As many of you know I’m a pretty prolific travel and adventure junkie, especially since leaving Akamai late last year. In less than 12 months I’ve made it to Spain, Japan, Greece, Iceland, Greenland, Hawaii (twice), France (twice), Obama Inauguration, Australia, Portugal, Cape Verde, Senegal. Good times, great friends, epic adventures.
One of the most interesting trips is an annual pilgrimage I make with The Random Travelers Society. The Random Travelers Society is a 3 year old organization made up of 12 technology entrepreneurs from around the world who love adventure travel. Here’s the big idea:
At each year’s destination, one of the members throws up an inflatable globe. Another member catches the globe, and yet another, with his eyes closed, points on the globe with a marker.
Wherever that marker lands, we go to the nearest point of civilization that has a pub or bar. So far we’ve gone to the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, Tasiilak, Greenland, Antarctica, and Sal, Cape Verde. Next year’s locale: Mar Del Plata, Argentina.
The location selection algorithm above is biased toward unpopulated areas in general, and strongly tilted toward isolated, unpopulated islands. Think about it: densely populated areas take up a very small land area on the globe (as opposed to non-densely populated areas) and any water landing – water making up 70% of the earth’s surface—will go to the nearest land mass—i.e., an island.
Finding a date
Finding a date has to happen early. We try to lock in a date a year in advance so that we don’t have crazy conflicts with the 12 society members to coordinate. We basically look at weather, events going on locally, members’ availability, etc.
When you’re going to far flung places around the globe, there is typically 1 or 2 cities that are suitable “jump-off” points. We call them staging locations, and we usually spend a few days to a week at a staging location. Staging points can be great to get to know the region better, and can also be a great half-way-house as you go in and out of some far-off remote location. For our most recent trip to Cape Verde, we had two staging locations: Lisbon, Portugal, and Dakar, Senegal. I met up with fellow RTS member Paul Bragiel in Lisbon beforehand and closed out the trip with a group of RTS’ers in Dakar, Senegal after the main event in Cape Verde. Lisbon was a great last piece of civilization on our way in, and Dakar greatly enriched the trip as it allowed us to dive deeper into Africa on our way out. Last year we all went to Reykjavik, Iceland before wandering off into the wilderness of Tasiilaq, Greenland
So, you go to a crazy random locale… AND??
The purpose of RTS is to visit truly random locations.. locations that are likely on NOBODY’s must-go-to-list. But once we get there, we look to connect with high profile local dignitaries, entrepreneurs, professors, artists and the like. Yes, this is a vacation, but it is also a cultural and entrepreneurial exchange of sorts.
The idea is that from the moment you hit the ground (even in the staging areas), you want to dive into the region’s culture, its business community and its education and government leadership. What better way than this to meet really interesting locals and dive into the local scene? Doing this right takes SERIOUS prep work (a HUGE shout out to Paul who is an international business networking PHENOM)
- You’ve got to dig deep into LinkedIn for your connections in a region
- Google searching to find out who’s who in that country.
- Prolific email networking and follow-up
- SNAIL MAIL. Yes, get your envelopes and stamps out. A personal letter to your ambassador or a business leader can make a huge difference. And once you’ve got them in the loop, use their know how to help you spread further.
Ultimately, you should have a dinner scheduled for every evening you’re in town. Here’s a list of a few of the amazing folks we met up with (i.e. lots of drinks and dinners) on our West African trip:
- U.S. Ambassador to Portugal
- U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde
- Foreign Minister of Cape Verde
- Former Communications Secretary of Cape Verde
- Spoke to professors and students at Praia University
- Several famous Cape Verdean artists & musicians
- Managing Director of Senegal’s largest bank
Adventures Galore & Turning the dial up
At the end of the day RTS is about travel adventures with other like-minded people, in our case technology entrepreneurs. We make sure to take some down time and hang out, talking shop, jamming on new ideas and life. But at the end of the day we’re constantly looking out for adventurous times. We like to ask ourselves the question, “How do we turn the dial up?” The answer has ranged from creating a flashmob Reykjavik house party to attending an inspiring music concert with diplomats and dignitaries in Cape Verde’s congressional hall, to virtual anarchy on the street markets of Dakar (and a whole lot in between).
For me RTS has been about making the Flat World my world, and living life as an experience. The more stories I come home with, the better the trip. And taking a week or two a year to change your environment in an extreme way to see the world differently… that’s living. The great thing is anybody can create their own Random Traveler’s Society. Giddy up!! Get your globes out. We’ll see you in Argentina next year!