16th Annual 2019 Travelers GO/no-GO List

Where to go? Where not to go? That is the question for travelers in 2019.

The year-end dust has settled: We have seen all the “best places, must see’s and top destinations” for 2019 lists, talked with a few fellow travel writers and so-called travel experts, and compiled our facts.

There is good news and bad news for travelers in 2019. The good news is that despite media ramblings to the contrary, the world is actually a really safe place to travel; in fact, it is a 94% conflict-free zone. The bad news is that there are more travelers than ever before (over 1.4 billion) going to all those great destinations. Over-tourism remains the inconvenient elephant in the room—we are all loving the planet to death.

Serious travelers want authentic, exciting and participatory adventures—so it does not matter where it is, and thus our options are endless.

First, the bad news: a few destinations you might want to voluntarily avoid aside from the middle seat on a long-haul trans-continental flight, here are our 2019 Travelers noGO List.

Like misbehaved school kids, getting put on a No-Go-List (Billy Chalmers you are a planetarium No-Go)…these nation-state outcasts fall on the bad side of the terrorism/failed state nexus, filled with: conflict entrepreneurs, malnutrition, cholera, human smuggling, the re-emergence of slavery, corrupt regimes, and the growing ranks of a “gun class” wreaking havoc on already divisive, fragmented and desperate places. Our Hobbesian hellholes include:

The large geographic war zones of: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. The smoldering growing lawlessness of: South Sudan, Libya, Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia and Cameroon. And the increasingly depressing zones of Myanmar’s Rakhine State and Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk areas. Personally, I’d stay away from Saudi Arabia—you could lose your head; and have I mentioned that Caracas, Venezuela is the toughest town I have ever visited!

Now, knowing where not to go is only six percent of the equation, from the other 94% of the world here is our annual Go-List. Certainly “hidden gems” do exist, and second and third tier destinations, that are for the most part, off the well-beaten tourist track, are worth a visit. As contrarian travelers, I would choose: the Dalmatian Coast instead of Cinque Terre, Malta instead of Southern Spain, Apulia instead of Tuscany, Cork instead of Dublin, Viet Nam instead of Thailand, Sri Lanka instead of India, and Porto instead of Lisbon.

Bucket lists vary, but here would be my 2019 Go-List:

Corsica – An intriguing mountainous French-inhabited Mediterranean island full of charm, great food and adventure—from rugged peaks to salacious beaches. Rent a car and just drive from one colorful market to the next, from one historic citadel to the next, from one magnificent beach to the next. In this outdoor lover’s playground, the next one is always good.

Luang Prabang, Laos – An amazing little colonial town bursting with energy, history and adventure to be had: golden Buddhist temples, French-colonial architecture, hiking trails, elephant sanctuaries, Mekong River cruises.

The Global Scavenger Hunt – It has been called the Burning Man of travel adventure and is becoming for travelers-in-the-know, a cult-like institution celebrating their 15th edition in 2019. It’s like taking A Blind Date with the World, a real-life around the world Amazing Race-like competition; and it offers philanthropic opportunities. Where’s the bad? The 2019 edition of the annual three-week travel adventure event is scheduled for April 12-May 4, 2019. (GlobalScavengerHunt.com)

Valletta, Malta – I have been bullish on Malta since a 2004 Go-List. An exciting mix of Sicily, Cyprus, Marseilles and Tunis, this historic city on this amazing island is an exotic departure from the traditional popular Mediterranean hot spots. With only about 350,000 citizens, this little big port city makes for an enticing place to visit. Maybe the new Paris of the 20s, Bali of the 70’s, or new Prague circa 1990? Just saying…maybe 2019 is the year!

Ladakh – Forget busy Nepal and independent-traveler limiting Bhutan, the Kashmir-Jammu Himalayan region of Ladakh is the place to visit from June to September. See the Tibetan Buddhist culture of Leh, the monasteries that dot the area’s lakes and high-altitude deserts and traverse some of the world’s highest and most thrilling road passes. Whether you tent, trek and truck, the remoteness of the entire area—lakes, valley and mountains are stunning. Meditate and enjoy the chang (beer)—I did!

Also high on our list for 2019 are nearby: Karakorum, Mongolia, Uzbekistan’s ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, and Tbilisi, Georgia too. Hints? Maybe, maybe not!

Solar Eclipse – Become a certified Eclipse Chaser and on 2 July 2019 head to South America for a total eclipse. With weather permitting, from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza, Cordoba and Buenos Aires, Argentina, you will have a great view—but don’t look to closely!

Honorable Mentions on our 2019 Go List include: ever intriguing Jordan; the Maldives—which deserves a visit while it is still above water; and Bolivia from Lake Titicaca to Salar de Uyuni.

Go to one, go to all…I will be on the magical mystery adventure The Global Scavenger Hunt this spring for 23-days.

You?…Where are you traveling to in 2019?

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Our 2019 Travel Resolutions

A clean slate, January 1st. Onward and upward. Soaring with the eagles.

One can only hope, right?

Every year we make resolutions and hope that our latent optimistic tendencies will be elevated by the goodwill of the so-called January Effect—that somehow our aspirations and dreams become reality.

One can only hope, right?

In that vein, I came up with my 2018 Travel Resolutions that might help make us all (oaky, me) be better travelers; and so, I resolve to be a better traveler by:
…prioritizing experiences over stuff; memories over expenses; and new friends over miles.
●…taking less Oblications (obligatory visits to family) and more real vacations. Selfish I know, but we all need it.
● …unplug more often and not let technology get in the way of interacting with locals.
● …take more authentic, challenging and participatory adventures like the real-life event The Global Scavenger Hunt.
●…spend less time at global Starbucks researching the Latte Index and more time in neighborhood cafes.
●…spend less time in my hotel lobby and more site-doing.
●…spend more time in places but less money in them…acting more like a local.
●…to miss at least one flight in 2019 because I am obviously spending too much time in airports-cum-malls.
●…to lower my bloated expectations by reducing my meticulous destination planning.
●…to not try to one-up other travelers when they are telling their favorite travel stories.
●…to avoid trendy hot popular destinations for the ones I really want to visit.
●…to embrace the transportation truism: the cheaper the ride, the friendlier the people.
● …to walk more wherever I go.
● …take better pictures—but not so many that I forget to see what is in front of me.
●…to do something new for the first time every day when I travel.
●…to learn how to cook a dish from every country I visit in 2019.
● …to be more patient dealing with the trials and tribulations of traveling.
● …to stop whining and kvetching about traveling—it is an amazing privilege.
● …to do one thing a day that scares me!

What are your 2019 travel resolutions?

Happy New Year and happy trails in 2019!

Tomorrow we will list our 2019 GoTo Destinations…

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Anyone Up for a Drink?

I used to pride myself decades ago that I could order a beer and get kissed in any language in any country…I can still order a beer anywhere. Even in a dry country. Today, I consider myself a cultured drinker.

Ain’t nothing like it…

Frankly, I could write a book about drinking abroad—a long book. (It’d be called “A Drunkalogue of Inebriated Travel.” Maybe not…) Please don’t judge me with this admission, but I do enjoy a good l’heure du cocktail, a cold beer and experiencing novel adult beverages around the world. Humans are just so ingenious and imaginative, we can make mind-altering substances out of just about anything when mania or melancholy moves us. I have indeed been lucky to have had both the opportunity to experience many of them, and an even stronger liver to have survived.

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder…

It is said, that as many people drink to remember as to forget; whereas I drink to experience the scenery: the local scene, indigenous people celebrating life, transcendental sunsets, rooftop city views, history, passionate conversations, and so much more. And make no mistake, alcohol has magical socializing powers that can give your soul an enema; allowing for equal parts honesty, humor and therapeutic breakthroughs.

Lily (Yolo Go Now! 2017) contemplating her dubious good fortune in Belgium. 

When I think of 17 Global Scavenger Hunt’s to over 80 countries, I also think of all the chapters in that drinking book: Irish Pubs, Tapa Bars, German Beer Halls, Sports Bars, Hostess Clubs, Wine Cellar Bars, Karaoke Bars, Hotel Lounge Bars, Wine Regions of the World, Alehouses, Sandy Beach Bars, Islamic Permit Rooms, Legendary Bars, Russian Rumochnayas, Nightclubs, Live Music Joints, Taverns, Neighborhood Dive Bars, Japanese Izakayas, Cigar Bars, Brewery Tours, Rooftop Bars, Paris Cafés, The Ultimate Pub Crawl, Old Fashion Saloons, Alcohol Festivals of the World, High Concept Bars, Bourbon Street Fun, AA No-Go Zones, Rooftop/Sky bars, Best Bar Eats, Nostalgia Bars, Global Cocktail Scavenges, Bartender Roulette…we humans really like to drink and there’s simply too much to consider.

An Institute of Higher Consciousness…

Okay then…let’s cut to the chase and talk a little about drinking. Of course my lists are all subjective (I welcome your input), there are obviously no right or wrong’s here. That said…

Bottoms Up Wendy (T3, 2016)…

My Drinking Pet Peeves:
-serving fruit in a beer
-air-boozers who drink from wheels up to touch down
-drinkers that turn into Mr. Hyde
-any alcohol with snakes or worms in the bottle
-minibar rip-offs
-bar nibbles that cost a bloody fortune (I’m talking to you Italy!)
-loud drunks (especially patriotic ones)
-flavored craft beers
-any adult beverage served with a straw
-snobby drinkers who can’t be satisfied
-distilled liquors that actually taste like blind…
-people who order me shots I won’t drink. I am not 18, I don’t suffer peer pressure.
-never been a fan of Molotov cocktails!

Long Gone’s (2017) Geoff about to…

My Drinking Observations:
It’s true, it is always 5 o’clock somewhere.
The first sip of a cold beer is utterly sublime.
My sweet spot is between the 2nd and 3rd vodka martini. (But how to stay there is the paradox?)
People drink too much on vacation…it leads to Holiday Heart Syndrome.
A drinkers Infidelity Index rises with each additional round.
It seems beer and wine are the best social lubricants, whereas distilled drinks are best for ruminating alone.
Champagne makes everyone indulging silly.
I prefer soulful fun music over being surrounded by blaring TV monitors.
It’s best to have one glass of water per drink—other than beer of course.
Smartphones have significantly reduced the number of barroom disagreements.
Bartenders are usually not as smart or as insightful as they appear.
Tip: Always carry a piece of paper with your name on it. You never know

Frozen Polish Love Juice…

Great Drinking Cities:
Brussels
Dublin
Paris
Munich
Bangkok
Los Angeles
Tokyo
New York
Melbourne
Lisbon
Prague
New Orleans

A San Francisco Special…

Great International Bars I’ve Had Fun In:
High Five, Tokyo
Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires
Barchef, Toronto
28 Hongkong Street, Singapore
Gordon’s Wine Bar, London
El Floridita, Havana
Africa House Bar, Zanzibar
FCC, Phnom Penh
Rick’s café, Negril
King’s Head, Islington
Hofbräuhaus, Munich
The Rex, Ho Chi Minh City

My Favorite Beers of the World: (I prefer draught over bottle)
Leffe – Belgium
Guinness – Ireland
Weihenstephaner Vitus – Germany
Pilsner Urquell – Czech
Asahi Dry – Japan
Tiger Beer – Singapore
Bernard – Czech
Kronenbourg 1664 – France
San Miguel – Philippines
Dos Equis XX – Mexico
Molson Canadian – Canada
 
A Few of my Favorite Things…Belgium Edition. 

A Few of My Favorite Beverages:
A cold Tiger draught beer with salted-nuts in the hot afternoon sun.
A Bombay Sapphire gin n’ tonic after a long day watching an African sunset—sans cucumber please!
An extra extra dry Chopin vodka martini up with a twist before dinner.
A pint of Guinness on a moody rainy Euro-afternoon.
A super Tuscan vin rouge with a charcuterie plate with family and friends.
A mid-afternoon dulce de leche espresso after a museum stroll.
Cold Otokoyama Junmai sake with a sushi lunch.
Flights of Spanish riojas with flights of Spanish tapas.
A bag of sweet Thai iced tea with street food.
A crisp bottle of pinot grigio and some seafood seaside.
Shots of chilled Russian vodka with spoons of caviar.
A true chocolat chaud and croissant in a Paris café.
A tart caipirinha at a beachside kioscos overlooking Rio harbor.
 
Liquid Candy…and, Perfection and Grace.

Cheers! Prost! Salute! Kanpai! Na Zdorovie! Santé! Fa Sahetek! Skoal! Cin-cin! Ganbei! L’chaim! Bottoms up!

What do you love about drinking while traveling?

Written by: William D. Chalmers

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How many countries are there and what constitutes a visit?

Usually it’s a civil debate. Sometimes just a brief, frank and cordial diplomatic exchange. Although on a few occasions it has gotten downright, dare I say it, territorial, between a few lesser intellects or overly patriotic nationalists. Blood is lost, and sacred drinks are spilled.

How many countries are there anyway?

I remember three such debates in particular: One, a marathon session in a dank and dark pub in Dublin on a rainy afternoon over numerous pints of Guinness. Another took place on a sultry and easygoing evening at the FCC in Phnom Penh. The most memorable one though, occurred though around a remote fire circle somewhere in the fabled Lost World of Venezuela’s Gran Sabana between a handful of well-lubricated fellow travelers from no less than five continents. All the debates start out the same…and then escalate to terra incognito from there: “So mate, how many countries have you been to?

And so, it begins.

It sounds simple enough. And to some it is. Yet for me, this has always been a tough question to answer. One that I’ve grappled with and pondered obsessively since my graduate school days studying the lofty ideals of international relations at the London School of Economics. (Maybe that’s my problem? I am just a pointy headed intellectual!) Whatever…there’s no easy answer—at least one that makes everyone happy.

1911 British Empire Map of the World…a lot has changed.

Why? Because frankly, countries come and go. So the study of nation states demands a certain flexible multidisciplinary approach: tribalism, geography, history, culture and geopolitics all come into play. Remember, it wasn’t until 301CE that San Marino became the first official “country.” Believe it or not, nation-states have not always been—nor will they always be. Personally, I blame the mapmakers for all the subjectivity and disharmony on this issue. That, and the revenge of geography; outsiders drawing those arbitrary boundaries on pieces of old paper—What were they thinking? Either way, it is political geography run amok…the world map is not settled. Remember: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, East Pakistan, North Yemen, Sikkim, the USSR and Yugoslavia?

I still have stamps from Sikkim.

So, depending on your definition of “country” it could mean different things to different people: according to the United Nations, there are 195 official nation-states (including: Palestine and Vatican City); the International Olympic Committee says the number is 206 (including: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, British Virgin Islands & Hong Kong); while FIFA of World Cup fame has 211 associate-states (including: Taiwan, Gibraltar, Macau, Northern Ireland & Wales); and the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) lists 249 different country codes (including: Antarctica, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Guam & Western Sahara).

But there are more than just dry political constructs to consider, there are living people to consider too.

Think about this for a moment: It is estimated that there were some 600,000 self-governing communities (tribes) in 1500 BCE, and now, after 3500 years of social evolution and a few hundred thousand wars, the ebb and flow of scores of empires, countless rediscoveries, and more than a few national mergers and acquisitions later, we’re down to just 195 nation-states in the United Nations. We know that scores of unrepresented people’s homeland aspirations lay outside our strict nation-state definition; think Tibet, Kurdistan, Uyghurstan, Scotland and Catalonia to name but a few. In fact, just using unique cultures, as defined by languages as a yardstick, linguists and cultural anthropologists contend that there are around 600 distinct ethnic groups with unique “in-use” languages—over 230 separate languages are spoken by at least 2 million people each day—of the 7,102 living languages still in use. (Differing regional dialects reflect the split of most of those 7,100 languages.)

The many languages of Asia alone…

That said, now here’s where it gets hairy for us travelers: The Century Club claims that there are 327 official countries and territories to visit, while the Most Traveled People list 873 such possible unique destinations. Clearly, a broader working definition of “country” must come into play when one is “counting” their visits—as we are seemingly prone to do.

Here’s my take: Somewhere between the seven geographic continents and 600 distinct cultures lies the answer. Aside from sometimes contentious on-the-ground political realities, islands remain the biggest point of disagreement among travelers whenever the debate ensues. The exact number is impossible to count (While the Chinese keep building more!), in fact, of the millions of islands per se, just 11,000 islands have permanent residents. There are over two thousand islands just in the oceans of the world. Do they all count? No, let’s not get silly.

Out of the way and with no good restaurants! 

What about unique non-politically correct (at least today) places, breakaway and proto-states or unique territories and provinces? Examples include: Palestine, Taiwan, Kurdistan, Tibet, Abkhazia, Kashmir, Puerto Rico, Sahrawi, Somaliland and Scotland, among scores of others. Yes, they do count in my book as distinct and unique loosely-defined “countries”—sometimes within other “countries” by choice or not. I am from Ontario, Canada, and I can tell you that Quebec is uniquely different from the rest of Canada.

Finally, what about geographically disconnected (sometimes islands, sometimes exclaves), peripherally aligned to a “country”? Places like Alaska, Hawaii, Zanzibar, Kaliningrad, Northern Cyprus, Cabinda, Gaza, Musandam, Nakchivan, Temburong and Easter Island, to name but a few. Yes, they do count qualify as unique destinations to count as a visit.

So, 193 “countries” is clearly incomplete, 900 places to visit maybe a tad too high and I side closer to the 300 “countries” number, give or take; although islands remain my biggest point of disagreement with the “counters” I run into. To date, The Global Scavenger Hunt has visited 85 such countries.

The Global Scavenger Hunt 85…heading towards 100!

More importantly for us travelers than how many places there are to visit: What counts as an official visit to one of those countries?

Do you count layovers or fuel stops? What about driving or riding on a train through a country without getting out? Do you have to eat a meal there? Spend a night there? Have at least one interaction with a local?

My technical definition of an official “visit” is simple: You are there, two feet on the ground; there is no minimum time required for such a visit. That said, interacting with a local resident and either enjoying a meal or experiencing something is key. Personally, it is quality over quantity for me as I have aged and traveled more and more.

Proving it? Easy: passport stamp (a visa alone does not prove entry), transportation ticket stub, credit card or meal receipt, selfie of the traveler within the territory with some type of local sign or icon. Trust but verify I always say.
 
Just curious, anybody out there been to the world’s newest country?

Written by: William D. Chalmers

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Travel Personalities Right for The Global Scavenger Hunt

On a daily basis we get the question: What type of person goes on The Global Scavenger Hunt?

Curiously, interviewers, writers, travel agents and corporate mucky-mucks all want to know what type of personality, archetype or psychological makeup best fits our traveler profile.

It will come as no surprise that our hundreds of travelers have come in many shapes and sizes, of all ages and from all around the world. Mostly we have selected the right travelers for the right adventure—and we know that our annual around the world travel adventure is not for everyone (nor do we want it to be frankly). We have erred on occasion; and more than once over the years, ill-suited travelers took our Blind Date with the World. Although never a total disaster, and no one has ever quit the event in progress; it obviously wasn’t a good fit for them—or us.

That said, we prefer to accent the 98% positive side of the story. So, as we prepare for yet another lap around the world, we thought we’d try to answer that burning question: Who indeed?

We will quickly dismiss from our analysis the “not them” people: apathetics, novice travelers, worry-wart fear-based travelers, personal crisis travelers, endless complainers, social media poseurs and the cruise-only types.

First off, one of my travel-related pet peeves: Please cease and desist with the endless faux debate arguing the difference between traveler and tourist. One is not better than the other; and we are all tourists: AKA “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.” A traveler is just a tourist “who travels more often or longer than the average” person, plain and simple. Nuff said.

Traveler traits are however another thing and they vary widely. Vacation personalities, travel styles, and interests differ among us all. There is no right way to travel. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations. But travel personalities can be categorized, if you’re curious enough and look closely. Here’s our down and dirty breakdown of the ten travel personalities and distinctive traits of people that are attracted to The Global Scavenger Hunt.

Enthusiasts: Are more laid-back low-stress type-B’s: positive, easygoing, adaptable, tolerant, flexible and open to new experiences. Usually cheerful, they are fun and enjoyment motivated; like to belong, go with the flow and are happy to be here. Typically, they are people focused travelers who like to share, play by the rules and are appreciative of their privilege to travel. Whether on an organized trip as a tourist or in a group setting—it’s all good to them.

Adventurers: Indiana Jones-types with good travel literacy. They are confident, curious, novelty seeking, grand escape-oriented, and DIY independent travelers who can easily make their own travel arrangements. They take public transportation when they can because they know that getting there is still half the fun. They love talking about traveling and are typically foodies too. Often spontaneous and last-minute planners, they love the sense of freedom traveling offers them while seeking out the unfamiliar. They wholly embrace the idea of taking A Blind Date with the World. (Many are reformed Buzz Seekers)

Explorers: Are usually intellectual, mechanical travelers; old salts with high travel IQ’s. Ever-curious, sometimes historic-centric (World Heritage Sites are high priorities), it is all about the journey and taking the road less traveled wandering off the beaten path— sometimes aimlessly. Slow and inquisitive travelers, many are members of the Circumnavigators Club.

Thrillionaires: Know the enriching benefits of novel travel experiences because experiential value, while not worthless—is actually priceless. They rightly equate wealth with passport stamps, friends made, and extraordinary experiences had. They are up for anything, anywhere, anytime; with high degrees of the O-Factor: openness. Always on the lookout for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, they possess a strong sense of self-curiosity and embrace change; they are site-doers and are always willing to trust strangers in strange lands. Nothing beats new and glorious first-hand sensory experiences—be they natural beauty or human-made. They understand the positive psychological consequences of having as many lifetime peak experiences as possible. (Borderline Competitive Travelers)

Offbeat & Highbrows: A mixed lot of creative types and urban sophisticates who are perspective-seeking travelers. They seek authenticity and gravitate towards the culturally-oriented aspects of travel: music, the art scene, history, museums and architecture. (Intangible Cultural Heritage destinations figure prominently.) They like the finer things in life. They embrace uniqueness and the unconventional that stimulate them to think in new ways. Vive la difference may be their operating assumption. They are willing to experiment, learn, and allow for serendipity in their quest to find the meaning of life…and their place in it.


Travel Addicts: Just love to travel and take a lot of jaunts; the wanderlust gene (AKA dromomania) is either a system glitch or a highly evolved feature. Travel is key to their lives: they work to travel, they live to travel, they love being on the road. More long-term travelers by nature, they are always eager and excited to go—to get away. Their travel to-do list keeps growing the more they travel. They don’t count countries—they count new friends. Often a loner, and usually with more will than wallet; they are critical and inquisitive travelers, wanders really, with a sense of unlimited possibilities. Like a chameleon, they easily immerse/integrate themselves in whatever culture they are in. (Often Contrarian Travelers too)

Contrarian Travelers: Love to travel but don’t like crowds, high prices or typical tourist destinations. (80 percent of travelers go to the same 20 places) Often carrying two passports, they avoid trends like the plague and go against the grain—zagging when others are zigging: traveling in the shoulder off-seasons (spring and fall); traveling to a region following a monsoon, hurricane, volcano eruption or earthquake; following a one-off terrorist incident whose subsequent media hysteria freezes other travelers; traveling where the dollar exchange rate brings good value, and flying on carriers that just experienced high-profile incidents. Bad news equals good travel prospects. Weather doesn’t matter to them when or where they go, and they usually stay in weird ass hotels. They avoid hot destinations—they probably have already been there—and seek out quirky offbeat adventures surfing their own wave. (Usually Travel Addicts)

Achievement Traveler: Competitive? You betcha. Bucket List-oriented with type-A personalities: hard-working, driven, status-oriented, compulsive organizers, perfectionists, rule benders who like to play games. Masters of the universe. Amazing Race-like trophy hunters and mountain climbers impressed by travel-related achievements and the bragging rights that go with them. They want to be The World’s Greatest Travelers. Usually country collectors, many are members of the Century Club. Been there, done that, what’s next? Borderline jaded travelers, they love talking about their travel war stories—though they aren’t such great listeners. (Older, richer and mellowed Buzz Seekers)

Harmonious Traveler: They are the virtuous serene travelers. Quest oriented, almost pilgrimage-like, they are looking for either: a soul-purifying personal transformation via cathartic spiritual enlightenment, or to make the world a better place with their own altruistic and nurturing brand of personal diplomacy. Travel is therapy. They care a lot, and are: compassionate, attentive, emphatic, responsible, nature-oriented, conscientious and somewhat mystical. There is spirituality in both the people and places they visit; and there is personal growth and healing to be had in their deep connection with our Global Village’s humanity—and it is their mission to discover it. Or, often, they just want to see if another culture is a better fit for them than their own. They subscribe to Gandhi’s travel is the language of peace ethos. (Evolved Enthusiasts)

Buzz Seekers: Passionate, creative, life of the party, event-oriented Hemingway-types. Adrenaline junkies with high-risk = high-reward mindsets, whose high wire activities make them feel more alive. Type-T personalities, who feed off the rush, the sheer audacity of their exciting thrills; and are usually, although by no means exclusively, male. They are travel outlaws who seek danger for danger’s sake. War zones—no problem. Seat of their pants travelers in a constant state of movement, they are gamblers and risk-takers prone to extreme physical activities…with more than a little machismo present. What you might think of as white-knuckle near-death experiences they merely see as just another thrill—another high; just another epic adventure perhaps to reinforce or enhance some perverted sense of themselves.

What travel personality do you see yourself fitting? More importantly, are you ready for a life-changing adventure?

Written by: William D. Chalmers

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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20 Must See Art Pieces from Around the World: Oh, The Beauty We’ve Seen

Art lover’s of the world unite!

If you love art, beholding art…experiencing art; nothing is better than seeing it up close and personal. Having visited 85-countries on various editions of The Global Scavenger Hunt–we have seen a lot of art. The Masters, avant-garde, religious art, non-Western, aboriginal and street art. Mere words cannot convey the amazing, odd, moving, peculiar, shocking, transcendent, remarkable, sublime…humanity-inspired works of art we have been privileged to personally experience over the years. There is nothing like seeing the real thing, sometimes in the place it was designed to be seen.

And there is a lot to see…more than what is in any art history textbook that’s for sure. Sure, there’s da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Last Supper, Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel, and Rodin’s The Thinker, all well and good—if not a tad crowded to experience. But know that stuffy European museums are not the only places to experience incredible art; here are a few of some of the exceptional pieces we highly recommend you seeing (before you die–okay I said it!)…Enjoy!


Tree of Life
mosaic – Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos (*)


Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring – Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands (*)


Stone of the Sun
– National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico (*)


Picasso’s Guernica mural – Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid (*)


The Taj’s inlaid mosaics – Taj Mahal, Agra, India (*)


Windows of Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Caves of the Thousand Buddhas – Dunhuang, Gansu, China


Mephistopheles frescoes – Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, Bulgaria (*)


Windows of Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey (*)


Rivera‘s The History of Mexico mural – National Palace, Mexico City, Mexico (*)


Klimt’s The Kiss – Belvedere Gallery, Vienna, Austria (*)

Mosaics of Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood – Saint Petersburg, Russia (*)


Madaba Map mosaic – Madaba, Jordan (*)


Zeduan’s Spring Festival on the River – National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (*)


Chagall’s  Opera Garnier ceiling – Paris France (*)


Orlando Towers – Soweto, South Africa (*)


Ajanta cave 17 paintings – Aurangabad, India


Huaca de la Luna
murals – Trujillo, Peru


Windows of La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain (*)


East Side Gallery – Berlin, Germany

…and the list goes on and on of course.

Come with us and see what beauty you will experience…

What are some of your favorite pieces of global art that truly move you?

Written by: William D. Chalmers
© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Our Responsible Travelers Creed

Is there a right way and a wrong way to travel? Yes!

We live in the era of the Virtuous Traveler. We at The Global Scavenger Hunt (TGSH) believe that traveling in the spirit of humility and curiosity will enhance your journey. To do well in this event—and to travel in general—you will find it necessary to interact with people throughout the world: to trust strangers in strange lands. Their customs may be different and strange, effective communications may be challenging; but make no mistake about it, your destiny will be determined by the kindness those strangers extend to you. So, smile, listen well, be sensitive, go slow and gentle into the night, and accept karma.

In our humble opinion, below is a Responsible Travelers Creed that every traveler ought to abide by. Most of it is commonsense, but since ignorance can do a fair amount of harm, we find that they always bear repeating:

Do no harm. Minimize your impact. Be Green. Pack it in—pack it out. Leave nothing in your wake. Take only pictures and wonderful memories with you. Don’t litter and never leave graffiti—even if it appears to be a custom. Try to save precious water resources as much as possible and conserve energy as well. Minimize your footprint as best you can. Use an eco-sac bag and use reusable water bottles (fill them up after you pass through security at the airport & get them filled at your hotel). Walk and bike as often as you can, and use public transportation as much as possible (an event requirement). Use reef-friendly sunscreens (sans oxybenzone). Enjoy local cuisines (oh yeah!).

Be patient with the people you encounter. They’re not from the “Big City” and it may take them a few moments to digest and adjust to your language. (Think for a moment how you would feel if someone out-of-the-blue started speaking Hindi to you on your hometown street corner asking directions!?) Cultivate the habit of patiently listening and observing; not merely hearing, seeing and quickly reacting. Ask sincere questions—accept honest replies. Be polite. Don’t be glib or provocative.

Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Travel to meet the world openly; relish the differences in both cultures and customs—don’t be a condescending know-it-all imperialist swine. We in the West (most of us) don’t have all the answers to all the world’s problems—we just think we do! Please don’t fall into the West is Best and We’re #1 Syndrome. Have an open mind. Encourage sustainable old ways, and be respectful of local traditions. Others are not inferior—they’re just different.

Do not expect special privileges from others just because you’re a visitor. Wait until you are invited to partake in their personal celebrations and rituals (Imagine if some badly –dressed stranger crashed your daughter’s wedding…or your father’s funeral!). As in your daily life, make no promises to people that you are not certain to honor. (Repeat that sentence!) Doing lunch means doing lunch—not just saying it. Saying you’ll call or write later, or send them a copy of the digital photo you took of them—means that you will really do it. Your word is your bond still reigns supreme in most of the rest of the world. White lies are BIG lies.

Stay on designated paths and within designated areas. Private property laws do exist elsewhere. When visiting sacred and historic sites, take only photographs. Always adhere to posted “no photos/no flash” rules.

Dress appropriately when visiting sacred and/or religious sites. Take off your shoes when appropriate—and please no shorts, caps or tank tops. Women especially, please dress modestly in certain destinations; show respect for their traditions. Men, take your hats off indoors and your sunglasses off when having dialogue with others.

Pack this mindset for your travels: make friends and listen.

Always ask permission from the people you wish to photograph up close or take a selfie with. If you’re in doubt, ask before your shoot. Be sensitive. And for both our male and female travelers: when taking a group photo with indigenous strangers/new-fast friends of the opposite sex, it is not polite to put your hands on their shoulders or touch them—no matter how friendly you think you are being!

Never remove or disturb architectural fragments, natural habitats, stones, critters or foliage—these are always highly inappropriate souvenirs. Think if everybody did that.

Don’t purchase artifacts or artworks that you think or suspect may have been taken from historic or sacred sites; or buy objects from endangered species, corals or rainforests. It is called illegal contraband.

Do some research once you arrive (Usually done before you go we know!). Attempt to educate yourself quickly about language basics. Learn and attempt a few useful phrases like: Hello, please and thank you. Learn about some of the local customs, taboos, art, history, religion…and about the situational politics of the destination you are visiting. Ask questions and listen well—learn.

Never touch animals or birds. And please don’t feed any wild animals. Always give the animals you encounter the right-of-way and retreat if necessary. Never enter any protected areas or scientific research stations unless invited. Be careful taking animal selfies too, don’t join the stupid club. Wildlife is, grrr, wild—be careful! And it is true: if some place allows you to interact with animals that it would normally be dangerous to interact with—those cute animals are most likely sedated. Stay away, don’t encourage this financial exchange.

Remember that many historic and sacred sites are still functioning (living) places of worship for local inhabitants—and not just for tourists to admire and photograph. Show respect.

Please don’t allow your personal electronic techno-gadgets to get between you and the local people you meet. Turn off and unplug—you will experience more. It is okay to get lost and ask for directions. Look at what is live and in front of you—not at the digital photo you just took of it.

Buy and eat local stuff. Support local artists and craftspeople. Spend money so that it stays in the community’s economy. And remember that the bargains you may obtain are only possible because of the low wages that exist there. Happily, pay the Gringo Tax. Don’t quibble over a few cents.

Take a few moments everyday to reflect on your daily experiences to enrich your understanding of the people and things you were lucky to meet and experience.

Obey all local laws. No matter where you are, accept the laws of the land. This means sometimes not drinking alcohol, showing public displays of affection (PDA’s), or even chewing gum. Corruption and bribery is illegal everywhere! It means saying no to illegal drugs. And it always means respecting all traffic laws. You are not special.

Do not encourage “organized” begging. Of course, you can be generous, but try not to encourage (incentivize) kids to be on the streets instead of in school with your noble impulses; or by perpetuating dependency with hand-outs. Attempt to stay clear of orphanage tourism that turns “orphans” into a commodity by asking yourself: “Am I the best person to help out here? Am I properly trained to do this work? Will I really be helping or is this really just for my Facebook page?” (You will know the honest answers.) Encourage self-reliance by supporting registered local charities, and international one’s like: GreatEscape Foundation, Free the Slaves, UNICEF and Save the Children.

You have read the event’s Official Rules & Regulations, but the spirit of this event is to be honest, don’t cheat, lie or fudge your results, don’t rush and have fun. Please live and play within that spirit. Know that Coach John Wooden had it right, when he said that: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Remember the Golden Rule—and no, not the one about the man who owns the gold rules—the real Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have others treat you. The natural law of reciprocity—you must give to get and you get what you give—also known as karma

Finally, keep in mind that the places we go to are there for the people who live in it, not the people who visit it!

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Enjoy the Ride: Long-Haul Survival Tactics

If we extrapolate the Buddha’s lessons to our 21st century travels, we quickly recognize that the state of air travel today neatly fits into his ancient Four Noble Truths: 1) that we crave comfort; 2) that we know no flight will last forever; 3) that karma exists; and 4) that upgrades are closet we can all get to achieving travel Nirvana.

Face it, you are going to be circumnavigating the globe on The Global Scavenger Hunt, and that madcap mystery adventure will entail taking of a few long flights, in addition to those inescapable ocean crossing voyages while trapped in an aluminum canister time-machine transporting you from one beguilingly exotic destinations to another. In the jet age we reside, they are simply unavoidable. And so, we thought it would be helpful to offer some well-honed survival tactics to help make the perceived miserable flights…well, less miserable. We think that they will assist you in mitigating the dreaded economy class syndrome’s side-effects and lower your Travel Misery Index quotients. And so, like the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, we offer our own eight-point plan:

Right View:
It all begins with the proper mindset: See the glass half-full, don’t be a Debbie Downer. If you see your flight as just a big inconvenience—it will be. If you think it will be terrible—it will be. Try to look at it from a different angle: as an adventure, the possibility of meeting new people, reading a book, catching up on your movies, or the fact that it is only temporary (this too shall pass) and it is just a means to your end—getting you to your next great destination.

So, the best way to avoid entering one of Dante’s circles of hell is to be positive, be kind to others, be open…smile more. Accept your situation and practice patience. Expect it to be bad and long—you might be surprised it’s not. Employ a sense of humor. Accept the airline caste system: those that pay for upgrades get comfort, those that don’t, don’t. Noisy babies? Get over it—you were young once. Be tolerant and use your common sense. Anticipate being bored and leave your emotional baggage behind. Accept the time you are in transit—leave your over-inflated ego at home—it is out of your control, you are not the Captain! Be humble.

And remember, your flying is an extraordinary privilege and any complaints about it are really First World problems—get over them.

Right Conduct:
Practice the Golden Rule. Be friendly and have empathy: if you recline your seat, don’t be upset when the person in front of you does the same thing. Pamela is my own Emily Post, but her 1922 book, Etiquette, says it all and still rings true: “Do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances—whether staying at home or traveling.

Right Effort:
Prepare yourself!

Pre-order a veggie meal if possible. Check with Seat Guru when pre-booking your seat when possible. Some flyers love aisle seats; I am a window guy. I love looking out the window and seeing the earth’s geography unfold, plus, no one will disturb me when/if I fall asleep. Some people don’t like bulkhead seats because they are too near bathrooms and people milling about, some don’t like exit rows seats because the seats don’t recline.

Charge all your power devices. Think about aspirin therapy to help warding off deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Dress comfortably with loose clothes (no jeans), slip on shoes, maybe hoodies and compression socks. Take out your contact lens before you fly…wear glasses and leave your vanity behind and go as make-up free as possible. Always use the bathroom before boarding.

Right Gear:
Pack yourself a inflight comfort kit. Mine always includes the following:
♦ a charger
♦ an extra layer/wrap
♦ any needed Rx’s
♦ a sleep eye mask
♦ foam earplugs
♦ chap stick/lip balm with SPF
♦ sinus spray
♦ chewing gum/mints
♦ anti-bacterial hand wipes (for hands and surfaces)
♦ Tylenol/Advil
♦ water
♦ a simple lightweight change of clothes—spills happen!
♦ noise reduction headphones and/or ear buds
♦ distractions: nothing like a good book, magazines, games, music & audio books (on my iPhone) or preload movies (on my iPad)
♦ high protein snacks to avoid the low-blood sugar induced flying hangries: dried fruit, almonds, granola bars, trial mix, oranges, cheese & crackers, cookies, chocolate bars, jerky…

♦ Some people swear by inflatable neck pillows to avoid the bobbing head syndrome…but they just don’t work for me, maybe I am part giraffe, I don’t know?

Right Resolve:
One word: Endure!

Once you board, take control of your environment…in the age of space squeeze, secure your space. Create your own little bubble of defensible personal space to gain some measure of cognitive control: 86 all the seat-back magazines and stuff (an extra inch) and make sure your carry-on items aren’t under the seat in front of you—you will need all the leg room possible. I have been known to disappear and cocoon myself for long flights by throwing a blanket over my head. Puff, everything disappears.

Right Flying:
If you wear a watch, after boarding adjust it to your destination’s time and start thinking that time: eat and sleep accordingly—it will help reduce the effects of jet-lag.

Only eat when you are hungry, not whenever unidentified free food you did not order is slopped in front of you. And don’t overeat to keep jet bloat to a minimum. Better yet, eat only carb-rich foods: pastas, whole grain breads and oatmeal to make it easier to cope with jet-lag.

Avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol (dehydrating and disruptive of sleep pattern) and drink lots of water and/or electrolyte-rich solutions: juices, Gatorade, decaffeinated green tea.

Expect turbulence…always keep your seat belt fastened, albeit loosely fastened, and visible to flight attendants so they don’t wake you.

To avoid DVT, perform seat isometric exercises every hour or so: flex and stretch your legs to encourage blood flow—especially in your calves, roll your shoulders, wiggle your toes, do foot pumps and leg lifts, make ankle circles. Try seat yoga or walk and stretch on your way to the bathroom.

Using sleep aids? Try natural melatonin, Tylenol PM or Benadryl before upgrading to knock-you-out-hard Ambien. Word to the wise: Don’t take before you are airborne at least 30-minutes, and if you do, make sure you have a window seat to avoid a drug-induced stupor.

Finally, two things make me feel like a million bucks: brushing my teeth often and putting on fresh clean socks. What’s yours?

Right Mindfulness:
Remember Right View…to help keep your blood pressure low take deep breaths. Consider closing your eyes and meditating a little—find a peaceful place.

Right Arrival:
Before final descent, prepare for your arrival—don’t be a travel zombie: visit the bathroom to void, moisturize, freshen-up and brush your teeth. Have all your necessary arrival paperwork completed. Before deplaning, check and re-check to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything: passport √, paperwork √, purse/wallet √ and comfort kit √.

Finally, say good bye and thank you. You have arrived without incident. Amazing isn’t it?

© 2000-18 GreatEscape Adventures Inc., All Rights Reserved

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Good Teammates

Starting to get itchy? We are…

Dusted this off from a Huffington Post (27 March 2013) piece I wrote a few years back and used to send to our travelers…slightly edited and bears repeating.
____________________
“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 (larks), or PM people (owls)? How will you overcome those differences?
  • Are you competitiveType Aplanners, or more laid back Type B free-spirits? How will you find a happy functioning balance?
  • Are you people people or a go it alone person? Which of you is best equipped to deal with and be kind to strangers?
  • Are you a three-square meal a day type, or a 24/7 snack-type eater? How will you compromise when energy and blood sugar levels start getting low?
  • Are you left-brained, or right-brained? Can it be managed?
  • Are you a natural leader, or follower? How will you make tough decisions and compromises when you arebothright? Will it be a fair decision?
  • Are you an analytical planner, or a seat-of-the-pants spontaneous and instinctual wanderer type? How will you manage that? Can you manage to be early and on time, or will you always be rushing at the last-minute?
  • Are comfortable silences okay with both of you?
  • How will the other react when one of you just needs some simple non-dramatic alone time?

Some other more practical realities include:

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

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

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.“ – Peter Høeg… Indeed!

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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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