Day 23: Home Again…but what about future adventures?

Day 23: Miami, USA (25.7617° N, 80.1918° W)

We did it! We survived an around the world travel adventure…albeit one of memories and not of miles; sorry no prizes, no medals, no trophies, no titles this year. But, if we did create a  2020 “I Survived T-shirt“…it would look like this:

A 78,888 kilometer (49,000+ mile) route through 22 countries across five continents–not one I would probably do?–even for me, a tad too many flights! I want to thank everyone who made any effort to participate in this venture; thank you for the generosity of your time and for sharing with us all your fond travel memories. Real travelers do actually like to hear other’s travel stories. We are also honored to have been able to play a small part in helping to create those memories for you. Know that many of you have helped create memories for us too. (And it will all be in the book with names changed to protect the guilty!)

So to friends…
 
 
 
  
  
  
  
  

Before we go for another year, I have three final things to communicate to you.

First…apparently a lot has happened while we have been swept away on our 23-day around the world Global Scavenger Hunt mem0ry tour.

The day we started on April 16th, there were 671,425 cases Covid-19 cases in the US that caused the death of 33,286 Americans.

Today there are 29,00o+ new Covid-19 cases in the US that now total 1,330,000+ cases nationwide killing 80,000+ Americans, by the time I post this page. Numbers have doubled in three short weeks! And today, as a nation, the US represents about one in three cases and Covid-19 deaths worldwide. That is an extraordinary statistic, one in three! Our country has the most cases of Covid-19 in the world, and the most deaths! We’re #1, We’re #1, USA, USA!

Now, from my perch watching this pandemic unfold–admittingly, it may have been on my radar a little earlier than the average American, as I was in the midst of planning a real trip around the world and watched in horror as the crisis began to spread globally. The pandemics obvious coming menace was public knowledge for those in the know by early January. By mid-January, it was inevitable.

It is a telling statement that both South Korea and we here in the USA suffered our first official Covid-19 cases on the same day, January 20th. Yet that is where the similarities ended, with South Korea quickly acting by following science and health protocols in setting up effective nationwide testing, tracing systems and social distancing. New cases peaked in South Korea on March 1st; with to date, just 256 Koreans dying from the virus. Whereas the US administration took a rather contrarian different tack; actually, no tack at all until March 13th…just shy of two months after everyone already knew the deadly virus was here and its spread far and wide inevitable. Our leadership failed catastrophically so…think about it: Yes, the US has 7x’s the population of Korea, but today they have less than 260 total Covid-19 deaths and we have 80,000! That is 300x’s what South Korea’s death count is, not just 7x’s! US versus Canada Covid-19 related statistics are equally disturbing and show similar gross differences. Now that is American exceptionalism in action! Need anyone say more? Nuff said. Or is it…

My last stand (Pamela suggested I eliminate this graph…but then, I thought no…so here you go…): When this sad chapter of American history is written, it will reveal nothing short of breathtaking negligence and crimes against humanity—we the American people. Authority cannot be separated from accountability. Our self-styled cheerleader-cum-wartime president would be deemed AWOL, and summarily charged with fraternizing with the enemy, dereliction of duty and lethal mismanagement of our health care disaster now coupled with our  economic disaster. It cannot be airbrushed away. Our President did nothing for 70 days; wasted precious weeks of warning about what was coming…and did nothing. No, he did worse than nothing. He denied, dithered and willfully delayed in allowing our medical experts to act in preparing Americans for the waves of deaths storming our land. The fact is, a great majority of the deaths in the United States could have been prevented and avoided–as they were in other countries—because they acted. He did not! It is utter failure. In 2019, Johns Hopkins University rated the United States the country best prepared for any epidemic…this week, a Hopkins scientist told Congress we are “the worst affected country in the world.” How did the best become the worst? Actually that answer is simple: America today is a kakistocracy–a government run by the worst possible people with the worst leader in our history. Shame on them. But let’s hope by November it will not be shame on us too.

Okay, secondly…these days I am fielding calls and emails, as to the big question on every travelers mind about what the future of travel portents: When can we travel again?… and to paraphrase Elizabeth Warren, I have a paper for that… here’s a link to an article I recently wrote on that topic called Post-Covid-19 Travel?. Read it and weep…

And finally, despite having proofread my above stated article, to show you how cautiously optimistic my wife is, she has actually picked the dates for the next edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt…no sadly, not rescheduled for the fall of 2020 but for next spring: April 16 thru May 8, 2021! So mark your calendars now for our planned 16th lap around the world next year. We sure would like to travel again…even with some of you.

Until then, thanks for following us…and please be smart and stay safe all.

Cheers,

Bill –

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Post-Covid-19 Travel?

Expect Continued Radical Uncertainty
(Updated: 8 May 2020 – FYI: This is a bout a 12-minute read)

In my 2010 book On the Origin of the Species homo touristicus, I made a few bold predictions at the back of the book, spanning the next few decades on what the future of travel might look like.

Right there on page 344, was this 2020 zinger: “Due to the recent fear caused by the spreading global pandemic that earlier began in Asia, international air travel contracts by 30% for the second year in a row. People just don’t want to take the chance of getting sick.”

And here we are. For weeks we travelers have watched in horror as the world closed down, like shutting off the lights in your house, one room at a time.

First, we saw British Airways, Iberia, Air India, and a few other international airlines, stop flying to/from China on January 25th. American, United and Delta followed their lead a week later.

Next came the Chinese travel entry bans: on January 24, the Marshall Islands became the first to do so, followed in rapid succession by Hong Kong, Malaysia & the Philippines (January 27), Laos, Sri Lanka & Singapore (January 28)…US restrictions went into effect on February 2nd. (Foreign Affairs recently published an interesting piece on the counterintuitive results that travel ban have.)  

Finally, came the outright border closures. Initially only restricting travelers who had recently visited any suspect virus destinations, beginning March 11th (Slovenia/El Salvador); followed by wholesale border closures to non-residents/citizens on March 12th (Slovakia/Poland/Kuwait). On March 18th, the Canadian-US border was mutually closed. And on March 31st, the US State Department issued a Global Level 4: Do Not Travel Health Advisory. As I write, 72 % of the world’s borders are now officially closed. The drawbridge was now up. The prospect of any travel anywhere frozen.

Just over three months into the pandemic now, the personal carnage is devastating, over 276,000 global deaths and 4,000,000 Covid-19 cases worldwide. For some obvious reason, the United States has been hit especially hard hit with almost 80,000 deaths!?

In but a few months, the pandemic has upset a decades-long travel boom and one of the great cultural and economic phenomena of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The travel explosion we have seen evolve over the last 50 years has shrunk the planet, created hundreds of millions of jobs, transferred billions helping to lift millions out of poverty, and created millions of meaningful personal connections and profound experiences. But today, that merry-go-round has ground to a sudden halt. It is staggering:

> Amtrak ridership is down 95%, US airline passenger service has declined 96%…not since 1954 have so few people flown…hotel occupancy hovers around 20%;
> The EU bloc’s internal borders remain closed for leisure travel, with no prospect of an imminent reopening or decision likely before at least the end of May;
> By late-April, more commercial aircraft were in storage than in flight, today, over 17,000 planes, two-thirds of the world’s 26,000 passenger aircraft were grounded;
> Argentina on April 27th banned all commercial flight ticket sales until September;
> Virgin Australia became the first bankruptcy domino to fall on April 21st;
> 96% of all worldwide destinations have introduced travel restrictions & 100 million jobs are at risk;
> Hong Kong’s hotel occupancy rate has plunged 98%;
> Tourism revenues fell by 95% in Italy and 77% in Spain in March alone;
> The US State Dept. stopped issuing passports on April 2nd;
> Germany just extended its warning against any worldwide travel until June 14;
> Global happenings, like The Global Scavenger Hunt, the 2020 Summer Olympics, Germany’s Oktoberfest, Spain’s running of the bulls, Cannes, SXSW and Burning Man, were all cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Mecca is closed!

Fact is, our very mobility is a vector for disease spread with trains, cruise ships, hotels and airplanes being the antithesis of social distancing. The safety of international travel, both for the traveler as well as the impending destination inhabitants, have been brought into question. Would you let a stranger who could be infected into your house? Who among us wants to mix it up in lobbies, terminals, foyers, and security lines?

It is obviously premature to see what lays over the horizon yet—when a vaccine, effect therapy/treatment and pandemic cure will exist; but unquestionably, the world of travel has changed. It will never be normal again; for that I am 100% certain. It took three years for travel levels to return to pre-9/11 levels, and correct me if I am wrong, but this seems a lot worse and global in perspective!

When 10+% of the global economy and over 1 in 10 jobs worldwide are tourism related (by way of comparison, the global oil & gas industry is but a paltry 3.8%!), the impacts are being significantly felt everywhere, especially when you consider:

> Thailand derives 22% of its GDP from tourist receipts, Greece over 20% and Egypt about 15%;
> Eight of ten jobs in Bali are tourism-related, and it supports 75% of the Maldives economy;
> The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), predicts a decline in international arrivals of between 58% and 80% this year; a global loss of 120 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in travel-related revenue is imminent;
> The US. Travel Association projects the US to suffer a $1.2 trillion economic loss due to the travel downturn.

Now, I must admit that the contrarian in me is currently also mulling over the notion that maybe even wanting to return to normal, to the baseline metric of what travel had become pre-Covid-19, may not actually be what is in best for the world!? The all too real sins of mass tourism travel-generated problems (negative externalities) such as: overtourism, pollution, climate change, superficial hedonistic consumption patterns, lack of passenger and consumer rights, exploitation (sexual and poverty-based), cultural evisceration, environmental destruction, local cuisine displaced by global chains, and industry-wide lip service to sustainability, clearly demand addressing. Is now the time to finally address those very real concerns, I wonder?

What does post-pandemic travel even look like? For certain, everything we do will change: the way we fly, the hotels we stay in, what destinations we visit, what we want to see and do, the way we dine, the amusement parks and sites we visit, the cruise lines we sail on…will all come into a new light with a virus looming. The very why we travel will change with some travelers self-assessing their own individual risks, most deciding to curtail travel indefinitely. Will non-essential leisure travelers ever come back? It is early, but here is what we do know:

> 40% of flyers say they may wait at least six months until after the outbreak is contained to travel again;
> 54% of Canadians would hold off visiting the U.S. until there is a vaccine;
> Only 5% of Canadians and Americans say they would be comfortable traveling to their neighboring country over the 2020 Christmas season;
> In mid-April, 70% said they may hold off on traveling until their personal finances are in better shape;
> Only 1 in 3 said they hope to travel with three months of restrictions being lifted.

Psychological effects will linger a long time…and the fear factor and individual risk tolerances will be every traveler’s main concern: How will we social distance; and is it even logistically and financially possible? No doubt all travelers will be a tad hygiene squeamish about being in close proximity to other people (sitting in a cramped space next to total strangers), with trust and confidence being the key solution…and knowing that good things take time, but bad things happen quickly, cheap and widespread, instantly available, and highly accurate testing being the only thing that will give people confidence to travel. Even so, social stigmas will keep people with simple colds and/or seasonal allergies at home. America especially, is a consumer confidence-driven economy, and without it you have no sales.

So then, in our continued state of radical uncertainty: What might the future of travel look like? Here are my best guesses, both micro and macro:

> World travelers have seen masks on people for decades elsewhere, expect every traveler to wear masks during the pandemic’s run from door-to-door.

> Technologically, look for more cameras and thermal sensors inside terminals, stations, platforms, and gates to help regain that trust we will all be looking for. A Faustian bargain trading our nominal privacy for safety.

> Financially, with a patchwork of differing procedures and rules to content with while traveling (False positives being statistically normal; What if you fail one?), look for more travelers un-self-insurable to purchase specially tailored travel insurance that allows them an escape hatch to cancel their trip for any reason.

Just as 9/11 changed the way we fly with new security measures, so too will the Covid-19 pandemic. Flyers will be confused with new different, time-consuming and complicated health-related airport screening procedures; added to our already different, time-consuming and complicated TSA security screening procedures. Look for four possibilities: 1) remote thermal scans or temperature takers (although mass screening devices are often notoriously inaccurate, ineffective and intrusive and gives passengers a false sense of security); 2) random instant test swabbing; 3) immediate blood tests (Emirates Airlines recently tested passengers for coronavirus at check-in in Dubai, using a ten-minute blood test), and 4) you may be required to carry a so-called immunity passport after a series of negative antibody testing—like a Yellow Fever certificate—to fly, or even enter another country. (On April 19th, Chile announced that it will become the first country to issue “immunity cards”, and the EU is tentatively calling them “Covid-19 Passports.”)

> One question will be the TSA’s willingness to protect your health at the cost of your security, in their willingness to relax 100 milliliters of liquid standards allowing travelers to carry hand sanitizer aboard?

Once aboard, all passengers and crews will be required to wear masks and expect most to carry wipes and thoroughly wipe down their tray table and seats before sitting down ala Naomi Campbell; even after the airlines will most surely deep clean between each and every flight (aka disinfectant fogging). Some airlines may reconfigure seats, maybe even eliminating middle seats altogether—although Frontier is charging people to sit next to an empty seat! Window seats will be in big demand—and now cost extra! Far-UVC ultraviolet light virus destroyers will be deployed to clean plane cabins; and automated self-sanitizing (ultraviolet lights?) in lavatories will be employed after every passenger use. Airline air filters will be cleaned and upgraded more regularly. We may even see on-board “hygiene attendants” whose sole job is to keep everything sanitarily safe in the cabins. Whatever changes inevitably occur, with airline margins a meager $3 per passenger per flight, fares will obviously increase.

Upon arrival at your destination, the question will now be, at least international destination speaking: Will they even let you in? Just as flying health screening procedures are sure to come, so too will pre-immigration health lines grow. Look for disinfecting booths. And expect nations to turn lockdown measures on and off as we ride the inevitable virus waves, with travelers being put off by ever-changing unilateral health-related entry rules in which every country, until a vaccine is found (12-to-18-months). Every nation will be different, knowing that keeping people (and the virus) out, is the easiest and most popular policy they can enact.

> For instance, New Zealand has proudly stated that it has all but eradicated Covid-19…Now what? Do you think they will allow travelers in? If you do go, will you be required to self-quarantine for 14-days? Who can afford to do that? Who wants to go on vacation and not do anything? (The Hawaii Tourism Authority aside funds for sending tourists away if they refuse to abide by the state’s 14-day quarantine.) Arriving passengers at Vienna International (VTE) have two options: 1) quarantine for 14-days, or 2) pay about $200 for a two-hour while-you-wait molecular biological Covid-19 test. Australia and New Zealand are discussing the creation of a “travel bubble” that only allows for exclusive travel between those two countries; or “tourist corridors” between airports and specific popular vacation spots–say allowing Germans to Palma, Muscovites to Turkish resorts, or Parisains to Tunisian beaches. Some countries will require (Argentina) that you upload a mandatory mobile app giving health authorities your location data. While others may hand out electronic wristbands (Hong Kong) paired with your smartphone to monitor your movements during quarantined periods. (Sounds a little like house arrest doesn’t it?). Thailand is now giving arriving travelers SIM cards they must use for similar monitoring. Does any of this sound like a way you want to travel? Obviously, the most enlightened thing would be a common travel protocol to avoid the confusion of different countries having different rules…but don’t expect that to occur.

> After all this, you finally arrive at your hotel. How will hotels regain our trust? A few ways: Airbnb will institute 24-hour empty cycles between checkouts and check-ins, with extra cleaning standards; hotels will have to clean rooms with hospital-grade disinfectants—anti-microbial coating?—repeatedly; and by wholly eliminating person-to-person check-in interactions and rearranging their lobbies to keep people apart. And forget those lavious breakfast buffets. All this extra hygiene and health standards will raise their costs in delivering you cleaner rooms, beds and food.

> For numerous reasons (videoconferencing, weaker sales, shakier economy, private flights) that the travel industry’s cash cow—business travelers—will be significantly reduced; as will general leisure traveler due to lack of funds. People will drive before they fly; and will travel domestically long before they travel international. Road trips and camping will grow in popularity. Asia will rebound quicker than Europe; while traveling within Europe will go old school—more trains than short-haul flights. (But what about those facing each other seat configurations?) And city walks will be bigger than single-trip Uber/taxi usage. Cruise ship marketers will offer incredible low-cost deals attempting to woo confidence among low information travelers. (Not me!)

> All the data points suggest that travel will become more inconvenient—Yes, even more inconvenient than it was!—with fewer airlines due to global business contraction flying on newer but smaller aircraft, across fewer routes to fewer city destinations, that include more layovers and awkward inflight services and seating configurations. And of course, higher fares.

And that is all the good news: that’s my bright lights when we do travel again scenario. That would become our new normal.

But sadly, whether you are a travel planner or travel procrastinator, all I continue to see is radical uncertainty. And despite whatever psychological pent up demand we all may have in our lockdown boredom, there is no magical switch to flip that will allow us carefree travel right now. No magical wishful thinking or politically-inspired fantasies will change the science or the facts; that not until we have a global Covid-19 virus exit strategy will we be able to travel again. That means, to restate the obvious, the actualization of a vaccine, a therapy/treatment/cure, and global herd immunity. Until then, we probably, smartly, aren’t going anywhere. The virus has to play itself out, and frankly, we’re just in the second inning of this pandemic. And today, as I write, tragically both personally and professionally, I don’t see any international travel in my, or my family’s future, anytime soon.

In the interim, go walking, biking, birdwatching, fishing, paddling, camping, and swimming. Rediscover your backyards. Enjoy what you got…your family, your health and the outdoors.

William D. Chalmers

Did I miss something important? Please let us know at: GSH (at) GlobalScavengerHunt (dot) com

© 2000-20 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Day 22: Colombia

Day 22: Friday, 8 May 2020 – Cartagena, Columbia (10.3932° N, 75.4832° W) (8,959 Covid-19 cases & 415 deaths as of today)

Today is a bittersweet day on our around the world travel adventure; depending on where you sit as a traveler or event organizers. It is the last day we get to project our curious egos into the world. So, for our travelers it kind of sucks: the end is near, it’s over, mundane normal daily routines beckon and the harsh reality of our real lives is just around the corner. No more crazy ass scavenges to figure out, no more chance global encounters with amazing people, no more otherworldly foods to indulge, no more traveling around the world like precious few.

But for us, it’s yea! We made it! No one got sick and died, no one got hit by a car and died, no one succumbed to any number of worldly misadventures and died. No one died! Yea! A big sigh of relief welcomes us when we all board that final flight back to North America, with everyone present and accounted for…relief. Ahhh… no more logistics unanswered, no more already answered questions to reanswer, no more petty personal issues to address, no more service people to financially assuage, no more egos to feed, personalities to manage and malcontents to kid glove. Free at last, free at last, thank the travel gods, I am free at last! Okay, I jest, of course. It’s really not that bad; but we are really truly happy that no one died. Did I mention that?

So today we are in Colombia, another great South American travel destination that to few North Americans consider. The lingering effects of cocaine cartels and ghost of Pablo Escobar I guess. But he died in 1993! Twenty-seven years ago folks, things have changed. Bogota is a big bustling cultured city. But places like Medellín, the Pacific coast near Buenaventura and the Caribbean port of Cartagena are spectacular Colombian options.

So, we have twin Colombian memories today…and our first one comes from Marine, a member of the ATX Traveling Bohemians during the 2018 event and takes place in Bogota…

“We arrived In Bogata around Midnight on April 25th which was also our (Greg & Marnie) 20th wedding anniversary. Our taxi ride to the airport was a little eerie. It was raining and no one was out. Street after street in a town of 8 million people and not a sole to seen. We arrived at our lovely hotel in the La Candeleria district (historic), great architecture and cobbled streets. When we arrived at our room there was a bottle of champagne, strawberries and a trail of rose pedals leading from the door to the bed and floating in the bathtub with little candles lit. Pamela, the true Ringmistress had really surprised us and out did herself!

So the next morning, off we went to explore Bogata. Find political graffiti, easy it’s everywhere and very good. Took a tram car ride to the top of the hill (Montserrat) for a panoramic view of the entire city. Bogata is huge and goes for as far as the eye can see in all directions. We visited the Botero Museum (free) it’s modern and hip with dozens of Botero pieces. I had never heard of him. Botero’s work can best be described as depictions of very, VERY voluptuous forms, often in the nude. I’ll stop there as my daughters  would call what I’d say as ‘fat shaming’. We also saw the botanical gardens, the main square with thousands of pigeons and interviewed people on the street about Columbia’s feeling on Venezuela’s economic instabilities. We ran into a group of college kids whose assignments was to interview tourists for one of their classes. We did an exchange, they interviewed us and we interviewed them. They talked at length about Venezuela since it had recently fallen apart economically (no food, no medicine and very few jobs) and Columbia had been overrun with people fleeing. But the Columbians believed they needed to help their “brothers” even though the sheer numbers of Venezuelans  had overwhelmed the country, especially the medical care system. How refreshing thinking back on that…to be kind to those less fortunate in desperate times. We loved Bogota and it was made even more special as we were also traveling with our very dear friends Zoe & Rainey on a non competitive year so we could keep up!”
 

Our last memory also 2015 from my son Lucca of  Team Chalmers who was with us in 2015 in Cartagena…

“My favorite memory from The Global Scavenger Hunt, although this is hard, because I have so many fond memories of past trips—I have gone around the world five times now!—but I have to give it to Colombia. It involves snorkeling over a big, colorful, fish-filled reef. We took a boat from the old walled city of Cartagena to who knows where in some crazy place way out in the ocean…until finally we arrive at a nice little island (Corales del Rosario National Park). We had a great lunch, and then started swimming in the crystal blue, pristine, and oh so warm water. It was better than Fiji, better than BC, and better than my Nana’s pool. We saw what looked like millions of different types of fish. It was amazing that I also saw a very little fluorescent/neon pink jellyfish. It was pretty cool, but I kept my distance just In case. All in all, I wish all of us got to participate in the wonders my parents have created. But unfortunately we cannot this year, everyone please stay safe.”


Ice cream in horse carriage…traveling is good.

Think of it…we heard from at least one participant for every year, except 2016?! Always the underachievers I guess! 🙂

Tomorrow…we return to North America for our final day and the crowning of the…
 

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

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Day 21: Lima

Day 21: Thursday, 7 May 2020 – Lima, Peru (12.0464° S, 77.0428° W) (58,526 Covid-19 cases & 1,627 deaths as of today)

Folks that travel already know that the folks back home don’t really want to hear about their travel stories. It’s true. No matter how amazing a time you had and how amazing a story you tell; our experiences and our memories, just do not translate well to others. Enthusiasms notwithstanding. No matter how hard we try. And I always try…

But nearing the end of our 23-day worldwide memory lane stroll…I also know that sharing your memories makes us feel better. And isn’t that what really counts–me, myself and I…to thy own self be true? When we share our small victories, positive experiences, grand accomplishments, savoring serendipitous happenings, and even our cheap nostalgia for better days, we feel better inside. It’s probably both psychological and chemical; and we all know today how intertwined they are…serotonin, dopamine, neurotransmitters, central nervous systems and all. So, my point over the last three weeks was to maybe spread a little happiness, or time out of mind, for the few who have traveled with us over the years in these difficult, boring and challenging times. Or maybe just distract you for a moment or two: show some photos of better days, share some memories around the campfire that is the Internet today, make our hearts race a little. Maybe even elicit a little internal gratitude (yes, you can thank yourself for being a curious, thoughtful and caring traveler once) and give thanks to all the people we have been privileged enough to have met along the way…and maybe even applaud the good we have done too along the way. I know I appreciate all of it. I know I am a lucky one, for I have seen the other side of the coin. I hope you do too. Let that thought alone inspire you onward.

To that end, our annual around the world event is good clean fun, unspeakable fun at that, but it actually also has a grander purpose behind it–the GreatEscape Foundation. Our twin goals of helping others help themselves with interest-free micro loans and educating the youth by building schools around the world, have not wavered. No hard sell here, that’s not us, but if you can…give a little online, because it does make a world of difference. And although we may not be traveling these days, or any time soon for that matter, we still can help others. Thank you.

Okay, we finally got to South America in 2015…it took us a while. Why? Well, frankly, logistically speaking, when you circle the globe as we annually do, South America is a hard place to get to and leave from going either east or west. I urge you to go look at a map of the world. See South America there. Few flights fly between Africa and South America–it is not like flying between Europe and North America, there is no multi-corridor aviation highway at 38,000 feet. And there are even fewer flights flying between South America and Asia. None in fact! Your only option east to west out of South America is to Australia, and even that is hardly a daily occurance. So we were happy to finally get to South America, a place my family and I love to travel to.  We were very happy to finally get to Peru in 2018, although not to Cusco and beyond due to time constraints. (BTW: Cusco is one of my favorite mid-sized international cities, along with nearby Mendoza: Argentina, Chiang Mai: Thailand, Valette: Malta, Kyoto: Japan, Jerusalem, and Zanzibar City: Tanzania, to name a few.)

Today’s memory takes place in 2018 in Lima and is from Zoe of the Lawyers without Borders team, that has traveled with us, oh a couple of times, since 2008…

“One  great memory from the Global Scavenger Hunt 2018 … getting our toes kissed by sea lions. We took a boat out of Lima until, in the distant, we saw a plain rocky outcrop-island.  As we got closer, we suddenly realized that every brown speck on the island, everything that looked like a rock or shrub, was actually a sea lion… over 4,300 of them.  The boat anchored right next to the island, we squirmed into wet suits and jumped into the water. Suddenly there were slippery creatures all around us.  Sea lions swam beside you, bumped into you and when you lay on your back and put your feet out, they came and kissed your feet with whispery lips.”
 

Tomorrow…we head north to Colombia, our final 2020 memory tour destination.

I have never been hospitalized…on the road, yet!

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 20: From Budapest to Krakow…via…

Day 20: Wednesday, 6 May 2020 – Krakow, Poland (50.0647° N, 19.9450° E) (14,740 Covid 19 cases & 733 deaths in Poland as of today)

At this juncture of the adventure I would be roaming around someplace our travelers aren’t today, so I got nothing for you! It is usually my day off before the climatic end and the eventual crowing of The World’s Greatest Travelers™. So sorry…I got nothing and will let the memories speak for themselves, as to what a few of the fundamental building blocks of our annual adventure is built on: the joy of serendipity, traveling for the fun of it, and trusting strangers in strange lands.

Enjoy the optics…

 

  

  
  
  
  
          

Maria, of the Retired Traveling Chicks fame, shares her two memories from their 2014 adventure during the Euro leg, one enroute to Krakow and one changed routing in Hungary, but two pleasant surprises all the same:

“OMG how can I come up with one great moment when they were all great?! One of my fondest memories of doing the GSH is when we had been in Częstochowa, Poland and had to get to Krakow. We went to the train station as we had planned but found out that since it was May Day there was no train going to Krakow that day. A lady happened to overhear us sounding desperate and she kindly told us that she had found a bus going to Krakow and told us to join her. While on the bus she asked what we were doing and as we explained the GSH she got very excited and started helping us with our scavenger hunt booklet, translating some words and telling us about places we were to look for. When she didn’t know some of the clues she asked other passengers. Pretty soon we had many of the passengers, gladly and excitedly, giving us help, advice, and explanations for things we needed. This was truly meeting kind people in strange places!

“In case you want another fond memory here’s another one: We had left Budapest in the evening hoping to get to Liechtenstein for a 300 point bonus and get our passports stamped. While on the train we had time to plan a little better and as I was looking at the GSH book and the map we realized we wanted to change our plans.  I suddenly realized that we could get big points in Gyor! But where was Gyor? I looked closer at the train map and thought we had just passed it. I was so mad at myself for not planning better!  BUT a couple of minutes later the conductor announced that we were just approaching Gyor because the train was running late. We had papers and the map plus our own items spread out all over but I yelled to Kim “we’re getting off at the next stop! Gather our things!” We quickly jumped off the train, found a hotel and refocused. We got a small town map and at 06:18 we started out and found the Ark of the Covenant and then took a local bus to Pannonhalma Abbey and took a tour, we also found someone to teach Kim a dance step since it was International Dance Day. Gyor was a hidden gem for us, someplace we probably would have never visited, but because of the GSH we found that many small towns have their own special hidden treasures and history. Our plans changed constantly and sometimes that wasn’t a good thing but in this case it was.”

The Retired Traveling Chicks


One 2014 scavenge was to find this in Vienna…the 1679 Plague Victory Column!

Tomorrow…we head to another continent. Yikes!

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 19: Somewhere in Sweden

Day 19: Tuesday, 5 May 2020 – Gothenburg, Sweden (57.7089° N, 11.9746° E) (23,216 Covid-19 case & 2,854 deaths as of today in Sweden)

Today I wear my heart on my sleeve…

All the Nordic Nations make me smile. Then they make me laugh. The happiness of their citizens is catchy. So of course it begs the question: Why are the Nordic people so damn happy?

May I suggest the following self-evident reasons:
-they don’t worry about child care…it’s universally available from well-regulated private providers.
-the don’t worry about health care…it’s universal, everyone is covered no matter where they work…and outcomes are high.
-they don’t worry about their children’s education…of course it’s universal and free…teachers all have their Master’s degree too!
-they don’t worry about college tuition costs…they accept the social investment of an educated citizenry/workforce and tuition is nominal.
-they don’t worry about unemployment/job loss…90% of lost wages are covered until another job is found or they are retrained.
-they don’t worry about their retirement…everyone has both well-safeguarded private pensions and public retirement benefits.
-they don’t worry about prescription costs…the government negotiates and caps pharma prices.
-they don’t worry about the displacing effects of globalization & economic creative destruction…workers are routinely retrained and have well-funded social safety nets.
-they don’t worry about having children…they know they will get paid parental leave, have prenatal care, child healthcare & child care.
-they don’t worry about growing income inequality…everyone receives a real-world living wage and they have an actual progressive taxation system with no tax loopholes & corporate CEO pay is capped at 5-10x what the average worker makes.
-they don’t worry about an out-of-whack work-life balance…because they have predictable work hours, shorter work weeks, and are guaranteed paid vacations and national holidays off.

Hmm…be honest now, if you didn’t have to really worry about all the above bolded daily life concerns, my bet is that you’d be pretty frikin’ happy too!

As someone in America has said, repeatedly: These are not radical ideas.

The Nordic Model has their governments serve their citizens in an agreed social contract that balances individual liberty with the common good–not just what’s good for the top 10%. They figured out how to regulate the extremes of financial sector profits, and have done it democratically with better protections for workers and the environment. This is not to say they don’t have problems and are continually tweaking their system to make it work better and deliver they societal goods more efficiently. That is what good government does. But the fact of the matter is, that the Nordic nations have all succeeded in having both about as much, or faster, growth rates in per capita incomes than the United States has, and done it with far greater equality–and I am sorry to say, with significantly higher rates of social and economic mobility too. On almost every index of social well-being: economic equality, poverty reduction, life expectancy, healthier lives, gender equality, homelessness, social mobility, decency, fairness, social trust, honesty, environmental sustainability, human development, quality of life, happiness, affordable housing, modernization, democratic participation and overall citizen satisfaction, they exceed we the people of the United States of America. They have achieved this and still have capitalism, democracy, high standards of living, freedom and liberty, healthy lifestyles, and all while remaining socially cohesive, family-orientated and almost crime free.

Every time I visit a country more socially enlightened than the US, I return wondering why we can’t have the kind of lives they do. And yet, we are told to demonize these obvious positive ways of doing things and their beneficial outcomes for some mythical reason. We do it out of both sheer ignorance and willful ignorance, I suspect. Socialism…the longstanding American boogieman. The elephant in the room.  Yet it, I mean socialism, already widely exists in America. You know what socialism is? It is our police and fire departments, our safe food, clean water and air, our schools and public libraries, our courts and veterans facilities, our sports fields, pools and national parks, it is what protects our savings accounts, our workplaces and public safety, it is our highways, ports and airports, and our military! It is what we call on in times of natural disaster and pandemic alike. It is who banks and corporate America call on in times of both gross malfeasance and ever recurring hard-capitalist financial shock takes place, to socialize their risk, losses and bailouts. Corporate socialism par excellence. It is also what helps protect our nation’s old, sick and disabled. New Deal and Great Society socialism… It is simple common human decency; exactly what we created our government of the people, by the people, for the people

Fact is, we should know better, we certainly can afford it, more so though, it is the right thing to do–putting people over profits. Maybe with this pandemic crisis shifting the ground beneath our feet by the day in the utter absence of any societal shock absorbers, that is leaving American exceptionalism completely exposed and ideologically bankrupt for what it has NOT done; we will heed the urgent wake up call. Call it shock therapy. Maybe a moral revival will engulf our nation; a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the US economy to work better for everyone. Open a window to creating new ways to do things that don’t work for us anymore–if they ever did; one that refocuses our stubborn apathy and ignorance towards the existential solutions that lay before us, employing all our creativity, imagination and collective genius. Churchill once said of we Americans that “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing–after they’ve tried everything else.” Will we? Nah…never mind, that’s socialism.
 
Today’s memory comes from the father half of a father-son team who participated in 2013 known as the Traveling Tigers, and takes place somewhere I think in Sweden:

“My memories of GSH 2013 are many, of course. In no order, Kathmandu, Siem Reap, Qatar and our hike through Northern Europe lead the way. Spending 24 days with son Michael was very special.  But at the top of my list is an event you might not knew much about.

When we arrived in Frankfort, we were given our book of scavenges for the week. We were to meet in Oslo, Norway five days later. Our route took us to Denmark and then on to Sweden, via a train. The train boarded a ferry (which was cool in itself) to cross a large body of water. On the ferry we left the train to have a snack and look around the ferry. When it came time to re-board the train and leave the ferry, I started to make my way to the train but took a wrong turn down a wrong stairway and found myself in the area of cars, trucks, and buses. By the time I got back up the stairs, found the right way down to the train, the train was already exiting from the ferry.

I’m thinking, ” ‘Holy Cow’, what to do now?” The thought flashed in my head was that it was the last train for the day! I couldn’t find an employee that spoke English. So, I started running after the dang train thinking maybe the train would stop for a minute after it left the ferry, but it didn’t. So I kept running. I kept the tail end of the train in sight for maybe a quarter of a mile when I saw what looked like a train platform maybe another quarter of a mile ahead. So I kept running, now praying the it would stop there. It did! My prayer changed to “please help me reach the train before it continued on”. The good news is I got to the train, hopped on the first car I came to, collapsed into the first seat to catch my breath (and check my underwear!). By this time Michael and other GSH travelers were looking for me throughout the train. When they found me, they came up to me with their hands on there hips saying something like “What were you thinking?” or more colorful. My answer: “What?” …This “memory” is still alive in my head seven years later. Occasionally I wake up at night thinking about what might have happened.”

The Traveling Tigers strategizing…


The 2013 Tribe in Germany…before the beer and pork knuckles.

Speaking of hearts on sleeves…So, here’s my 2013 story. My daughter Petra takes a week off from high school to join me for the last few days of the 2013 adventure and is waiting for me on arrival in Frankfurt from Oman. We quickly bug out and spend a few days in Copenhagen, before finally getting to Oslo for a few days when I have to meet up with the teams again. On the last day, Petra has to fly to Iceland for an appointment to get her passport renewed, and I walk her to the train station so that she can transfer herself out to the airport. I noticed that I am a little less optimal that morning, generally tired, and after dropping her off I take a seat to relax and mull over my day to be in Oslo at a nearby cafe. Eventually, I head out onto the water as I am prone to do, and have a relaxing day of walking, opera and dinner. But still I am not feeling 100% by bedtime: Do I have jet lag dissimulation after 19-days traveling around the world? Do I have the lingering effects of Kathmandu altitude sickness? Dealing with too many participant yahoo moments? Do I have undo stresses or concerns…is the weight of world too big for my shoulders? Maybe I was just tired from wheeling Petra’s suitcase across 1000 meters of Euro-cobblestones? Anyway, I meet all the travelers and we fly onto Toronto for the Winners Gala and where Pamela is awaiting us with a smile at the airport. I immediately inform her that I am not 100% and feel like I’ve blown a tire, a gasket or something. We spend the weekend in Toronto ending the event and seeing old friends, finally flying back to Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon. Monday I go to pick up my son Lucca after school nearby and have some tiredness doing so. Home, I nap and cancel going to the LA Kings playoff game that night, but do make dinner for the family. The next morning (now Tuesday) I awake and say I gotta get myself checked out, this issue is lingering a tad too long now, three countries and six days later. So I call a doc friend who summarily orders me to immediately go to the emergency room of either UCLA medical center or Saint John’s, both equidistant from where we live. I chose Santa Monica’s St. John’s because Petra was born there–they have good outcomes. And in a whirl, two hours later I am watching a live video monitor of California’s leading cardiologist Dr. Peter Pelkin (Harvard 79′) performing an emergency coronary angioplasty and placing three drug-laden stents around my heart, where were apparently showing a 98% pulmonary Left Anterior Descending (LAD) coronary artery blockage (aka the Widow Maker)! It was a tad surreal watching the whole thing live too–seeing that cardiac catheterization moving up my arm from the wrist point of entry venture up, up, up and to the right to various arteries…placing stents here and there, and then there too! Doc said it wasn’t me or my lifestyle choices, low cholesterol, Med diet, non-smoker, regular exercise…that it was just one of those hereditary time bombs that you never know when it will explode. I was of course, very lucky: to have insurance, friends and to have listened to my body (eventually). And Thursday night I was eating raw fish at Uzen, my favorite West LA sushi bar. Kanpai! It was date night after all. So, barring any medical device recall or untimely instrument failure rate, I should be good for the duration… Whenever, and wherever, that may be?

And in our house, the 2013 edition of our little around the world travel adventure, is simply referred to as “the trip that dad didn’t die on.”

Tomorrow…we head south east and start in Poland…

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 18: The Old Luxembourg Time Suck Trick

Day 18: Monday, 4 May 2020 – Luxembourg City (49.8153° N, 6.1296° E) (3,824 Covid-19 cases & 96 deaths as of today)

To start us off right today, we like to give our participants a lot of optional scavenges to indulge their fantasies in…and some people will clearly do anything for points…as our feature photo shows…seems if we suggest it, they will do it…thanks Rainey.

Okay…One of the numerous Event Director’s perks in sending the world travel championship competitors aflot for four or five days roaming around Europe going from here to there, is that I get some free time. No high maintenance hand holding. No logistical issues to iron out. No hospitality events to attend. And nowhere I really have to be. And as both my family and friends know all too well, that if you give Bill a few days somewhere, he will create some novel adventure that will require him to: do a lot, see a lot, eat a lot, drink a lot, and live a lot. Indeed…

So, I have really enjoyed my fourteen uniquely different free four-to-five day last week self-adventures in Europe. Among a few side trips I vividly remember are: motorcycle riding with a family friend and loved one, Valentina, to secret Italian sites, sharing a couple days staying with old SoCal friends in Krems an der Donau, Austria on their old grandfathered in old winery along the Danube that is actually a world heritage site–it is the land you see in the river cruise ads!, and taking a few days to cruise to/from St Petersburg, Russia. All fun, but just getting to hang out in Venice, Paris and London or Munich, Krakow and Prague, is just fine with me. Frankly, it’s good to be the Event Director.

With friends at their Danube vineyard in 2015…
 
Biking Italy with my favorite biker in 2012, Valentina…

How about running into an old high school Canadian friend on the streets of Vienna!

Or a family friend from Santa Monica on the streets of Budapest in 2005!

There is no travel thrill here for me in seeing novel new destinations, but there is always a thrill for me in traveling carefree in a familiar environment that I feel completely unrestrained. It is a good feeling, and one of reasons I continue to travel four decades running. What did Kristofferson say…freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Travel rapture? Nirvana? Naw, just hanging out in Euroland.

You know, I know a lot of travelers that never, ever revisit previous destinations. Having that obsession with novelty is sometimes overvalued…a never ending Bucket List traveling approach, conversely, the FOMO (fear of missing out) modus operandi of travel…I think might frankly be both ridiculous and wrongly glorified. Why? Because when you repeat a prior experience, it allows you to go deeper, see things differently, actually see more…because you are now experiencing hidden layers and making fresh insights…we’re not talking repetitive monotony here (hedonic adaptation); but going back to a place, say like Cuzco, that you really enjoyed, visited once again a few years later, makes for a great time. There is a sense of vaguely familiar, you have confidence, a comfort level that allows you to travel with your eyes wide open–remembering the good times and avoiding (or confront) any previous pitfalls–that allows you to dig a little deeper. Your experiences there are expanded, enhanced and more nuanced. You don’t have to buy a timeshare and have an annual Groundhog Day vacation, but revisiting places that moved you, are well worth your time. Except Egypt of course, I’m done!

Okay, a couple more of our favorite people bring you today’s memory. Kim and Maria of the Retired Traveling Chicks fame, have traveled with us on three occasions so far, 2013, 2014 and 2019…and they tied for 2nd place in 2014!

This particular memory from Kim took place in 2013:

“We have many great memories, but I am going to share one of my favorites. It was our first year doing the GSH. We really didn’t have a point strategy, instead we picked out scavenges that sounded fun. Sometimes we picked things with a high point value, not realizing how difficult these high points could be to obtain. We were starting the European leg, which was a bit overwhelming. We saw that if we went to Luxembourg AND got our passport stamped we could earn 300 points (the most points possible). We knew this was risky, as we would either be heroes or zeros. We quickly jumped on a train from Frankfurt destined for Luxembourg. We figured the train ride would allow us plenty of time to map out the remainder of the European course in order to get to our final European destination of Oslo, Norway. As we settled into our train ride, we immediately realized that we were in such a hurry to start our adventure that we had not done any of the mandatory scavenges in Frankfurt. So, we quickly jumped off the train at the following stop and headed back to Frankfurt. Bummer.

After completing our mandatory Frankfurt scavenges we were still determined on getting to Luxembourg. Back on the train, we again started thinking about how one goes about getting a passport stamped from a country that is part of the EU and where passports were no longer being stamped. The most important thing The Global Scavenger Hunt has taught us is how important it is to talk to people and how willing people are to help you out. As we got closer to Luxembourg, I asked the train conductor if he knew any way we could get our passport stamps. He told us to not get off the train at the first stop in Luxembourg but rather get off at the second stop. He then told us to go into the train station and go to the ticket desk and ask for Peter, and let Peter know the train conductor had sent us. Inside the train station we asked for Peter, told him about our conversation with the train conductor, told him our dilemma and asked if it was possible to get our passport stamped. With a big smile, Peter pulled out the official country of Luxembourg passport stamp and placed it firmly on my passport book–300 points earned! But to this day this is my favorite stamp in my many passports.”

The prized, 300-point passport stampTomorrow…we head north to Sweden, America’s democratic socialist boogieman, the country that does things differently…

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 17: If it’s Sunday…this must be Belgium!

Day 17: Sunday, 3 May 2020 – Antwerp, Belgium (51.2194° N, 4.4025° E) (49,906 Covid-19 cases & 7,844 Deaths as of today; Note: at 677 deaths per million, Belgium is the worst hit nation on earth today!)

Just back from a little getaway, a mini-vacation of sorts in the new normal…Pamela and I switched sides of the bed this weekend!

Belgium. Hmm… took us 15 years of doing our annual around the world travel adventure to finally venture to Belgium. I have nothing against Belgium, in fact I quite like it, but never thought of it as a place for, well, adventure.

But what do I know better… Within a couple of hours upon our arrival in 2017, my son Lucca, all of 12 at the time, saw three images he has yet to shake: a naked little person (as in short in stature, aka a dwarf medically speaking) wagging himself blissfully while crossing a crowded street to the other side. (I still do not know what the joke is here, but am sure there is one?!) He then saw a statue of a little naked boy pissin (aka Manneken Pis) as one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. I sense a theme brewing here? He then witnessed a fist-a-cuffs fight breakout outside our hotel window…that was quickly extinguished by just a couple of strolling police officers to which he noticed rather astutely that no one was: a) abruptly roughed up, thrown to the ground and cuffed, b) quickly buzzed into submission with a taser and cuffed, or c) shot dead. In fact, all the parties were dealt with a humane manner, listened to, and driven quietly to the police station for the final sort out, sans cuffs. Then to cap off his first few hours in the city, we happened upon a dead body covered in a white sheet. Illuminating time for him it was…and his seventh grade teachers when he returned to school! Other than that, he loved Belgium…
 
  

Here we are in Belgium today, home of great beer, great chocolate, and great moules-frites. Where’s the bad? The cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent are among my favorite hang places…in the off season. So, finally I brought our traveling circus to Belgium in 2017 with the mission to get to Dublin in four days via various optional routes of varying degrees of time and efficiency. Some went north to Antwerp, The Hague and Amsterdam then ferried to England. Some went south to Bruges and Calais, France then took the Chunnel Eurostar train to London. Some ended up in Oxford, some Liverpool. Some even almost made to the Isle of Man. Almost. Radical uncertainty is the point of the last leg of our world travel championship event; keep them guessing and give them lots of options to screw up. Choice becomes their boogieman to conquer. Because by the time we land in Europe after over two weeks of traipsing around the world, all our participants are battle hardened, brimming with self confidence, and determined to do well on this last leg. Remember, if they can figure out Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and maybe even the wilds of Africa, they can certainly master efficient, normal and all too Western Europe…and adventurous Belgium at that. Because they have all acquired the skills of:
-learning to hit the ground running with an element of surprise;
-being fish-out-of-water bleary-eyed and jet-lagged travelers everywhere;
-dealing with language barriers;
-dealt with navigating a classic travelers triangle and the logistics of getting from here to there;
-dealing with various cultural nuances;
-dealing with the chaotic dynamics of a seat-of-their-pants layover challenge–in and out forays;
-learned that it is all about the choices they make when it comes to completing Bonus scavenges and the logistical differences between city and rural traveling;
-and a few other things too.

So, with our participants two-weeks master class in perfecting the art of travel, Europe usually brings them to their final exam, when all the skills they have learned can come together (or not) while their situational awareness is peaking and their acquired Travel IQ ready for action. Well, that’s the hope anyway…

Today’s memory comes from our sole visit to Belgium in 2017 from Mark a member of team Thundersnow….

“One of the things that I frequently try to explain to friends is that on The Global Scavenger Hunt you have days, and sometimes only parts of days, where everything is working, things are making sense, you are checking off scavenges and having fun throughout. Then there are days, or parts of days, where you are not as fortunate. On this day we had an amazing time exploring Antwerp, Belgium. It seemed like everything we did was fun in its own unique way such as getting ice cream at the train station, renting bikes, taking the underground walkway, shopping in the market, and learning about diamonds. In this photo we are sampling jenever at De Vagant. It was fabulous.”

 

Tomorrow…we move around the Continent, being, oh so continental in our pursuits…

Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 16: Intoxicating Istanbul

Day 16: Saturday, 2 May 2020 – Istanbul, Turkey (41.0082° N, 28.9784° E) (124,000 Covid-19 cases & 3,336 deaths in Turkey to date)

If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.” ~ Terry Goodkind

Two weeks into our memory lane virtual trip around the world. Remind me never to do this again, please! Much rather do the real thing.

To recap, (so I know where we’ve been and can figure out where I’m going), our alums memories, brought us in the first week to revisit Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar; and this last week we have revisited: Nepal, India, Abu Dhabi, Zimbabwe-Zambia, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. That’s fourteen destinations so far! The last week of the rip is usually a blurr…let’s see if we can make that happen virtually. Any thoughts on what’s next? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller…

Usually around now on the annual adventure we pause a few hours for some R n’ R. We host a hospitality event or two on the road, that has been known to ply or travelers with mood tranquilizing (and attitude adjusting) drinks, and usually a shared meal of local cuisine. It allows them to let their hair down and relax a bit without any competition or concern of wasting time, share their war stories, swap spit, and just generally recuperate before their last mad dash of week. Most have been a load of frolic and fun for all, us included, thinking of: Bukhara in Delhi, couscous in Casablanca, a Kuala Lumpur seafood extravaganza, a sultry al fresco Ubud dinner, a rooftop Milan happening, Nile river dancing, a Bosphorus waterfront feast here in Istanbul, sate and then some in Yangon, drinks on the veranda in Kenya, teppanyaki in Johannesburg, a too-much-food feast in Rome, tapas in Madrid, Uruguayan pooh-poohs, pork knuckles and beer in Frankfurt, a late night Prague soirée sans absinthe, an odd and sordid spit-swapping event in Colombo, and then there was the infamous Athens hospitality party we held at Plaka Taverna in 2008. Thirty-three of my most drunken travel friends altogether in one place! What a fiasco. Our fault too; you live you learn. And boy did we learn. It was a really fun time had by all–ozou, lamb, obligatory broken plates, dancing and all–right up to the point when all the cats finally got back to the hotel and learned that for the next four days they were all traveling overground between Athens and Bucharest…then it got not so fun. But we can laugh now, right!?

Anyway, back to Turkey, which  is a great travel destination, and Istanbul remains one of my top five favorite big cities in the world. (Osaka, Paris, Vienna, Buenos Aires, New York) A couple of years ago, my family rented an apartment here in June, literally right across from Galata Tower, and we had just an amazing stay. (Funny, now I remember spending my R-rated 30th birthday dancing with German nurses and drinking raki high atop that same tower when its incarnation was a garrish 80’s style disco! Alas, it was the eighties.) Istanbul offers visitors so much to see and do…and eat. It is a very safe city, easy to get around with a multitude of private and public transportation options, and of course so historic. To me the water just enhances everything and puts it over the top. You can boat from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, from Asia to Europe, and to the Dodecanese Islands in between.

Today’s memory comes from a 2005 alum Pat & Paul (aka the Bueschers), and takes place on an early morning here in Turkey:

“Hard to believe it has been 15 years. We left the hotel at 0400 to avoid traffic in Istanbul.  Fortunately, there were enough folks out and about, our cab driver was able to ask for directions.  We made it back to the hotel in time for breakfast and on to more scavenging by 0700.  I never operated for so many days on so little sleep.”

Buescher’s at Hannibal’s tomb.

Some other 2005 alums at hammam in Istanbul…


Pamela in 2002…always a good hair day in Istanbul!

Tomorrow we head to Europe.

 
Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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Day 15: Amman, Jordan

Day 15: Friday, 1 May 2020 – Amman, Jordan (31.9539° N, 35.9106° E) (459 Covid-19 cases & 8 deaths in Jordan as of today…alas, no word on the number of cases or deaths among the 1.4+ million Syrian refugees amassed along its northern border!)

First off…We missed it! Happy belated birthday to Rome. You are 2,773 years young. The Eternal City brings hope…and happiness every time we visit it. So, Happy Birthday Roma, whose motto most surely must be: This too shall pass…

So, May 1st…May Day. To the the non-North American world it means the real labor day, a glorious international celebration of what we all are–workers. And not just a lip service perfunctory day at the end of a long weekend that signals the end of commercial summertime and the beginning of a new school year…or football season! But I again regress…

We have had a few issues over the years traveling internationally on May Day, as we are wont to do. Everything is mostly closed everywhere or operating on skelton staffs. Not a good day for doing stuff really; other than walking about and eating. But definitely not an optimal day in which to lay your grand strategic linchpin of travel plans on; that is, not a good day from scavenging on The Global Scavenger Hunt.

I recall several such days in a few destinations over the years. One in 2009, with our teams in Istanbul doing their level best to avoid the historic Taksim Square area…where thousands upon thousands of united workers had gathered to celebrate (and a few violently to protest) their day-off and their happiness/unhappiness with their current labor arrangements. I think the word riot comes to mind. But having lived through the extended racial riots of Detroit in 1967 and the Rodney King/LA riots of 1992, I would actually say it was more akin to a Super Bowl winning fan street party–say like how the the wacko 49ers fans celebrated in San Francisco after their 1982 victory! So, on my personal experience riot scale, 2009 Istanbul, ranked a lowly two. Another time here, in 2011, we actually had a mid-morning flight to catch (it was a good day to transition between destinations, because as I mentioned, nothing is really open) but our timing was iffy leaving the hotel, with it being in the center of maybe another riot scale two, but also with all the associated roads and major arteries closed. So, I had to set up a Beatles-style VIP get away; hiring a few black SUV’s to get us to IST both timely and safely. We all checked out and met in the hotel lobby at our designated time for our somewhat anxiety-filled exit when the hotel’s security–replete with sharp blue suit coats, earpieces and walkie-talkies–hurriedy escorted us down to the bowels of the hotel and a secure back service entrance where we all piled into a few awaiting vehicles. Together our vehicles sped in close convoy formation to the the airport through a lot of urban craziness. Marchers, signs, whistles, personnel carriers, cops in riot gear, and kites. I remember the high-flying colorful kites for some reason? Of course, we all made it, but then, because we were so freakin’ efficient–and there was maybe a tad too much anticipated friction time built into our schedule by the hotel security staff–that we had three hours to kill in IST departure terminal. That’s a lot of pretzels and lokum (Turkish delight) to eat, and a lot of guilt-buying terminal time to kill. Alas, all went without incident.
 

Today’s memory takes place though here in Jordan, and is courtesy of Karen, a 2019 member of the MargoPolos:

“One of the most interesting, frustrating, but ultimately exciting aspects of the Global Scavenger Hunt is because you don’t know where you are going, you can’t prepare sufficiently, you basically learn and figure logistics on the spot, though the scavengers point you to the most important sites, sights and experiences.

So when we arrived in Amman, Jordan, and one of the scavenges was to go to Petra, I tried to recreate a powerful image I had seen of Petra at night, with people with candles. I walked (into) Petra for the night event. The walking proved the most exciting part. The actual event was quite disappointing – it ended half-hour after I arrived and consisted of some singing, and I only got a few photographs that I cared about. But staying over meant that I was able to go back to Petra at about 6 am – basically having this extraordinary place almost to myself. I had the most amazing time – hiking up to the monastery, and really lingering over details, and having time to tour the new archeological museum before getting back on the bus.”

 
Karen at Petra

Shepherd Boy w/ flock

We LOVE Petra

Delinquency in action

Floating in the Dead Sea…Whose selfie stick is that?

Pamela with new friends in Amman

2010’s 100% Bajan’s Dead Sea Mud Bath…

Regrets, I have few…but too few to mention. But I do have few travel regrets…and one took place here in 2010, when we brought our teams to Jordan. While they were all out and about, I mulled over going to Damascus, Syria–a straight shot two and a half hour drive north. I had not been there and the allure of finally seeing Umayyad & Sayyidah Ruqayya mosques and visiting the ancient souks, was very compelling. I had a car and driver and the passage secured for a two day visit, but at the last minute, the recent Icelandic volcano eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, had me reconsider as I had a lot of issues to tend to–we were flying to Vienna from Amman and then yes, actually to Iceland! So I cancelled. I regret it not going to Syria badly, as we all know what began a few months later–The deadly and still ongoing Syrian Civil War that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more. Old Damascus is no more.

Off to another pivot destination…a quick stopover in Istanbul.


I think we are all getting tired of winning! 

Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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