Mystery Trip Reveal

8 Jan

So I know you’re just dying to know the Mystery Trip 2018 destination. It’s all you’ve been able to think about since the beginning of the New Year; I get it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about, too (because I’m still here).

For those of you just tuning in, I recently planned and executed mission: take my friends Colleen and Patrick to an unknown destination for the trip of a lifetime. Keep up with the rest of the class and read about it here! There will be a quiz, so pay attention. Just kidding, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

My wonderful, adventurous friends Colleen and Patrick were brave enough to let me plan a trip for them—a trip whose destination would remain *a mystery* until they actually arrived. When we all finally met at the airport, they wore hats, which acted as blinders to keep them from glancing at the arrival/departure monitors. And like angsty teenagers, they put on their headphones to drown out the world and any incoming boarding announcements. So… mystery. Got it? Good. On we go…

We planned to meet at JFK, so when they landed at LaGuardia, they received a lovely text message with a greeting and instructions to come meet me at JFK. Once they arrived, I ushered them through the airport, naturally taking the time to explain the Mystery Trip concept to each person we passed (a speech along the lines of “these people don’t know where they are going, and they don’t want to know, so don’t blow it!”).

As they received more audio and visual clues (e.g., the languages we heard around us, the way people looked and dressed), Colleen and Patrick were prompted to write down some educated guesses about the destination. It wasn’t until we had actually arrived at the gate that Colleen guessed Ukraine.

Survey says: We have a winner!

W E L C O M E    to    U K R A I N E!!!!!!


As soon as we arrived, sweet, smart, hilarious Iryna (a friend I had met two years earlier in Portugal; here’s a link to that story if you need a refresher) greeted us.


Now, you might be wondering “why Ukraine?”

Here’s the thing. I was encouraged to choose a trip that would thrill me since I would be the one doing all of the planning. So I designed a trip that I really wanted to go on! The idea was that these Mystery Trippers were going to be happy no matter where we went, so it was up to me to get excited.

Thus, I planned a trip to visit Iryna in Ukraine because I believe that both life and travel are about the people you meet, and I had wanted to visit Iryna ever since we met. We had loosely kept in touch on social media and through a couple of mutual friends (shout out to Paula and Claire!), and even though we hadn’t spent more than a couple of days together in Portugal, visiting Iryna in the Ukraine was a dream trip of mine.

That being said, I know that Ukraine is not the typical ideal winter getaway. In fact, when we started discussing the plans on Facebook, Iryna the Realist warned: “So, to be honest, Dec. – Jan. is not the best time to visit Ukraine.”

“Sure,” I said, “But will you be free? Because if you are then I’m designing this trip, and we’re coming to see you.”

And guess what? Iryna WAS free! And guess what else? Plane tickets were a good price ($450 USD one way—I may go into the logistics of this trip in another post; although, I mayyyy not. It’s my blog, and I can do what I want to).

Anyway, that’s how Sammi & the Mystery Trippers (great band name) came to spend an entire week in December exploring the Ukraine with Iryna and her two gorgeous sisters, Marta and Yana.


Iryna and her sisters are pure magic; everyone who meets them agrees.


As for the actual trip, we spent several days in Kiev and then headed south towards the Black Sea.


Odessa: Never mind that this photo was taken in the backyard of a Sanitation Factory.

From there, we went to the occupied territory known as  T R A N S N I S T R I A. It’s a rather confusing strip of territory that controls a border and basically declared itself an independent state when the Soviet Union dissolved. We were only allowed to stay in Transnistria for 10 hours. According to the UN, it’s part of Moldova; although, we didn’t get a Moldovan passport stamp. We didn’t get a stamp at all, actually—just the ones from when left and came back to Ukraine. So I guess you could say that for a whole 10 hours, we were off the grid in uncharted territory and unaccounted for! This made Transnistria the second “country” on our trip.


Fine, it’s technically charted, but still![

Back in Kiev, there was a surprise in store for the Mystery Trippers…


This is a genuine photo of the moment The Surprise arrived!! Photo credit: YankaPanka



Helen showed up! SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


On New Year’s Eve, Helen flew in to join us as a surprise to Colleen and Patrick. We had a great night out. Another surprise was in store for the following day…

On January 1st, we woke up and headed to the airport to “return the car” but…

SURPRISE AGAIN! We were heading to another country! The Mystery Trippers didn’t know we were going to multiple countries: A Mystery Trip within a Mystery Trip? It’s like Inception up in here.


They don’t smile in Ukraine, and we were trying to fit in (or they just, like, really wanted to go home). Patrick guessed our next country was going to be Georgia. Helen guessed Bulgaria. Colleen guessed Estonia. All great guesses, but I’ll go with D. NONE OF THE ABOVE. Mwahahahahaha.



Next Question:  Would they still be celebrating (Orthodox) Christmas (on January 7th) in the next country we go to??

Here is a 30-second video (turn up the volume) of the next BIG REVEAL after we had ALREADY LANDED in our next Mystery Country:




A map for the geographically-challenged. Also, Yerevan is the capital. #alwayslearning



Yup! Still Christmas.


It was a quick 24 hours in A R M E N I A, then we literally took a midnight train to
G E O R G I A (not the state) for our 4th country in two weeks.



Here we are in snowy, northern Georgia.


And the next day—just like that—Sammi & Mystery Trippers ended their world tour, and my friends found themselves on a plane back to the USA, leaving me to focus on my solo career.



The only time during this trip that they knew where they were going.


Now you might be wondering… Hey #AdventureSam, this is awfully vague; where are the details? What did you guys do? Well, I’m glad you asked. Patrick and Colleen have volunteered to write multiple posts—in detail—about the trip! I’ll be publishing those as they send them to me.

This particular post was just meant to serve as the reveal; I couldn’t keep you guys hanging for that long. So look for their future posts, which will undoubtedly gush about Iryna, Marta, and Yana, talk about our time in Odessa, explain more of what we know about Transnistria, describe the moment Helen walked into our trip and blew their minds, introduce this blog to our new friend David, and describe our time in Georgia.

Overall, Mission: Mystery Trip was Mission: Accomplished! New friendships were forged, memories were made, we learned a heap, there were multiple surprises and multiple countries… Most importantly we had loads of fun!

Stay tuned for more because, although they may not all be mysteries, the adventures never stop!


2 Responses to “Mystery Trip Reveal”

  1. deekerson January 17, 2018 at 12:03 am #

    OK, now my interest is primed. Can’t wait to hear the deets from the “mysteryed.”

  2. Tina Witherspoon February 13, 2018 at 4:08 am #


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