Good Teammates

Starting to get itchy? We are…

Dusted this off from a Huffington Post (27 March 2013) piece I wrote a few years back and used to send to our travelers…slightly edited and bears repeating.
“I have found out that there ain’t any surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
 – Mark Twain

As the Event Director of The Global Scavenger Hunt, an annual around the world travel adventure competition, I know good team work when I see it. As a human being who is hooked on traveling, I understand that having the right travel companion can make the world of difference between embarking on a dream adventure, or being caught up in an endless Ground Hog Day-like nightmare.

In the past, I have made it a point to take prospective romantic partners on a trip to test not only their travel chops but our travel compatibility. Because if you can make it on the road dealing with logistic snafus, cultural nuances, language challenges, utilizing your Travel IQ, overcoming jet lag and physical dissimulation, well, you can deal with the more mundane daily issues of life. And I firmly believe that.

I remember one test drive romance to Paris. She preferred haute couture window shopping and Michelin-starred dinning; while I was prone to picnics in the park and hanging with Jim Morrison’s friends in a Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Despite the sparks flying, that one didn’t work out. Then there was the test drive to Jamaica for the annual reggae Sunsplash Festival. She wanted to hang by the pool and order room service; whereas I went windsurfing and listened to live reggae until dawn. That didn’t work either.

Then there was the test drive I took with a woman to the downtrodden developing nation of Myanmar (aka Burma) back in the ‘90s. She didn’t mind getting up pre-dawn to catch the morning Buddhist rituals, spending time in odorous wet markets or taking all manner of 4-legged public transportation to remote off the beaten path locales. We clicked and I have been with her now for 18 years. (She is the world’s greatest follower.)

Needless to say, traveling with a compatible travel mate is important. Our annual travel adventure event takes extraordinary determination, chutzpah, daring, grit, and even some intestinal fortitude to participate — and maybe even win the title of The World’s Greatest Travelers. I firmly believe that we as 21st century members of homo touristicus never feel more alive than when we are overcoming obstacles and personal challenges. And traveling done right is all of that. But there is a limit, because travel clearly takes you outside your comfort zone (your happy box), and how you react to being outside that comfort zone is telling about you — and your potential relationship. It can be the deal breaker.

Traveling with a mate obviously tests your interpersonal skills on a multitude of levels. Not only because it is necessary for travelers to trust strangers in strange lands; but more importantly, because traveling with someone forces you to have a positive and constructive working relationship — whether you are in Topeka or Timbuktu.

Vacation personalities, travel styles, and interests vary among us all. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations. Being patient, compassionate and showing empathy towards each other is critical. Who needs any unnecessary reality TV show-like drama? What we have noticed is that strangers do better in our event statistically that established relationship travelers do—maybe because they’re decision making protocols and hierarchy are not set in stone, so they are more open to other ideas?

So, to that end, below are a few of the things that over years I have learned to consider when traveling with a partner around the world to exotic, and sometimes less than optimally functioning, destinations:

  • Are you AM people, or PM people? How will you overcome those differences?
  • Are you competitiveType Aplanners, or more laid back Type B free-spirits? How will you find a happy functioning balance?
  • Are you people people or a go it alone person? Which of you is best equipped to deal with and be kind to strangers?
  • Are you a three-square meal a day type, or a 24/7 snack-type eater? How will you compromise when energy and blood sugar levels start getting low?
  • Are you left-brained, or right-brained? Can it be managed?
  • Are you a natural leader, or follower? How will you make tough decisions and compromises when you arebothright? Will it be a fair decision?
  • Are you an analytical planner, or a seat-of-the-pants spontaneous and instinctual wanderer type? How will you manage that? Can you manage to be early and on time, or will you always be rushing at the last-minute?
  • Are comfortable silences okay with both of you?
  • How will the other react when one of you just needs some simple non-dramatic alone time?

Some other more practical realities include:

  • Are you a frugal traveler or a nothing-but-the-best type? How will you deal with on-the-road expenses? 50/50 each transaction? Or keep a tab?
  • How will you split duties and create a successful division of labor? Packing, logistics, transactions, safety, currency exchanges, food & water?
  • How do you make a consensus decision when you both have diametrically opposed views?

In the end, traveling should be about fun — but whose version of fun?

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.“ – Peter Høeg… Indeed!
Are you ready? We start in just 18 days!

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Travel Skills: What it takes to WIN?

It is often asked, by competitors, fellow travelers, and the media—just what does it take to be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers? That is, what does it take to win The Global Scavenger Hunt?

Over the years, we have witnessed countless acts of tenacity and creativity on the part of our intrepid travelers in the name of completing scavenges. We have learned a lot from watching Teams, successfully take our quick three-week lap around the world.

Face it, this travel adventure requires not only taking a huge leap of faith (Think about it: Where are you going?), but overcoming a lot of situational challenges along the way, there are: language barriers and cultural nuances, logistic snafus and jetlag, internal Team dynamics, as well as, the obvious heat of the competition itself–we have hearty international competitors after all. Overcoming these challenges well, will be the difference between just surviving our annual event, and maybe ultimately winning The World’s Greatest Travelers crown.  Frankly, a team’s success is driven by talent and smarts (travel IQ), but more by its interpersonal relationships and solution-oriented sub-culture. After all, our unofficial motto remains: Trusting strangers in strange lands.

That said, based on our personal observations of former participants—winners and losers alike!—we have concluded that whichever Team is to eventually crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers on May 4th at the conclusion of The Global Scavenger Hunt’s 2017 edition, we are sure that they have some, if not all, of the following skill sets:

● the ability to admit that they are hopelessly lost—and then humbly asking for help;
● the cautious use of honest shoe-checks—and always having a temple shoe bag with them;
● knowing how and when to trust those short hairs standing alert on the back of your necks:
● the uncanny knack of never asking locals simple up/down, yes/no types of questions;
● the capacity for promptly identifying and quickly resolving any Team dispute fairly;
● the ability to conduct on-the-fly problem solving in ever-changing contexts;
● the good common sense to start each day early with a good breakfast—even after drinking late;
● a flair for packing quickly, effectively, and very, very lightly;
● the sagacity of asking the appropriate questions—before getting hopelessly lost;
● possessing the time-honored virtues: patience, compassion, stick-to-it-iveness, honesty and fairness;
● the wisdom to say enough is enough and letting go of a quest;
● the luck of the Irish; politeness of a Canadian; skill of a German; and, the chutzpah of an American;
● the wisdom of understanding our unofficial motto of “he who runs cannot walk with dignity”;
● juggling effectively the need for flexibility, organization, scheduling and contingency planning;
● the self-awareness to know when to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the sunset—behind you;
● the gracious capacity and wisdom to listen, really listen, to others while they are talking;
● having the personal resolve it takes to regularly take several deep breaths while counting to ten;
● being a bit of a thrill-seeker and calculated risk-taker, who’s up for any challenge once—big or small;
● the good sense of always having some emergency toilet paper handy;
● knowing that when all else fails, that a few bucks can sometimes facilitate anything;
● the innate gift for willingly grabbing on to serendipitous opportunities when they arise out of the blue;
● the intuitive use of situational awareness to ward off potential pitfalls lying before you;
● knowing that you get out of things what you put into them: truly, nothing ventured, nothing gained;
● the fearlessness of adventurer Indiana Jones;
● the curiosity of Nancy Drew;
● the patience, tolerance, compassion and empathy of the Dali Lama;
● an excellent, timely, and regular utilization of your sense of humor;
● the wisdom to look for, and readily accept, the underlying good in all things and all people; and,
● the capacity to be regularly humbled.
● the ability to loosen up, have fun and not take anything—including themselves—too seriously!

Good luck to all.

Any skills to add? Let me know…Thank you.

© 2000-17 GreatEscape Adventures Inc., All Rights Reserved

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RTW 2016

Day 23: The Finale

Saturday, 7 May 2016 – Day 23: Washington D.C. (38° 53′ N – 77° 2′ W)

Good afternoon from Washington D.C.–Where apparently taxation without representation is the official motto! Kind of ironic, right!?

All the teams are present and accounted for…teams had a shot gun start this morning on their last easy Par 1 leg here in Washington D.C. moving on their own times and whims.

First some Old Business…the long Par 6 Baltic Europe leg results are in following Peer Review assessments and official scoring adjustments:

In 6th place, sadly there were four teams that did not hand in score sheets as in DNF (Did Not Finish), earning 0 points: Perfect Strangers who split up with one member going to Oslo and another to St. Petersburg; The Traveling Tridents who had to return to Miami and the Barbados earlier; NOLA Second Line who flew to Estonia from Warsaw then ferried across to Helsinki but chose not to hand in a score sheet; and Girls Gone World who had a great time in Estonia and Russia.
In 5th place, earning 2,995 after a severe 500 penalty for flying, was SLO Folks whose leapfrog gambit did not pay off.
In 4th place, earning 3,052.5 points and working hard to complete at least one scavenge in all 5 Baltic nations 2 Global Junkies.
In 3rd place, SOCA Warriors who earned 3,330 points.
In 2nd place, T3 earning 3,940 points. 
And in 1st place, congratulations to Lawyers without Borders who won their fifth straight leg earning over 5,000 points while completing over 110 scavenges on the long Baltic Par 6 leg. A well-deserved win!

That means that after seven completed legs (par 23/24 completed)…the overall top teams are:
In 5th place with 96 points SLO Folks and just 3 points ahead are The Traveling Tridents with 93 in 4th. The test of the leader board looks like this:
3. T3 – 86 points
2. SOCA Warriors – 85 points
1. Lawyers without Borders – 53 points.

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated 2016 – Leader Board.

So…one day last lap, an easy 8-hour urban (Par 1) scavenger hunt here in the District. We hoped that everyone would have a great day here…the sun is shining (although threatening clouds roll in now and again) and with such a great city and so many amazing scavenges options, the city is always a favorite. And finish strong across the finish line they did.

At the 4:00PM (16:00) check-in at Bovéda for the crowning reception and awards ceremony, all the teams assembled.
i survived

I Survived T-shirts were handed out with event pins, destination stickers and well-earned special commemorative Circumnavigation Certificates for circling the globe in one swoop.

Some awards needed to be handed out…

First up, Chris of The Traveling Tridents won the award for being the first to e-mail me a 4-legged beastie photo:
Chis in Oman

Next up…the Players Pool that was taken way back in Mexico City 23 days ago when we asked everyone to write down what 11 countries they thought they would be visiting and betting $20 each…well, they knew two (Mexico and India) and winner is Alina of Perfect Strangers who guessed four correct plus Russia–which she did visit! So congrats to Alina! (Beers on Alina tonight tribe!)
Happy Alina (of Perfect Strangers) on safari.

Then we have the always interesting “cheapest hotel” scavenge. A little background is due: Every year we send our travelers moving for a day or two to test their travel savvy getting from Point A to Point B. On most occasions we don’t know which route they will be taking and where they will be staying. Of course rooms are reimbursed, but to add to the fun we give points and a nice bottle of French champagne to the team(s) that stay in the cheapest hotel rooms. Well, the 2016 honor goes to three teams: Lawyers without Borders, SOCA Warriors and T3 who all stayed in $47.00 in Latvia. So drink up all…

Finally…the 2106 world travel championship winners. It is always an honor to come to this part of the program, crowing The World’s Greatest Travelers. It should be obvious to all that the final leg really had no bearing on the finale outcome.

But the Washington D.C. legs top three were:
3rd – T3 completing 12 scavenges and earning 480 points
2nd – 2 Global Junkies completing 18 scavenges and amassing 585 points;
1st – SLO Folks who completed 20 scavenges and earned 625 points.

And that means the over-all, winning bronze in 3rd place for the 2016 world travel championship: SOCA Warriors!

In 2nd place winning the silver medals are: T3

And winning once again, their first victory since 2014 and fifth overall championship win, we happily crown Zoe and Rainey of Lawyers without Borders the 2016 event winners (2016 – Leader Board) and once again the reigning holders of The World’s Greatest Travelers title, trophy and crown.
Zoe + Rainey, Lawyers without Borders…
champs again!

Our 2016 Winners Gala Dinner Party at RIS was held a 6:00PM and we had more prizes to hand out (as voted by the tribe):

The best taxi driver joke: SLO Folks…hmmmm.

The most modes of transportation used: 28 is the record from 2009. SLO Folks with 87?! Hmmmm.

The best Global Price Index item: Julia of Girls Gone World…real estate prices.

The best Travel Collection item: 2 Global Junkies…not just any bracelets but expensive bracelets from every destination visited.

And our personal favorite, the Tackiest Souvenir: Marla of Girls Gone Wild…a weird phallic hat.

All said and done, a wonderful travel adventure that took us around the world with a great group of people. A lot was learned by all about both themselves and the world; as this event holds a mirror up to each of our travelers and they see the real them as they travel the world through different countries and cultures. I am again fortified in my belief that without trusting strangers in strange lands, our participants could not have achieved what they did. I know will agree with that assessment. They made new friends for sure as they traveled and of course created lasting memories of a lifetime.

So we are thrilled to end The Global Scavenger Hunt on a high note. Please everyone, keep traveling and trusting in others.

Thank you and good bye.

BTW…the theme of the 2016 event was the Capital City Adventure, in that we visited the capital cities of  11 of the 15 unique countries that we put scavenges in on this route: Mexico, Japan, Singapore (Indonesia & Malaysia), India, Oman, Kenya, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, (Russia), and USA.

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Day 21: Cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia

Thursday, 5 May 2016 – Day 21:  St. Petersburg, Russia

Happy Cinco de Mayo…from Russia!

Okay, sorry, we have been off-the-grid a few days. A funny thing happened in Helsinki…we got a night ferry to St. Petersburg, Russia and were able to enter, the difficult (and usually expensive) country to enter of Russia, under a grandfathered old diplomatic clause that allows passengers sailing on the exclusive St. Peter Line visa-free access to Russia–for 72 hours. A hole in the world of nation-state diplomatic and bureaucratic paperwork that we eagerly crawled thru…

Well, crawled is a strong word when you are drinking cold Russian vodka while downing spoonfuls of Russian Osetra caviar onboard a cruise ship watching the Russians play Finland in the 2016 Ice Hockey World Championship aboard the SS Princess Maria. Don’t pity us…

But I regress…teams have been spotted everywhere between Warsaw and Helsinki–Tallinn seems to be the hot spot! But some have diverged from the tribe and headed to Oslo…some flew (makes me sad) and some have not (makes me happy). But rest assured that everyone is accounted for…and our official check-in is tomorrow at 11:30AM in our Helsinki hotel, the Hilton Strand.

We, and a few other of our travelers (part of Perfect Strangers and Girls Gone World), had a great day here in St Petersburg. We all want to return to this historic and cosmopolitan city by the sea.

Here are some photos from the Baltics:
warsaw 1

Alexander’s Column, St Petersburg

Peterhof fountian - St Petersburg
Peterhof Fountain St Petersburg

Savior of the Blood Church, St Petersburg

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Wendy of T3 celebrating Cinco de Mayo…sampling vodkas!?
Yes, that is a Michelangelo at the Hermitage!

The Red throne room…Hermitage.
Lucky Rainey swimming in Baltic…anything for points!

Savannah of SOCA Warriors with new friend.

Zoe & her victory climb
The orthodox domes of the Baltics  

More later…but check in is 11:30AM tomorrow and then we head for Washington D.C. and the crowning of the The World’s Greatest Travelers.

BTW…we already miss the Traveling Tridents!

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Africa 2 Europe sign

Day 11: Muscat Musts

Monday, 25 April 2016 – Day 11: Muscat, Oman

Good evening from Muscat. What an utterly amazing, fascinating and fun-filled 2 days here in Oman.
The 2016 Global Scavenger Hunt teams in Oman

We saw a few teams haggling in the Mattrah Souk. Some paying for gas at a gas station with their rental car. A few at great restaurants and some hanging by the pool…albeit all too briefly.
Oman 2012 (58)
Mysterious entry ways…
Half of Girls Gone World contemplating a ride
Dining with a local Omani Family
Teams Perfect Strangers + SLO Folks teaming up

NOLA 2nd Line about to get
lost in souk…

The Sultan’s ship of state
(the one on the left)….

So when everyone checked in poolside for happy hour and on time at 7:30PM, we were grateful for their safety and pleased with their stories and smiles. There were stories of: folks falling off camels, eating camel, teams playing restaurant roulette, visiting mosques and eating with locals in their homes (I love that scavenge!), dhow rides, along with visiting some remote oasis villages and historic forts too. Busy indeed. The resort and spa portion of their accommodations here in Muscat were left happily under-utilized by our intrepid travelers. Oman has such a different vibe than say Abu Dhabi and Dubai the last few years…or even Doha and Bahrain before that…Oman is oh so different.
Oman 2012 (45)
Muscat corniche

Oman 2012 (34)
Culture Clash by the pool
Oman 2012 (21)
Forts, forts and more forts…

Oman 2012 (14)
Off to market…

So all safe…and now a 4-hour notice! Where should be go? North, south, west?

Well, we take a big break here and pivot to Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time! We are excited…

But a little background: In Singapore we were notified, despite all our plans, bookings and schedules, that our airline that was transporting us to Africa from Oman, unceremoniously rescheduled our flight 24 hours later than the ones we purchased and planned for. Obviously an unacceptable unilateral, uncaring decision on their parts for we the passengers. But it left us reeling and scrambling to find a solution to our problem. (A lot of what makes this event seem so seamless for our travelers is how we organize it so expertly after 11 such events in the bag from behind the scenes.) Time zones suck when this happens as we are half way around the world and a day late for our business associate support in North America. That said…we ceremoniously dumped that airline, cancelled our flights and rebooked on another airline. Twenty-two seats at within two days. But we had to do it to keep our schedule moving forward and to make their African experiences to come be complete, not be diminished minus 24-hours.

Now there is good and bad news with that…as we have a 4:45AM flight now to catch. Ungodly I know. But there is a price to pay for Africa, and leaving to get their at a reasonable time is not one of them.

So…Good news/bad news: The good news is we are going to Kenya and have pre-arranged visas-on-arrival for all our competitors. The bad news…we have to leave the hotel at 2:15AM to catch our flight! Ugh…

As they say, if you want to do extraordinary things, you have to do extraordinary things–my way of saying that we have an ugly early morning flight to Africa.

More about the Oman leg and our exciting journey to Kenya in our next post.

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MAA 2016

Day 9: Humbling India

Saturday, 23 April 2016 – Day 9: Chennai, India (12°58′56″N – 80°9′49″E)

Svaagat he…Welcome to India…and Chennai. We arrived here after a four flight from Singapore.
hindu temple
There are three seasons here: hot, hotter and hottest. And we are close to the hottest. Our cab driver said it approached 50 yesterday and today it is 40, but feels like 47 according to anyone running around doing scavenges. That is 116 degrees folks!

We gained 2.5 hours from Singapore time…so we built in time to be productive with our layover here and hence the 6-Hour Chennai Layover Challenge.
cricket in chennai
The real challenge for this cat herder was getting everyone through the official rules and procedures at Chennai International Airport (MAA) Chennai International Airport (MAA), located at Tirusulam, that is around 8 kilometers south of the city center. We all had e-visas but they needed to process. Then customs. Then money-changing. Then sending our bags back to be on the flight. And then, and then, and then…more time than I or anyone wanted to spend at MAA.
Mumbai 2011 (50)
Old Business first…the urban, albeit a potentially 3-country swing through the Singapore area and Par 3 leg results are in following Road Official inquiries, assessments and penalties. The official scoring went like this:

In 9th place went to NOLA Second Line.
In 8th place went to Girls Gone World.
In 7th place went to T3.
There was a tie for 5th place between the Traveling Tridents and the SOCA Warriors, who both earned 635 points.
Then things got interesting atop the leg leader board:
In 4th place were 2 Global Junkies the only team to complete the infamous SIJORI travel trifecta by completing at least one scavenge in the three countries of the region: Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They earned 650 points because they took all day traveling to and fro those destinations in a gutsy gambit that almost paid off.
In 3rd place we had Perfect Strangers 31 scavenges and earning themselves 815 points.
In 2nd place SLO Folks rose to the occasion and picked up steam completing 32 scavenges earning 872.5 points. 
And in 1st place, congratulations to the reunited Lawyers without Borders who earned a whopping 1205 points in completing 41 scavenges on the second Par 3 leg.

Great job all…you had fun, worked hard and it paid off.

But that means that there are changes to the leader board now after three fully completed legs (par 8/24 completed)…with the 3 top overall event leaders being:
3. SLO Folks = 31
2. Traveling Tridents = 25
1. SOCA Warriors = 24

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated 2016 – Leader Board. Just think, two-weeks from today we crown the 2016 edition of The World’s Greatest Travelers in Wasgington D.C.

Okay…on to new business and the Layover Challenge here in Chennai…

We have a short 7-Hour Layover between our flight between Singapore and Muscat, Oman…and the event has never been here before, but been in other destinations of India many times. India is always the great equalizer: the most humbling, amazing and flabbergasting place in the world to travel in my humble opinion.
maa gsh

So, we arrived at 10:30AM this morning from Singapore and we leave at 7:30PM this evening to Oman. It will be an introduction for some to India. They have optional sight-doing scavenges assigned them–but they can only do 5 and NOT MISS their flights onwards–the whole point of a layover.

But it is a busy Saturday and it is hot as I mentioned.

Chennai (formerly Madras) is the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu and situated on the Bay of Bengal, and is one of the largest cities in the world. It is said to be the cultural capital of India but there are also historic sites, including: the Kapaleeswarar Temple, built in the name of the Hindu god Shiva; and the gambit of old British colonial architecture, tranquil gardens and a long sandy beach…and soon their shinny new Metro will open. Soon, but not today.
dancers in chennai
Sadly, while the teams scoured the area for scavenges in markets, eateries and temples, we Road Officials had to secure a room to get online to deal with event bumps in the road. We missed the city and shopping…

A special shout out to our local food expert Kavita Chesetty here in Chennai. Thank you Kavita!

Okay…next stop Muscat, Oman which we arrive later this evening and the results of the Layover Challenge.

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sin - hindu temple

Day 8: Sizzling Singapore

About Singapore (aka Sin-no-more)…the city-state of 5.3 million turned 50  last year and boy have things changed. From swampy mosquito-infested British Navy outpost, to amazing cosmopolitan capitalist engine that could. In the global world of business deals, Singapore competes confidently with Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It is one of my favorite city-states. (BTW: Als0 one of the three places with the highest density are Monaco, Macao and Singapore. And notice that not one of them remotely qualifies as a desperate case! Maybe city-states are the way to go?)

But Singapore is a state of mind and only Singapore slings and Singapore noodles are real, because it is more a concept than a country with no great historical narrative or set of national myths—just one man with a vision: Lee Kuan Yew and his dominating PAP party. People don’t realize that Singapore was actually kicked out of its relationship with Malaysia in 1965—hence the 5oth birthday last year!

sin - mosque

Singapore Mosque

The Singapore of today is not the bawdy Singapore of 25-30 years ago; and for that, like Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Macau today—you either love them for that or hate them. Jury is out with me, but I am leaning. It is a more mature, confident country. Talk to an older Singaporean, however, and at some point you will hear her wax lyrical about the lost kampongs—the small, intimate villages of Singapore and the dynamic marketplaces that were Chinatown, the Arab Quarter and Little India…today all replaced by highways and high-rises. In heritage versus development—development wins every time; although a few former colonial landmarks still stand.
singapore - old chinatown circa 1989
Chinatown, circa 1989…

So, words and phrases to describe SIN: eclectic cuisine, extraordinarily safe, well-run, efficient transportation systems for all, sleek soaring skyscrapers, consumeristic, multi-cultural yet homogenous, clean, soulless, malls, clean, compact, Draconian-like in its efforts to keep people on the straight and narrow– Bubblegum is illegal. Jaywalking is illegal. Flushing is a must. Drug possession is punishable by death. An American youngster made headlines when he was caned for vandalizing cars—in fact, I think William Gibson said it best in 1993 that Singapore was like, “Disneyland with the Death Penalty.” And hard not to agree. It is very Orange County-ish too.
sin - cavenagh bridge
Colonial Rules…but now new rules.

Yet too many of the emerging economies of the world, Singapore is a model. (aka the Beijing Consensus or even Asian Values). It is politically stable and geopolitically independent; its citizens enjoy a high standard of living and all the consumption-based trappings—but not much more than the trappings they are (be careful what you wish for, right!?)—of democracy. To its politicians and status quo business community defenders, Singapore is an achievement born of self-sacrifice, hard work and commitment to inclusive multiculturalism—caning is optional.

The deal is that under the so-called Beijing Consensus, that evolved out of the 1989 Chinese Tianamen Square Massacre, that the average middle class and working class family can expect their government to deliver the economic goods, move forward effectively and efficiently, provide for positive social well-being benefits and individual prosperity through education (aka Mandarin-style meritocracy) along with assuring constantly rising standards of living… in exchange for, at times, authoritarian top-down imposed rigorously-planned modernization dictates of how it is going to be. No messy democracy here and few inconvenient truths are reported as Singapore restricts civil liberties because constant economic progress has its costs—as well as benefits! Things change here quickly. Permits are issued. Sweetheart deals made. And jobs are created. Who needs democratic input? And many other emerging nations of the world have taken notice too; they see the West mired in finger-pointing, political paralysis, growing inequalities and declining standards of living—not so here.
sin 1
Modern Singapore

Enough geopolitical history…we are here and having fun celebrating Earth Day 2016.

Speaking of Earth Day…the heat here in Singapore is just so pervasive; it envelops your body in a sticky fluid that is the omnipresence of 100% humidity. It is indeed the closet thing to swimming on land you can do I imagine.

We saw no teams today as we banded about the place, shopping, eating and seeing sights. At 3:00PM the skies suddenly opened as they are wont due in the part of this tropical world, with a deluge falling on everyone not frequenting the malls.

Happy Birthday to Bop (aka Andrew) of SOCA Warriors…

Everyone was set to return this evening at 10:00PM and receive their next 4-hour notice—I know, we just got here right! From arriving here yesterday (Thursday) until when we arrive at our next, next destination (Saturday), things will be hectic. Over that period of time, teams will have conducted scavenges in three very unique countries (maybe 5 for some!?) as the 2016 edition of the world travel championship begins to heat up after our preliminary starts in Mexico City and Tokyo. The fun has begun here in Singapore with event leaders vying for the top of the leader board with all teams fully knowing the rules of the game, how to pace themselves, and how to just let themselves go and be silly. There is no quit in this 2016 tribe even though some already know they will not be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers. The marathon 23-day around the world adventure is now in full swing!

This competition is a lot like life…you have to do your best and hope for the best, despite knowing that sometimes you will lose a game once in a while; and that it is okay to lose, as long as you get up, dust yourself off and continue to do your best. It does not matter what others say or think, you are doing this for yourself. In real life, everyone does not get participation medals just for showing up–that is only half the battle–there are winners and losers, but it is always important to keep moving forward with honorable intentions and honoring yourself by doing your best…onward all.

New marching orders are coming…and two new secret destinations will be revealed tonight. Stay tuned.

10:00PM Update…we are off to Chennai, India for a brief 6-Hour Layover Challenge…and then? Breakfast in Singapore, lunch in India and dinner ?

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tokyo metro

Day 5: Tackling Tokyo

Tuesday, 19 April 2016 – Day 5: Tokyo, Japan

YōkosoWelcome to Japan!

All teams reported rested, relaxed and excited for the beginning of the second leg of our around the world adventure this morning here in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo. From huge Mexico City straight into (albeit following a smooth Singapore Airlines 11:30 hour trans-Pacific flight) to the world’s biggest city in the world—Tokyo!
tokyo metro
Old business first: At the check-in following each of our eight global legs, we copy all teams scores sheets (what they said/claim they accomplished) and then assign each team peer reviews. Peer Reviews as we have designed them are great ways for our travelers to not only share their travel war stories and photos, but also prove that they 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 and keep the competition fair and honest. Of course, if any issues arise during the process, both Pamela and I, as the event’s Road Officials, are the final arbiters.

At any rate, Mexico City Peer Reviews were assigned, score sheets evaluated, and then officially scored by the Road Officials. The results of the first Par 2 Mexico City leg of the 2016 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt are in with top finishing teams completing 20 scavenges & 2 bonuses:

In 9th place, earning 207 points: NOLA Second Line
In 8th place, earning 315 points: 2 Global Junkies
In 7th place, earning 460 points: Perfect strangers
In 6th place, earning 505 points: Girls Gone World
In 5th place, earning 617.5 points: SLO Folks
In 4th place, earning 640 points: Lawyers w/o Borders
In 3rd place, earning 657 points: SOCA Warriors
In 2nd place, earning 667 points: Traveling Tridents
And in 1st place, congratulations to Wendy & Georgia of T3 who earned 715 points on the first Par 2 leg completing the most scavenges too.
Wendy & Georgia of T3

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

Click here to view the 2016 Event Leader Board following the first leg.

Okay…on to new business: We are here for two more nights here in bustling Tokyo. 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 really well here). They have over 60 optional scavenges to manage and find the right risk-reward strategy that works for them. Again, there is no way any team could possibly do them all. So smart choices are always required.
nrt gsh
And so the second leg has begun.  Here are a handful of Japanese scavenges they have to figure out:

– Pick up a bento box snack, catch a really fast train to Hakone and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to visit Odawara Castle.

– Score some tickets and attend the Eric Clapton concert at the legendary Nippon Budokan.

– Eat at any one of the 217 Michelin star restaurants in greater Tokyo.

Team Challenge: At Shinjuku station—the busiest railway station in the world—obtain a team photo with as many willing participants as possible.

– Visit either the Smash Hits or Shidax karaoke bars and unleash the inner rock star within by singing a duet with some locals.  We want video.

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

Now…About Japan…and where we are for a few days. It is very different here than in Mexico City. Let me try to explain.

Tokyo can take even the most sophisticated and confident traveler and turn him or her into an anxiety-ridden deaf-mute.” – David Halberstam (1934-2007)
gate hotel nite view 2
The Tokyo Skyline from our hotel last night.

Greater Tokyo Area (GTA) is the biggest city in the world. Some say almost 40 million people live here! And nowhere else but in Japan could 40 million people live in such close quarters—relatively peacefully. In fact, Japan and Tokyo are some of the safest places to be in the world to visit.

Tokyo buzzes with endless eclectic energy, but appears to be a vast configuration of cloud-brushing skyscrapers, non-stop traffic and bullet-trains all reflecting a constant hypnotic repertoire of in-your-face advertising. It is futuristic, fascinating and as Mr. Halberstam eloquently understates, utterly frustrating for we Westerners. Blade Runner meets Disneyland meets tacky game show.NRT 2016

In their own way, Tokyoites are gearing up for the 2020 Olympics by emphasizing an even greater commitment to the English language for its citizens. They want to help travelers. So that will be good for our gaijin travelers…they can help them. Just don’t ask yes or no questions; the answer will always be yes. Conversely, never no. They are too polite to offend guests with a no!

I will stop here in any psychoanalysis; I am not going to go deep and attempt to capture the true essence and Zen culture that is Japan. The great Pico Iyer, who lives here can’t do it, so no one can. So I will stick to observational humor and occasional historic asides.

First, a few clichés to check off quickly before we begin to discuss our time here in Japan:

-I will not mention, after this sentence, the Park Hyatt Hotel, where Bill Murray met Scarlett Johansson in the movie “Lost in Translation.” √

-I will not delve into the considerable devastation and anguish that this nation suffered a few years ago with the earthquake and tsunami. √

-I will not belittle the national conformity standards, or slavish work ethic of Japans salarymen and their bar hostesses counterparts. √

-I will not debase their whale eating culinary habits. √

-I won’t mention how socially conscious they are towards others that they wear masks when sick to prevent others from getting ill. √

-I won’t mention the cramming, pushing and shoving that goes on with commuters trying to enter subway cars; especially when you consider their sacrosanct respect for personal space and privacy. √

-I won’t wax poetically about their school girl fetishes, weird otaku (obsessions), and odd relationships with inanimate cartoon animals. √

-I will not try to explain sumo wrestling. √

-I will leave it to bigger brains to explain anime, manga, karaoke and Japanese TV game shows. √

-I will not acknowledge the cultural juxtapositions of geisha culture, J-Pop and Harajuku girls. √

-I stipulate that vending machines are a way of life in Japan from underwear to floral arrangements, hot noodles to French fries. √

-and Finally, I will leave it as a given that Japan is a big undecipherable riddle, a bundle of contradictions, a mystery wrapped in an enigma and shoved into a bento box. √

Okay, what I will talk about are toilets, Japanese exactitude and food. Maybe all in one paragraph too!

The toilets in Japan are phenomenal. Forget the French version with a simple bidet. The Japanese have squared, cubed and pi-ed that version and I want one! I want one that gently washes me, delicately wipes me and then eagerly blows me dry…all while sitting on a warm cushion like seat. The Japanese know how to do toilets. In fact, the Japanese are really good at whatever it is the decided to do. They are always so focused and detail oriented always attempting to do their very level best every time they do something, no matter how mundane a task. It is part of the national culture. Fashion, electronics, toilets, driving taxis, playing baseball, brewing beer or sake (and now whiskey), art and food. And to that end, the Japanese do food really well, especially washoku (Japanese food) be it: ramen, yakitori (grilled chicken), tempura, Kobe beef, udon, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), or sukiyaki. Personally, I love sushi. Never had it in the first 19 years of my life, but now I am making up for it. So much so, that I may try eating my body weight in sushi over the next few days. I stay away from those toney budget-busting Michelin-starred joints (Quick aside: Bet you did not know that Tokyo has three times as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris by a mind-blowing wide margin too: 217 to 94!) and head to older run single-proprietor sushi-ya (sushi shops). There are an estimated 6,000 such sushi joints in Tokyo Metro. I prefer older men in their late 60’s and 70’s—they really know sushi! Simply put, there is no bad sushi in Tokyo. The trick is to find sublime sushi. That I am intent on doing. (Hey, I did explain toilets, Japanese exactitude and food in one paragraph!)
subways japan
That said…what I will tell our travelers is to have fun and kanpai! (Cheers).

BTW: Reports from Mexico City show Rainey of team Lawyers without Borders has  a new US Passport and has flights confirmed to leapfrog ahead of us as soon as he now gets some new credit cards. We are relieved…

BTW…follow some of the teams as they blog around the world by clicking these links below:

Lawyers without Borders (Zoe + Rainey):
Two Texas Travelers-T3 (Wendy + Georgia):
2 Global Junkies (Sue + Wendy):
The Traveling Tridents (Chloe + Chris):

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