As a college basketball player, former Razorback and Fayetteville native Fred Gulley was able to see quite a bit of the United States while traveling for games, tournaments and basketball camps.
In his final year alone, Gulley and the Hogs criss-crossed the United States from as far west as Maui in the pre-season, and to the east in Athens, GA.
But despite all the traveling that comes with the territory of being a college basketball player, nothing could have prepared Gulley for the adventure he’s on now that his playing days are over.
After graduating from the UA last year, Gulley has been traveling the world for Jack Bragg, a company he founded with fellow Walton College of Business graduate Andrew Denton.
The company sells t-shirts to help finance their mission to connect people through their stories.
“Jack Bragg is essentially a company about self expression,” Gulley said, “The aim is to show regardless of location, race, religion, or financial stature we all go through similar things. We collect stories from individuals everywhere we go.”
Over the last several months, they’ve been in the process of visiting over 30 countries in a 200-day period to try and demonstrate that “everyone is connected through a network of relatable experiences.”
The idea behind collecting and sharing the stories is to “empower people through their own struggles,” and “remove the obscurity we experience with our own self image.”
The company also donates proceeds from the sales of their products to charities they encounter during their travels.
So far, Gulley and his travel companions have spent time in New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand meeting people and collecting stories for the project. Several of them have been posted as video confessions to the Jack Bragg website, and Gulley said the company is currently working on developing other ways to use the content they’re creating.
The experience has already been life altering. Gulley has been documenting the journey through his Instagram account, where he’s posted photos of himself riding elephants in Trekking Phuket, Thailand, to mingling with monkeys on a beach in Phi Phi Don Krabi, and traipsing through the national forests of New Zealand.
“Before the trip I had not traveled much outside the U.S.,” he said. “I had been to Mexico and the British Virgin Islands.”
Now, Gulley has experienced some of the most exotic and beautiful locales in the world.
“My favorite islands would have been Koh Pi Pi, which is a small island in the Krabi providence in southern Thailand,” he said. “The whole time I couldn’t believe my eyes. White beaches and blue water the whole island looked like a movie scene. It looked as if a pirate ship should come through the bay.”
Gulley said he has experienced some delicious food in his travels as well, though some of the dishes have proved to be more appetizing than others.
“My travel companions argue that Indonesian food is better and cheaper, but I’m in favor of Thailand’s,” he said. “I love the night markets where you can walk from stand to stand and find anything from mango pancakes with Nutella (my personal favorite) to local delicacies such as cockroaches, scorpions, grasshoppers.”
Even more memorable than the scenery or the local cuisine, has been the connections Gulley has made with people from all over the world. From conscripted soldiers serving their time in the Israeli army, to the kathoey (or ladyboys) of Thailand, Gulley said the people they’ve encountered have been the most interesting part of the trip.
“We met a traveler that was 26 years old and banned from nine countries,” he said. “We’ve met and traveled with hundreds of people and one thing we all have in common is a story.”
Gulley said that despite his busy travel schedule, he has still managed to keep up with the special season his former Arkansas teammates are having this year. The Razorbacks are off to a 22-5 start, and most projections have them bound for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
“If I can’t watch the game from my computer or mobile device I make sure to check scores constantly,” he said. “I exchange text messages with current and former teammates. It’s been an exciting season to watch and keep up with.”
For now, though, Gulley is keeping busy with his own adventure.
He has a few more weeks of traveling scheduled before he and his business partner will return home and continue to work on sharing the stories they’ve collected through Jack Bragg, while they work to develop new ways to fund their mission.
The company has been working with local start-up accelerator, Start Up Junkie, on ways to do just that. Back in December, they were unsuccessful in securing a $10,000 round of funding through a Kickstarter campaign, but the entrepreneurs say that was just a bump in the road.
After all, if (as they say) the journey is the destination, then Gulley and Denton with their experiences over the last few months may have already arrived.