plotting

Travel Skills: What it takes to WIN?

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck to all.

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

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

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Different strokes edited

Packing Issues…Who doesn’t have them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Global Scavenger Hunt Packing List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That said…forget half the above!

The Global Scavenger Hunt Packing Tips

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

Pre-Departure Check List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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oman - david

Bad Things Do Happen to Good People

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

Indulge me in a quick rant before I begin…

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

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

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

Phew…Thank you for listening.

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

ISIS, Car Accidents and Mosquitoes, oh my…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be smart and have fun wherever you travel too!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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)

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Seven Amazing Sites You’ve Probably Never Heard Of?

Serving as the Event Director for over a decade of the annual world travel championship, the around the world travel adventure competition known as The Global Scavenger Hunt, I am regularly asked what my favorite spot in the world is?

I get the curiosity behind the question, but I loathe it nonetheless; how do you pick one out of so many? The Grand Canyon at dawn, no Venice at sunset, no Santorini…do you feel my pain?

Anyway, as you know, I believe that we live in the Golden Age of Travel. Travel has never has it been safer, cheaper or easier–I am not talking flying domestic here!. You can literary be anywhere in the world your heart desires in 24-hours. Anywhere! Today, so-called off-the-beaten path mythical destinations inevitably turn into hot spots. Then faded glories.

But there are still some not so hidden gems awaiting the curious traveler. Here is the latest edition of my collection of Seven Amazing Sites You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of…that you should consider seeing soon:

The Prambanan temple complex on Java in Indonesia. A 9th-century Hindu complex that is almost 50 meters high. Amazing. A 2011 scavenge.

The Rila monastery (aka Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila) of Bulgaria. Not so much for the important 10th century Eastern Orthodox monastery itself, but check out the transcendent frescos hidden inside. A treat. A 2008 scavenge.

The Banaue Rice Terraces on the island of Luzon, Philippines. Picture a tranquil and tropical area the size of Los Angeles amazingly carved with verdant terraced rice paddies. And it is 2,000 years old to boot. Extraordinary. A 2010 scavenge.

Herrenchiemsee Palace located in Germany in the middle an island on Lake Chiemsee. The Bavaria mad King (of Neuschwanstein Castle  fame) Ludwig’s ode to French King Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles. A surprising site. A 2005 scavenge.

Bagan Plains is an ancient Burmese area built between the 9th and 13th-centuries that features over 10,000 temples, pagodas and shrines in an arid plain along the Irrawaddy River of less than 40 square miles. Over 2,000 are still viewable. Simply breathtaking. A 2012 scavenge.

Borobudur is another monument on Java in Indonesia. A stone-made 9th-century Buddhist temple with over 2,500 story-telling reliefs and 500 Buddha statues. It is reputed to be the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Wonderful. A 2011 scavenge.

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland area located mostly in Brazil–also in Bolivia and Paraguay. It may be the most diverse biological area of the world with 3,500+ plant species, 1,000+ birds species, 400+ fish species, and 300+ mammals. Awe-inspiring. A future scavenge?

So, What is my favorite spot in the world? It continues to be simply known as Bob’s dock. Destination? I am not telling…

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The Beds I Have Slept In

I remember the first time—I stayed in a hotel. I was eight and my dad sent me on a mission to find ice. I have been in love with hotels ever since. I even once slept with Paris Hilton—Who hasn’t, right?–no not that Paris Hilton, the real Paris Hilton Hotel.

Indeed, I have always had a soft spot for hotels. And the grand hotel lobbies of the world too because they were a place where anything could happen and where you could meet someone who could change your financial and romantic destiny. The fact that I haven’t had to buy shampoo or shower gel in decades is also a plus.

Recently, I conducted a rough, down and dirty count of the hotels I have stayed in over the years; looking through my various hotel stationary, matches and travel sticker collections, old credit card bills and a few decades worth of monthly calendars. I was astounded to find that I have slept on average, more than 80 nights a year in hotels and that means thousands of different hotels over the years—good ones, bad ones and really ugly ones too.

I have stayed in capsule hotels, concept hotels, hostels and penthouse suites, ice hotels, haunted hotels, theme room hotels, cave hotels, prison hotels, historic hotels, plane hotels, tree house hotels, resort hotels, dock hotels, halaal hotels, tent hotels, clothing optional hotels and even love hotels—not the same thing! I have stayed in hotels that had been foreclosed on (the manager was trying to earn a few extra bucks), and hotels that would be more aptly renamed Hotel Insomniac and the Bates Motel.

Over the last decade, serving as the Event Director for the annual world travel championships, known as The Global Scavenger Hunt, it has become my job to find fun, interesting and comfortable hotels for our traveling competitors to stay in while they travel around the world. The hotel is not the main event for those participating–the secret destination is.

That said, finding their homes-away-from-home, I am always thinking temporary oasis, not resort destination. Our hotels serve a utilitarian purpose: as a way to better facilitate their daily experiences—outside the hotel. We want our participants to be out and about 14-16 hours a day site-doing; yet know at the end of that busy day that they have a safe, comfortable and convenient refuge to lay their weary memory and experience-filled heads.

The things I love about hotels are: personal wake-up calls, plush robes, room service, pools (for midnight swims), city views, heated-towels, comfortable beds, conversation-filled bars, balconies, and the sense of theater in grand hotel lobbies.

The things I miss about hotels today are: hotel stationary, wake up calls from an actual person, vibrating beds (Oh, come on you do to!), big brass room keys, windows that actually open, hotels that give you a pair of white gloves to read the morning paper with and lobby shoe shines.

The things I dislike most about hotels are: bean-counting revenue managers, inadequate water pressure, Wi-Fi charges, intrusive housekeeping staffs, bathroom phones, inconvenient power supplies, bedspreads, resort fees, portage fees, mystery stains and Guest Behaving Badly (BTW: There is a GBB list–the no-fly list for hotels!).

Some hotels simply try too hard but that is better than the ones that don’t try at all; while some get it just right—the Borg Hotel in Reykjavik, the Boathouse in Phuket, and the Regent Taipei, to name a few.

Some hotels are guilty as (over)charged of being bloated, ego-stroking, self-satisfied establishments living on their perceived celebrity—when in fact their fifteen minutes ended long ago.

Some hotels are too ostentatious to the point of making you feel uncomfortable, while some brands are so bland and homogeneous that you’d think you were in Cleveland while staying in Borneo. And some of the newer boutique brands are just too painfully self-consciously hip.

Here are a dozen hotels across six continents that I have really enjoyed recently—and you would too:

Electra Palace (Athens)

Heritage Suites Hotel (Siem Reap)

Komaneka at Bisma (Bali)

Governor’s Residence (Yangon)

Hotel Monasterio (Cusco)

Vancouver Shangri La Hotel

The Bangkok Oriental

Mena House Hotel (Egypt)

Palais Jamai (Fez)

Oberoi Rajvilas (Jaipur)

San Francisco Palace Hotel

The Thief Hotel (Oslo)

Why do you like hotels and what are some of your favorite global places to rest your head?
By William D. Chalmers – Copyright 2000-2016, GEA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Reprinted from Huffington Post October 2014)

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A Travel Addict’s Index to Higher Highs

“When you travel often, you will be addicted to it forever.” — Henry Miller

Gateway drugs push you on to higher highs. Could the same be said for travel addiction?

My name is William Chalmers and I am a travel addict. There, I said it!

I fondly recall the lazy lake-side cottage vacations of my youth. We all remember our first time! I can distinctly evoke family road trips — Cedar Point, Gettysburg, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, and Ocean City, Maryland. It was a mild buzz. My first plane ride from Los Angeles to Detroit was utterly thrilling. I wanted more. I vaguely recall Spring Break holidays in Florida and Mexico — utterly intoxicating. (Sorry.) Then cross-country buddy road trips.

My taste for adventure grew. My first international adventure to Southeast Asia was the coup de graĉe… the travel bug was now firmly coursing through my veins. I was hooked. And the feeling of traveling to exotic faraway destinations only heightened my senses and consciousness. I was alive, engaged and absorbed. It was utterly exhilarating and I wanted more. A lot more.

Recently, I got to wondering about that gateway drug reference and narcotic feeling as it pertains to travel. Many of us suffer from the affliction wanderlust, which describes a “craving to travel.” But how does one contract an obsession and how does one go about feeding that habit?

Like foodies, there are tell-tale signs you are a travel addict: you talk about your next distant fix while you are already in an exotic destination; you book another trip as soon as you return from one; your Bucket List keeps getting longer instead of shorter; you only date international airlines flight attendants (Okay maybe just me?); you visibly shake at the sight of a map; you always carry your passport — even at home; your Skype contacts list looks like the UN’s phone book; your idea of art on your walls is thumb-tacking postcards; you can give tourists directions in places you are actually visiting; and finally, you know you are a travel addict when you accept the need for an intervention — as long as rehab on another continent is the first-step!

Everyone is different when it comes to their drugs of choice — be it tea, coffee, tobacco yoga, marathons, tequila, love, marijuana or chocolate — so too in travel. Over the holidays I began sharing that question along with my own point of view with scores of other passionate fellow travelers. And I think I now have a good sense of how fellow travelers get hooked, deal with their dependencies and alleviate their constant cravings.

The results I have assembled below are rather subjective, but extremely interesting and thought-provoking. As a novel way to present these data points — it is a work in progress to be sure, but one that presents as a simple barometer of sorts that for the first time presents an escalating ladder of travel experiences illustrating the progression of types of trips, travels and adventurous experiences. From humble beginnings in origin, you can see how quickly the journey travelers undergo quickly climbs them up the travel addiction ladder in order to achieve higher and higher travel experiences.

I readily admit it is a work in progress. I know that unique personal experiences or specific destinations are both unquantifiable and endless in nature. And no doubt, jaded travelers, over-intellectualizing critics and sanctimonious pooh-poohers, will all make the usual arguments, complaining that: roughing it is all that matters; that trips are different than personal journeys; that tourists are different than travelers; that travelers are different than wanderers; that you have to spend X amount of time to truly know the authenticity of a place; that there is a right and wrong way to travel; and that unless you are risking your life you aren’t taking a truly daring adventure; whatever… bring it on!

Let’s call this a budding thought experiment that I front and center stipulate immediately that travel is indeed a highly personal endeavor and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to it.

That said, on a scale of 0-to-10 (10 being really elusively high!), what all travel junkies want to know — how can I get my next travel high?

The Traveler’s Addiction Index 2.0
(Bold designates significant gateway travel addiction thresholds):

.1 – Armchair traveler watching TV travel & food shows
.2 – Reading newspaper travel sections weekly
.3 – A quick trip to neighboring Colorado to, well, you know…
.4 – Two-week family summer vacation
.5 – Taking a student spring break trip
.7 – Visiting Disneyland, Las Vegas, Branson or Orlando
1.0 – Subscribing to a travel-related magazine
2.0 – Taking a cross-country/multi-state road trip
2.2 – Visiting Canada
2.4 – Visiting Mexico
2.5 – Taking a weekend cruise
3.0 – Reading a famous travel memoir
3.5 – Obtaining your first passport (with the intent to use it)
3.6 – Buying a guidebook (with the dream of using it)
3.7 – Taking an extended international cruise
3.8 – Attending an overseas conference/convention
4.0 – Studying a semester abroad
4.1 – Taking a travel agent FAM trip
4.2 – Taking an exotic honeymoon
4.3 – Visiting a Club Med/all-inclusive-type resort
4.4 – Being a business road warrior (domestic)
4.5 – Taking a Medical Tourism excursion
4.6 – Applying for The Amazing Race
5.0 – Visiting a non-English speaking country
5.5 – Backpacking through Europe
5.6 – Doing the classic London, Paris, Rome trip
5.7 – Being a business road warrior (international)
6.0 – Obtaining a visa for a foreign nation
6.7 – Taking a Gap year traveling
6.8 – Becoming a paid travel writer (not a travel blogger)
6.9 – Competing in The Amazing Race
7.0 – Having lived in more than 2 countries
7.5 – Having visited more than 4 continents
7.7 – Seen these Seven Wonders: Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Petra, Tikal.
8.0 – Visiting India
8.1 – Attended these Global Happenings: Rio Carnival, Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, World Cup, Holi, Burning Man, Fiesta de San Fermin.
8.2 – Seen these Natural Wonders: Himalayas, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, Mt. Fuji, Amazon.
9.0 – Circumnavigating the globe in one trip
9.3 – Taking an extended around the world (RTW) trip
9.4 – Reaching the 50+ countries threshold
9.5 – Reaching the 100+ countries threshold
9.6 – Competing in The Global Scavenger Hunt annual travel adventure competition
9.7 – Being considered one of The World’s Greatest Travelers
9.8 – Travel rapture
9.9 – Travel nirvana
10.0 – Hmmm?

So, where are you at on the travel addict’s ladder?

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

(Reprinted from Huffington Post January 2014)

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Foreign Affairs

There’s conventional sex, make-up sex, rock star sex and travel sex! There is no doubt travelers have sex appeal and that wanting to travel more is called wanderlust.

Forget Kissinger’s quote about power — travel is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Face it, foreigners are exotic, different, mysterious. We are all curious about other cultures fetishes, taboos and practices between the sheets: How are Italians, really? Are the French what they claim? What about Jamaicans, Japanese, Hindus, Muslim, Israelis, Africans and Latinos. And what about those Swedes?

We all really want to know. It is a big part of traveling to want to personally understand other cultures, intimately. It is text book social identity theory and anthropology101 pursuing forbidden fruits.

Consensual sexual relations while on the road, within an existing relationship or in a budding new one, makes for great sex. Be it on a typical summer vacation, a quick weekend getaway, a Swingers Cruise, joining the Mile High Club, at a LGBT-friendly destination, Club Med fantasy vacations, during a Hen Party (or a Cougar Cruise) or Stag Weekend and Mancation. While traveling, we lose our inhibitions and act as not so innocents abroad as changes in latitudes create exciting changes in attitudes.

The vacation sex equation is simple: sense of freedom + exciting environment + exotic locals + sun/sea + feeling relaxed + mysterious new partner/uninhibited familiar partner + the privacy of hotel rooms + alcohol = great travel sex!

Welcome to the Hotel Casanova. Isn’t the very nature of what travel is about, fulfilling fantasies of sort? Travel flings rock. Vacation sex rules. And occasionally, those language barriers and gaping cultural differences are broken down when carnal knowledge leads to a deeper anthropological appreciation of each other.

In my capacity as the Event Director (aka the Ringmaster) of the annual around the world travel adventure, The Global Scavenger Hunt, I can tell you that sex on the road happens…a lot! Among our great travelers we have had our fair share of: casual hook ups, travel buddies with benefits, erotic date nights, x-rated skinny dipping, marriage proposals, hotel romps, prowling late night stray wolfs, poolside seductions, hotel room key exchanges, illicit rendezvous, early morning walks of shame, and even ‘happy ending’ collections — don’t ask!

What does uninhibited, no-strings-attached travel sex abroad sound like: “But, I have a boyfriend? Oh well, I’m on vacation!” “I’ve just got to sleep with that hot Italian guy! When will I ever be here again?” “Did I really just sleep with that girl? Oh well, I’m traveling!” Most of all, travel sex mostly means a lot of kissing and no telling.

There is definitely something about traveling and sex that seems inevitable — like trains and tunnels taking us to the erogenous zones of sultry tropical environs. And we all know How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Travel sex is indeed the Big O of adventures.

I have a good friend with their own version of the Century Club — collecting international lovers instead of passport stamps. Another wants to join the elusive 7-7 Society — seven liaisons on seven continents… although Antarctica remains a cool mistress to obtain. A great lady traveler I know has her own erotic World Heritage Sitecheck list if you know what I mean: Machu Picchu, check; Grand Canyon, check; St Peters Cathedral, check! I even have a postcard from a Don Juan-like friend simply saying: “Can’t come home yet…I still have condoms!” Indeed, different strokes for different folks and foreign conquests abound with everyone trying to capture a new flag.

And who am I to judge. There was a period of time where I only dated Pan Am (RIP) flight attendants — and the stories are all true; spent sultry all-nighters on Ibiza; windsurfed the sex-fueled beaches of Greece for way too long; prowled the sordid red light districts of Amsterdam, Bangkok, Hamburg and Tokyo’s Kabukico; attended Rio’s infamous bump n’ grind clothing optional Carnaval — Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing on the Cariocas; and for a while I even suffered a serious bout of IWD — Icelandic Woman’s Disease.

So, in my best Carrie Bradshaw Sex in the City impression, it got me thinking: Is sex on the road: A) inevitable, B) better, C) copious, or D) manageable? After all, What Happens in Vegas…or Jamaica, or Bali, or Paris…Stays in Vegas, right?

Well, for sure we North Americans are trained at a young age to equate travel with sex. Think first kisses at summer camps; those infamous rites of passage known as those sex-fueled Spring Breaks — where cocoa butter, beer and bikinis turn young adults into hedonistic heathens. And don’t forget those Canadian snow birds headed south on their annual migrations in search of sand, suds and sex.

So, as an author, I did a little research (objectively I might add), and I found a few surveys about sex on the road. In a word — we really like it!

The travel sex facts are:

96 percent of travelers search for adventurous travel partners;

88 percent of Americans are likely to be intimate on vacation;

77 percent of travelers with a significant other reported a good sex life;

72 percent of the couples said travel inspires romance;

64 percent say sex is better on the road;

55 percent of singles believe that traveling makes a potential mate more attractive;

and almost 50 percent of singles have had a holiday romance.

So, there you have it. Is travel sex, vacation sex or holiday flings really all they are chalked up to be? I want to know because I am thinking of a new highly participatory culturally-oriented scavenge for our 2016 travel adventure event.

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

(Reprinted from Huffington Post December 2013)

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The Golden Age of Travel?

I am going to go out on a limb here and make a provocative counter-intuitive statement: That now is the best time in the history of mankind to travel. We are in what many in the future, and certainly those who traveled before us–no matter how nostalgic they may be, might refer to as the Golden Age of Travel.

Consider these five facts:

First off, believe it or not, the world has never been safer to travel. Fact is, the world is actually a more peaceful, less violent and safe place to travel in than ever before, despite what you hear nightly on cable news shows about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Currently there are no two nation-states at war with each other. Frankly, as a student of international relations, that is unprecedented. Sure there are a few pockets of resistance out there, a handful of violence-prone areas still too hot to visit, like: Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Somalia, Darfur/Sudan, and Syria recently. That’s  just six localities out of almost 200 U.N.-member nation-states. You could say that we have a 97% conflict-free zone to travel within. I’ll take those odds anytime. Sure, you could maybe add a few more low-intensity conflicts it might be best to avoid too, like: Chicago, the Gaza Strip, and downtown Cairo. For good or bad—and this traveling author see’s the glass decidedly half-full—the world is being pacified with the multiple effects of: expanding democracy, United Nations programs, increased literacy, globalization, social media, urbanization and secularization. They are all having a positive effect on reducing violence in the world. And this is really good news for travelers.

So forget the crap you hear nightly, those fear-mongering sensationalistic news reports only feed the insidious Mean World Syndrome. When I wear my hat of Event Director for The Global Scavenger Hunt’s annual around the world travel adventure competition, I have no problem finding safe places to visit—and neither should you.

Second: sure getting there may no longer be half the fun, but getting there today has never, ever, been safer. Flying today has never been safer; in fact, last year was the safest ever in aviation history. Three little words will help you understand air travel in the 21st century: arrived without incident—and it occurs almost 93,000 times a day! Think about that.

Third: I know we Americans like to complain—and we should about our domestic flight service (Shame on them!) because it truly is dreadful compared to international service—but one thing we have forgotten among all the relative discomforts and hassles of air travel today, is that it’s almost always better than the alternative. A century ago, ocean-crossing mortality rates could be as high as 50%; cross country train travel takes 3-days; and don’t even ask about buses. But today, we can step onto a jetliner anywhere and in a matter of hours step off that same airplane across the country, across the oceans and halfway around the world. Getting here to there has simply never been easier. And you get there at a relatively reasonable cost, (flights are 12% cheaper today than in 2000), without smokers polluting your lungs (remember smoking sections, WTF!?), with amazing seatback entertainment features (okay, on international flights not domestic ones), and last but not least, experiencing less air-turbulence than ever. Airports have never offered more consumer choices, and for the select few, airline travel lounges have never been nicer offering amazing creature comforts and amenities.

It is indeed the Golden Age of Travel.

Next we should fully understand, although we take it for granted, that connectivity and speed have rendered the world extremely small. The so-called “death of distance” has arrived making far-flung remote destinations more and more accessible than ever before. The fact is, you can be anywhere in the world you desire within 24-hours (aka my 24-Hour Rule).

Of course the jet-age of the 1960’s absolutely revolutionized travel as we know, and the continued growth of low-cost regional airlines around the world this last decade, has amplified it by pairing up more destinations than ever. There has been an almost 40% increase in city-to-city connectivity in the last decade and today over 37,000 city pairs are connected by commercial passenger flights into almost 1,300 international airports. That means that you can go anywhere and get anywhere within 24-hours. From here in Los Angeles, in 12-13 hours you can be in Moscow or Tierra del Fuego…in 14-16 hours you can be in Delhi, Sydney or Hong Kong….in16-18 hours you can be in Dubai, Singapore or Easter Island…and in 18-20 hours in Johannesburg. The furthest away from Los Angeles I can travel to is Mauritius—and you can get there on two flights via Paris and a croissant—and be there in exactly 24 hours and 30 minutes.

Finally, our amazing technological and communication advances that have interconnected everyone and everything have radically and irrevocably altered our relationship with travel. Advances have allowed us to have instant access to relevant travel information anywhere, anytime, 24/7; from knowing the weather and currency exchange rates, to flight status and seating options, and hotel availability, transportation options and reserving a table.

Think about it, we don’t have to take guidebooks with us anymore, and with the numerous social media sites available, we can directly communicate with knowledgeable locals. Aren’t we all more informed and confident travelers these days as a result of these remarkable advances? Don’t we all have a lot more choices? We have online booking, ticketless travel, at-home electronic check-ins and seat assignments. seamless financing with ATM’s and credit cards, instant free communications with Skype and Wi-Fi smart phone use; and of course the use of digital cameras to make us better at capturing and sharing our memories.

So, I submit to you that this is the Golden Age of Travel, depending on your personal needs, whims and aspirations, you can literally be doing anything your heart desires anywhere in the world you want to go in 24-hours. From urban exploration and nature adventures to scuba diving, skiing, fishing, trekking, safari, visit great art museums, indulging in great cuisines, or just visiting family & friends—the world is truly your oyster. You really need just three things to travel anywhere these days: time, resources and desire.

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

(Reprinted from Huffington Post 8 Oct 2013)

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Travel 3.0

This past weekend I spoke at the Bay Area Travel & Adventure Show. They had an A-List of interesting travel speakers including Rick Steves, Patricia Schultz of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” fame, and Brat Pack-era actor-cum-traveler Andrew McCarthy. All great travel promoters.

My topic was “Taking a Global Adventure:  The Do’s and Don’ts of Taking that Once-in-a-lifetime Around the World Adventure.” The good folks who organize these events around the country thought that I might know a thing or two about the topic as an avid traveler of three decades and due to my position serving as Event Director of the little annual around the world travel adventure competition known as The Global Scavenger Hunt. And of course they were right, as a passionate travel evangelist, I do have a few thoughts on the topic.

What really got my juices flowing however was interacting with literally hundreds of fellow travelers attending the weekend show. It seems apparent to me that discerning travelers have a pent up appetite for glorious travel adventures that go beyond the norm. They have a thirst to do something unique and a deep hunger to add meaning to whatever it is they end up doing.

Then it dawned on me, we members of Homo touristicus (aka traveling man) have evolved over the years and entered a new generation of traveling, a Third Generation that I dubbed Travel 3.0. (The Travel Adventure Show took place in the heart of Silicon Valley so the label seemed apropos!)

The First Generation of Homo touristicus happened when travelers began moving to and fro because they had to; due to trade, to attend family ceremonies, as war refugees, and yes escaping earlier eras of climate change!

The Second Generation of travelers evolved as incomes began to rise and when people started to travel because they could afford to. Their travels were mostly centered on fun and consumption; think Greek spas, the Grand Tours of Europe, the sight-seeing road trips of the 1960’s & 70’s, taking cruises, and Las Vegas weekends.

Talking with fellow travelers at the show, it seems to me that travelers have out grown and become weary of this empty conspicuous consumption, and have evolved into travelers that manifests itself within what we could call the hyper-tourism industry. I think author and adventurer, Robert Young Pelton, offered this rather insightful observation that might ring true: “The more civilized a society is, the more outrageous their adventures.” Indeed, many of us have succumbed to this approach to travel, whose stages include:

Experience Junkies who move toward the Been there, Done that, What’s next? Syndrome of list travel. Many of us pass through this period innocently enough as novice travelers. We gain status and a reputation among family, friends, and other would-be travelers, as we temple-hop, bar-hop, culture-hop, happening-hop, and country-hop our way around the world. We always seem to be in the right place at the right time; from Mardis Gras to the Running of the Bulls, from hanging in Beach-like off-the-beaten-path hidden gems to wherever the latest solar eclipse might be occurring. We’re there.

Adrenaline Junkies are also found among this modern Second Generation genus of traveler. Again, we all know the type, and many of us pass through it at some point in our lives—usually when we are either too young to know better or fighting off a nasty bout of mid-life crisis. Adrenaline junkies usually seek out testosterone-induced and wholly fabricated dangers just to feel alive or gain street-cred among other like-minded travelers by visiting hot zones or war-torn regions; or are out climbing, surfing, boarding, hiking, or running the remotest, highest, fastest, deepest, craziest destinations of the world. It is all about them and their ego-gratification; and where they actually travel to seems secondary. (Maybe we should call it Post-Travel Tourism?)

Finally you have the Country Counters among us whose lone goal seems to be nothing more than checking off boxes on a list. As billionaires keep accumulating obscenely unspendable sums in order to keep track of who’s who in their small world pecking order—so do Country Counters! Can we really call a toe-touching moment at an airport of one of the lesser Papua New Guinea islands a country you really visited? Is it really important to be the first person to visit South Sudan—for two hours?

Again, for the most part—and yes I personally know many wonderful and exceptional travelers who fit these travel-types today yet have somehow transcended these rather vulgar and vacuous definitions—the fact is that for all these travel approach types, the actual travel per se doesn’t really matter to them; for they could just as easily accomplish their great feats in Cleveland, Sacramento or Phoenix. (Not that there is anything particularly wrong with Cleveland, Sacramento or Phoenix!)

As we all know, human ambition always requires new frontiers, what if’s and challenges; and by the early 21st century it seems to me that discerning travelers have evolved into a new way of traveling—the Third Generation of travelers and Travel 3.0.

Travel 3.0 can be simply summed up in three words: authentic, challenging and participatory! What does that mean?

It means that instead of being sequestered in comfortable digs at resort hotels and tour buses away from the local and indigenous people you are visiting, that the Travel 3.0 raison d’être is to actually get you out of your comfort zone and engage in authentic, challenging and participatory travel experiences. Your traveling experience becomes all about finding the heart of a destination and having more intimate one-on-one encounters. It means aiming for a real cultural immersion. It also means attempting to feel more alive and connected with fellow human beings. It means traveling independently while testing both your strengths and weaknesses. About actively participating, about doing. Fundamentally, Travel 3.0 it is about learning and growing empathy and understanding about the world in which we live and travel! It demands that you trade your relaxation breaks for mind-expanding breaks.

On the flip side, it also means avoiding buying into those one-size fits-all travel experiences and pre-packaged tour-like products that leave nothing to chance. Travel 3.0 is radically different. It is about allowing serendipity in. It means that instead of just passively sight-seeing, that travel becomes more hands-on in highly participatory site-doing experiences. It calls on travelers to make good use of their own travel savvy, situational awareness and cumulative Travel IQ, to overcome the kismet of the moment—be they logistic challenges, language barriers or cultural differences—while being outside their safe comfort zones and autopilot default assumptions transcending your own limitations in extraordinary environments. In essence this all occurs by meeting people and turning strangers into friends. Trusting strangers in strange lands is a good motto for Travel 3.0 and maybe making friends in exotic destinations ought to be everyone’s new travel metric, instead of country counting or fueling adrenaline fixes?

I have personally witnessed the evolution towards the Travel 3.0 attitude over the last decade while serving as the Event Director of The Global Scavenger Hunt. We noticed that travelers participating in our adventure seemed more alive, engaged, positive and creative…especially when they were in what could obviously be called the flow, Maslow’s zone, or what we know as that peak mental state that occurs when travelers personal experiences are amplified. Maybe we could call it a type of travel rapture? It occurs with a feeling of being truly alive, running on all cylinders and being in the moment fully connected and fulfilled. It seemed to me that the magic of travel occurs when you immerse yourself wholly and freely into highly participatory, authentic and challenging experiences. In fact we have found that our travel adventure seemed to have turned into a full-contact sport somewhere along the way, but more of the mind and soul than of the body. Hence Travel 3.0.

Again I believe that travelers approaching the Travel 3.0 attitude could be really just unconsciously attempting to regain authenticity in their travels in the Age of Reality TV…which we know is rather inauthentic. You could call it a rebellion, a backlash maybe, but I think the essence of it is just that travelers are simply trying to get REAL and are looking for: Rewarding experiences, Enriching experiences, Adventurous experiences and Learning experiences.

How do we go about finding and taking REAL adventures? Here’s what I think:

First you have to work at avoiding or letting the Guidebook Personality Disorder overtake you. That means going to the same hotels, same cafes, same bars and restaurants, same shops and tourist sites and do the same activities as everyone else who’s read the guidebook that you read. You have to trade certainty for serendipity. It means getting away from the one-size-fits-all corporate travel approach of canned inauthentic experiences and developing what is known as your O-Factoropenness to new experience. It means confidently getting off-the-beaten path and finding and trying new pleasing destinations beyond the never-ending fashionable “latest, hottest it” places hyped in travel porn magazines or by Mad Men-like PR marketers. (Which are really one and the same!) You need to know that experience trumps destinations. And it means that you the traveler need to leave your expectations at home…alone unpacked and locked in a dark closet.That means that engagement matters more than comfort. It also means not setting yourself up for disappointment but rather setting yourself up for whatever happens.

Travel 3.0 also means that you should follow The Way of the Contrarian Traveler in knowing that travel is NOT just recreational escapism, fun-in-the-sun hedonism, gambling, duty-free shopping and acquiring more Frequent Flyer miles. You need to become an independent and thoughtful traveler—a conscious traveler. You need to lose your fear of the unknown and be willing to get lost visiting unlikely and maybe even unhip destinations. You need to be willing to zag when the conventional wisdom of the herd are zigging. It means taking calculated and reasonable personal risks knowing that the reward dynamic and emotional payoffs will be far greater and richer for you. Finally, you need to understand that no matter how bad the experience or destination, that every destination is worth at least one visit—even if it’s just to know that you never need to go back!

That
age-old adage that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!” seems true enough, and the Travel 3.0 approach might just be the newest incarnation of Homo touristicus. And as Mark Twain said wisely long ago, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do!”…so Just do it! There are NO excuses.

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

(Reprinted from Huffington Post – 20 October 2013)

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