What do you do when you’re trying to get home for Christmas and a major winter storm forces your airline to cancel flight after flight?
For four strangers in Florida, the answer was an epic cross-country road trip that quickly made them TikTok-famous.
Last week, thousands of flights were canceled ahead of Christmas. Among those travelers affected were Greg Henry, Bridget Schuster, Abby Radcliffe and Shobi Maynard, who all found themselves wondering what to do at Tampa International Airport Thursday morning.
“After everybody deplaned, we happened to be in the same proximity to each other and just started talking to one another,” Schuster recalled to “Good Morning America.” “Greg decided he was going to go and see what the rental car situation would be like.”
Henry returned after reserving a car, at which point they found out, Schuster said, “‘OK, the next flight out of here isn’t until Christmas Eve at 6 p.m.’ and we didn’t even want to be there.”
As the four strangers started to consider their options or lack thereof, they realized they all shared one common goal – to make it home for the holidays in time – and they could band together and start driving.
“We kind of all just decided one by one like, ‘Alright, we’re gonna make this road trip with these people we just met 30 minutes ago,'” Schuster said.
The 25-year-old law student, who had been sharing updates on her social media of her journey home, would go on to share a TikTok video of their collective decision. Since posting it five days ago, it has gone viral with over 10 million views.
“The first TikTok I posted, I just thought was funny so that’s why I posted it and people were like, ‘Give us updates,'” Schuster explained. “I wouldn’t have kept posting but everyone was like, ‘Give us an update.’ So I was like, ‘OK, here’s updates.’ And then they all just started getting so much attention.”
The quartet traversed more than 1,100 miles, and it took them about 20 hours to complete the journey with little to no sleep. Along the way, they got to know each other and stayed awake by listening to music, sharing conversations and taking breaks to switch drivers.
“It was an adventure,” Henry told “GMA.” “You’re not guaranteed tomorrow. There’s just so much bad in the world but we found common ground.”
The Ohio native added that the trip was “crazy” but at the same time, “it was a blessing.”
“My favorite part was 100% just the conversation, the singing and just the random stuff. Conversation can be so shallow sometimes, but it was not for a second of our journey,” Maynard said. “Maybe the first five minutes was like, ‘OK, what do you guys like to do?’ and then it’s like, all of a sudden, we’re having these massive therapy sessions of telling our deepest secrets, and these are people that we just met.”
Schuster added that the TikTok community also played a big part in their multi-state trek.
“It was probably one of the highlights of the trip, seeing everybody cheering us on and seeing the stuff that everyone was saying. It was really funny and it kept us going. It definitely gave us the adrenaline to keep going,” she said.
On Friday morning, after driving through the night and through a steady snow fall, the four strangers-turned-friends made it to Cleveland in time to reunite with their families for Christmas.
As for traveling with strangers, Radcliffe says she wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but added she feels grateful they could connect and accomplish their goal together.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Schuster said. “That drive would have been miserable for one person. I don’t know if I would be able to do that drive by myself. So teamwork really does make a big difference.”
Maynard, who drove them through the West Virginia mountains, added, “Through that storm and through that trial we were facing, since we were together and since we were able to just enjoy each other’s company, we were able to be joyful, and we really did have a great time being together. So there’s always something to be thankful for in the midst of trials.”
For Radcliffe, she said she learned “to be open-minded and to think through things” but at the same time, acknowledged she was “willing to take a bit of a risk.”
“Bridget and I, we both shared our locations with people. I think I shared mine with people in three different states, friends that I had. I was like, ‘Hey, this is where I am. This is what I’m doing,'” she told “GMA.” “We took a group picture before and I sent it to my parents. I was like, ‘Hey, these are the people I’m with.'”
“We’re all very thankful that it turned out so well,” Radcliffe continued. “But we know that probably if we were to do something like that again, it wouldn’t turn out so well. So, it’s good to take some precautions.”