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T’was the Night Before… April 13, 2016

…It is the night before the beginning of the 2017 travel world championships that start in San Francisco tomorrow.

Teams are assembling as we speak from various destinations and flying into SFO in order to meet up at the starting gate tomorrow at 3:30PM (15:30) for the start of The Global Scavenger Hunt—the 13th…check that…the Baker’s Dozen edition of the annual around the world travel adventure competition that crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers™. (Someone in our household suffers from triskaidekaphobia.)

For the uninitiated, my name is William D. Chalmers (please call me Bill)…and I will be this blog’s narrator over the next 24-days as we circle the globe visiting 10 secret destinations across four continents. My main job though is serving as the Event Director. Pamela calls me the CEO (aka Chief Experience Officer) and some past participants have referred to me as the Ringmaster. The annual world travel championship has the occasional ring of a traveling circus to be sure; we have jugglers, high-wire acts, dare-devils and acrobats, a few sideshows and even a few clowns on occasion too. But as the commentator, I will be candid, honest, political and sometimes irreverent. (My daughter says cheeky and saucy. My son just says “Really dad?!”…a lot.) I will also try to post as many photos and videos as I can along the way and create quick hyperlinks to help share additional team and destination info and insights.
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Me…well, you know (coutesty Times of India)

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

It is often asked by prospective competitors, media and travel professionals, and fellow travelers alike that we meet out on the road: What does it take to be crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers™? That is, what does it take to win The Global Scavenger Hunt…to win the travel world championships? And that is a great question.
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We think (and know after 12 previous events) that it takes a lot. Yet weekly (sometimes daily), we hear someone tell me after I explain the event to them that of course—“I would so win that!” We have heard it thousands of times over the last decade. Everybody thinks they have the right stuff, have the skills and savvy necessary and are truly great travelers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are ready! Are they?

We have had many themes over the years, among them: Embark on a blind date with the world (2002). Trusting strangers in strange lands (2004). He who runs cannot walk with dignity, savor serendipity. (2008) Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. (2009)…and last year’s theme was: When was the last time you did something for the first time? (2016)

This year for 2017, my chosen theme is: Escape your bubble for 23 days and be really social. We will see twitching bodies and foggy minds as our teams detox a bit from obsessive scrolling, texting and updating to actual engage the people of the world face-to-face. I want our travelers to unplug a little, disconnect from their daily routines and the 24/7 news and social bubbles we all reside these days. To be in the moment and actually see the world and the people in front for them. It will be more difficult for some than others…we will see.
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Our house this afternoon…a lot of charging going on–7 PED’s!

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

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