While Jane is adventuring in Europe and Africa, Becky of The Girl and Globe is happy to share my experiences with Competitours!
In the fall of 2010, my husband and I were fresh off our honeymoon to Mexico and then a second, even-better vacation to Alaska. We had also been on half a dozen summer camping trips, a “local” getaway to Assateague Island and Ocean City, whitewater rafting in West Virginia, and a dip down into North Carolina. In short, we had been bitten by the travel bug…or more accurately, the adventure bug. With no known antidote, we gave in to the infection and sent in a video audition for The Amazing Race. Unfortunately, we never got a call back.
For the next few years, we planned our own adventures in short spurts, enjoying travel, outdoor activities, and creating great memories. Then, this past spring, we signed up for the “next best thing” to the official Amazing Race. With nine other pairs, we met in Ghent, Belgium for the start of a travel competition known as Competitours. For ten days, we’d race around Europe — destinations unknown — and complete a series of challenges. At the time, we had no idea that the “next best thing” would be even better than the Amazing Race itself.
1. With Competitours, the Race Won’t Kill You
Just watching the Amazing Race makes me tired. Continent-hopping, sleeping outside of train stations, and skipping meals to be first in line is part of the game. I won’t say Competitours was leisurely and relaxing, but the pace was reasonable. We comfortable visited Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, which gave us the chance to experience a variety of cultures without continuously suffering from jet lag. Plus, someone else takes care of the logistics like buying flights and checking train schedules so you don’t stress over the details!
2. There’s Just Enough Crazy
Does your idea of a great adventure include bungee jumping off skyscrapers or eating live insects? No? Mine either. Sure, on Competitours we climbed vertical rock walls in the Alps and shot crossbows in the Netherlands, but nothing we did was outrageously daring and if something truly made you nervous or sounded downright awful to you, you could always bow out of an activity. We stretched our comfort zone and tried new things without pushing ourselves to tears.
3. There’s Some Semblance of Privacy
The biggest downside, in my opinion, to being on The Amazing Race would be cameramen following you around 24 hours a day. I’m an introvert and I think the constant hovering would be far too much for me to handle. On Competitours, there were a few times we needed video proof that we completed a challenge, but we were always in control of when the camera was on or off. Better yet, we had a little free time every day to head off without the full group for a quiet dinner, minor sightseeing, or the chance to relax in a way that worked for you.
4. You Can Savor the Experience
Just because our trip was based on the premise of completing challenges to win an overall competition didn’t mean we had to rush through things just to get them done and move on. Instead, we had plenty of time to enjoy our activities, take photos, and generally have fun on vacation. The only problem with “savoring” our experience was perhaps consuming far too many calories on our delicious challenges like chocolate molding, gelato making, and tiramisu judging. Yes, we ate a lot of good food with Competitours.
5. There’s No Hard Feelings
At the end of the trip, the team in first place took home $3,000 in cash, and second and third place teams also went home with cash prizes. However, the competitive spirit did not impact group dynamics at all. Instead, our fellow travelers were friendly, encouraging, and a pleasure to travel with. We started the trip without knowing anyone else and came home with 19 new friends who we’ve kept in contact with via Facebook, email, and even personal invitations to visit them at their homes in the US and Canada.
We went to Europe expecting to have a grand adventure and a bit of travel mystery, but our tour ended up far exceeding all expectations. The Amazing Race is far better known, but Competitours is the better option for an adventure vacation.
Becky is the author of The Girl and Globe and a frequent traveler always looking for new adventures and experiences!