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


GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

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!
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Before Picture:

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After Photo…

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

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

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Deregulation…
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Ho’s here…

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SLO Folks in the wild…

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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 4: Hong Kong, CHINA

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

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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.

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-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.

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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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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.
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2008…a plane ride to the roof of the world
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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!
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2010…up the Mekong without a paddle
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2011…kids at home, learn from Aunt Zoe–NEVER do this! (Stinks for a week)
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2011…celebrating another win with family & friends
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2012…busking for points somewhere in Europe (Keep your day job!)
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2012…Zoe naturally doing something unnatural
Zoe Rainey Cambodia 925
2013…southeast asia
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2013…chef Rainey, hmmm.
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2014…another case of ethnic costume dementia
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2014…cycling in Denmark
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2015…down n’ dirty in Fiji
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2015…in Bali
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2016…ballooning over Africa
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2016…always negotiating
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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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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.
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“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!
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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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Packing Issues…Who doesn’t have them?

“He who would travel happily must travel lightly.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We at believe that you should always be prepared, like every good Boy/Girl Scout, because you never really know what you might need or when you might need it. Your safety, security and health are our primary concerns.

Our Travelers Packing List has been refined and evolved over the years as a result of being tried and tested annually on our real world adventures. It is not meant to cover every travel situation, but merely serve as a really good guide. It will we firmly believe, enhance your coming around the world adventure. It will help you prevent Packer’s Block from occurring—that irrational inability to intelligently decide what you really need to take—and not take! Obviously, different strokes for different folks, as there is no right way. (Well, actually there is!)

Our advice for you is to pack as simply, smartly and lightly as possible to avoid the equally dreaded Packer’s Stoop—the consequence of carrying too much stuff. Symptoms include: excessive sweating, marriage dissolution, fear of theft, hernias, team squabbles and extreme upper body muscle development. Honestly, a simple roller-bag and a light day-pack will suffice.

You have no doubt read all the advice and heard all the clichés. But lest we forget those sage nuggets, indulge me in paraphrasing it all again for you as we believe that it is really freakin’ important. So, here goes: Some say that how you pack your bags defines your journey and that less stuff equals less worries. Embrace minimalism and enjoy more experiences. If YOU can’t carry it — it shouldn’t go! (Bill’s Travel Rule #1) The lighter your burden, the more pleasant your journey. It makes sense to pack light: security reasons—the less you have the less you can lose; better mobility—easier to move; it’s economical—you don’t have to tip anybody and laundry is cheaper than paying for extra bags; it’s quicker too—you don’t have to wait for your bags anywhere and no-checking issues.

That said, know a couple things are in your favor at the onset: 1) we will be traveling the globe during the months of early spring, so don’t think extreme weather; but cool evenings are likely—layer up! Rain is always a possibility between the Tropics (where we will spend most of our time!); 2) On every trip some heavily-laden travelers will inevitably jettison and ship some unneeded stuff home—you can too!; 3) They do have laundry services at most of our hotels—utilize it!; and finally, 4) Know that the world is full of consumer-friendly stores everywhere these days if perchance you really need something.

Finally, know that you couldn’t possibly take everything that we list—although a few foolish folks have tried—so please be wise in your choices and save money by packing smart and light.

The Global Scavenger Hunt Packing List:

Essential Toiletries (share if possible):
all required prescriptions
allergies? EpiPen, eye drops, decongestants, nasal sprays, antihistamines
eye wear (glasses or contacts)
Vitamins
sun protection (waterproof & SPF 30)
30-50% DEET-based insect repellent
any malaria medication
pain relievers: aspirin/Aleve/Tylenol/ibuprofen
10-day supply of antibiotics
tummy aids: antacid tablets, Imodium, Lomotil, laxatives
mole/second skin
liquid Band-Aid + bandages
antibiotic cream (Neosporin, Bacitracin)
non-drowsy cold medicine
sleeping aids, Melatonin
5-Hour energy drink or chocolate-covered espresso beans
Pedialyte powder packs
tiger balm
lip balm
small nail clippers + tweezers
tooth brush/paste + floss
feminine products
contraceptives (Who’s getting lucky!?)
antiperspirant
moisturizer
razors
nasal moisturizer spray
motion sickness relief
hand sanitizer/towelettes

Useful Stuff to Consider:
sunglasses
re-useable synthetic tote bag 

point n’ shoot digital camera
plug adaptors
USB charger cords
USB rechargeable batteries
mini-LED rechargeable flashlight/headlamp
small waterproof gadget dry bag
extra digital camera chips
lightweight speakers
headphones or ear buds
Swiss Army knife (stowed in checked bag)
note pad w/ pens
faux wedding band
cheap watch
Pashmina (good for Islamic nations + planes)
alarm clock (if not on phone or watch)
extra sealable Zip◊ Lock plastic baggies
insurance details
address list for postcards
small useful gifts for children (balloons, stickers, balls, pens & pencils—no candy!)
team business cards with names & websites
sewing repair kit
crispy $1 bills (for tips, fees and baksheesh)
snacks/energy bars (maybe one for each day)
quick dry travel towel

Flying Comfort Kit (packed in daypack):
refillable water bottle
snacks: nuts/dried fruit/candy/energy bars
warm layer
portable media player/iPad or mini-laptop
downloaded music, movies & books
noise reduction headphones or ear buds
reading material
sleep eye mask, ear plugs + neck pillow
lip balm + moisturizer
tooth brush
tissue + hand wipes
chewing gum/mints
playing cards
small towel/washcloth
4-visa photos
optional change of clothes (top + pants)

Items for Women:
1 – outer shell waterproof/windbreaker jacket
1 – hat (floppy or cap)
1 – warm dark sweater or fleece pullover
1 – walking casual shoes/sneakers/flip-flops
5 – socks (dress & athletic)
5 – underwear/bras
1 – sleep clothes
1/2 – sarongs or casual skirts, LBD
2 – lightweight casual pants (khaki’s/travel)
1 – bathing suit
1/2 – shorts
3 – T-shirts, polos
5 – long and short-sleeve blouses
1 – belt (double as money belt optional)
1 – scarf or bandanna

Items for Men:
1 – outer shell waterproof/windbreaker jacket
1 – hat (floppy or cap)
1 – warm dark sweater or fleece pullover
1 – walking casual shoes/sneakers/flip-flops
5 – socks (dress & athletic)
5 – underwear
1 – sleep clothes
2 – lightweight casual pants (khaki’s/travel)
1 – bathing suit (double as casual shorts)
1/2 – shorts
3 – T-shirts, polos
5 – long and short-sleeve shirts
1 – belt (double as money belt optional)
1 – scarf or bandanna

That said…forget half the above!

The Global Scavenger Hunt Packing Tips

Bill’s Packing Rules of Thumb:
> The single biggest travel mistake? Overpacking!
> Old adage: Pack half the stuff—bring twice the money!
> Resist the urge to pack more “just in case“—they’re called stores!
> Take nothing you can’t bear losing.
> It is true that, there’s no bad weather, only bad gear! Buy quality stuff.
> Stick to a twin color (darkish) scheme for versatility and layers.
> Split a few necessities 50/50 with your teammate’s bag—if lost you’re still okay.
> Think about stuff you can share.
> Take old socks + underwear—throw away!
> Roll up your clothes—don’t fold them.
> The Holy Grail of Packing? The judicious use of large Ziploc bags. Trust me!
> Put daily pills/Rx’s in 2″x2″ pill bags.
> Tuck socks, underwear or longish doodads into your shoes.
> Take care of your feet: comfortable, not stylish shoes—and break in before you go!
> Wrap your heavy items in the middle and bottom of bag.
> Take a digital photo of bag just in case!
> Think no-wrinkle, UPF protection lightweight microfiber-blend clothes.
> Buy shirts + pants with zippers for extra security.
> One word about the unpredictability of weather and clothes: layers!
> Use scented dryer sheets in your bag—it keeps clothes smelling fresh and clean.
> Take items that are utilitarian dual-use.
> Use transparent silicone travel-size bottles.
> Always pack airplane snacks to maintain blood sugar.
> Have a copy of medical and eyeglass Rx’s. > KISS—keep it simple stupid!

Pre-Departure Check List:

> valid passport with 5-empty pages + 6 months validity.
> 4-passport photos for VOA
> Any Mandatory immunization certificate!
> Full trip supply of recommended Rx’s
> emergency contacts
> travel insurance
> cold hard cash ($20 bills)
> set up WhatsApp + Skype connections
>
credit cards & ATM Cards (Maybe let them know you will be traveling.)
> scans + copies of all docs and then e-mail to yourself too
> all immunizations booster updated: tetanus & polio, typhoid series, Hep-A, Gama globulin, etc
> antimalarial prophylaxis (Malarone)

Travel Gear (Suggestions):
> main roller bag—20 kilo max!
> TSA-approved luggage locks
> a daypack/shoulder bag
> money belt/security pouch (optional)
> extra present/tchotchke bag (optional)

Stuff You Probably Won’t Need:
> jewelry
> Travelers Checks, really!? ATM’s!
> guidebooks (verboten!)
> umbrella
> gloves
> an International Driver’s License
> blow dryer (hotels have them)
> iron—three words: wrinkle-free clothes
> language phrase book + currency converter
> Please leave camouflage military-style clothes at home!
> Your vanity! No one cares what you look like…just be the real you!

What Travelers Most Often Forget?
that they are married!?
their manners
personal hygiene items
power cords (converters + outlet adaptors)
back-up vision (glasses, contacts, sunglasses)
enough Rx’s
ear plugs + headphones
an extra layer (sweater or sweatshirt)
bathing suit

Things to Do Before you leave Home:
> change voicemail
> STOP all home deliveries + mail
> unplug computer after you back up!
> put a few house lights on timer switches
> arrange pet care and/or gardening care?
> prepay necessary bills
> do the dishes, take the trash out—yucky!
> Please leave your expectations at home!
> Leave all loved ones on great emotional terms.
> Unplug and let go…

© 2000-16 GreatEscape Adventures Inc., All Rights Reserved

 

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Who Are The World’s Greatest Travelers?

Who Are The World’s Greatest Travelers? Good question…great question.

Until the 20th century arrived, the answer to the question was easy. There is a long heritage of great travelers, real and imagined, from Odysseus, Sinbad, Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Zheng Ho to Ibn Battuta. The Vikings were pretty good travelers say the sagas.

The word “circumnavigator” didn’t even enter the lexicon until 1625, and prior to that the concept itself was unthinkable. But then the illusive became the benchmark of great travelers for centuries. Magellan’s mates Enrique of Malacca and Juan Elcano were arguably the first to do it, followed heroically by: Drake, Loyola, Cavendish, van Noort, Dampier (who did it three times and was fictionalized in Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” and Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels“), then Shelvocke, Anson, Cook, Jeanne Bare (the first woman to do it), Darwin, Slocum and Abiel Abbot Low- — who did it in just 89 days.

When you think about it, it was only 141 years ago that Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days was published, raising the bar when Phileas Fogg and his sidekick Passepartout, employed rail, steamship, horseback, balloon and foot, among other modes. By then, traveling the world became all about speed. Who could do it fastest? Then it was Nellie Bly who did it in 75 days, and George Francis Train who did it in 60. By the time aeroplane arrived on the scene, the record for circumnavigating the globe stood at 39 days.

But of course planes changed everything. In 1933, Wiley Post flew around the world in under eight days. By 1941 Pan American Airways (aka Pan Am) had scheduled “round-the-world” commercial service. Anyone could go around the world now and fast. Hey, Yuri Garagin did it in about 90 minutes! People have now walked, biked, hitchhiked, ballooned, any other mode of transportation you could think, to become famous, and infamous, great travelers.

The winners of the cast, scripted, stunt and drama-induced reality TV show The Amazing Race? Not likely. Is it Gunther Holtorf, a 75-year old German who has driven more than 800,000 kilometers around the world to over 170 “nations” the last few decades? Is it Graham Hughes, a 34-year-old British man who traveled 160,000 miles over 1,426 days and visited more than 200 “countries” — without using a plane? What about Dave Kunst who walked around the world? Or the uber-nouveau riche Internet tycoon Charles Veley, who has claimed to have visited over 829 “countries”? Maybe it’s Michael Palin, who has done a fair amount of fun traveling around the world north, south, east and west, in conjunction with his BBC shows? I know personally, in 1989 when my partner Andy Valvur and I won the around the world race on public transportation called the HumanRACE and pocketed some prize money, some writers called us the world’s greatest travelers and then in 2002, National Geographic Traveler magazine erroneously dubbed me the “world’s greatest travelers” in a profile. It seems that anyone with enough resources can do something that attracts the media spotlight.

Obviously, they are all great travelers just because they have survived, endured and had good press agents. They all must have serious travel skills to do what they have done, along with an elevated Travel IQ. But who are The World’s Greatest Travelers?

I submit to you that today, in the era of the Super Bowl, World Cup and the Olympics, that The World’s Greatest Travelers are the winners of the very real around the world travel adventure competition known as The Global Scavenger Hunt. The annual event which is designed to answer the question by testing the travel mettle, acumen and savvy of willing international travelers in an open-to-all who enter travel competition — travelers from over 60 nations have applied! The competition pits traveler against traveler, as they not only circumnavigate the globe, but also visit 10-secret countries (no prior preparation or intelligence is possible) while performing a series of real-life site-doing scavenges that tests their Travel IQ, situational awareness, and ultimately, their true travel bona fides. Good travelers prevail mano-a-mano, as the cream rises to the top. These competitors — who all pay the same entry fee to participate — must quickly adapt to new environments (urban, rural, developed, undeveloped, Western, Eastern, Muslim, Hindu, island, city-state, etc.), overcome language barriers and cultural differences, the jetlag of circling the globe, the inevitable logistic snafus when limited to public transportation, surviving the 23-day marathon-like event, team dynamics (having a great travel mate is critical), and the ever-present heat of competition. Only after surviving all that, and flourishing, are The World’s Greatest Travelers crowned.

And so to answer the question I posed; today, just days before the start of the 2017 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt, the reigning title holders of The World’s Greatest Travelers™ crown are: five-time winners and 2016 defending champions Zoe & Rainey (Lawyers without Borders) will be jostling for the title over the next three weeks  as they all travel between San Francisco to New York City  — the long way.

You can follow the event with regular dispatches from the road, as well as on the event’s official blog site here at PostCards, along with Facebook and Twitter too. Enjoy the ride and stay tuned to find out who will be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers™ for 2017. Do you think you have what it takes? A lot of people think they do…but soon the rubber hits the pavement! 

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Bad Things Do Happen to Good People

With apologies to all the Debbie’s out there, this is a Debbie Downer piece.

Indulge me in a quick rant before I begin…

If you are one of those precious travelers that are incapable of getting over the incomprehensible whims of baggage handlers, seemingly ridiculousness of various airport lines, less than honest taxi cab drivers and the vagaries of hotel guest policies…the unpredictability of weather, the humbling predictability of human herd behavior, opportunistic pickpockets and the inevitability of food borne illnesses. Or, if you are unlikely to be able to cope when your flight is willy-nilly diverted to Saskatchewan for safety, security or mechanical reasons…or when your precious mini-adventure is derailed by a union strike, or if you get impatiently nasty when your meal is delayed for whatever reason…you should probably just stay home! Because, as the bumper sticker says: Shit Happens.  A lot of shit. The world is messy because we humans are essentially unpredictable creatures that is combined with the fact that the travel gods work in mysterious ways.

So assume the worst and the inevitability of it all: you might lose your passport; your plane will be late; they will lose your luggage; you will get lost; you will get ripped off by a taxi driver; there won’t be enough time between flights; your credit card/ATM will not work everywhere; you will get the runs; you will sit nearby a screaming baby with an ear infection on that oceanic flight; it will rain.

Now, if you are granted the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. If you accept that it is not personal—that it is never personal. You will be okay. But if you do take it personal, please—and know that I speak for everyone traveling around the world with you—we really hope you get over it, and yourself, quickly!

Phew…Thank you for listening.

I don’t want to alarm anybody with Bad Things Do Happen to Good People negativity by telling you that life is frail and precarious, and that the world is not a 100% safe secure and healthy place. There is poverty, sickness and disease; natural disasters strike with great consistency; one-off terrorist events and official and unofficial acts of violence occur; planes do occasionally go missing; random acts of violence and crimes of opportunity occur too, and terrible accidents sadly do happen with great regularity. Needless to say, but we have to, there is an Assumption of Risk in everything we do as human beings.

ISIS, Car Accidents and Mosquitoes, oh my…

But, most travelers are also a realist—not easily swayed by irrational conspiracies or the continuous barrage of unpleasantness spewing out of our 24-hour cable news outlets. We do recognize that unforeseen Black Swan-type events can and do occur (aka rare events with high impacts). But that those force majeure events are extremely rare and usually acts of gods or madmen. None of which keep me awake at night traveling because I know that statistically speaking, traveling is 40 times safer than staying at home!

Travelers should however have real concerns about their safety, security and health.

Safety First; we have all heard that mantra throughout our lives and it should remain your fundamental and conscious modus operandi. Never take your safety for granted. Always be prepared and don’t be an oblivious traveler—pay attention.

Travelers are not worried about flying commercial; fact is, flying has never-ever been safer. Three little words will help you understand air travel in the 21st century: “arrived without incident” and that occurs more than 103,000 times daily—with over nine million airline passengers—every day 365 days a year! Flying is in fact safer than walking. The 2015 airline accident rate was one incident per 3.1 million flights. To stay truly safe: keep your seat belt fastened while flying at all times.

But just as we do not worry about our flight safety, our travels on the ground consume us. This concern does keep me up at night. Be extra careful driving in cars, buses and trucks, and please stay off motorcycles; as the statistical probability of you being involved in a motor vehicle accident is extremely high and driving in foreign destinations remains the number one killer of all travelers.

How the 800 American Travelers Who Die Unnatural Deaths Annually Die:
#1 – car accidents (225 a year!)
#2 – homicides
#3 – suicides
#4 – drownings
#5 – motorcycle accidents
#6 – water craft accidents
#7 – drug-related accidents
#8 – train accidents
#9 – natural disasters
#10 – skiing accidents

Your travel safety has to depend on more than that glib rejoinder: Good brakes, good horn, good luck! Savvy travelers must be proactive in their transportation safety by: checking the tires and the general condition of your vehicle—before they get in; pick a driver that cares (not looking too tired, is maybe older (and wiser?), has kids and family to care for, and has not been drinking); and request that drivers slow down when you feel unsafe. And driving at night without headlights on to save gas is never acceptable!

Travel security matters too. But anyone one who knows positive great travelers, knows that they usually do not subscribe to the world is going to hell in a hand basket narrative espoused by cable news broadcasts nightly. The Mean World Syndrome is a myth. The fact is, the world is actually more peaceful, less violent and a safer place to travel in than ever before! We actually travel in a 96% conflict-free world; and can significantly increase their security odds even more by avoiding: Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Somalia, Yemen, Darfur/Sudan, Eastern Ukraine, the Occupied Territories and Syria. (Ironically, Chicago was the most dangerous destination on my 2015 itinerary!)

First the proverbial elephant in the room: We are not usually worried about terrorism. Again, the facts speak for themselves and they are that it is a negligible to low threat for any of us traveling on a random schedule in random places around the world. The chance of being involved in a terrorist incident is about one in 5 million. And just because you are impacted by a terrorist incident does not mean you will be a victim of one—add another one out of 20 million to those odds. Now, if you think of yourself as that special or feel really so (un)lucky—please let us know, as we’ll let you buy us a few lottery tickets along the way! But seriously, needless to say, bad things can and do happen—and will happen while we travel. And everyone should know, that no matter how much security surrounds us, that there is no real way to stop anyone who has a death wish from killing themselves and taking out as many innocents as possible. (See the article I wrote about visiting Paris after the 2015 attack on Huffington Post.)

I am reminded here what an infamous old gambler once told me when he was teaching me everything I needed to know about gambling and odds: “Bill, if the odds on whatever it might be are 10 to one, you’ll see it this week. If it’s 100 to one, you won’t see it this week, but you will see it this year. If it’s 1,000 to one, you won’t see it this year, but you will probably see it, once! Anything more than that—10,000 to one, 100,000 to one—you’re never going to see. It may happen, but you most likely will never see it happen.” Sage advice; yet the only reason we see these 100,000-to-one events is because the media shows it to us—over and over again.

Nonetheless, know that savvy single travelers, we usually have several things working in our favor that help keep us out of harm’s way: 1) we are not going to visit any of the hot and dangerous zones of the world; 2) we have no known predictable travel route, internationally or locally, for anyone to plot or plan against; 3) we don’t travel with any visible Western corporate logos and signs; 4) we don’t even really travel as a group and for the most part travel only in one’s and two’s; 5) we are all seasoned travelers with well-honed situational awareness and evolved sets of safety radar; and finally, 6) we all know how to blend in (leave your expensive jewelry, sports jerseys, gold chains, and loud provocative or camouflage military garb at home) locally and to trust our keen bullshit detectors (aka gut instincts) and those little hairs on the back of our necks.

The prospects of opportunistic crime occurring is far greater than any threat of terrorism. Hang on to your daypacks and cameras—keep them zipped up too. Loop your daypacks around a chair leg when you are sitting (ladies have known this for years). Watch out for ID theft when going online on public Wi-Fi connections. Watch out for credit card scams when someone takes your card and copies it. Be vigilant of over-the-shoulder ATM lurkers trying to steal your PIN. Keep your money in several secure places. Always look alive, in charge and not confused—be a lion not a lamb. And avoid PDA’s—public displays of affluence.

There are too numerous to mention here on-the-road scams conducted by con-artists and economic opportunists alike trying to extract stuff from you a rich western tourist: tea ceremonies, gold ring scams, fake cabbie charges, camera hostage takers, double bump extractions, disruption thefts, friendly assaults by: touts, cabbies and hawkers, the slow count, copying credit cards, over the shoulder ATM bandits, pretend policeman, ketchup or pigeon poop scams, old money or counterfeiter money passes, and precious gem sellers.

(Just a quick point of personal privilege: look for the better angels in people—trust people, give them the benefit of the doubt—because people are essentially good everywhere. We want you to think about this: since we started our annual around the world world travel adventure event, we have circled the globe 12 times with hundreds of travelers visiting over 65 unique countries that required of them to have dozens of one-on-one encounters (trusting strangers in strange lands) a day with complete strangers. To date, knock on wood, not one bad encounter yet! Please take this to heart.)

Now we have covered security and safety matters, what about keeping travelers healthy while we travel the globe.

We are always concerned about your well-being and we could encounter three different classifications of potential health concerns: merely annoying ones (jetlag, traveler’s diarrhea and mosquitos), actually painful ones (sunburn and food poisoning), and finally medically serious concerns (accidents and violence).

As we have covered the latter, let’s deal with the former two.

Jetlag can be easily dealt with by staying away from alcohol and caffeine, eating right and trying to quickly adapt to your new time zones. It usually takes one day to remedy one hour of jetlag. Know that we do our best to ameliorate jetlag when planning our around the world adventure. Needless to say you should always try to eat right and drink plenty of fluids throughout the event—it does help. As does having a well-placed sugary snack hidden in your daypack that can quickly help reduce those low blood sugar blues and screaming meanies.

You also need to accept the fact that at some point somewhere, mostly through no fault of your own, that up 40-50% of us will succumb to some form of traveler’s diarrhea (aka Delhi Belly, Pharaoh’s Revenge, Montezuma’s Revenge, Rangoon Ruins, etcetera). It is a combination of: water, diet, spicy foods, being discombobulated, and not washing our hands perfectly. So, always bring items that will ease your way through these times. But you should also know the difference between amoebic dysentery and bacillary dysentery; the latter is transmitted through parasite-contaminated food or water and is the more severe of the two. Whereas bacillary dysentery, results from running into a bacteria and usually runs its course naturally in a few days or with the help of regime of Cipro-like antibiotics. My family has taken a drug vaccine called Dukoral for about a decade and no one has gotten ill. (Results may vary.)

Mosquitos really piss me off. Those little buggers, I hate them. The females of the 3,500 species kill as many as three million people a year due to: malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, yellow fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya and now Zika. They suck! But here’s how to cope: be aware of peak dawn and dusk times; wear 25%+ DEET bug spray and reapply it often; mosquitos like dark clothes—wear light-colors, long-sleeved tucked-in shirts, long pants tucked into socks with shoes and hats; and if you feel odd a couple weeks after returning from a trip, seek out a doctor and explain where you have been. (BTW: malarial prophylaxis will protect you from malaria, but not all the other mosquito-borne diseases—always use DEET.)

Sun overexposure is easy to remedy, both sunburn and heat stroke: always wear UV protection clothes with long sleeves and pants, always use sunblock SPF30+, wear a hat and sunglasses, seek out the shade as often as possible and stay hydrated with plenty of electrolytes.

Avoiding food poisoning is a bit trickier (like winning an unwanted lottery jackpot) but something we all have gotten good at gaming over the years: wash your hands often, especially before your eat; eat only hot foods; keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods; avoid buffet lines; eat probiotic dietary supplements; make sure bottle seals aren’t broken on water you buy (I just drink a lot of beer!); eat at busy street food stalls; avoid ice cream; choose your fish and shellfish choices carefully; eat small portions when in doubt; and of course: either boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!

Here are a few other cautionary woes to be aware of:
blisters;
clear air turbulence;
unknown rashes;
falling coconuts;
wildlife bites,;
vicious rip tide currents:
nasty jellyfish attacks:
STD’s:
flash floods:
patriotic barroom fights:
…and smashing your head into something hard trying to find the bathroom of your strange hotel room (ditto toes)!

Bear in mind the so-called Golden Hour (you have one hour to save yourself and get help in the event of an accident); STOPStop, Think, Observe + Plan; don’t wait for help to arrive or count on anyone to help you; don’t be in denial but be proactive because your emergency probably can’t wait and you need to help yourself within that Golden Hour to preserve your own life. Maintain a positive can-do attitude. Remember the truism: Good things take time; bad things happen quickly.

FYI: Psychologists reveal that in a time of crisis three types of personalities reveal themselves: 75% of those in a crisis will be reflexively overwhelmed by events, stunned and paralyzed with fear (they will not react); another 10-15% will immediately exhibit inappropriate and outright unhelpful behavior (crying, screaming and manic confusion); and finally, maybe just 10-20% of people in a crisis will actually be calm and thoughtful and be able to think clearly. Act quickly and effectively and keep your buddy and yourself alive. Good luck!

Finally, let’s listen to the smart words of wisdom of your mom and net this all out: drink plenty of fluids, sleep well, eat right, always wear a condom, wear sunscreen, wear DEET bug spray, wear your seat belt, wash your hands often, don’t get drunk, don’t wear expensive jewelry, use the safe, look both ways before you cross the street and don’t piss anyone off. Ask any actuary and tell my mom she’s wrong?

Key Travel Safety Tips:
Use the Buddy System and look out for each other. Have a memorable pre-arranged password that indicates ALERT to each other!
Blend in with your clothes and attitudes—don’t be a stereotype.
Carry a clean color copy of your passport or have it scanned on your phone or camera.
Have a mutually agreed upon meeting place if you get separated.
Inform someone where you are going, what your itinerary is and the time you expect to return.
Always have a business card or matchbook from your hotel in your pocket.
Don’t carry too much stuff with you that you can’t manage to have free hands.
When lost, read maps off the street sitting in a park or in shop or café.
Crime usually depends on opportunity—don’t give them an opportunity.
Would-be thieves want money and stuff, they don’t usually want to harm you—let them have it.
Keep your safety radar, bullshit detector and situational awareness indicators on 24/7.
It is usually smarter to have a taxi called for you than waving one down on the street.
Never, ever, drink too much in public places.
Wash your hands often.
Always have water with you.

Be smart and have fun wherever you travel too!

By William D. Chalmers – Copyright 2000-2016, GEA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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