Hanoi GE2010

Day 7: Ha Long Bay, VIET NAM

Thursday, 20 April 2017 – Day 7: Ha Long Bay, VIET NAM (20.9101° N, 107.1839° E)

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” – Isaac Newton


I always wanted to say that!
 (We miss you Robin.)

Okay…Vietnam, Hanoi. A quick catch up…We arrived about Noon yesterday local time at Noi Bai International Airport which is about a 45-minute drive outside the city. The city is busy with motorcycles (the 2 stroke kind), bicycles, and the energy of the 8 million people that live here. And to think they have survived the Chinese to the North, the French colonialist era, and that little war for “the future of the free world” against the US?!  (they aptly refered to here as the American War) 

Hanoi has grown up–read: economically developed–significantly over the last few decades, evolving from a grim, famine-ravaged place that was all but bombed “into the Stone Age,” into a sophisticated metropolis with high-rises and sensational cuisine; it may be one of the most beguiling cities in Asia with its lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant parks and quiet old world charm. It is home to such diverse architectural treasures like a 1500-year-old pagoda, colonial French homes, and head scratching modern skyscrapers. Its bustling markets, thriving and murky nightlife, and excellent food…yes, the food again…make it an attractive city. It is the nature capital and birthplace to so much of Vietnam’s traditional culture. Hanoi, more than any other city I have visited in Vietnam, is a unique fusion of old and new…and world-class art. And art is what I will be seeking out in the bustling famous Old Quarter here during my free time…well, that and my never-ending search for the perfect goi cuon–Vietnamese fresh spring rolls!

We are sure that all newbie teams are trying to find their own personal and Team balance. That balance between doing too much and wearing themselves out too early; and finding that fine line that will keep them competitively pushing forward happily and merrily. Vietnam is their real first test, as Hong Kong is a developed Western-ized city that works–Vietnam is a tad different. They will also be getting outside the city a bit, to some beautiful lazy green country sites, along with the oodles and oodles of things to see and do here in town. I will report more later today…hopefully we’ll have some videos to share soon!

One-Minute Interview with Team YOLOGoNow.

By now the 3rd day syndrome is occuring amongst our travelers….There are a few nervous twitches among those not as connected as they usually are to their info and social bubbles; their minds are detoxing from scrolling, texting and emailing incessently (aka obsessively) I promise you, you are living life to the fullest and not missing out on anything I promise you, just another day with the same stuff being reported….but you are on a real life adventure now…you should all realize that this is now your new reality for the next 19 days to come…so, let go of the daily grind, be in the here and now and enjoy!
Before Picture:

After Photo…

Sydney (Team Ying) bags her first 4-legged beastie photo!


Thinking…Pre-school graduation at the Temple of Literature…

Ho’s here…

SLO Folks in the wild…

Hoam Kiem Lake

I think a few teams headed to the coast today to fulfill life long bucket list items….

Tomorrow will be an interesting day…breakfast in one country, lunch in another and a late dinner in a third—just another day of traveling fun on The Global Scavenger Hunt…

Silk lanterns in Hoi An city, Vietnam 

Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is not just about a great international travel adventure that ultimately crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers in the annual world travel championship, it is also about helping others help themselves. As avid passionate travelers. This year, to celebrate the 13th edition of our event, our goal is to fund schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that— empowering both girls and boys. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2017 event, we know that a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we will thank you too…with a tax receipt.

Check-in is 10PM Thursday night in lobby…then?

The word Where in red 3D letters and question mark to ask for the location of a mystery spot or best travel destination

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Day 6: Hanoi, VIET NAM

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 – Day 6: Hanoi, VIET NAM (21.0278° N, 105.8342° E)

Good food, good eating is all about risk…Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride” – Anthony Bourdain

imgres  imgres-1
The Apricot Hotel…our home in Hanoi.

The last time we were here was in 2010. Happy to be back in the foodie mecca…

We arrived here just before noon following our 2-hour, rather circuitous route, on Dragon Airlines from HKG; and will be here for two nights at the Apricot Hotel Hanoi.  We are smack dab in the middle of the old French historic district.

One Minute Interview at HKG airport with Team Ying!

Teams are now well in their groove after the completion of two legs and have their travel mojo firmly working for them now as we reach our second international destination. I was proud of how everyone was so game in Hong Kong; working hard and having fun doing what they wanted to do while playing the travel adventure game we have devised.

First off, congrats to SLO Folks and Pre-Check Yourself for both getting as high as you can (physically) in Hong Kong to 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Building. They split the Team Challenge of 100 points each.

Old Business…the Hong Kong Par 3 leg results are in following Peer Review assessments and official scoring:
In 10th place, earning 605 points: NOLA 2nd Line, who completed 23 scavenges.
In 9th place, earning 665 points: Long Gone, who did a BIG Bonus, but then complted only 11 other scavenges.
In 8th place, earning 690 points: Flying Snitches, who completed 19 scavenges.
In 7th place, earning 740 points: Traveling Bohimians, who also completed 19 scavenges.
In 6th place, earning 920 points: Thundersnow, who compeleted 27 scavenges.
In 5th place, earning 1010 points: YoloGoNow, who also completed 27 scavenges.
In 4th place, earning 1060 points: SLO Folks, who completed 31 scavenges, but no Bonus ones.
In 3rd place, earning 1070 points: Team Ying, who completed 23 point-ladden scavenges and one Bonus.
In 2nd place, earning 1195 points: TSA Pre-Check Yourself, who completeed 27 scavenges and one Bonus
And in 1st place, congratulations to Lawyers w/o Borders who earned 1355 points completing 35 scavenges and 2 BIG Bonus pointed ones on the second Par 3 leg.

That means that after two completed legs (par 4 of 27 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. Team Ying with 10 points
2. TSA Pre-Check Yourself with 7 points
1. Lawyers w/o Borders with 4 points

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated IMG_1326

Official Leader Board.

I know some teams might be deflated and some elated with the scorces, but this is so early into the 2017 Global Scavenger Hunt, that neither should feel low or too high with themselves.

Okay…on to new business: Hanoi

The 2017 Participants (-one) in Hanoi…


Teams were given their  Socialist Republic of Vietnam booklets revealing a tricky Par 3 with more than 60 optional scavenges to overwhelm them. There are some interesting “movement oriented” Bonus scavenges available to them?!

A few Hanoi area scavenges include:

-a Vietnamese cooking class.
-Attend the early morning flower market auction.
-Figuring out how to ride a water buffalo
-Hang out at Beer Corner with locals learning about what’s happening in Viet Nam.
-Finding an artist to make a famous reproduction for you.
They have 30 hours with our check-in time tomorrow night at 10:00PM (22:00) in the hotel lobby bar.
Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.11.23 PM

3 - Siagon 2013 (130)
Vietnamese faces

ot so famous artists….

Dog anyone? (Hide Barney!)

I want to send a BIG thank you to all of you making online donations to the GreatEscape Foundation. It is greatly appreciated. In our 17th year now, we plan on building another coed elementary school from the proceeds.

10:00PM Check-in Deadline tomorrow night, Thursday, April 20th.

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Day 5: Macau, CHINA

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 – Day 5: Macau, CHINA (22.1987° N, 113.5439° E)

“It may be the way the cookie crumbles on Madison Avenue, but in Hong Kong it’s the way the egg rolls.” – Robert Orben

Good morning to all from partly-cloudy Hong Kong…and day two…it is 9AM Tuesday here.

 Everyone should be checking in tonight (your tomorrow but our yesterday?!) at 9:00PM this evening in the hotel. We hope that no alcohol-related penalties for tardiness are assessed.

We just had breakfast: fresh pineapples, dragon fruit, lychees and Denver omelets, shu mai dumplings, miso, congee, Indian specialities, chocholate croissants, sliced ham, an array of cheeses, etc–and more than one espresso drink. It’s not like we checked into the Hotel Insomniac or anything yesterday, but dang last night was tough. Rebound jetlag at 2AM. But, experience tells me we will quickly get acclimated to Asia time; as it is much easier flying east than west on your body, and that 14-hour late night flight here helped our biological clocks along. By tomorrow morning, my guess is that everyone will be refreshed, refueled, renewed, and invigorated to start anew…and so will we!

BTW…did you know that studies show that it takes on average 24-minutes to fall asleep in a hotel, as opposed to only 15-minutes at home. Not me, 90-seconds tops last night.

So, another day here in Hong Kong….

Figuring out a strategy  may be the most important element of this competition–aside from dealing with the travel inevitabilities of:  jetlag, logistical snafus, language barriers, cultural nuances and the varagies of the not always smiling travel gods. This event is a serious competition and our travelers take the game seriously…they do want to win. Points are awarded to Teams for completing certain scavenges as requested. For example, they locate and visit a market and find an unusual fruit sold there. They might get 25-points for that. But if they must take a 2-hour local bus to a village outside the city to locate a unique temple or talk with an artist, they might get 100-points for completing that scavenge. Scavenges are usually all interactive in some way, and time, uniqueness, and degree of difficulty, along with active participation of the culture and people, are all factored into the risk-reward point system. No Team is required to do any scavenges outside the few “mandatory” eating scavenges in each destination. Their are a few team challenges where only one team earns points and a few tougher bonus scavenges too. Hope they all figure it out quickly…

…I always get nostalgic when in Hong Kong…don’t know if is the memory of The Road to Hong Kong (1962) — the last of the Hope and Crosby “Road to…” movies (and that hottie Joan Collins’ debut) — but Hong Kong was one of my first foreign destinations in the bad old days of my early travel years. A port town where anything could happen–and usually did. It has changed a lot in the last 35 years…it is simply mind-boggling to soak it all in. Money, development, hustle and bustle, mega-land reclamation projects, corprate brand homogenization, clean streets, red cabs, green Star Ferries, hazy Victoria Peak, hectic Nathan Road…Hong Kong is like no other global city in its dynamic energy–and food. The eats here are just wonderful; but you do have to know which of the 30,000+ restaurants are worthy. They also have a Michelin-stared take out restaurant–that is NOT called Nobu.

NEWS from Hong Kong: Beijing denouces installation of US THAAD anti-missile systems in South Korea. Beijing proudly opens new naval base in the strategic choke point port of Djibouti. Bejing reports first quater GDP growth at 6.9%. In an unrelated story, a Tibetan monk lights himself on fire.

Tim Ho Wan (always good and always busy…baked bow buns!

Macau Picture 080

GE2004 (100)
Lama Island fishing village


GE2005 (56)
Wonders of the world…

GE2005 (55)
Only in China where the shamelessly copy everything!

GE2005 (52)
No really, everything…

The Infamous HKIFF is in full swing…

The view from Victoria Peak…the most expensive real estate in the world!

The Star Ferry still reigns (although the ride is getting shorter!)

Team Ying plotting and planning
Traveling Snitches enjoying, err, doing an early morning scavenge

More after our 9:00PM Check-in and maybe a 4-hour notice?

Here is everyone’s blog again:

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HKG 2010 (2)

Day 4: Hong Kong, CHINA

Monday, 17 April 2017 – Day 4: Hong Kong, CHINA (22.3964° N, 114.1095° E)

Our Hong Kong digs in Kowloon (thank you Joyce and the entire staff for making it a seamless checkin from airport to room!)

Good morning from Hong Kong…though I imagine it is evening where most of you are.

(Group photo not posted beacuse nice gal whole helped us–took a black photo? Twice–we will do a do-over tomorrow…)

I love Asia, despite being repeatedly mugged by the full-force of its tropical humidity that hits you the second you walk off the plane…

Okay, old business first: At the check-in following each of our nine global legs, we copy all team scores sheets (what they said/claim they accomplished) and then assign each team a peer review team. Peer Reviews as we have designed them, are great ways for our travelers to both share their travel war stories and photos with others, as well as prove that they actually did what they claimed/said they did, in a fun non-threatening way. It has proved to be great way to hold all the teams accountable, as well as keep the competition fair and honest. People are less likely to be cheaters when they have to answer to their peers. Of course, if any issues do arise during the peer review process, both Pamela and I, as the event’s Road Officials, are the final arbiters.

At any rate, despite being asked to only complete 8 scavenges we did assign San Francisco Peer Reviews teams as a learning curve siutuation with vets teaching the newbie teams. So, they were assigned, score sheets evaluated, and then officially scored by the Road Officials. The results of the first Par 1 San Francisco leg of the 2017 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt are in with top finishing teams completing 8 scavenges:

We have a ten place tie for first place. Yep, that even means that Jim & Betty are in first place for the first time in three years!

Congrats to all on a job well done…learn from your mistakes and competitors and know that you are all now battle-tested and ready for more after that short introductory leg.

Click here to view the Official Leader Board following the first leg. (Well, not posted because they are all in first place!)

Okay…on to new business: We are here in always exciting Hong Kong, the jewel of the Pearl River Delta, for two nights. After handing out their new booklets, the teams were sent out on the second leg of The Global Scavenger Hunt, a full two-day medium level of difficulty Par 3 (mostly due to language barriers…because everything works well here). They have over 60 optional scavenges to strategize and find their own risk-reward strategy. Again, there is no way any team could possibley do them all the optional scavenges. So, smart choices are always required as they head out into the urban, transportation saturated area. They also have the option of doing scavenges in three potential “countries”: Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

And so, the second leg has begun. Here are a handful of Pearl River Delta area scavenges they have to figure out.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.10.55 PM
-Team Challenge get to highest building in Hong Kong.
-Visit a local herbal pharmacist and have your qi tested.
-Practice some Tai chi with elders in Victoria Park.
-Hike the Dragon’s Back.
-Eat at a Michelin starred take out restaurant.

…and a whole lot more than that. Good luck all and have some fun…remember our 2016 event theme: When was the last time you did something for the first time? Make it true again, but remember this year’s too: Escape your bubble for 23 days and be really social.

Busy Hong Kong…

It was fun watching the slack-jawed looks on the collective faces of our travelers as they got their new second leg book of scavenges…followed by the inevitable flourish of calculating and strategizing to figure out how the heck they were going to accomplish some of their challenging tasks…and then their was mad dash scramble, and off like banshees they went into the ether that is Hong Kong. Some were no doubt off to catch a morning train out to the New Territories, others to catch a hovercraft to Macao, and others just drifted gingerly off to the nearby Star Ferry terminal…

One Minute Interview with SLO Folks….

So, Hong Kong. It was one of the stops in French writer Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” published in 1873; and we have been here before too. HKG is exotic (still) and chock full of iconic sights and experiences the Far East has to offer: the pungent aroma of burning incense; of a gleaming high-rise metropolis lining Victoria Harbour; the financial energy of anything goes no-holds barred hyper-capitalism; a fast paced people moving to and fro 24/7. Two things you note right away: the fast tempo…it seems that a New York minute is really but a Hong Kong second; and the verticality of the former city-state, which is home to over 8,000 buildings topping fourteen floors and, get this, over 310 skyscrapers (buildings higher than five hundred feet). BTW: NYC has only 241…and not sure how many Shanghai has?

The gravitational pull of Hong Kong has always been strong to me…and I have returned many times. We look forward to the teams having a great couple days here and that they learn the Chinese meaning of the utterance “mu“–which literally means unless I am mistaken, “not yes, not no.” Careful with your binary exploratory questions folks…

Leg Two’s check-in time is 9:00PM (21:00) tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Stay tuned…

BTW: Since this was the first time we all mingled about the baggage carousel here in Hong Kong; we officially have a winner of the lightest packing participant and the BIGGEST packer participant…but no names yet. We will wait for the weight of the situation to let itself unfold…

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Day 3: Flying Across the International Dateline

Sunday, 16 April 2017 – Day 3: Flying Across the International Dateline

“It’s dangerous business walking out your front door.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit
phantom jet
We are off…heading West to go East!

Here are some Blogs from our intrepid travelers:

Sydney’s Blog (of Team Ying):

Greg’s Blog (of Team Traveling Bohemians):

Mark’s Blog (of Team Thundersnow):

Jenny’s Blog (Of Team Thundersnow):

Zoe & Rainey (of Team Lawyers without Borders):

Avni & Roshy (of Team Flying Snitches):

Lily + Mark (of Team YoloGoNow):

A video from Thundersnow:

We’ll report soon…when we get to wherever it is we’re going to…

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SFO sticker 2012

Day 2: San Francisco, USA

Saturday, 15 April 2017 – Day 2: San Francisco, USA (37.7749° N, 122.4194° W)

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” – Emerson
Bright Pink Sky with Adventure Quote

2017 Participants…(aka the Before photo)

We are still in San Francisco, and all of us are enjoying a blissful day here in Baghdad by the Bay. The annual piece of global performance art known as The Global Scavenger Hunt is officially underway.

Here we are in the City by the Bay… The City that Knows How (RIP Herb Caen)…a small but BIG city in America. A city of hills, bridges, water and neighborhoods: the infamous Haight-Ashbury home of the 1967 Summer of Love celebrating its 50th anniversary, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, North Beach, the Marina, Chinatown, the Avenues, Mission District, Japantown, startup hell (aka SoMa), Twin Peaks, Castro, Noe Valley, the rapidly gentrifying Tenderloin, and the Financial District…indeed, the whole of San Francisco is just a small photogenic, romantic, historical, and oh so layered, postage stamp-size of a city—a land area of just seven-by-seven miles (46.9 square miles) surrounded by the alternative universe known as reality—America. (Next to Seattle, San Francisco is our nations smartest, most educated city!) It is the second-most densely populated large city in the United States after New York City with a population of 805,235 (48% white, 33% Asian, 15% Hispanic), but it seems all those folks living in the surrounding Bay area (Marin, San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, etc) all eight million of them seem to come into SF for the weekend. San Francisco is also a star attraction on the world stage for tourists too–ranking 33 out of the top 100 most visited cities of the world. (Odd fact I learned last night during a conversation with a meteorologist: 30% of Bay area pollution is imported from China. Thanks China.)
The Rock

San Francisco clichés abound: it is the city of the Summer of Love, Gay Rights, earthquakes, progressive politics, rice-a-roni, cable cars, “I left my heart in…”, BART, the Golden Gate Bridge, the 49ers, Giants, Alcatraz, 1906 Earthquake & fire, Levi’s & Gap, gays in chaps, fog, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Cable Car clang, Fisherman’s Wharf, poor start-up workers, hippies turned hipsters, homeless, crazy rents, tech-obsessed Millennials, sourdough bread, Ghirardelli chocolate, LA inferiority complex, Snob Hill, and chop suey…Rudyard Kipling mused that, “San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave.”

I lived here for a few years in one of my past life incarnations, went to grad school and cut my political teeth here in this town working for Congresswoman Sala Burton (whose weekly chat-fests included the progressive likes of: Willie Brown, Senator Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Alan Cranston, and my personal favorite, former Senator Barbara Boxer. Then decades later, I got married here too. Indeed, San Francisco is a great city filled with great memories.
We love San Francisco…and the teams are all out and about attempting to fulfill a list of scavenges that they have been assigned for a quick urban orientation course before we go global on them. They are out to learn the rules of the game, and maybe what lurks in the Ringmaster’s mind—my logic, cunning, warped thought process and whatever method there might be to my madness, they can formulate. So, out and about bebopping in the City they are. It is a simple 9:00AM to 5:15PM scavenger hunt (a Par 1 leg) in which they are tasked with completing just eight (8) of dozens of scavenges to choose from. Just to get moving and see what the whole competition package looks and feels like. Of course, we asked for them to just do 8 scavenges, and I already know that some overachievers will try to impress me–and their competitors–and do 20 or more…but the sane ones, will do just eight and have fun doing them.
Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.09.30 PM
A few examples today are to:
-Crash the Zombie Convention at Fort Mason.
-Attend the Raiders of the Lost Ark performance at Davies Hall.
-Following clues to find the Maltese Falcon
-Learn how fortune cookies are made
-Employ at least four (4) different modes of local transportation.

One-Minute Interview with Defending Champs in SFO – Zoe + Rainey

Okay…so, that brings up a good point of departure—having the correct travel mindset. This is a 23-day marathon. This is a competition like no other with great travelers trying to successfully compete and win a coveted title (The World’s Greatest Travelers™ for 2017)…along with a free trip around the world to defend their title next year. They will be circling the globe visiting ten (still) secret international destinations on four continents. Here are a few things that they should know about being mentally fit for the next 23-days:

The Proper Global Scavenger Hunt Traveling Mindset:
-that they are privileged, lucky, and among the gifted few…they won the lottery…so be happy.
-that they have no control over most things to come…so breathe, smile, be patient, and let it go.
that the best way to make new friends…is by listening (not talking).
-that to get the most out of their coming journey/adventure…they should slow down…be in the moment.
-that they must be open to new things, thoughts and allow serendipity in…
-that they should have left—the great enemy of new experience—their expectations at home.
-that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression on a stranger.
-that the best way to eliminate regrets, is to just do it, let go and have fun. Engage in the now.
-that they should expect the worst but hope for the best…and always be prepared for either.
-that backtracking is not good time-management; and moving on to someplace new is.
-that if you don’t ask—you don’t get.
-that they should plan to do more before noon in places than most do all day.
-that challenges and adversity are good…they make us feel alive, be creative and grow.
-that they should embrace la difference…the whole points of traveling.
-that it is not about want you spend—it is about what you do.
-that humor and good patience is the key to internal bliss.
So, the games have begun, we haven’t lost a team yet to the Haight/Ashbury triangle, or to any of the all too numerous bars in The City…some of the early insider gossip is that: we have a diverse group of travelers: young  and not, newbies and vets, men and women–and everyone seems very competitive…there is more and that will come later!

Deadline: 5:15PM Hotel Lobby


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Day 1: San Francisco, USA

Friday, 14 April 2017 – Day 1: San Francisco, USA (37.7749° N, 122.4194° W)
the world in a suitcase
Let the games begin…welcome all to San Francisco and the beginning of the greatest show on earth.

We are ready. The stage is set. The flights books. And the travel eagles have assembled in San Francisco for the 13th edition if The Global Scavenger Hunt (GSH), the 2017 edition of the world travel championship.

First off…a BIG Happy Birthday to Pamela our Event Coordinator, my partner, the mother of my children, and wife of 13 years. She is “The World’s Greatest Follower” and has accepted her BIG birthday present—a trip around the world. Happy Birthday Pamela! And of course, this event could not happen without you. Hope you like all your cards…we all love you.

Poor Pamela…her birthday always seems to fall on the dates of our event. A few birthdays past:
GE2008 (266)    GE2002 (49)
Pamela & Little Lucca, Beijing (2008)                          Birthday cake in Kyoto (2002)

2 - PVG China 2013 (304)       B - KIX3 2014 (4)
Shanghai (2013)                                   Osaka (2014)

Teotihuacán (46)   1 - Fiji - GSH2015 - dwnld (66)
Mexico (2016)                                  Fiji (2015)

…Okay, on to the main event:

We are tanned, rested, and ready to start our travel adventure after a brief Sonoma Coast expedition—and nothing clears your head like good long walks on the windy California coast with the vast Pacific blue making you feel so small: Waves pounding rhythmically, toes in the sand, brisk wind in your face and the sun to keep you warm. So, the Ringmaster is revived, rejuvenated, recharged and ready for the 2017 around the world travel adventure competition. Are the competitors?

By the way, it should be noted, that we haven’t actually met all the 2017 participants yet. We have interviewed them all and have corresponded—some for years—but when we all meet in a few minutes at a informal Rules n’ Spirit meeting here in San Francisco, it will be our first real meeting.

It should be interesting to see how everyone sizes everyone else up. Stoic poker faces come in all shapes and sizes. There is a wonderful feel of raw anticipation in the air. Speculation. Uncertainty. Not the negative dreading anxiety-ridden kind, but the positive welcomed feeling of the time has come for something good and fun to happen to you. Of course, they are all wearing their best poker faces: appearing outwardly light, but obviously, butterflies are flapping their wings on the inside. And why not? That is completely normal; as they have endeavored like few every dream of doing to take a giant leap of faith and travel around the world not knowing where they are going to go. And their Blind Date with the World is about to begin. Surely existential questions abound: “Are we really up for this?” “I wonder if they are good travelers?” “What have we gotten ourselves into?” “Where are we going to first?”

Demographically speaking, we have seven participants who have competed before, and competitors ranging in age from 14 to 79. We have a team from China and one from New Zealand, two father-daughter teams (I have a soft spot for those), a team made up of two total strangers (but great travelers who have agreed to check their egos at the door in order to compete united—there is no I in team, right!), along with the usual boyfriend-girlfriend, best friends and significant other teams. We have our very worthy defending champions, Zoe and Rainey–who just returned from a Bhutan biking expedition—I anticipate they are ready, willing and able to take on all comers who hope to capture their beloved crown and become The World’s Greatest Travelers for 2017!

Without further ado, let me introduce the 10 teams competing in the 13th (I mean the Baker’s Dozen) edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt. Joining us here at the starting line in San Francisco today, we have:

1) The 5 time event champs, who are participating in their 10th event this year, from Houston, Texas, the legendary Zoe & Rainey (Lawyers without Borders)…we are happy to have them here today!
Our 2016 Champs, Rainey & Zoe…The World’s Greatest Travelers™.

2) Also returning for their 3rd adventure, we have Jim and Betty hailing from New Orleans hence their team name NOLA Second Line…they are partners in crime for 46 years…Jim is a retired scientist and Betty is a retired belly dance choreographer…and if you have not seen their wild ride on a runaway elephant from 2 years ago—we highly encourage it!
Jim & Betty

3) We have another team returning for the second time… It only took Paula 14 years to finally convince her husband Tom to join us and now I think they are hooked! They are from San Luis Obispo, California, and call themselves SLO Folks…we know now that their name is an attempt to lull you into a false sense of complacency because these are two serious adrenaline junkies and a keen on winning in 2017!
Paula & Tom…we think?!

4) We have another returnee, a man that first came with us back in 2012, traveled with a partner we teamed him up with as Team 2 Steps Ahead, and this year he is bringing his own teammate with him. They hail from New Zealand, please meet Geoff and Ella. The will be known as Team Long Gone.
Ella & Geoff

5) Now technically they did not compete and only traveled with us for a week back in 2013, but I am pleased to have a father and daughter Team from Austin Texas, Greg and Catherine joining us. Catharine is one of two 14 year olds joining us as part of father-daughter teams. (For which I have a soft spot) …and I am also told that she is 3 months younger older than the other 14-year-old! Please welcome the Traveling Bohemians.
Greg & daughter Catharine

6) Now the newbies…Also, back in 2013, I chatted with this man and his daughter about joining us that year. They couldn’t make it happen, but this year he dumped his daughter and brought his wife. They came all the way from Shanghai, China to join us, please welcome Mark and Lily, Team YoloGoNow!
Mark & Lily…

7) Now she contacted me a few years ago too, did not have a partner…I told her not to force it…let it come to her. Well, I am pleased that these two wonderfully bright women from Arizona are joining us this year, please welcome Roshy & Avni, Team Flying Snitches! (I believe that has something to do with Harry Potter.)
Avni & Roshy

8) I have a soft spot for father-daughter (and mother-son) teams, so I was pleased that this Houston team figured out a way to make this happen for both of them…They will be a tenacious team I know. And as mentioned, Sydney is also 14… Please welcome Alan & Sydney, Team Ying.
Sydney_Alan Ying
Alan & daughter Sydney

9) This LA-based couple read about us years ago in a book, Frommers I think? And the dog-eared page unfolded in front them auspiciously in the New Year and they contacted us on somewhat of a lark I think. But after a couple great chats, we are pleased that they decided to join us on this adventure, please welcome Gillian & Mike, the Blackout Mates!
Gillian & Mike

10) Now we have our special team; she hails from Providence, Rhode Island, he from Colorado. She worked really hard, and quickly, to find a partner who was game for taking this adventure …and they are daring enough to give it a go as perfect strangers. Please welcome Jenny and Mark, Team Thundersnow.
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Jenny & Mark above; they even have a team logo below…

Our tribe of travelers this year in 13th edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt.Obviously, and rightfully so, Rainey and Zoe are true champions in every way and have to be the odds on favorites again. But I think that along the way we will have some long shots move to the front of the pack, some dark horses emerge, and probably some front runners charging hard to the homestretch… No betting please! And, by the looks of it, we have enough players for our annual naked beach volleyball game in the Greek Islands this year. Kidding…maybe.

And a competition it is, because everyone not only wants to win the crown of The World’s Greatest Travelers for 2017—but also winning a free trip around the world that goes with it…needless to say, bragging rights and egos are involved too.

We are off to our Bon Voyage Party this evening at Rosa Mexicano… tapas, margaritas and more.

Sizing up the 2017 tribe as I looked around the restaurant at the event veterans and newbies alike, I knew that they all shared some strong convictions about travel, and some common quirky personality traits aside, all shared a deep passion for travel and to see and experience the world. They are also extraordinarily adventurous with a hunger to explore new and interesting parts of our planet. Getting to know them better as event unfolds in the coming days, we will learn much more. Trial by fire. Heat of competition. Fish out of water. All the cliches fit. My gut tells me that they all are curious and engaging people, people who prefer to do stuff, to enjoy experiences and save memories—rather than just acquire more stuff in life. They all seem to be people people too–who enjoy the company of others…and that will come in handy because very soon they will need to employ the events unofficial motto of trusting strangers in strange lands! Finally, they all have willingly signed up to participate in an event that will literally take them into the great unknown; take a giant leap of faith and travel to places not of their own design—but ours! Not too many people can lay claim to that little BIG detail. Think about it…

Finally…and we will periodically remind our readers and followers of this fact…we conduct this event annually not just for fun of it—and boy is it fun! And not just to conduct the world travel championship—and that it certainly is! Not just for our egos or our traveler’s egos—but to hopefully do some good in the world.

You see this event was originally designed to merge our two passions: our love of travel with giving back to the world. When you have the time and resources, and luck, to travel the world like we have with your eyes open and engaged in humanity, you see a lot of need out there. This event helps to expose the true plight of the other 96% of the people who inhabit this planet with us. And to that end, action is called for and we hope to give back a little bit to help others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation’s work.

We build co-ed schools in less prosperous places of the world that help empower both boys and girls. We also donate interest-free micro-loans to budding (mostly women) entrepreneurs to help them help themselves and their families out of the cycle of poverty.

So, if you believe like we do that we are all very privileged people and want to help a little; please make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2017 event. We would love to build a new school this year and need $10,000 to do so. It will impact hundreds of lives. Although those you help to change the course of their lives will never know you—we will and we will thank you…and send you a tax receipt too.

And then this happened…

ANYWHERE road sign
Where are we starting?

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T’was the Night Before… April 13, 2016

…It is the night before the beginning of the 2017 travel world championships that start in San Francisco tomorrow.

Teams are assembling as we speak from various destinations and flying into SFO in order to meet up at the starting gate tomorrow at 3:30PM (15:30) for the start of The Global Scavenger Hunt—the 13th…check that…the Baker’s Dozen edition of the annual around the world travel adventure competition that crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers™. (Someone in our household suffers from triskaidekaphobia.)

For the uninitiated, my name is William D. Chalmers (please call me Bill)…and I will be this blog’s narrator over the next 24-days as we circle the globe visiting 10 secret destinations across four continents. My main job though is serving as the Event Director. Pamela calls me the CEO (aka Chief Experience Officer) and some past participants have referred to me as the Ringmaster. The annual world travel championship has the occasional ring of a traveling circus to be sure; we have jugglers, high-wire acts, dare-devils and acrobats, a few sideshows and even a few clowns on occasion too. But as the commentator, I will be candid, honest, political and sometimes irreverent. (My daughter says cheeky and saucy. My son just says “Really dad?!”…a lot.) I will also try to post as many photos and videos as I can along the way and create quick hyperlinks to help share additional team and destination info and insights.
wdc point
Me…well, you know (coutesty Times of India)

What is at stake for those participating in this travel adventure? Well, only bragging rights as The World’s Greatest Travelers™, a little mantle-worthy trophy…and oh yea, a free $25,000 trip around the world to defend their title in the next travel world championship event.

It is often asked by prospective competitors, media and travel professionals, and fellow travelers alike that we meet out on the road: What does it take to be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers™? That is, what does it take to win The Global Scavenger Hunt…to win the travel world championships? And that is a great question.
We think (and know after 12 previous events) that it takes a lot. Yet weekly (sometimes daily), we hear someone tell me after I explain the event to them that of course—“I would so win that!” We have heard it thousands of times over the last decade. Everybody thinks they have the right stuff, have the skills and savvy necessary and are truly great travelers.

Some websites even create lists of self-described great travelers! But being a great traveler isn’t just about checking off items on a list and seeing where you rank. (Which you need a lot of money to do!) No, it is about being a great situational traveler and empirically proving it mano-a-mano in authentic competition against other great international travelers. This is usually where the rubber meets the highway. Doing it… Being a great marathon runner means running marathons against other great marathon runners. Being good at Jeopardy means getting on the show and proving it against others who obviously feel the same way. The same is true with travel, although many deny that fact.

In a nutshell, the Global Scavenger Hunt that we created back in 2000 (Yep, before the Amazing Race even aired!), is an annual competitive travel event that challenges our participating travelers cumulative Travel IQ. It tests their situational awareness, the limits of their linguistic and cultural understanding (universal people skills), and is the ultimate scrutiny of their logistical savvy. Indeed, this event competitively evaluates most of the components that make great travelers great. Including:

-mastering the art of a layover;
-efficiently getting from point A to point B when your public transportation options are limited;
-figuring out how to effectively communicate when your native tongue fails;
-overcoming the marathon effects of jet lag through 24-time zones over 23-days;
-being open to culinary challenges;
-sympathetic to cultural nuances;
-conquering potentially defeating team dynamics;
-standing up to the heat of a real life one-on-one competition;
-following the terrain when your map is wrong;
-properly strategizing the event’s risk/reward point system by doing and seeing amazing world-class sites;
-allowing yourself to be immersed in authentic, challenging and participatory site-doing activities;

Indeed it takes a lot of acquired travel skills to win The Global Scavenger Hunt. Our travelers truly have to look hard into their big travel tool kits to find the right skill sets to match the challenges we lay out before them. Yes, it takes luck too. Yes, it takes savvy. But it also takes stamina, wits, creativity, efficiency, hope and optimism.

Because from language barriers and cultural differences, to logistic snafus and battling the severe effects of constant jet lag, overcoming each set of challenges well—becomes the difference between just surviving this annual event and doing well in this world travel championship competition. It also clearly makes the difference in ultimately winning the coveted The World’s Greatest Travelers™ crown and trophy.

Over the years we have witnessed countless acts of tenacity and creativity on the part of our travelers in the name of performing their challenging and highly-participatory scavenges. We have watched teams, equally successfully—and some not so successfully—endure our quick three-week lap around the world. Some do well, some don’t. This travel adventure competition requires overcoming a lot of challenges day in and day out over three weeks on the road, not the least of which are potentially volatile internal team dynamics, as well as, the obvious heat of the competition itself.

We are ready! Are they?

We have had many themes over the years, among them: Embark on a blind date with the world (2002). Trusting strangers in strange lands (2004). He who runs cannot walk with dignity, savor serendipity. (2008) Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. (2009)…and last year’s theme was: When was the last time you did something for the first time? (2016)

This year for 2017, my chosen theme is: Escape your bubble for 23 days and be really social. We will see twitching bodies and foggy minds as our teams detox a bit from obsessive scrolling, texting and updating to actual engage the people of the world face-to-face. I want our travelers to unplug a little, disconnect from their daily routines and the 24/7 news and social bubbles we all reside these days. To be in the moment and actually see the world and the people in front for them. It will be more difficult for some than others…we will see.
Our house this afternoon…a lot of charging going on–7 PED’s!

Good luck to all that finally do make it to the starting line tomorrow. Because as they say: You can’t win unless you enter the race!
wgt good for stuff

Tomorrow we meet our teams…stay tuned.

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GE2009  (453)

The World’s Greatest Travelers™…and so much more

In November 2007, there was a news piece about The Global Scavenger Hunt in the travel section (remember those?) of USA Today. It got a lot of traction, and we received hundreds of applications from the piece.

Two wannabe travelers that introduced themselves to us at that time are Zoe & Rainey, team Lawyers without Borders. We remember interviewing them; they were: passionate, determined, curious, honest and gung-ho travelers. We eagerly accepted them and they became 2008 event newbies. Not only did they single-handedly help us raise funds for our event co-star, the GreatEscape Foundation, that later directly funded the building of coed elementary schools and a medical clinic (still in use serving as a midwives training center in Niger), they came in second in 2008. We were thrilled in 2009, when they fairly and rightfully claimed the title of The World’s Greatest Travelers in…and for the next three years too.

Since 2008, they have participated in all nine events that have taken place; winning now five times—including last year in 2016, and they have showed in 3rd place on two other occasions. Only once in 2013 did they not win, place or show. They have proven and gracious winners who have worn their crown well and have wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of the event as we conceived it back in 2000.

Zoe and Rainey have also been passionate evangelists of the event, spreading the word about what we know is truly the greatest travel adventure on the planet. They not only share our vision of travel, but our deep desire to give back to those communities less fortunate than us in the world–the other 99% of humanity. They schedule their busy year around participating in the annual event and have also brought along their sons and daughters, sisters and parents, friends and neighbors to join in our extraordinary event. They have changed the lives of many because of both their generous nature and passionate participatory travels. They are simply wonderful people.

We thought it would be fun to share a few photos over the years from Lawyers without Borders who have so far visited 59 countries with us–with more new one’s to come this year! Please enjoy.
GE2008 (1263)
2008…a plane ride to the roof of the world
GE2009 (355)
2009…blind taste tests (Rainey is the designated eater/drinker)

GE2009 (422)
2009…4 Generations in Iceland (Ben, where did you go?)
RCB as Indiana Jones
2010…Rainey’s publicity shot!
2010…up the Mekong without a paddle
2011…kids at home, learn from Aunt Zoe–NEVER do this! (Stinks for a week)
2011…celebrating another win with family & friends
2012…busking for points somewhere in Europe (Keep your day job!)
2012…Zoe naturally doing something unnatural
Zoe Rainey Cambodia 925
2013…southeast asia
2013…chef Rainey, hmmm.
2014 ipad 019
2014…another case of ethnic costume dementia
2014 ipad 079
2014…cycling in Denmark
gsh 2015 ipad 1661
2015…down n’ dirty in Fiji
gsh 2015 ipad 1751
2015…in Bali
2016…ballooning over Africa
2016…always negotiating
The World’s Greatest Travelers: Zoe & Rainey

They are now part of or family and we are honored to call them friends. We look forward to another great showing in 2017, Zoe & Rainey’s 10th anniversary of participating in The Global Scavenger Hunt. Good luck and thank you both.

Pamela + Bill

P.S. Is it just me, or, does Rainey have only three black shirts–a tank, a t and a long-sleeve? :)

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