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iSchool Senior's Backflip Challenge Goes Global

By: Hailey Temple

  Sam Morrison backflips off of a horse in front of the pyramids in Egypt
  Morrison backflips off of a horse in front of the Egyptian pyramids.
It all began with a backflip.

When Sam Morrison’s dad bet him $100 to complete a backflip each day for one year, he accepted the challenge as more than a physical feat, but an opportunity to challenge himself mentally. Morrison, a senior at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), videotaped his backflips each day and published his success as a video on YouTube. The story and video of his “Backflip Challenge” quickly spread, and with 500,000 views within the five days, he became a source of inspiration for others to achieve their goals. Morrison has been internationally and locally recognized for his Backflip Challenge, receiving coverage from national newspapers and speaking at the iSchool’s #140cuse Conference this past year.

Morrison is taking his Backflip Challenge to the next level this summer, by traveling around the world to complete backflips on every continent, a life goal of his. As he crosses the globe and chronicles his adventures, he is quickly becoming familiar with new people, independence, American culture and most importantly, himself.

For 110 days, Morrison is traveling across the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia to take his once local Backflip Challenge to a global scale. Carrying only his iPad, backpack, GoPro video camera, Nikon D90 Camera, SD card and mini longboard, Morrison is going across the world with hopes “to find myself by getting lost in the world.”

While many see the trip as a daunting feat to do alone, Morrison is looking at the adventure as an opportunity to challenge himself mentally and have a fulfilling experience. “I have always been an independent person. I've realized that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. I'm so critical of others because I'm so critical of myself.”

As Morrison hops from nation to nation, he pulls inspiration from sources much closer to home. Morrison’s biggest inspirations come from his family, particularly his grandfather, who made a similar trip to all the continents. Morrison attributes his own stubbornness and go-getter attitude to his father, who made four trips across the United States on a bicycle and fueled his desire to start the worldwide trip.

Morrison also looks to the “self-made man” as a source of inspiration for his business and personal adventures. “I am inspired by people like Steve Jobs, whose biography I'm currently reading, and Eminem, who I've empathized with for almost a decade now.  People thought they were crazy when they were coming up.  But they didn't care. It was all or nothing. Clearly it was all.”

After Morrison leaves each location, he candidly shares his experiences on his blog. Morrison’s openness about his opinions, feelings and experiences make his blog a compelling catalogue of stories and lessons he has picked up along his journey. Each post is accompanied with a series of stunning photos of landscapes, people, and landmarks he encounters along the way, which he loads to his Flickr account. Aside from capturing his backflips, Morrison has also taken photos with a small clay elephant, Oliver, which his sister made for him as “a way to protect myself and bring family with me wherever I go.”

Morrison has visited major landmarks in the cities he went to: The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece, Stonehenge in England, and the Duomo in Italy, to name a few. Though Morrison has visited some of the most beautiful sites in the world, the Pyramids have left the biggest impression on him. “Seeing Luxor and Karnak Temples were equally as impressive,” Morrison says. “They were huge, larger than life. I felt dwarfed by the pillars and statues.” By skateboarding around his destinations, Morrison becomes more familiar with the people and culture. Because his timetable is so relaxed, Morrison has been able to actively explore his surroundings by ATVing, snowboarding and cliff jumping.

While these experiences have made him more familiar with the sites, he has also grown more comfortable and familiar with people in each city.  With limited technology, Morrison heavily relies on locals to help him find food, shelter and transportation around the cities. Morrison has explained a few extremely interesting experiences with the locals on his blog, but the majority of Morrison’s interactions have been positive and he places his trust in the hands of those he meets.

“I believe all people are innately good. Trust is a funny thing. You show that you are putting your trust in someone and they feel responsible, and then they want to help,” says Morrison. “It's amazing that you can get anyone to help if you ask nicely enough, and with enough confidence. I have all positive experiences with those I met so far, which just reaffirms my belief that people are good and want to help others in need. “

With the opportunity to spend July 4th in London, England, the location where the first chapter of America’s story was written and the nation we openly defied on that day over two hundred years ago. In his Independence Day post, Morrison reflects on how his trip has helped him embrace the American way: “America, the land of opportunity, has given me everything. The fact that I have the opportunity to pursue my dreams and opportunities is special. In no other country is “the pursuit of happiness” a constitutional right.”

Morrison’s experience has helped him shape his business philosophies and driven his desire to develop his latest entrepreneurial adventure. Prior to leaving for his trip, Morrison sparked the idea for backflip.me. On this website, Morrison plans to challenge people to “flip your life by committing to a 365 project” and to share their goals with others on his website. With this type of encouragement, Morrison hopes more people will commit to a mental challenge like his own and find success.

Although Morrison has high aspirations for his project, this trip has opened his eyes to the possibility of entrepreneurial success and the self-confidence to make backflip.me a reality. “This trip reconfirms that I can accomplish something I set my mind to. I don't know where I'm going or how I'll get there, but I'm confident enough in myself and my practices, that I know I'll figure it out. And I think that's a strong quality for a leader of a company to have… hopefully.”

While the trip is not yet complete, Morrison has already discovered up essential lessons and developed skills that have made him grow as a person. His intuition and people-reading abilities have increased thanks to his frequent interactions, which will help him through his business ventures and improve his networking skills. By independently traveling across each continent, he feels his problem-solving skills have also become more refined, something he takes great pride in on his journey. “The fact that I figuring it all out and fixing my problems by myself and find myself in a new country, in a new hostel, meeting new people.  That's rewarding to know I did it all by myself.”

After taking such a unique trip around the world and having new experiences, returning home and back to school can seem like an unwelcome change. However, Morrison is looking forward to returning to Syracuse University, where the fast-paced lifestyle of college mirrors his traveling experience. “Hanging out with some friends, go to class, meet some others on the Quad. It's a comparable mindset to my summer travels. College is the perfect place for me right now.” With Syracuse University as the backdrop for his future endeavors, Morrison’s physical and mental challenges will continue to evolve from what began as a simple backflip into what will become a business venture and beyond.

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