By Ken Hegan for MSN

Imagine this:

You’re at the airport and set to board a plane. Suddenly a woman offers you a free flight to a mystery destination. It could be Mongolia, Laos, Thailand, Argentina, Morocco, Romania, Cyprus, Portugal, wherever.

Guy makes decision

The stress of making big life choices

Your mission: press a red button and let a roulette wheel decide where you’re going. Free trip, all expenses paid. The catch? Whatever destination it lands on, you must drop your plans,  board a new flight, and fly somewhere else right away. Plus you have to go alone. I don’t think the woman comes with you.

Would you do it? Would you drop everything, ditch your family or friends, and gamble on fate?

Those were the questions posed by a brilliant interactive publicity stunt at JFK in New York City. Dutch brewer Heineken set up a Departure Roulette wheel at JFK terminal 8, to offer real trips to real people. All to promote the spirit of adventure and, well, their decent lightweight beer.

It’s a fascinating social experiment. Basically a real-life update of those Choose Your Own Adventure books where ‘You’re the star of the story’. Heineken’s campaign’s slogan: ‘See what happens when someone travels outside their comfort zone.’
Guy presses button

Watch their Departure Roulette video again and have a good look at the travellers’ faces. Those are the same conflicted expressions you make when you’re faced with big life choices:

‘Should I quit this job? Change my career? Invest in that race horse? Go to college here or somewhere far away? Should I sell my house? Get a breast reduction? Move to another country? Return that baby? WHAT SHOULD I DO?’

Watching these travellers’ faces, you’ll see both the ecstasy and agony of making huge life choices.


As I watch their faces, 5 things come to mind:

1) The majority of people said no. Plus one older chap clearly wants to press the button but his wife drags him away. Think he’ll regret not pressing that button?

2) It’s interesting that the guy wearing the ‘Brave’ shirt says no, and so does the guy with the adventurous tattoo.

3) The moment (03:05) when the guy finally commits and says “Shit, why not. Let’s do it” is one of my favourite travel moments ever. Going to make this my new slogan.

4) It’d be hilarious if you decided to press the button, thinking you’d end up at a 5-star resort in Thailand, but instead your mystery trip turned out to be a brutal 2-week incarceration at Guantanamo Bay. Or maybe when you hit the button, the woman injects you with a knockout drug and pulls a pillowcase over your head. Then you wake up two days later to realize you’ve been Shanghaied and forced to work as a slave on an Atlantic merchant ship.

5) I like to think that I’d push the red button. But that’s easy to say when I’m at my home computer. What if I was on my way to a buddy’s funeral? Would I press the button anyway, and then rationalize my recklessness by saying “Phil would’ve wanted it this way”?

What would you do? Would you push the fateful red button?

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Images courtesy Heineken