime.”

The Red Bull-sponsored “Can You Make It?” competition has taken place semi-regularly since 2016. While no version of the event has been exactly the same, its zany essence has remained: Gather teams of contestants and have them race against each other over a significant distance – while only using cans of Red Bull, an energy drink, as currency.

‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan
‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan

Beginning May 21 – 367 days after receiving her bachelor’s degrees in media studies and music, Dinh and her two teammates, Sarah Bergstrom and Tanya Cuadra, set off on a journey from Budapest, Hungary, to Berlin.

They were racing on behalf of their company, Togethxr (pronounced “together”), a high-reaching digital media platform launched in 2021 by professional basketball player Sue Bird, soccer player Alex Morgan, snowboarder Chloe Kim and swimmer Simone Manuel that aims to elevate women’s sports through storytelling.

Capturing a zig-zagging trek across a continent – headlined by three women conquering unique challenges along the way – fit Togethxr’s brand. Soon, Dinh, Togethxr’s social media coordinator, and her two colleagues were offered the Red Bull opportunity.

“My boss,” Dinh said, “she thought we’d be a good fit and was like, ‘Hey, we were approached by Red Bull with this pitch, and you have until the end of the day to get back to me. Is this something you want to do?’”

Aside from maybe catching a few episodes of her father’s favorite reality TV show, “Amazing Race,” Dinh had little feel for what she was to encounter. Team Togethxr – one of 300 competing – were given 24 cans of Red Bull to start. As they successfully moved to each checkpoint city – Dinh recalls at least 50 of them – they were given more cases of the energy drink to use for bartering purposes.

In addition to train tickets, Red Bull cans were exchanged for lodging, to complete various challenges, and for food. “In Vienna” Dinh said, “we went to an ice cream stand and got six scoops for a couple of Red Bulls. 

“One challenge was to get a makeover. We went into a beauty salon. I got my eyebrows waxed for 15 Red Bulls.”

Some challenges were more daunting than others. In Frankfurt, Germany, Dinh found herself rappelling off the side of a 27-story building. The act was called “house running” and Dinh was admittedly alarmed by the lack of safeguards.

“You have a harness and a hook and you’re facing down the whole time,” she said. “They didn’t give me a helmet and there was no padding at the bottom.

“So, I was like, ‘They really trust their process here.’”

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Khuyen at the starting line with the Red Bull cases

Stocked with her first case of Red Bull, Khuyen Dinh began the unique journey through Europe.

Budapest, HUN 05.21.2024
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The bull riding

A day into the race, Dinh and her team came came to this lakeside mechanical bull-riding challenge.

Lake Balaton, HUN 05.21.2024
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Khuyen and teammates at Ikreny checkpoint

Ikrény, HUN 05.22.2024
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Selfie of Khuyen (in navy jacket, holding Red Bull can and with mountains in background)

After taking a gondola lift to the top of a mountain, Dinh and her teammates were challenged to do farming chores. A hail storm, however, interrupted their plans.

Innsbruck, AUT 05.24.2024
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Khuyen mirror selfie during makeover

Dinh traded 15 Red Bull cans to have her eyebrows waxed at a beauty shop, completing another quirky challenge.

Munich, GER 05.25.2024
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In what she called her “craziest” experience of the race, Dinh scaled the side of this 27-story building.

Frankfurt, GER 05.27.2024
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Khuyen and teammates at Hamburg checkpoint

Hamburg, GER 05.28.2024
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Khuyen and teammates at Berlin checkpoint

The wild, seven-day journey finally ended for Dinh and her sleep-deprived teammates.

Berlin 05.28.2024

Dinh grew comfortable with completing a task with limited supplies. Along with Red Bulls, all that accompanied her on the adventure were a camera, a phone – “with like three portable chargers just in case”– three days’ worth of clothes, a sleeping bag, some small food items, a toothbrush, contact lens solution and a UVA hat.

Her phone came especially in handy while at a stop in Hungary when she realized the locals weren’t comprehending her English.

“I had to pull out Google Translate,” Dinh said, “and I had to type our whole story out and say like, ‘I’m doing this thing with Red Bull and I have no money. Would you please buy me a train ticket?’ And they’re just reading it off my phone.”

Other interactions with strangers flowed more easily. While attempting to barter with a group of men at park in Munich, she learned that one of them had close friends who went to UVA.

“They said, ‘That’s a great school!’ and they helped me buy a train ticket,” Dinh said.

It wasn’t the only time that her experience on Grounds helped her in Europe. Dinh, who was involved in everything from the Cavalier Daily (photo editor) to the University Singers (historian and photographer) to Inter-Sorority Council (public relations chair), was used to generating support for a cause in a public setting.

“I remember tabling on the Lawn a lot for different organizations, and I remember hearing a lot of nos,” Dinh said. “Approaching people in the train station felt very similar to tabling on the Lawn and trying to convince someone to come to your concert, or to convince someone to come to your philanthropy event.

“For every 100 nos you’d get, you’d get a yes. I kind of tapped into that mentality.”

Not long after Team Togethxr finally made it to Berlin on May 28, ahead of the deadline – and finishing among the top 40 of 300 – Dinh reflected on her individual journey. When she graduated from UVA, she was uncertain about her next move. A year later, she has a steady job – and a heightened sense of perspective.

“I’m a big believer in ‘Everything happens for a reason,’” Dinh said. “And I think my time at UVA has shaped me to become the person who has no fear walking down the side of a building.”

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications