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NEWS | Vol. 8, No. 13, April 3, 2008
(Whatever Happened To...)

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Strangers In Strange Lands

by Rick Outzen

Local Attorneys Go On Global Scavenger Hunt

How adventurous are you? Could you find the Khan al-Kahlili in Cairo, Egypt, buy a traditional Arab headdress and then talk someone into letting you ride a camel around the Great Pyramid? How about sneaking into a private showing at the Cannes Film Festival and getting a photo with one of the celebrities? Or saying a prayer in one of the sacred Hiranya Varna Mahabihar houses in Kathmandu that is guarded by holy rodents?

Local attorney Rainey Booth and his partner Zoe Littlepage are about to find out how adventurous they are as they compete in the Great Escape 2008 Global Scavenger Hunt for the "The World's Greatest Travelers" crown.

For 23 days, Booth and Littlepage will travel to 13 countries and four continents as they complete against teams from around the world. They will not only become immersed in the cultures of all the places they visit, but also will help raise $1 million for such charities as Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and non-profits that provide micro-financing opportunities to some of the poorest villages in the world.

"We read about this event in USA Today and were surprised that we were picked," Booth says in an interview on "IN Your Head Radio," on 1620 AM. "It's a great, great cause, and I think it will be exciting to go around the world."

The Great Escape 2008 Global Scavenger Hunt starts April 11 in San Francisco, circumvents the globe and ends on May 3, nearly 40,000 miles away, in Toronto, Canada.

"That's about all we know. They have told us very little, but just enough," Booth says. "We know we start in San Francisco. We know we will go to China at one point because we had to get visas to travel to China. Shy of that, we know little else. They gave us a list of 60 countries where we might travel."

This global scavenger hunt is the brainchild of world traveler and author Bill Chalmers. In April 2002, National Geographic Traveler magazine named Chalmers the "World's Greatest Traveler." He is the author the best-selling travel book "A Blind Date With The World."

"In 1989, I competed in a race around the world using only public transportation," Chalmers says in a phone interview from cold, snowy British Columbia. "I was lucky enough to win that race in 16 days. I really enjoyed it and always wanted to do something like it again.

"Ten years later, I was trekking through Nepal with friends and was struck by some enlightenment. I realized that if I couldn't compete in such an event again, then the next best thing was to live vicariously through others racing around the world. We held our first global scavenger hunt that next year."

This year will be the fourth global scavenger hunt. There are 18 teams participating from Great Britain, Canada and the United States. They were chosen from hundreds of applicants.

"I do have to say, No,' to a lot of people," Chalmer says. "It hurts me to do so but, unless you've been around the block a few times, I feel I would be creating travel malpractice if I took someone on this trip who was a snowbird and only traveled to Florida every year and then dropped them off in India for three days. I may never see them again."

There are more than 500 total scavenger tasks for this year's event. Contestants will be given a list at each stop and given three or four days to complete them. Points are assigned for each task. At the end of the 23-day competition, the team with the most points is declared "The World's Greatest Travelers."

"There is safety net for the teams," Chalmers says. "We do have a hotel for them. When we give them the list of scavenges, the first thing I tell them is that they can't do all the things on the list. It's up to the teams to figure out which ones they can do. We give them three or four days to work on the list."

The scavenger hunts are varied and require the teams to become immersed in the cultures of the communities that they are in.

"I don't ask them to do bungee jumping, stunts or things like that," Chalmers says. "Instead, we ask them to taste unique foods, find unique cultures and get involved in local festivals."

When asked about what are some of the possible scavenges, Chalmers is evasive, not wanting to give away his secrets. He does offer a few hypothetical tasks.

"If we were in Japan, I might ask the men to dress like one of the old emperors and have the girls made up as geisha girls," he says. "We might have them find a specific item. There are several temples that have a tooth of Buddha hanging in them. We could have them find one in a specific temple in Sri Lanka. The trick would be that they have to ride a four-legged beast to find it. The tasks are really unique because we want people to participant in the local cultures and really trust strangers in strange lands."

It is that element of the event that attracts Booth the most.

"Their concept is that you will go to places you wouldn't have chosen to go on your own," Booth says. "You learn by having to do it, so you're forced to interact with the world, which is something I haven't always done when I've traveled."

Not every task involves fun. Chalmers shares that one of the most memorable and meaningful tasks was having all the teams donate half a day to work in a refugee center.

"All the teams spent four hours working in a refugee center during our stay in that country," he recalls. "For some folks it changed their lives. It was life altering for them and was unique and heartfelt because they got to get to know the missionaries and those they help."

The Great Escape 2008 Global Scavenger Hunt is more than just an adventure. The goal for this year's event is to raise $1 million for international charities.

"This event is designed to be a travel-thon, a sort of travel version of a walkathon," Chalmer explains. "Teams are asked to recruit sponsors. Some sponsors pay a set amount per country visited. One team has a pledge for $1 for every mile traveled which will raise close to $40,000 by the time we finish the event."

Several local law firms are sponsoring Booth and Littlepage.

 "The Pensacola legal community has an excellent record of giving back to the community," Booth says. "The Levin & Papantonio Family Foundation is one of our big supporters. We have a wonderful legal community that not only tries to give back locally, but also thinks more globally."

"The Great Escape 2008 Global Scavenger Hunt is a fun event," Chalmers promises. "Maybe in five or 10 years we will have the ultimate travel competition, sort of like the Paris to Dakar race. But this event is really about helping people."

"The concept of micro-financing really excited me," Booth admits. "One example we were given was $1,000 was used to buy a poor village a jeep and its fuel. That doesn't seem like much, but it let the village sell its products to towns 50 miles away.

"It's those types of contributions that can have a tremendous impact on people's lives and truly make this event worthwhile."

rick@inweekly.net

GREAT ESCAPE 2008
What: Global Scavenger Hunt starting from San Francisco to Toronto--the long way!
When: April 11- May 3
Who: 18 teams of two, including local team of Rainey Booth and Zoe Littlepage.
Prize: "The World's Greatest Travelers" Crown
More details: www.globalscavengerhunt.com