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Phoenix Forward magazine

Student puts life on hold for “Roadtrip Nation”

Roadtrip Nation

Business management student Olivia Zanfardino is traveling cross-country as part of "Roadtrip Nation." Photo: Christen Bejar

When Olivia Zanfardino was selected this year from a pool of 2,300 applicants to appear in the next season of “Roadtrip Nation” on PBS, she knew she had the opportunity of a lifetime. So she quit her manufacturing job, put her studies in the business management program at University of Phoenix on hold and packed her bags.

The show, launched in 2004, gives participants the opportunity to travel the U.S. in an RV to interview leaders in business, science, art and education. The idea is to learn the secrets of the leaders’ achievements.

“I like success stories, but I’m more interested in finding out how someone took failure and learned from it,” Zanfardino notes about what she hopes to gain from the experience, which began June 25th and will last seven weeks. University of Phoenix Foundation funded the grant for this road trip, and what’s being filmed this summer will air in Fall 2014.


I like success stories, but I’m more interested in finding out how someone took failure and learned from it.

Aside from the interviews, Zanfardino, 28, says she’s most looking forward to exploring the country. “I’ve traveled a lot,” she says, “but there are many cities in the U.S. that I have not seen, like New Orleans and Detroit.”

She’s sharing the RV with two men who also were selected for the program. Having served two years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Zanfardino says the prospect of living in close quarters with two strangers doesn’t faze her.

“You get used to it after a while,” she notes, “and learn to communicate when needed.” She and one of the men take turns driving, she says, adding, “At gas stations, one of us will do the windows, another fills the tank and the third goes inside to buy snacks.”

Zanfardino describes “Roadtrip Nation” as kind of a reality show on wheels. The three travelers, she adds, have one key rule: “Remember to shower.”

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