Good Teammates

Starting to get itchy? We are…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other more practical realities include:

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

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

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

Read More

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

Read More

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

 

Read More

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! 

Read More

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Avoiding the Dreaded Jaded Traveler Syndrome

What are the Secrets To Avoiding Jaded Traveler Syndrome?

Good question…

We all know jaded travelers who ho-hum your stories about visiting Myanmar, Bolivia or Morocco. “Oh, I’ve been there!”

Or those that pooh-pooh your heroic tales of hiking the Inca Trail, seeing a Santorini sunset or noshing Bangkok street food. “Oh, I’ve done that!”

And of course they have already stayed at the newest hip hotel, visited the hottest it destination and experienced the latest urban zip trek run. “What’s next?” they pout.

Been there, done that, what’s next?

Personally, I hate the jaded traveler mentality–the word hate in this case may not be strong enough a verb.

Travel is supposed to be a joy; a wondrous adventure–and yes, a sheer indulgent luxury! We are indeed the lucky few able to see the world as so few ever can or do. Travel is also a pleasure–an eye-opening, engaging and thrillingly participatory delight.

Frankly, a lot of travelers these days travel with their eyes closed. They try hard not to look too amazed. Exhibiting a cool nonchalant manner about them. (I’ve seen them on the streets of Paris, the back roads of Bali and the winding trails of Nepal.) When in fact they are indeed amazed. It is just that their egos are too enlarged to allow them to actually see the little things that matter the most and make traveling truly amazing.

So, in the spirit of assisting some of the more jaded travelers amongst us (and fellow country collectors at large), here are Seven Travel Secrets to help ward off the dreaded Jaded Traveler Syndrome.

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously...vacations, a holiday or an adventure are times to let go, to have fun and get out of your 9-5 fifty week a year comfort zones. It is my firm belief, after conducting the annual travel adventure event known as The Global Scavenger Hunt for the last decade, that travelers never feel more alive than when they are out of their element or having to deal with challenges outside the box. So, get out of your neutral living space, out of the safety of your cubicle and get humbled. Laugh…and be laughed at. It is okay to be human.
  2. Shut up and listen…contrary to most people’s opinions of themselves, we don’t know everything. (Some of us even less than that!) People do things differently in different parts of the world–and for different motivations too. There is no right way. If you allow yourself to ask honest questions and then listen sincerely, you might be surprised what you will hear–and maybe learn also. You might even make some new friends. So, keep your talk-listen ratio in check.
  3. Slow down…breath; look at where you are and what your surroundings are. As a culture we are in crazy busy mode much too much in our 24/7 hyper-connected lives. We miss things. Like the smell of rain. The smiles on children. The cow blocking traffic in Delhi. The storm clouds brewing over Bora Bora. It is indeed an old truism we all know, but sometimes when traveling we neglect it because we are in too much of hurry to see and do things, that we simply forget to stop and smell the roses and take in the sights, sounds and smells. Stop and breathe in your surroundings. You may never get the opportunity to be there again!
  4. You are one of the gifted few…now get over yourself…you need to really know that travel is an amazing privilege–not a right! When it comes to travel today, we travelers are all part of the 1%’ers! You don’t really know how lucky you are to have won the national lottery that allows you the freedom and wherewithal to travel. So, seeing how the other 99% live, work and play in the world is a privilege bestowed upon us–embrace that luxury and make good use of it. Appreciate that mindset and make each vacation, holiday or adventure a truly special occasion.
  5. Embrace la difference...oddly, many travel tips these days are all about making your hotel and eating habits while traveling resemble a home away from home style!? What is the point of traveling? If you want everything to be like home–stay home! Accept strangeness and uniqueness of your surroundings. Get out and explore, turn each trip into a true adventure–that is one of the main points of traveling–the seeing and experiencing novel and fresh takes on life.
  6. Don’t just sight see...site do! Get out of the hotel cocoon, seek out authentic site-doing experiences and be an active participant in your travels, not just a passive sightseer. Know that the key to traveling is to actually experience a new destination rather than just going to see it. Take public transportation and leave the car hire or rental at the hotel. Never eat where you sleep–get out to try something uncommon. Play what I call Taxi-Cab Roulette, by asking a taxi driver to take you to a restaurant that he likes to take his family to! Roll the dice and have fun come what may.
  7. Let serendipity in...shit happens as they say. But know that sometimes, most times as a matter of fact, that the most interesting and memorable stories you will get from your travels, occur only when things do not go according to plan. You must let go, breathe and allow for serendipity to unfold. Learn to trust strangers in strange lands; to be open to human interaction–you will really be surprised. Sometimes the more you get lost, the more you discover. Get lost and let things happen.

As someone who has luckily traveled the globe many times, I am a huge proponent of what I call Travel 3.0 that allows you to get the most out of your travels by mixing authentic, challenging and participatory elements together to reach a type of travel rapture…a bliss or zone while traveling that makes you feel more alive and wanting more. Try it–you will never be the same again!

This type of travel addiction is much more interesting and enlightening than the “Been there, done that, what’s next?” ego-driven affliction.

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

(Reprinted from Huffington Post, July 2012)

Read More

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.
11 - YYZ - GSH 2013 PLC 001
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…

 

 

Read More

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…

Read More

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.
Ken_with_argos

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.

Read More

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?

 

Read More