Meet the Trainspotters


This is the true story… of 16 strangers…

picked to live on a backpack…travel together and have their lives blogged…

To find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting monsoonal

The Monsoon Diaries



The last challenge was to see if I could take 8 American strangers — few with prior backpacking experience — into the Islamic Republic of Iran. No big deal.

This time we’re heading to politically friendlier regions of Eastern Europe and La Hispaniola, but with an otherwise unfriendly itinerary: of the 6 nights in Eastern Europe, only 1 of them will involve a real bed; the other 5 nights we’ll be getting by on overnight trains hopping from Odessa to Warsaw. And we will partake in a kind of alternative backpacking that which Lonely Planet has called the finest examples of “dark tourism”: the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Pripyat, ICBM Nuclear Silos from the Cold War, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Afterwards we return to NYC for less than 24 hours, celebrating New Year’s Eve in the New Year’s Eve capital of the world, before heading to sunnier Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

And within the span of a mere 12 days, we will have stepped foot in 3 continents, 4 countries, and 15 cities all the while enduring freezing temperatures of an Eastern European winter to the baking heat of La Hispaniola island. Time to know what we’re made of.


I would like to introduce:


 Ukraine & Poland (12/25-12/31)

Calvin "O Captain! My Captain!" Sun: New York, NY; Columbia University ’08, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine ’14

Maria "DREAMer" Villa: New York, NY; CUNY Baruch ’13

Olgi "The Journalist" Qendro: New York, NY; CUNY Baruch ’13

Andrew "The Gator" Chang: Washington, DC; Georgia Tech ’08, University of Florida ’11

Carolyn "The Shire": Oxford, United Kingdom; Smith College ’12, University of Oxford ’13

Ruchika "Sangria" Sangani: Syracuse, NY; Columbia University ’12

Cynthia "The Dreamer" Koo: New York, NY; Columbia University ’10

Krystle Jiang: Boston, MA; Boston College ’13

Ying "Boiling Blood" Zhu: New York, NY; CUNY Baruch ’11

Gareth "The Guvnor" Johnson: Xi’an, China

Mandy "Wingwoman" Cheuk: New York, NY; Columbia University ’10

Jennifer "Starshine" Le: Richmond, VA; Old Dominion University ’11, Eastern VA Medical School ’15

Charmant "Steampunk" Tan: Atlanta, GA; Georgia Institute of Technology ’11, ’13

Simon "The Engineer" Lu: Long Island City, NY; Polytechnic University ’07

Alana "The Financier" Tung: New York, NY; Columbia University ’12

Jan Elma Ferrer: Park City, Utah; UC Santa Barbara ’10


Ry Williams: Park City, UT; Sonoma State University ’06


Haiti & Dominican Republic (1/1/13-1/6/13):


Calvin "O Captain! My Captain!" Sun

Ben Tso: New York, NY

Jackie "The Artist" Ho: New York, NY; Columbia University ’14

Sam Wong: New York, NY; CUNY Baruch ’13



Where we’re going: 3 continents, 4 countries and 15 cities in 12 days.



Odessa, Ukraine


Kiev, Ukraine

Pripyat, Ukraine




ICBM Launch Pad (aka an abandoned USSR Nuclear Missile Silo)


Krakow, Poland


Auschwitz I




Warsaw, Poland


New York City for New Year’s Eve


Port-au-Prince, Haiti


Cap-Haitien, Haiti


Labadee, Haiti


Sans Souci Palace


Citadelle Laferrière


Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic


Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Interested in joining us? Let me know.

Sorta like Deja Vu
Winter 2012: History Comes Alive

1 Comment

  1. Hi Calvin,
    We met when you did your first Monsoon diaries presentation at BC. I’m interested in joining in the first part of your trip (Poland and Ukraine). I’ll be at home near Geneva from December 24th to January 10th, and my parents are okay with me travelling between 26th and 31st. So yeah, do you think I can hop in ?

    ps: thanks again for coming and doing your presentation, the message got through !


  1. Why I Move | Cynthia Koo - [...] in another seven days, I will board a plane for my fourth Monsoon in the last year, this time …

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