Saturday, 15 April 2017 – Day 2: San Francisco, USA (37.7749° N, 122.4194° W)
“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” – Emerson
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.)
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 heartin…”, 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. 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.
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!
Friday, 14 April 2017 – Day 1: San Francisco, USA (37.7749° N, 122.4194° W) 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:
Pamela & Little Lucca, Beijing (2008) Birthday cake in Kyoto (2002)
Shanghai (2013) Osaka (2014)
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, TeamYoloGoNow!
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.
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. 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 donationduring 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.
…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.
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 crownedThe 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!
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.
2008…a plane ride to the roof of the world
2009…blind taste tests (Rainey is the designated eater/drinker)
2009…4 Generations in Iceland (Ben, where did you go?)
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
2013…chef Rainey, hmmm.
2014…another case of ethnic costume dementia
2014…cycling in Denmark
2015…down n’ dirty in Fiji
2016…ballooning over Africa
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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