Post-Event Wrap Up: Thank you all until next time?

A final note from me to you…

Home now barely 48-hours. Reality hard to digest as jet-lag and place-lag take their toll. That surreal feeling as the mind spins, yet the body is numb. What time is it? 

For the 15th time, we have successfully managed to play host to some great international travelers who circled the globe from Vancouver, Canada to New York City–the long way. Truth be told, our now annual event, The Global Scavenger Hunt, is an anthropological enterprise of sorts–all about people and culture–with the actual traveling but a means to that end. It is–if I can coin a phrase that may have already been uttered somewhere else because it seems so damn perfect a portmanteau–our event is a geodrama of sorts. A geodrama that combines actors with a stage. And since we all know that “all the world’s a stage” as Shakespeare so cuttingly put it, our planet is the stage in this case and we travelers the mere actors playing on it. And over the last 25-days we saw hundreds of exotic backdrops and thousands of interesting supporting characters join in the production. In its simplicity it was an epic madventure–another portmanteau. (But I think two in one paragraph is going too far. So, no more.)

I remember the faces I saw, because…
    
  
We’re all the same...

How do you recap that last three weeks? Our (the Road Officials) passive experience is so much different than our competitive travelers active site-doing experience is. We set it all up–hoops, quick sand, red hearings, fool’s errands, challenges, coffee runs, grand adventures, and all–but don’t actually indulge in many of the scavenges though. But here’s a quantifiable taste of what took place: we personally required 18 separate flights* (the teams only 9 or 10); we stayed in 11 different hotels/Airbnb apartments (the teams a few more no doubt); we ate in over 50 wildly differing establishments in 10 countries (the teams way more); and had to chair 17 informal sit-where-you-can (hopefully) brief event related meetings–but who’s counting!? Oh yeah, and 36,737 kilometers (22,827 miles) visiting 25 unique locals, from: the Mekong Delta to Inle Lake, West Vancouver to Mandalay, Abu Dhabi to Petra, Bangkok to the Greek Isles, Fes to Porto, and Marrakesh to Brooklyn. Whew…not to mention the 300+ scavenges that a few teams experienced along the way! Hmm, seems that it was more than just a little trip.

Our 2019 theme was: Chasing Life…you have to go out and get it. And we think they did. Sure, there was drama. Sure, there were new friendships to be made. Sure, there was anxiety, uncertainty, suspense, apprehension and stress…but there was also: eagerness, fulfillment, accomplishment, wonder, awe, bravery, contentment and happiness. That is what makes our little international geodrama, at some point you will laugh and at some point you may cry. It is impossible to be neutral about some of things they have seen and done. Impossible. That is in fact, chasing life

It was a time for our travelers to get out of their comfort zones for a while, to get away from their autopilot routines where they see without seeing, taste without tasting, and listen without listening. It was a time they could be challenged, to participate, to enjoy freedom of movement, and to live in the moment. To accept the serendipity of time and space. To live fully. To me, that is what travel, when done right, makes you feel–truly alive! Questioning every assumption. So, our hope over the past three weeks was that our participants became both liberated from their daily routines and passionately empowered to engage in the world. It sounds like a paradox, and maybe it is? The duality of their normal obsessing about yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, versus the actually being in their here and now. We saw a transformation take place in all our travelers…front and center we saw emotions rage and thoughts reel…we saw the usual three stages of traveling around the world on our event evolve from fear, to doubt, and to utter confidence…as they faced down their fears with confidence and intelligence to ward off jet-lag, language difficulties, inter-team dynamics, intra-team competition, cultural faux pas, exotic fevers, logistic snafus, time-zone fatigue, bouts of nostalgia (aka homesickness), place lag, contagious diseases, aggressive touts, and cultural shock. They did it all. Lived each moment…participation here is a full-contact sporting activity in The Global Scavenger Hunt. And you know what? I think for the most part we accomplished our goal again–and no one died achieving it! Of course, you can’t please everybody…some chose not to play the game, not to embrace the spirit of the event; their loss.

I remember the sights…
 
   
     
  
 
 
 
…and site-doing:

We also hope we answered the burning question once again, or more to the point, prove our thesis: that authentic travel is still possible in the age of reality TV and smartphones. Travel shows today have moved toward an over-the-top, unattainable type of travel; raising expectations beyond attainment…with the reality being that everything you see and do traveling can’t always be followed by exclamation points. But in our case, it was!!!! We surpassed expectations because you can’t have expectations when you are taking A Blind Date with the World and don’t know where the hell you are going or when. The ultimate magical mystery tour sans the tour part. Convenience today is all destination and no journey…we wanted to take them on a journey. Sometimes struggling is not a problem…we wanted them to be challenged. Happily, by design these are event features, not bugs.

And so now it is over. I firmly maintain that traveling around the world remains the last grand gesture…circa orbem “around the world” is extraordinary…yet obviously possible….the Great Circle..for travelers still curious about what’s beyond the next bend. Like a kid, I still believe that–now 17 laps later! I know that human nature is all about going beyond the horizon; and that hopefully going there broadens our horizons both literally and figuratively. So, the newbies are now veterans; the old salts more in love with travel still. We have gloriously crowned the winners–The World’s Greatest Travelers who won the 2019 edition of the world travel championship–and the losers have mentally imagined all their woulda, coulda, shoulda’s a thousand times by now in their heads. Next year. Yes, we will see some of you again; but for some it is a fond farewell, bon voyage in life. But our hope for all of you is that each of you take a few moments out of the coming days to be still for a while and digest your unquantifiable numerous experiences…to feel them, expand on them…and turn them into lasting lifelong memories. Smile…you did it!

The graduating class of 2019’s The Global Scavenger Hunt! Congrats…

Thank you all. Travel safe and far.


*
Flight Nerd alert…our 
18 aircraft included:

Embraer E175 (2x)
Embraer E195 (2x)
Bombardier Q400 (2x)
Boeing 777 (3x)
Airbus A321 (2x)
Airbus A320 (2x)
Airbus A319
Airbus A330
ATR 72
Boeing 737-800 (2x)

PS> We just want to categorically state that the positive interactions that occurred over our recent four-day visit to Myanmar had absolutely nothing to do with the negotiations that finally induced the Myanmar government to release the two Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters who were freed from prison today after more than a year in detention for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group. It was of course, just mere coincidence, again.

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Day 23: The 2019 World’s Greatest Travelers are?

Day 23:  Saturday, 4 May 2019 – New York, New York (40.7128° N, 74.0060° W)

I’m in a New York state of mind.” – Billy Joel

6:06 PM Update: 

First, I want to say thank you to you all…you all survived your great leap of faith, circled the globe visiting ten secret countries, had an enormous amount of fun that will take weeks to process and years of therapy to address…and arrived home safely! Good job…

Next, I want to thank Pamela for everything…without her this event simply would not happen. Thank you, Pamela! (Thank you, Lucca too, for being a good young man—despite your finicky taste buds— and a great traveler too…You have now visited 52 countries!? Wow…not bad for a 13 year-old…I hope that some of what you have seen stays with you…

Okay, that being said…We are not one’s to hit people over the head as you know…but please indulge me for a minute as I boast a little bit about our Foundation’s work…one of reasons we started this annual global world championship event…we started the GreatEscape Foundation almost two  decades ago now…and over the years some of you have personally visited & helped out at: Tibetan refugee camps in Nepal, orphanages in Laos, hospitals in Cambodia, homeless schools India, hospices in Manila, disabled facilities in Sri Lanka, Ethiopian schools, the slums of Nairobi…and even places in Myanmar. We have done a few great things over the years…in the last decade alone we have funded 12 schools: 1 each in Niger, Haiti, Ecuador, India & Ethiopia; 2 each in Sri Lanka & Sierra Leone, and 3 in Kenya…we know we are changing the lives of thousands of kids (especially young girls)…We helped build the Tamensa Medical Clinic in Niger for migrating Tuareg nomads…it serves as a midwives & nurse training center too…We know that we saved lives & bettered the lives of hundreds. We have helped over 2400 families in more than 60 countries (mostly women entrepreneurs) with our interest and fee free micro-loans (96% of which have gone to women with a 99% repayment)…

And this year, as a direct result of this event, that you all participated in…we are happy to say that we will be doing more…in fact we are happy to say that we will be immediately funding and building two more co-ed elementary schools—one in Ethiopia and another in Haiti… both countries with great potentials and wonderful hard working people…we know they will benefit generations of kids—and a lot of young girls that need liberation through education!—for years to come…

Thank you all.

Now, we end the 2019 edition of the travel world championships…safely I might add. No one died—I know our bar is low! Our participants all just circled the globe in one trip…a rare feat indeed…too bad the Circumnavigators Club is so archaic. You have all lived outside your comfort zones for 23-days…escaped your daily routines & default modes of existence…again no small feat in this day and age. You all ate a lot of interesting things, met a lot of gracious wonderful people—hopefully made some new friends—and had too numerous to mention amazing experiences. We promise, that you will re-live some of these moments for the rest of your lives.. And you all embraced our 2019 event theme, because you all Chased Life…and are now more interesting people for doing it. Pamela & I truly hope that you had an amazing once-in-a-lifetime adventure with us…thank you all!

Award time in the Gold Room of the historic Villard Mansion of the Lotte Palace Hotel in New York City:

Kim of Retired Traveling Chicks has won the players pool with only five ten correct guesses of countries we visited—and $380 to boot! Congrats Kim.

Karen of MargoPolos won the Pre-Event Global Literacy Test (part of our test is here courtesy of the late Hans Rolsing and Gapminders.com) by beating the chimps with 8 out of 16 correct answers…8 of our participants where beaten by the Chimps who would have guesses correct 33% of the time! Congrats Karen…

Order & Chaos stayed in the Cheapest Hotel winners…a 32 Euro Moroccan half-star. 

Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is a competition—the world travel championship in fact—and only one Team can win…so, without further ado:

The NYC leg did not effect our standings coming out of North Africa/Iberian Peninsula, and that means that (2019 – Leader Board):

In 3rd Place: Order & Chaos’s Sal & Vivian

In 2nd Place: Lazy Monday’s Kathryn & Eric

Which means that the winners of The Global Scavenger Hunt and the new 2019 holders of the World’s Greatest Travelers crown and title are Team Lawyers without Border’s Zoe & Rainey—who have won the event now six times since first competing in 2008. Pamela and I both look forward to having them defend their title on our dime in the next edition of the world travel championship…whenever that may be!? Thank you all!

We are off to our Bon Voyage dinner at Pazza Notte…and like all great travelers, crash at 8:23PM!

PRE-Crowning Event Post


We arrived last evening around 9:00PM at our NYC hotel, the Lotte Palace

Welcome back home to America…North America, home to Canada, USA, Mexico…and 20 other American countries!

First the Old News:

The teams that handed in scorecards where peer reviewed and the hard master of travel final test, North African + Euro Leg (Par 6) played out like this with a few minor adjustments (things closed, partial credits, etc):

5th – Transformed Travel Goddesses who did not quit and fun too!
4th – SLO Folks had a tough emotional leg, but still stayed true in spirit.
3rd – Order & Chaos did a 92 scavenges including 5 Bonuses earning 5,310 points.
2nd – Lazy Monday kept busy doing 102 scavenges and 7 Bonuses earning 5,680 points.
1st – Lawyers without Borders had a ball (as usual) also doing 102 scavenges (but more point worthy scavenges) and 7 Bonuses earning 6,110 points…

Congrats all on finishing the difficult but fun leg…

So now we are getting interesting, after eight legs (24 of 25)…the overall top 3 teams are:
4. SLO Folks with 96 points
3. Order & Chaos 81 points
2. Lazy Monday 46 points
1. Lawyers without Border 33 points

Observation? What is it with American teenage girls carrying pillows through airports?

New News: This morning at 8:30AM (I know it is early but we are all on Euro-time which has set our body clocks 5-hours later–so we where all up!) we began a quick, fun 8-hour Urban Par 1 urban adventure Manhattan scavenger hunt…Hope everyone finishes strong and has fun in The Big Apple—Remember all placing teams must hand in a score sheet to qualify for medals!)…

Later toady we will crown The World’s Greatest Travelers later today…following our 4:00PM check-in deadline…


5-Sample NYC Scavenges
-take in a Yankees game or a Broadway show
-Have one of each of following: a New York bagel, a New York hot dog, a New York deli sandwich, a slice of New York pizza, New York cheesecake, a New York egg cream, or an old-fashion Manhattan!
-locate five pieces from five of the nations you just visited in the Met
-Visit Strawberry Fields, pay John Lennon tribute
-do one scavenge in each of the five boroughs of New York City

A biggie at the Natural History Museum

Making art on graffiti wall


Hudson Yard’s newest mall attraction: The Vessel

PLEASE…check in later for a final report from today!


Last Chance…We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

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Day 22: Homeward Bound, almost

Day 22: Friday, 3 May 2019 – Porto, Portugal (41.1579° N, 8.6291° W)

Why do we feel sorry for people who do not travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can’t multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become.”  – Pascal Mercier from the novel Night Train to Lisbon

BTW…our site had a minor international infection…it is cured and all is good!

Good Afternoon from OPO…we are EWR bound.

All the teams and participants arrived alive and in good spirits after their six day North Africa/Iberia Peninsula mad dash…albeit a tad worse for the wear. But the smiles were genuine. We are melancholy today…happy everyone is safe loading their homeward flight, but sad that our 23-day around the world adventure is nearing an end. The traveler in me sad, the Event Director in me ecstatic!

So, quickly Three Things I learned since I last saw everyone on Sunday morning in Marrakech: Teams were really busy, one team did 93 scavenges in countries…we have a serious competition and my cursory glances at the score sheets while I was photocopying them tells me it is anyone’s event—even lower placed teams did a lot, more than I thought they would…and finally, this leg was kick ass from beginning in Morocco to the end here in Porto—everyone loved it.

One-Minute Interview with Order & Chaos from Porto.

Observation…watching my (now significantly less heavy) luggage go through yet another hi-tech scanning device, I realized that my luggage has had more CAT scans over the last three weeks than I have in my life. Ahh, the USA for-profit medical system (sic).

We should have a flood of photos and some videos coming, but here are few to begin…check back later and we should have more by the time we land in New York.






We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.


So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

See you again soon…


Take us home Vasco da Gama…hopefully they go the right way!

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Day 21: Where is everybody? Morocco? Spain? Portugal?

Day 21: Thursday, 2 May 2019 – Seville, Spain (37.3891° N, 5.9845° W)

A thousand and one Arabian Nights may be 999 too many for some!” – William D. Chalmers, circa 1989

Good morning from Portugal…we got here a few days ago, flew directly from Marrakesh. Easy, peasy. Two worlds, so close yet so far away…maybe too far away for some of our travelers. We know they are all being tested to various degrees: their endurance—it has been a fun but tough 21-days of non-stop traveling; their travel IQ’s—there are so many things to see and do—and thus choices to make; their situational awarenesses—are they making the right choices?; their integrity—are they cutting corners and taking short cuts in their desire for more points? As Peter Gabriel sang—This amusement never ends.
  
Sights and tastes of Porto…

Well, the 2019 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt’s international legs will come to an end tomorrow at 11:30AM in our Porto hotel…we hope to see everyone there to receive their next 4–hour notice. Where are we off to next?

BTW…that feature photo atop the blog today is from our bedroom window this morning in Porto! We are actually in Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood just across Ponte de D. Luis I from Riberia overlooking the many Port warehouses. We can see: Rozés, Taylor’s, Cockburn’s, Graham’s, Churchill, Ferreira, Ramos Pinto, Offley, Croft, Porto Cruz, Cálem, Sandman, Vasconcellos, Burmester…who knew there were so many! WOW: A world of wines…

Also wondering, if any our teams got to swim in all our 2019 Seven Seas Scavenges: Straits of Georgia (YVR), South China Sea (SGN), Andaman Sea (RGN), Persian Gulf (AUH), Dead Sea (AMM), Gulf of Aqaba (AMM), Aegean Sea (ATH), Mediterranean Sea (RAK),  and the Atlantic Ocean (OPO)…we will see?
    
Yesterday was May Day….

Last night I was torn…my two favorite soccer teams (FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC) faced off in a UEFA Champions League game at Nou Camp…they have historically only played each other nine times ever: with 3 wins, 3 losses and 3 draws. Close…  Mohamed Salah played great as usual and had quality chances, but once again, it was all Messi last night as Barco won 3-nil over The Reds, netting two brilliant goals—including his 600th career goal on a sensational free kick ala Beckman in his dreams! Me thinks he is a man on a mission…

We are off to survey the Douro River Valley wine area by boat…where property is cheap—comparatively speaking of course coming from California!

Don’t forget to follow your favorite teams…although we have no idea where they get the time (or energy?)…some of our 2019 teams are blogging, and open to social media interactions too:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

We’re 71% almost home…

Okay, until tomorrow’s checkin deadline…that’s all from Porto, Portugal.

The Children of the Revolution say, “Change Now!”


Can’t read one of my papers this morning?

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Day 20: The Rock & Beyond…We hope?!

Day 20: Wednesday, 1 May 2019 – Gibraltar (36.1408° N, 5.3536° W)

I believe that the earth is very large and that we who dwell between the pillars of Hercules and the river Phasis live in a small part of it about the sea, like ants or frogs about a pond.” – Socrates


The Pillars of Hercules (aka the Straits of Gibraltar) North Africa & Iberian Peninsula

Okay…I admit it, we are not in Gibraltar aka Tariq’s Mountian), although some teams are by the looks of a few photos we’ve received…but actually, it is hard to say where everyone is…Seville? Algarve Coast? Lisbon? Fatima? On a train in Spain? A bus in Portugal? Stuck in an elevator? Teams still have 48-hours to go as I write this until our Friday morning checkin-deadline here in Porto. Have fun, play smart and be safe!

Quote of the Day: “I don’t get ready; I stay ready!” Kathryn of Lazy Monday

Observation: What is it with ex-pats and homeland?…in Gibraltar they are extra-British, everything from home super exaggerates its Britishness, which is never pretty…and as one of our young team so eloquently stated this morning: “They all have sticks up their butts.” …what us old-British hand would call “the stiff upper lip”….yep, all true!

BTW: On my mega-infrastructure projects wish list (that includes among other things: a fast train between LAX and SFO, finishing the Pan-American Highway through the Darwin Gap, and bridge/tunnel combo between Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast) I humbly submit that a bridge/tunnel combo also be constructed across the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco that would link Africa with Europe! It’s time…

Sipping a good strong coffee this morning along the fog-draped Douro River here  in Portugal, I realized that although it may be a small country, Portugal did once rule the oceans. Think about it….they had colonies on three continents, including: Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Macau, East Indies, Goa, and Malacca…and my 83% cacao Sao Tome dark chocolate was pretty good too! (Especially with a finger of port.)

Speaking of vinos….Coming from the Sonoma/Napa area, we are a tad jaded when it comes to great wines—some have said that we sample a new type every day!—but I have to say that the Douro Valley region’s emergence as a hotbed of prize-winning red wines—and not just port—is well earned. Good stuff goes to those willing…

Here are a few photos from some folks…

Casablanca’s wonderful seaside mosque

Lawyers w/o Borders & Order & Chaos ballooning

Retired Traveling Chicks in Seville


Order & Chaos visiting The Rock (not Alcatraz)

Honey, there is a monkey on our balcony!


Good eats in Lisboa…

The Original…Henry the Navigator (look him up in your Funk & Wagnalls)

Okay…doing an almost final dump here of our Pre-Event Global Literacy Test (aka Chimp Test because a chimpanzee would be correct 33% of the time) to keep you amused—and we are sadly running out of time:
9. Worldwide, 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school, on average.  How many years have women of the same age spent in school?
A – 9 years
B – 6 years
C – 3 years

10. In 1996, tigers, giant pandas, and black rhinos were listed as endangered.  How many of these three species are more critically endangered today?
A – Two of them
B – One of the
C – None of them
11. How many people in the world have some access to electricity?
A – 20 Percent
B – 50 Percent
C – 80 Percent
12. Global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will…
A – Get warmer
B – Remain the same
C – Get colder

13. A map…

14. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), the U.S. Government spent what percentage of its budget foreign aid in 2016?
A – About 25 Percent

B – About 12 Percent

C – About 1 Percent
15. According to the UN, which global nutrition portrait is the truest for people 18 and older?
A – There are 4 people underweight for every person overweight
B – There are 4 people overweight for every person underweight
C – There are roughly an equal number of overweight and underweight people
16. According to the Deutsche Welle, with 3.8 billion passengers in 2017; what percent of the global population flew in 2017?
A – Less than 10 percent
B – 10-25 percent
C – More than 25 percentFinally…We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.
So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

The Answers:
9 – A – (1 of our travelers got that correct: Chimps leading 8-1)…everyone is getting more school years in.
10 – C – (1 of our travelers got it correct: Chimps extend lead 9-1)…eco-tourism is providing an incentive to protect endangered species when combined with governments who care.
11 – C – (6 of our 17 travelers got that right…Chimps 10-1)…the electrical grid is expanding (even when a simple solar panel is used at night to help a child read their text book!)
12 – A – This was the only answer everyone got right! Yeah! (Chimps up 10-2)
13 – was a map I could not replicate…but only 3 got it correct (Chimps up 11-2)
14 – C – Another great showing, with 11 correct answers (Chimps still up 11-3)…less than 1% of US Federal budget goes to helping out other countries—
15 – C – Just 2 got it correct (Chimps cleaning house here up 12-3)…for the first time in history (we crossed the Rubicon about 5-6 years ago) there are just as many overweight folks as underweight. Think about that?
16 – Just under half got this correct, enough to beat the chimps….

The Chimps could have guessed 1 of 3 more correctly than our educated travelers guessed with all their working knowledge: The Chimps win the Global Literacy Test 12-4!

So what does this mean? Well, for one, we don’t know what we don’t know and think we do know. We are grossly misinformed. Misconceptions abound. Despite our traveling ways, most of us know very little about our planet, or the state of its people. We must try harder…read more and not just let the fear-driven negative headlines rule the day. A President once told me: Don’t mistake headlines for trendlines. Secondly, we hold old paradigms a little too close when new paradigms have obviously emerged. A dangerous mindset in which to make decisions. Finally, the world is changing so much so quickly. One of the many pleasures of being able to circle the globe yearly as we do, now since 2002, is that we bear witness to those rapid changes first hand up close and personal. I am not saying all those changes are for the better (either long-term or short-term), but what I am saying, is that the condition of human beings on our amazing planet is getting better—there is less violence, people are are living longer, people are better educated, people are healthier, women are more in control of their lives than ever, and people are materially wealthier. If any of those metrics mean anything…we as a species are progressing. Now, whether we do the right thing, the enlightened thing…only Spock knows!

Okay…more from wonderful Porto tomorrow…

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Day 19: A Field Report from North Africa

Day 19: Tuesday, 30 April 2019 – Fez, Morocco (34.0181° N, 5.0078° W)

“Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Travelling the train through clear Moroccan skies…”
Marrakesh Express lyrics by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

There really is a Marrakesh Express…it runs through Casablanca en route to Fez (6.5 hours) , where we imagine many of our travelers at least started their day. Where they are now is anyone’s guess. My guess? Gibraltar or Seville…maybe a few lingerers in the smokey cafes of Tangiers.

So you know…the Road Officials left Marrakesh this morning, hoping the Dior Express flight to Lisbon with dozens of pouty-mouthed models (Was that Haim sisters  we saw in 1st Class?)…and then onward after a brunch with a former major metro art museum director to Porto, the final meeting place of the teams on Friday.

A couple videos from Marrakesh…the souk-area at night: Call to Prayer & a 360 of the Circus.

A few photos pilfered from the blogs…

A Drum Circle…

Ying 2.0 eating sheep brains…

50% of Ying 2.0 & Lazy Monday getting henna

A day spent looking at rugs…well, the mint tea was free!

The Tanneries of Fez…

Goats head soup anyone? Mick? Keith?

The Straits of Gibraltar  shipping lanes (aka the Pillars of Hercules)


SLO Folks…got to Gibraltar fast!

That said…here’s what I can report from Morocco….

First, if you have any romantic notions of Casablanca, that we last visited in 2004 (they are still looking for the credit card fraudsters)…a port city that forever recalls the black-and-white movie era…complete with  foggy steamships and fedora hats, forget it. It is a busy African city bulging at the seams. If you are thinking about author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, strolling its wide Art Deco building-lined boulevards on his way to Dakar, or Timbuktu, forget it.  No one, aside from diplomats currying favor, stops here any more…Bogart and Bergman are long gone, and Hollywood magic can only bring a place so far and any glamour Casablanca might have actually had pre World War II, wore off a long time ago. It is now a rough-edged metropolis of probably 5+ million.

The really great cities of Morocco are the so-called Imperial Cities: Rabat, Meknes, Fez and Marrakech. With Fez and Marrakesh retaining that medieval Arabic/Berber feel. Fez is my favorite because it is so other-worldly…a true test for any traveler lacking nerve with its labyrinthine-like medina Fes el-Bali is…maybe the world’s largest car-free urban zone…that is a maze of twisting alleys and crowded souks. It was a Mandatory Scavenge for our travelers…and they will be better for having seen and done it.

So, about Morocco’s political situation—now that I’m safely gone from it’s bureaucratic grasp—36 million people with an average age, like most Middle Eastern nations, a young 26.5 who earn statistics say, about $7,500 per capita…and that the unemployment rate hovers around 10%. Is it safe? Yes, we had no problems and felt no threat—it is just chaotic, hectic, crazy and many people are desperate—but not violent. What does it’s future hold? Well, I don’t believe that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists…maybe not; maybe there are secular, liberal, market-oriented moderates out there…seeing that a growing middle class serves their tenure… What bout the Arab Spring? It was canceled. There were no Middle East dominos…places like Tunisia, Morocco have been facing economic problems and allegations of corruption in ruling circles for decades. But Morocco and Jordan (and now Algeria?) do allow limited freedoms of expression and have so far been able to contain any real regime changing protests….Like Jordan, Morocco’s monarchy has strong support among sections of the public—BUT Morocco’s reputation was damaged after Wikileaks revealed allegations of increased corruption, in particular the royal family’s business affairs and the “appalling greed” of people close to King Mohammed VI (who in 1999 succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Hassan II)…that said, things appear stable, the economic pie is growing and they are entering the 21st Century. Whether theocratic aspects remain neutral, is another thing; but they keep a tight leash on everyone with their Chinese-like surveillance-systems and French-like local policing system.  Nuff said…

Okay…tomorrow starts the Euro report…BTW May Day tomorrow!


What would Bill do? Maybe…maybe, not!

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Day 18: Just another Marrakech Monday

Day 18: Monday, 29 April 2019 – Marrakesh, Morocco (31.6295° N, 7.9811° W)

Monday in Marrakech….

“.…the lost in search of camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits…” wrote George Orwell

 

It is good to be back in the intoxicating, contradictory city of Marrakesh (aka Red City) for the first time since 1985…30+ years has passed since I once spent a Christmas here after being picked up hitch hiking at the Spanish Ceuta enclave-Moroccan border (that I had to bribe my way in, because Americans were persona non grata here days after the Reagan bombing of Gaddafi’s Tripoli tent) by three Germans hell-bent on getting to Marrakesh by sundown…it was a high fast ride through the twisting mountain passes and dirt valley roads through the even Higher Atlas Mountains.

The city evokes: mystery, glamour, romance, wannabe French elegance, wanderlust, Cold War intrigue, Arabian, African, and European influences; and captivates: moody literary-types, hippies, jet-setting partying celebrities, closeted social life personalities, and Indian Jones-types. And always, the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains are there on a clear day—which in 1985 was everyday! Founded in 1062, Marrakech was once the capital of a vast trading empire that stretched from Toledo to Senegal—Timbuktu was it’s rival; of which ancient Berber dialects report two contradictory meanings. It either means to “pass by quickly”—an old warning about desert bandits and wild animals; or, “murr akush” as in “the land of God.” Schizoid Morocco…part-Arabic, part-Gallic, part-Africa, part-ancient and part-modern, it still revels in its old cross roads ways though, as Nomadic tribes from Mauritania, Niger, Algeria & Mali, still ply their trade here to scantily-clad European housewives, paramours and college coeds tourists. Dueling chants of “balak” (get the hell out of my way) and the ritual call to prayers “Al’lah al Akbar” (God is Great) resonates throughout Morocco. Pick em.

 
Sites are many here: the classically Moroccan architecture of 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa, the splendid towering Koutoubia Mosque, the exquisitely-carved Bahia Palace…but the piece de resistance here is the adjoining Jemaa el Fna (aka Assembly of the Dead) and labyrinth-like souk. This is where the action is as the day turns into night.

Question of day? Why is King Abdul square a roundabout?

First the ancient funky cold North African medina…a maze-like area full of shoe salesmen, faux-antique sellers, juice makers, derivative art dealers, leather goods extraordinaire in every color imaginable, endless spice cones: henna (green), chili (orange), paprika (red), turmeric (yellow), etc…nowadays more motorcycles than donkeys warning you with cries of “Balak!” (watch out!) lurking through the clogged arteries of the walled old city…here you survive on luck, charm, a good sense of direction, wits and baraka (divine grace)…caveat emptor indeed as our cabinet of curiosities expands. 


Sydney Sisters missed…overlooking the circus.

Then as the sunset call to prayer wails, the main stage of Moroccan halqa (street theatre) begins taking shape in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el Fna. Once a medieval trading square where public executions took place (hence the Assembly of the Dead), nowadays it begins filling with honest workers plying their tourist trade: jellaba-clad Moroccan Berbers, Tuareg nomads, West African traders, veiled women, henna artists, donkeys, camels, tooth pullers, magicians, henna artists, storytellers, conjurers, acrobats, snake-charmers, fire-eaters, Gnaoua musicians, hashish salesmen, clang castanets, metal qarqaba (castanets), duff (hand drums) and twanging three-stringed ginbri (bass)…all surrounded by scores of chefs firing up makeshift grills with billowing exotically toxic smells and impromptu picnic areas…stirring vats of steaming snails, goats head soup, and sizzling kebobs…there is nowhere quite like Djemma el-Fnaa. Nowhere. The circus performs nightly….

 

We will let the days photos take it from here…
 

 

 

 
The things people do for points…love the camel butt crack!

  
Think of the smells…since 1562!

Hmmm: Interesting!? Marrakech is one the least re-visited cities by tourists—which proves one of my iron law of travel truism: Every place is worth at least one visit, even if it’s just to remind yourself that you never need to go back. Check Bucket List Box here…

Okay, off to…see you tomorrow from somewhere else.

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Day 17: North Africa to…

Day 17: Sunday, 28 April 2019 – Marrakesh, Morocco (31.6295° N, 7.9811° W)

Happy Easter to our Orthodox friends…noting says Jesus has risen like multi-colored peeps and chocolate bunnies.

We arrived last night late from Athens to Marrakesh, Morocco…a town celebrated the wedding of Idris Elba—and that explains why we had to look to over 50 properties here before finding our home away from home—not the 50th worst, just 50–big, small, riads, boutiques, location, etc. But we are here at the Savoy Le Grande Hotel for two nights…

Teams slept in and dined well before our 11:00am meeting…

Observation…boarding the plane last night from ATH-RAK, flight attendants handed out long white Easter candles to all…I asked when we would lite them…they were not amused. Note to FAA: Candles on planes, yes or no?

Observation #2…many ladies on flight from scantly-clad Athens to more conservative Morocco quickly put long dress covers over their exposed bikini-bottomed butts and long-sleeve shirts on  before exiting the planes. Living in two worlds?

First, closing the books on the last Athens (Par 2) Leg in which five teams handed in score sheets:

5th – Transformed Travel Goddesses who keep competing and having fun.

There was a tie of 3rd Place – both teams did 25 total scavenges including 1 Bonus earning 965 points for SLO Folks and Order & Chaos.

2nd – went to Lazy Monday, who did 32 scavenges including 1 Bonus (worth 100) points and won the On-the-Go Team Challenge of 76 points for finding the Chalmers family (in just minutes) earning an adjusted 1,219 points.

1st – went to a team that walked 18.9 miles in 24 hours in Athens—Winning the unofficial Saskia Foot Award—doing 32 scavenges and one Bonus (worth 150 points) and earning an adjusted 1,265 points.

That means the 2019 world travel championship scoreboard looks like this with 7 Par points still to be had over the final 2 legs:
4th – SLO Folks @ 72
3rd – Order & Chaos @ 63
2nd – Lazy Monday @ 34
1st – Lawyers without Borders @ 27 (+9 Par)
2019 – Leader Board

It was a great fun toe-in-Europe leg and we are moving on…

Our participants two-weeks master class in perfecting the art of travel has come to a close. It has been an exciting time with numerous travel lessons learned along the way:

In Vancouver, they learned to hit the ground running with an element of surprise in a soggy wet urban adventure. (BTW our only rain so far!)

In Saigon, the where fish-out-of-water bleary-eyed and jet-legged travelers in a hustling and bustling exotic Southeast Asian destination when the competitive juices really started to kick in. The language barriers were challenging along with detoxing from their comfortable worlds.

In Myanmar, over a long hot four days they dealt with navigating a classic travelers triangle, the logistics of getting from here to there and finding a place for one-night…and the unique cultural nuances that is this special nation.

In Bangkok, they learned a lot about team dynamics in this seat-of-the-pants layover challenge by checking luggage and getting out and being busy—albeit for only a few hours; the marathon 23-day’s on the road aspect of the competition really hit some teams.

In Abu Dhabi, they took another urban adventure with a decidedly unique twist where things are done differently.

In Jordan, they learned that it is all about the choices you make when it comes to Bonuses and the logistical difference between city and rural traveling.

In Athens, they got their toe wet in the Euroland—efficient, normal, Western—but in the throes of a festival national holiday weekend …

Now for their final exam, when all the skills they have learned come together while their situational awareness is peaking and the Travel IQ ready for action. The Big multi-country adventure of the Par 6 North Africa/Iberian Peninsula leg: Over 150 scavenges with 19 Bonuses, 3 Team Challenges and a whole lotta good eating; six exciting days of buses, trains, ferries, camels, trams, bikes and funiculars; four diverse country stops over 1,400km (870 miles) lay between them here in Marrakesh and there in Porto. Oh yea, did I mention May Day!?

Teams were given $300 each to cover their best-guess transpo costs and told that they would be required to secure their own lodgings for three nights (Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday)…all depending on their risk/reward course of action. We will see them Friday at 11:30AM in the lobby of our Porto, Portugal hotel.

Good luck to everyone, be safe, be smart.

Leg Rule Changes:
1) Teaming up allowed, but only in Morocco!
2) Car rentals allowed, but only once, and only within one single country where the rental must be both picked-up & returned.
3) Smartphones allowed.
4) Airbnb & Uber allowed.

So their assignment is to get from here in Morocco to Porto in Portugal.


5-North African/Iberian Peninsula Sample Scavenges:

-Camp out in the Sahara desert for one night…
-Visit the Blue City of Chefchaouen…
-Take a hot air balloon ride over the Marrakesh & Atlas Mountains…
-Make a pilgrimage to visit the sacred place Fátima…
-Have fish n’ chips in Gibraltar…

Their probable first leg…although I might…

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca…

Don’t forget to follow your favorite teams…although we have no idea where they get the time (or energy?); some of our 2019 teams are blogging, and open to social media interactions:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

And finally, as you know we try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

As for us…6 days to kill; what shall we do?

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Day 16: An Athens Lazy Saturday

Day 16: Saturday, 27 April 2019 – Athens, Greece (37.9838° N, 23.7275° E)

Good Morning…well, the Road Officials dispatched the teams yesterday afternoon upon arrival from Jordan with Scavenger Hunt Booklets, Athens maps and hotel Grand Hyatt Athens vouchers in hand. We opted to refresh ourselves for a quick 30 hours at the sea closer to the  airport before our last crazy week.

Some look one way, some the other…

Athens past….


Greece isn’t all about the food…a little history here too!

Missing our pooch Barney today, for some reason?

Threw a fun On-the-Go Team Challenge at folks today in Athens: Gave a photo of a street and said first team to find the Chalmers Family nearby earned 76 points…amazed 4 teams found us. But who was first?

Ying 2.0 found us…

Lazy Monday found us…

Order & Chaos found us…

SLO Folks found us too…

FYI…enjoy some of our 2019 team blogs, and social media posts:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  
Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

We touch base later from our North African destination of Marrakesh!

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Day 15: Good Friday in Athens, Take 2

Day 15: Friday, 26 April 2019 – Athens, Greece (37.9838° N, 23.7275° E)

We are in Athens!

It is Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian world, which Greece counts itself in; so we are in for a festive (sic?) two-days.

We were last here in 2008 when we had our infamous drunken night at a Plaka taverna (I am sure Zoe & Rainey remember that night!)…sadly, not everyone understood the rules of that leg that took them from Athens to Bucharest…we had to throw the whole leg out, much to the chagrin of a few teams…we lived and learned!

2019 Teams at ATH…before the bomb dropped on them…

 

Old Business:  We have gone over all the peer reviewed AMM Leg (Par 4) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses)
5th Place went to Transformed Travel Goddesses who completed 13 scavenges including 4 Bonuses for 1,065 points
4th went to SLO Folks who completed 15 scavenges including 3 Bonuses for 1,1,50 points
3rd went to Order & Chaos who who completed 25 scavenges including 8 Bonuses for 1,860 points
2nd Place went to Lazy Monday who completed 25 scavenges including 13 Bonuses for 2,045 points; and
1st place on the Jordan Leg went to Lawyers without Borders who completed 22 scavenges including 12 Bonuses and won the 4-legged beastie challenge for 2,190 points!

Congrats all on finishing the sixth leg…let’s roll on:

Overall leaders after six completed legs (par 16 of 25 completed)…the overall top 4 teams are
4. SLO Folks at 66
3. Order & Chaos at 57
2. Lazy Monday at 30
1. Lawyers without Borders at an event low of 25 (+9 over Par)


Three-Things I Learned from the Jordanian Leg: When the going gets tough, the champions push themselves. Participants spend a lot of time—too much time—guessing where we were going to next. Too many Bonuses confounded teams. Everyone loved Jordan…amazing.

Pre-Event Global Literacy Test: #8 – How many of the world’s 1-year old children today have been vaccinated against some disease? (Answer below)
A – 20%
B – 50%
C – 80%


The rooftop view from our team’s hotel

New Business:
So, we have one night, a quick 35-hours during in Athens during Holy Week, Good Friday at that…a Par 2 that started in ATH international airport’s arrival hall…and they were sent on their way.

Rule Changes: They may rent a car with another team (for Bonuses only) and smartphone use is okay. Don’t miss your plane tomorrow night…

5-Sample Greek Scavenges:
-Picnic on the island of Aegina in front of the Temple of Aphaia…
-Take a Plaka Street Art Safari…
-Participate in 3 Olympic venues: one from each the 20th Century, the 21st Century, and before the 20th Century…
-Enjoy the catch of the day at a Piraeus eatery…
-Attend an Orthodox Easter weekend service…

And teams are already having fun…
  
Lazy Monday performing Olympic feats…

One-Minute Interview with Team Ying 2.0

One-Minute Interview with Transformed Travel Goddesses

Check-in is tomorrow night at ATH airport at 9:45PM when we board one last flight and reposition ourselves from Here to There for one last week’s scramble…but where? 

We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

 

Pre-Event Global Literacy Test: #8 Answer: C – 80% of 1 year olds are vaccinated…(but decreasing in anti-science countries)…and only 2 were correct (Chimpanzees up 7-1)

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