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T’was the night before…

Thursday, 14 April 2016 – T’was the night before…

Buenos tardes…

Before we start…Happy Birthday Pamela…my best friend, my spouse, the mother of my children, and my partner on this global crime spree we call our lives. We had a good day here in Mexico after arriving last night. We started the day climbing the pre-Columbian pyramids of Teotihuacan–the Temple of the Sun;
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followed by seeing some great Frida Kahlo art
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and then enjoying an amazingly memoriable meal at Dulce Patria en Las Alcobas here in Mexico City. Happy birthday Pamela!
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And please indulge me a moment longer…a 20-year reign of unmitigated greatness ended last evening in the NBA: Kobe’s last game. 5 rings. 18 all star appearances, countless memories…and he ended his Laker career unlike any athlete I have ever seen…with a giant unqualified exclamation point:  60 points in a come from behind win! Left me slack-jawed. Thank you Kobe for 20 years (and 5 rings) of memories.

On a few side notes: 1) congrats to the Warriors…good job…of course what you do in the playoffs is what really counts; and 2) Go LA Kings!

Okay…that said…

…It is the night before the beginning of the 2016 travel world championships that start in Mexico City tomorrow.

Teams are assembling as we speak from various destinations and flying into MEX (aka Benito Juárez International Airport) in order to meet up at the starting gate tomorrow at 3:30PM (15:30) for the start of The Global Scavenger Hunt—the 12th edition of the annual around the world travel adventure competition that crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers™.

For the uninitiated, my name is William D. Chalmers (call me Bill please), and I will be this blog’s narrator over the next 24-days as we circle the globe visiting 10 secret destinations across four continents. My main job is Event Director. Pamela calls me the CEO (aka Chief Experience Officer) and some past participants have referred to me as the Ringmaster. It is a traveling circus to be sure. I will be candid, honest, political and sometimes irreverent. (My daughter says cheeky and saucy. My son just says “Really dad?!”…a lot.) I will also try to post as many photos and videos as I can along the way and create quick hyperlinks to help share additional info and insights.
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Me…well, you know.

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

It is often asked by prospective competitors, media and travel professionals, and fellow travelers alike that we meet out on the road: What does it take to be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers™? That is, what does it take to win The Global Scavenger Hunt…to win the travel world championships? And that is a great question.
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We think (and know after 11 previous events) that it takes a lot. Yet weekly (sometimes daily), we hear someone tell me after I explain the event to them that of course—“I would so win that!” We have heard it thousands of times over the last decade. Everybody thinks they have the right stuff, have the skills and savvy necessary and are truly great travelers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are ready! Are they?

Good luck to all that finally do make it to the starting line tomorrow. Because as they say: You can’t win unless you enter the race!
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Tomorrow we meet our teams…stay tuned.

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Who Are The World’s Greatest Travelers?

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? 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 50 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 2016 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt, the reigning title holders of The World’s Greatest Travelers™ crown are: two sisters hailing from Sydney, Australia. But there will be new winners in 2016, as a group of international teams, including four-time defending champions Zoe & Rainey (Lawyers without Borders) will be jostling for the title over the next three weeks  as they all travel between Mexico City  to Washington D.C.  — 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 2016. 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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the world in a suitcase

Travel Skills

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 world travel championship event?

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 from watching Teams, successfully—and not so successfully!—take our quick three-week lap around the world. Face it, this travel adventure requires not only taking a huge leap of faith, but overcoming a lot of situational challenges along the way too: there are language barriers and cultural differences, logistic snafus and jetlag, internal Team dynamics, as well as, the obvious heat of the competition itself. Overcoming these challenges well will be the difference between just surviving this event, and maybe ultimately winning the 2016 crown.
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Based on our personal observations of former participants—winners and losers alike!—over the past 12 events, we have concluded that whichever Team is to eventually crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers on May 7th at the conclusion of The Global Scavenger Hunt’s 2016 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.

Oh yes, and the great ability to loosen up and have fun while not take anything—including themselves—too seriously! Because after all, it is just a game!

Want to add any skills? Please do…

 

 

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Foot Photos

Admit it, we all do it. All travelers have their own selfie-type photos they take.

Some take photos with sunrises and sunsets or in front of iconic monuments. Some with locals, some have fire engine fetishes and some meals they eat food photos.

I have been know to take “foot photos”…

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But this well-traveled  young man takes foot photos to a whole new extreme.

Meet Andrej Ciesielski….and his foot photo

…and his latest exploits…

 

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A Dirty Dozen Travel Myths

Myths are true legends of actual facts that never happened.”

We are in the middle of winter and we are all just coasting along until the next edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt begins April 15th. Many of us are now susceptible to believe things that just aren’t true—like campaign commercials!

Travel is no different. Urban legends and false truism abound among travelers.

Culled from my vast travel-related archives, here are my dirty dozen travel myths that don’t seem to go away:

Travel Myth #1 – The famous Dream Seat lives! No, I am sorry to say, it is not real. The utterly romantic belief that the person of your dreams (aka your future significant other that you will live happily ever after with…) will just plop down right beside you on that 45-minute commuter flight to Des Moines, or on that 13-hour flight between LAX and HKG—is utter BS. No one likes to be drooled on fella. And everyone gets bad breath after eating the mystery meat too. I know of no couple that has ever met on an airplane! Do you?

Travel Myth #2 – You never feel the bobbing and weaving on cruise ships. Right…and I have this 20% annual rate of return investment vehicle for you too! Indeed, it has to be said, that for the most part, cruise ships are incredibly stable. Most have stabilizers and modern technological advances; but, different folks have different tolerances for the pitch (up and down) and roll (back and forth) movements of cruise ships—especially during heavy high seas. Seasickness (aka motion sickness) is real and there is a big market for it—on cruise ships!

Travel Myth #3
– The airline brace position will save your life in the highly unlikely event of an airplane crash. Hmm, a lot of things might save your life—like where you are sitting on the plane, whether you are drunk or not, whether the plane hits the ground at 600mph or at 120mph, whether it explodes into a fireball or not, whether you land in the water or into a mountain, whether the plane disintegrates midair, whether the plane is full of fuel or empty, whether your incident occurs in a rich country or a precarious failed state, whether you are flying with a CAA approved crew or not, etc…Yes, these things might decide your fate. But, putting your hands on your head and your head between your knees (if you can actually fit there with smaller and smaller seat sizes)—maybe not so much! It could just be a Cold War era remnant from the duck and cover mentality (aka kiss your ass good bye)? BTW: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) itself claims that the brace position is designed to help minimize fatalities and injuries caused by flying debris in the cabin—not in the crash itself.

Travel Myth #4
– Everyone always needs an international driver’s permit (IDP) when driving outside North America. Nope, you don’t always need one, in fact you usually don’t. Different countries have different rules. Most European countries, and former British Commonwealth nations like South Africa Australia and New Zealand (BTW: Canada is in North America!), among others, you don’t need one to rent or drive a car. A valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license is enough. For the most part, the so-called international driving permit issued by AAA, is nothing more than your own valid driver’s license translated into different languages for local non-English speaking cops to be able to read!

Travel Myth #5
– Your personal electronic devices will interfere with the plane’s navigation systems. Utter hogwash! (But never argue with a flight attendant about shutting off and stowing your electronic devices.) Who amongst us hasn’t inadvertently left them on for an entire 5-hour cross country flight at some point? (And I have the roaming charges to prove it!). All those laptops and iPads, MP3 players and gaming platforms, iPhones and Blackberries, don’t affect the airplanes electronics—or they wouldn’t be allowed period! There are twin non-electrical-related issues here: 1) people might not pay full attention to the flight attendants in times of emergency; and 2) those items, like any airplane item, risk becoming lethal projectiles in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration. It is all about safety (and airlines figuring out a way to make new fees)—not the planes navigational systems.

Travel Myth #6
– Those hotel key cards have all your personal information coded on them. Nope just another urban legend. Don’t worry about losing them or someone “hacking” them either. All they have is a random alpha numeric code to open one door in the whole hotel.

Travel Myth #7 – You can accumulate one million miles flying a year on your frequent flyer program. Well, not really. This is huge a myth among so-called road warriors—wing-nuts who take flights to nowhere just to accumulate additional airline miles. Maybe you can use an affinity credit card a lot to purchase other goods and services, but you certainly can’t fly a million miles a year unless you are an astronaut. Just do the math: 1,000,000 miles divided by 365 days = 2,740 miles-a-day (at least six hours a day of actual time in the air) every day for a year! Nuff said…

Travel Myth #8 – Train travel is always cheaper than air travel in Europe. Nope, not any more with so many no-frills discount airlines, both domestic and international, exploding on the scene over the past decade. I recently flew from Vienna, Austria (VIE) to Paris, France (CDG) for US$20! Of course my bag cost another US$30, but hey, it was still cheaper and faster. It cost US110 and took 13-hours by train. Ditto for most other major inter-European destinations.

Travel Myth #9 – You will be arrested for attempting to join the infamous Mile High Club during a flight. Well, maybe yes, but usually no. I would not attempt it in an Islamic nation that’s for sure… But, according to the Civil Aviation Authority again, there are no specific laws that govern the matter. That said, various countries have their own laws governing public sex and in reality the flight attendants that I have talked to say go for it, but be discreet—no screaming, yelling or kicking—and be quick! And never try to join the club by yourself in your seat!

Travel Myth #10
The more megapixels a digital camera has the better. That’s just the bigger is better, and more is always good mentality speaking—it’s not true after a certain point. As you may know, megapixels are those tiny dots that make up a picture, so a five-megapixel camera captures photos that make up five million tiny dots of information. Two things: It doesn’t matter what the megapixel size is if you take a bad photo—it will always be a bad photo! Plus, the bigger the megapixels size the bigger the memory card needs to be to hold all your photos. But, here’s the bottom-line, megapixels only really matter if you are either cropping out large portions of a photo or making a giant poster-sized enlargement of one. So, unless you are a pro, having a four or five megapixel camera is perfect. The rest is all marketing hype.

Travel Myth #11 – Travel now while you can before you have children, because you can’t travel afterward. This is just plain bull sh#t! Of course you can still travel with them, but yes you will have to slow down and adjust to their level, lower your expectations about what you can and cannot do and travel is obviously much easier and less expensive without them—but you still can. As I like to say, “Traveling with my partner is a real vacation, traveling with my kids is a real adventure.”

Travel Myth #12
– There is a right way to travel. Wrong, there is no formula right way to travel. There is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to travel. Some folks love to sleep on the beach, while others are adrenaline junkies. Some like the tried and true and hang with the herd, while others head off to parts unknown by themselves off the beaten path. Some folks just need a long weekend to get a vibe, while others need to immerse themselves for a whole year. There is no right way to travel, and one is not better than the other (ridiculous traveler versus tourist debate); like appreciating art, it is wholly subjective, personal and an individual experience.

What are your top travel myths? We can’t wait to hear them…

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RIP Kenneth F. Crutchlow (1945-2016)

RIP Kenneth Crutchlow (1945-2016)

Thrilled, I shared a trip around the world with Kenneth in 1989, competing together in a crazy global race from San Francisco to New York City (the long way)  on public transportation called the HumanRace.

His curious and boisterous spirit was exhibited front and center from the moment you met him…”Her Britannic Majesty’s  Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary,” he would proudly proclaim with a loud thump of his hand on a table as he bared his British passport. Kenneth was a gracious and vibrant storyteller always accompanied with his tweed jacket, deerstalker and brolly. You couldn’t not like him.

I am privileged to have known him and been able to spend some interesting times traveling the world with him and sharing a pint, or two, on occasion. My condolences go to his family and many friends.

You will be missed Kenneth.
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His Obit from today’s THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | 18 January 2016 paper:

Ex-Santa Rosa ocean rowing enthusiast Kenneth Crutchlow dies at 71

Kenneth Crutchlow, a champion of the lonely, treacherous sport of ocean rowing and easily one of the most audacious and intriguing chaps ever to grace Sonoma County, died Sunday in his native England.

Crutchlow, a daredevil and risk-taker who all his life pushed the boundaries of human experience and had a heck of lot of fun doing so, was 71.

He had hitchhiked and talked his way around the world — for the prize of a beer — when he settled in Sonoma County in 1976. Five years later, he shipped over a small fleet of black London cabs and opened a taxi service in the town of Sonoma; he expanded later into Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.

For decades, the dominant passion of the lanky entrepreneur and adventurer was ocean rowing, typically involving a single adventurer in a small, efficient, manually powered boat.

In 1983, Crutchlow was the chief supporter and advocate of fellow British subject Peter Bird’s first-ever row from San Francisco to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It was history’s longest nonstop row, 294 days and 9,000 miles.

Also in ’83, Crutchlow and Bird founded the Ocean Rowing Society International to monitor and advance the efforts of people bold enough to take on oceans alone.

With Crutchlow as his manager, Bird attempted five times to become the first person to row the north Pacific from Russia to California. He was lost at sea on a voyage that began in March 1996.

Though heartbroken by his friend’s death, Crutchlow continued to encourage and assist ocean rowers. For years, he directed the Ocean Rowing Society from an office in Santa Rosa.

At various times in his bold, utterly unpredictable life, Crutchlow pushed himself in running shoes or on a bike or in a swimsuit up mountains, across Death Valley and through the frigid waters from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shoreline.

His global perspective, fearlessness and compassion drove him also, more than 30 years ago, to spearhead the release of a British treasure hunter jailed in Vietnam. Several years after that, he successfully pressed for the freedom of two Thai fishermen imprisoned in Vietnam for having ferried the treasure hunter to an island there.

Crutchlow went broke mounting those humanitarian missions. For much of his life, his finances ebbed and flowed dramatically as he threw himself into ventures the typical person would avoid like a pit of crocodiles.

Crutchlow returned to London a number of years ago. His wife, Tatiana, was with him when he died Sunday of stomach cancer.

Friend Kirk Veale, a longtime Santa Rosa businessman who had helped to sponsor Bird’s rows, revered Crutchlow as an extraordinary, visionary man able “to experience life far beyond what the normal person would ever experience.”

Added Veale, “He did it, unbelievably, on no money.”

Said Guerneville resident Tom Lynch, who had traveled with Crutchlow and witnessed his fearless verve, “Oh, my God, he was a character. It’s a sad day.”

There are preliminary plans for a celebration of Crutchlow’s intrepid and colorful life in the North Bay in the spring.

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Travel Explore

Good Travel Mates Are Priceless

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

I know good team work when I see it. Think: Connery & Caine, Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer, Hunter S. Thompson & Lazlo, Don Quixote & Sancho, to name s a few.

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 nightmare.

In the past, I have made it a point to take prospective romantic partners on a trip to test 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 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 off the beaten path spots. We clicked and I have been with her ever since.

Needless to say, traveling with a compatible 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 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 homo touristicus. Team compatibility comes down to four essential issues: curiosity, tastes, pace and respect. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations, buy being patient, compassionate and showing empathy towards each other is critical. Who needs any unnecessary reality TV show-like drama, right?

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 competitive Type A planners, 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 meals 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 are both right? 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? Will you respect each others alone time needs?

● How will the other react when one of you just needs some simple non-dramatic alone & quiet 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!

Any constructive pointers from past teams?

 

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