With responsible travel currently off the table, I’ve been self-medicating my wanderlust by re-watching past seasons of my favorite reality show The Amazing Race. Besides escaping in the incredible scenery, smirking at the inevitable drama, and mentally assigning the craziest tasks to my hypothetical teammate, this time around I noticed something I never thought of before – my own travels would make a great template for an Amazing Race season!
Once that thought sparked in my brain, it didn’t take long for it to blossom into a full-fledged project; one that would have me searching through my favorite travel memories in order to conceive what I believe would be the most compelling racecourse possible from the places I’ve been. And to provide a little incentive for my readers, I’m offering a free airport code t-shirt from my Custom Travel Art website to whoever comes up with the best racecourse from their own travels, which I will also post on this blog. But first, a few rules…
The Ground Rules
If you’d like to play along at home, here are the ground rules that I myself used in conceiving my fictional Amazing Race course.
- You Must Be Specific: For example, you can’t just say that the race starts in San Francisco. You have to specify that the starting line is at the base of The Presidio, or Coit Tower, etc. And as for road blocks and detours, you can’t just say that teams have to do a road block, but specify what the task or choice of tasks are. As you reflect on your past destinations, some worthy entrants should reveal themselves. Plus, you have to specify each Pit Stop for the 11 race legs and the finish line at the end of leg 12.
- You Must Have Personally Visited The Place In Question: The whole premise of this exercise is to reflect on and draw from your own travel experiences (though a Bucket List course would also be an awesome idea!). So while you don’t necessarily have had to perform the tasks listed for a destination, you are required to have been there yourself.
- You Must Keep Logistics In Mind When Designing Your Course: While you don’t need to be a location scout to compile your racecourse, there are some basic logistics to keep in mind. For instance, you can’t have teams splashing around in warm water at temperate locations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres simultaneously. If it’s warm at one, it’s the opposite at the other, which is why my original course, which would have teams racing in Antarctica for the first time, just wouldn’t be realistic from a production point of view. I’m not going to be a real stickler about it, but just show that you’ve given the practicality aspect a thought before throwing something out there.
- Entries must be received by Jan 30, 2021 to be eligible for the prize, but anyone who takes the time to play will receive a discount coupon for my Custom Travel Art website.
Why Everyone Can Play
Let me preempt your objections before we go any further. It’s not necessary to have traveled around the world in order to play. Your course can include anywhere you’ve traveled to – even if it’s just within your own country. One of my favorite seasons of the Amazing Race was the Family Edition, where 90% of the travel was within the U.S. So wherever you’ve been is good enough for this contest, regardless of how near or far your travels have taken you. So long as you have 12 legs at the end it’s good enough for me. And if you’re having a hard time coming up with destinations, you can always imitate an Amazing Race trope and have two legs in the same city. Now, on to my own course.
The Starting Line
Having been born and raised on Long Island, NY, I envision my personal racecourse starting from the Jones Beach Amphitheater on Fire Island. Teams would arrive via fishing boats, and after Phil goes through his spiel they would drive themselves up the Meadowbrook Parkway (or Loop Parkway if they want to try an alternate route) to JFK Airport, where the first 5 teams would get tickets on the earliest flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Leg 1: Guayaquil, Ecuador
The clue directing teams to fly to Guayaquil would also instruct them to Parque Seminario, a small downtown park that’s home to a disproportionate number of large, wild iguanas. From there teams would have to race on foot to La Perla – a large Ferris Wheel along the riverfront. The clue box found at the base will contain the Race’s first Road Block. One team member will have to ride the Ferris Wheel and look for a marked stall along the Malecon 2000 waterfront complex. Once they spot it, they must make their way on foot to the stall, and sell $10 worth of ice cream cones to passersby before rejoining their team member back at La Perla and opening their clue, which will reveal the Race’s first Detour – Swirl It or Swirl Them.
In this detour teams must make their way on foot to Cerro Santa Ana, and perform one of two tasks. For Swirl It, they must dress like local painters, and picking up a ladder, paint bucket and brushes, navigate the narrow, steep staircases to a marked building, where they must paint a marked section to match the colorful houses the area is known for. In Swirl Them, teams must find a small plaza and dress in colonial era clothing before performing a classic dance along with a troupe of dancers to the instructor’s satisfaction before receiving their next clue. This clue would direct them to the Pit Stop for this leg of the race-The Faro Santa Ana, located at the top of the hill. Sadly, this is where we say goodbye to one of our teams.
Leg 2: Rio de Janeiro/Paraty, Brazil
Teams must now fly from Guayaquil, Ecuador across the South American Continent to Rio de Janeiro Brazil, where they must get their first clue by navigating to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. This clue will direct them to the bus terminal, where they are to take a five-hour ride out to the town of Parati.
Teams must now make their way through the old town’s gate where they will receive their next clue, which is a Detour. Teams are required to take a marked schooner into Paraty Bay, navigating to various uninhabited islands using a treasure map to collect pieces of another map to direct them to their next location: the main square in the Centro Historico. Here they are faced with the next Road Block, Haul It or Wall It.
In Haul It, one team member must navigate the extremely uneven cobblestone streets with a rustic wooden cart, dropping off packages to three separate shops in the historic old town before receiving their next clue. In Wall It, one team member must enter a nearby cachasa shop (a local liquor) and search for a marked bottle among hundreds stacked along the walls. The final clue will lead teams to the Pit Stop for this leg of the race at the end of the pier, hopefully in time for an amazing sunset. Once more it would be the end of the race for one team.
Leg 3: Punta Arenas, Chile/Stanley, Falkland Islands
Teams must now fly to the city of Punta Arenas, Chile, where they will be directed to find their next clue at Plaza de Armas Munoz Gamero. From there they will have to drive themselves to Seno Otway and search the penguin colony for their next clue. This is this leg’s Road Block, with one member being required to build a 12 foot section of wooden walkway before receiving their next clue.
Teams are now directed to the port in Punta Arenas, where they will put their names in on a sign up sheet in the order they arrive. They will then take a full day/overnight ride aboard a charter ship that will take them through the breathtaking Beagle Channel to the port of Stanley, Falkland Islands. Teams will disembark at three 15 minute intervals depending on their order of arrival at the embarkation port.
Teams will first have to find the whalebone structure outside the church, where the clue will direct them to the detour portion of this leg: Watch Your Angle or Watch Your Step. It would also indicate a Double U-Turn ahead.
As the site of the Falkland Conflict of the early 80’s, many areas are still fenced off due to active minefields. In Watch Your Step, teams must navigate a simulated minefield with the help of a detector, and dig up and defuse 5 mines along their path before receiving their next clue. For Watch Your Angle, teams will fire potatoes from a mortar and have to hit 3 targets on a nearby hill to receive their next clue. Upon completion, teams must find a clue box above Gypsy Cove, where they have the opportunity to U-turn a team behind them. The clue itself will direct them to drive themselves to the Stone Runs, which is the Pit Stop for this long leg of the race. The last team would be the first team ever eliminated in the Falkland Islands (to my knowledge).
Leg 4: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Teams must now re-board their ship for a cruise back to Ushuaia, Argentina. From there they will have to make their way to the airport to fly to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. In a throwback to Season 1 of The Amazing Race, teams must find their first clue on Knife Edge Bridge on the Zambian side of massive Victoria Falls. Here they are presented with the option of a Fast Forward, which would require teams to go whitewater rafting in the Batoka Gorge below.
This clue would also present the Detour: Climb High or Fly High. For climb high, both team members would cross the historic Victoria Falls Bridge with a harness, and have to climb the gridwork to retrieve a clue before being lowered to a boat on the river below. For Fly High, both team members would have to take a helicopter ride over the falls to spot the name of their next destination and tell the pilot to receive their next clue. That destination is Chobe River National Park, Botswana.
Teams must now make their way to Kasane, Botswana where they will find their next clue at a hotel at the banks of the Chobe River. Here they are presented with the Road Block. One team member must go on a river safari and correctly identify 15 different species of animals from a provided chart to get their next clue. Next it’s on to the Pit Stop, located back in Zimbabwe in front of an ancient baobab known as ‘The Big Tree’, where yet another team will be eliminated.
Leg 5: Bergen/Geiranger, Norway
From the heart of Africa teams must now fly to Bergen, Norway, and search for their clue in front of the famous buildings of the Bryggen. Teams are now faced with their Detour: Use Your Brains or Use Your Back. In Use Your Brains, teams will make their way on foot to Bergenhus Castle where they are required to assemble an intricate puzzle of Nordic designs from a collection of hundreds of pieces. In Use Your Back, teams must make their way on foot to the fish market and bring ten wheelbarrows packed with fish and ice to a marked stall to receive their next clue. In both cases, the clue will direct teams to drive themselves over two hours to stunning Geiranger, Norway, where they will find their next clue at the waterfront.
This clue contains the Road Block, which will have one team member take a marked boat across the fjord to the Seven Sisters Waterfall, where they’ll have to use an ascender to reach a clue at the top, then rappel down to the base for the boat ride back to their partner. This next clue will direct them to Dalsnibba – the highest fjord view reachable by road, and a breathtaking spot for the Pit Stop for this leg of the race. The last team to arrive will be spared elimination and allowed to stay in the race.
Leg 6: Ponza, Italy
Teams must now drive themselves to Oslo, Norway and find flights to Rome, Italy. Upon arrival, they must make their way by train to Anzio, and from there take either a ferry or hydrofoil to the island of Ponza where they will find their next clue at the port. This is the Detour: Dive Master or Stair Master.
In Dive Master, teams hop into a marked boat and have the captain take them to the nearby island of Palmarola. Using a provided map, teams must direct their captain to three marked locations, and dive into the crystal blue waters to retrieve a marked bottle in each location. For Stair Master, teams direct their boat captain to take them to the Lighthouse at the southern tip of the island, where teams will have to climb an enormous cliffside staircase to retrieve a clue at the top before returning to their boat.
This next clue contains the Road Block, asking Who’s ready to step it up? In a tribute to the traditional, self-reliant nature of the island, one team member will have to stomp enough grapes in a traditional vat to fill a wine bottle to a designated line in order to receive their next clue. This is also where the Speed Bump would come in, forcing the last team to check in from the previous leg to carry baskets of vegetables across a zigzag valley path before continuing with the race. At this point teams are directed to make their way back to their boats to be taken to the Pit Stop on the beach at the cove called Chiaia di Luna, where the last team to arrive will be eliminated.
Leg 7: Cappadocia, Turkey
In this leg teams must make their way back to Rome and fly to Keyseri, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Teams must take a taxi to the Pasabag Valley and search through the “fairy chimneys” to find their next clue. This clue will direct them to the town of Urgup, where they will take a number in front of the Cave Hotel where they will spend the night.
The next morning, teams will take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia by number from the night before. Once they land, they will be handed their next clue with the Detour: Take A Spin or On A Roll. In Take A Spin, one team member must take a taxi to Avanos, and using a potter’s wheel, form a clay bowl to the potter’s satisfaction before receiving the next clue. In On A Roll, one team member must travel to a carpet shop, and unroll carpets until finding one with the proper markings in order to receive their next clue, which will direct them to the Goreme Open Air Museum. This also makes for a great spot for a second U-Turn, forcing a team to complete both tasks.
At the museum, the next clue contains their Road Block, which will direct them to the Kaymakli underground city, where one team member will have to search a labyrinth of intricate passageways for their next clue. From there it’s off to the Pit Stop in front of the massive Uchisar Castle, where the last team to arrive will be eliminated.
Leg 8: Galle, Sri Lanka
Teams must now fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where they must take a train to the colonial city of Galle and search for their clue along the city’s ramparts. Here they’ll encounter the Detour: Tuck It In or Tuk-Tuk It Away. In Tuck It In, teams must search through hundreds of folded, colorful tablecloths for one with a marked symbol. Each time they unfold tablecloth, they must re-fold it to the shop owner’s satisfaction before being allowed to search for another one. In Tuk-Tuk It Away, teams members must find the Dutch Hospital and each complete a driving course using one of the ubiquitous tuk-tuks before receiving their next clue.
At this point teams will have to make their way by taxi to the beach town of Unawatuna where they’ll encounter their Road Block. In a throwback to Season 22, one team member must dig – and if empty rebuild – one of hundreds of sandcastles on the beach for their next clue, which will lead them to the Pit Stop in nearby Koggala, overlooking the famous stilt fishermen. The last team to arrive will have the pleasant surprise of not being eliminated.
Leg 9: Da Nang, Vietnam
Teams must now return to Colombo and fly to Da Nang, Vietnam, where they will find their first clue on the Dragon Bridge. Next they’re presented with their Detour: String ‘Em Up or Wrap ‘Em Up. In both cases teams must put on traditional Vietnamese hats and make their way to the town of Hoi An. In String ‘Em Up, teams must collect 20 colorful lanterns from a marked vendor and string them across the street in a specified order. In Wrap ‘Em Up, teams must learn how to make a Vietnamese pork wrap, then produce 25 apiece before eating one with spicy chili sauce to get their next clue. For the Speed Bump, the affected team will have to carry a load of chili peppers with an over the shoulder yoke used by the locals along a marked route in order to continue racing.
From Hoi An, teams will be directed to the My Son Sanctuary where they will be directed to find their clue at a specified set of ruins. Here they’ll encounter the Road Block, where one team member must search the sprawling grounds for a marked ‘relic’ which they’ll have to present to a guide in order to receive their next clue. This clue will take them to the Pit Stop at the Marble Mountain, and the last time to arrive will be eliminated.
Leg 10: Cairns, Australia
Teams must now fly from Da Nang, Vietnam, to Cairns, Australia where they will be directed to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway to the town of Kuranda. There, teams will be faced with a Road Block, which will require a team member to propel themselves across the Barron River Gorge and back to receive their next clue. From there, teams must take a taxi to the town of Port Douglas, where they will encounter their Detour: Outfit or Outback. In Outfit teams must carry two mannequins several blocks to a marked store, and using the provided models, dress their mannequins in traditional outback gear to receive their next clue. In Outback, teams must construct a display of 9 digeridoos out of hundreds with specific designs in a set order to receive their next clue.
At this point, teams are directed to the airport for a low-level flight over the Great Barrier Reef back to Cairns, where they must then take marked boats out to the Reef to the Pit Stop aboard a luxury catamaran. The last team will be spared elimination.
Leg 11: Queenstown, New Zealand
In the morning, one team member must perform a Road Block by snorkeling the reef and searching for clues in cases placed at various depths. Once completed, they are to take their boats back to Cairns, and find flights to their next destination: Queenstown, New Zealand.
Upon arrival, teams are instructed to drive themselves to Deer Park Heights to search for their next clue. The team spared elimination in the last round will have to complete a Speed Bump of feeding the farm animals an entire bag of feed by hand before moving on to their next clue. Now teams are instructed to drive themselves over 3 hours to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, where they’ll find their clue at the ferry terminal. Here they are faced with a Detour: With Or Without A Paddle. In With A Paddle, teams will kayak out to Lady Bowen Falls, where they will receive their next clue. In Without A Paddle, teams will be taken by boat to a designated area, and once in their provided wetsuits, must swim across the fjord in order to receive their next clue. In both cases teams will be brought back to the ferry terminal and have to make their way on foot to the Pit Stop overlooking Milford Sound. Here is where the last elimination will take place, and the Final 3 teams will be confirmed.
Leg 12: The Finish Line – Houston, Texas
To start the final leg, teams will take a helicopter ride over the incredible mountain scenery back to Queenstown, where they will receive their instructions to fly to their final destination city: Houston, Texas and find their next clue at the Waterwall.
Once they pick up their clue, teams are faced with their final Detour: Leg-It or Seg-It. In Leg-It teams must enter a marked entrance to the Houston downtown tunnel system and navigate their way to Discovery Green without coming up to the surface. In Seg-It, teams must ride a Segway scooter through a marked course through city streets, picking up tags at select locations that must be handed in at Discovery Green, where they’ll be given their next clue.
Teams must now travel to Rocket Park next to the Johnson Space Center, where they face the final Road Block in the building containing the Saturn V rocket. Here, one team member must search through hundreds of NASA-style “mission patch” plaques emblazoned with a country and the names of an eliminated team in the boosters at the rear end of the rocket. They must find patches that match the country with the team, and running along the length of the massive rocket, must place them in the correct sequential order at the other end of the building, with the caveat that they can only bring one plaque at a time. Once they’re cleared for liftoff, teams will receive their final clue directing them to the Finish Line on the steps in front of the San Jacinto Monument where their fellow cast members will be cheering them on.
How To Enter
Now that you’ve had the chance to enjoy my hypothetic Amazing Race racecourse, it’s time to make one of your own. Using the general format I provided above, pick your starting line, legs, detours and pit stops, and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Line: Amazing Race. From whatever entries I receive, I will post the most compelling racecourse and send the winner a free airport code t-shirt from my gifts for travel lovers site Custom Travel Art so long as there’s a USA address for delivery. And just to be a good sport, all entries will receive a 15% off coupon just for participating.
I know that not many people have the time, drive or enthusiasm to send in a racecourse, but if like me you’re itching to travel but don’t have the opportunity, I think you’ll find that just as in real life, the ‘journey’ of sorting through your travel experiences to create the most interesting itinerary for somebody else (even if they happen to be imaginary) is just as much fun as reaching the destination.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to mention down below.