It's no secret that I've been wanting to be on The Amazing Race for a long time. The chance to travel the world, perform spine tingling challenges, have an emotional breakdown nationally televised, and high-five Phil at the finish mat. I loved my Sinternship experience this year because it allowed me to travel in a completely different way – Travel by doing instead of being on the sidelines. Problem was that I wanted to do more!
So when I heard about Competitours, my initial reaction resulted in me dropping my jaw and falling out of my chair. How have I not heard of this before??
What is Competitours?
Steve Belkin, president and founder of Competitours, is the brains behind the company and is a big believer of something called “sightDOING”. Instead sightseeing, the whole idea of being on one of their trips is to immerse yourself in local culture, history, geography and culinary activities that regular travellers would never be able to do.
One thing that happens when you travel is that you quickly figure out your style. More often than not though is that you tend to plan trips the same way and you do similar things that you know you'll enjoy. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that because I do love my outdoor adventure activities and luxury resorts. That being said, travel can become a little predictable. Competitours completely smashes that open and propels you into the unknown and unexpected.
In short, Competitours is The Amazing Race but for regular people. It's an Amazing Race tour.
So what is the big difference between Competitours and The Amazing Race?
- No need to audition which means you don't have to have a compelling story or good looks to get in.
- Anyone can do it. From couples, friends, siblings, and inter-generational teams, they've had it all.
- No eliminations.
- Narrow down the destinations to just Western Europe.
- Don't have to worry about a camera crew running around with you.
- Significantly less pressure and stress because the race is not time based. They're activity performance based instead.
- You actually get free time to explore the area you're in instead of whipping right through.
- Activities will be challenging but you won't need to do weird food challenges or do crazy exhausting tasks.
How does the race work?
So with all those differences, how does the race actually work?
The race has definitely evolved over the years as Steve has done this for 6 years. Every year, he learns and tweaks to make the race even more fun and even more balanced.
This season (2015) there will be 12 teams of 2. The only requirement is that if you're under 18, you have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Flights are supposed to be a surprise so you don't find out about them until a few weeks prior. Steve takes care of the bookings beforehand so everything is worry free.
The big difference about this versus The Amazing Race is that it's not about timing and getting to the mat first but instead how well you do is based on points scored on the challenges. Challenges are focused on creativity, resourcefulness, curiosity and spontaneity and NOT on speed and athleticism. In that way, every team has a chance to win.
There are three types of challenges. There will be 2-3 days of “group challenges” where all teams will participate in the same challenges with pre-arranged group transportation. 2-3 days will be “head-to-head challenges” where teams will be competing in the same challenge but have to figure out your own transportation. There will also be 2-3 days of “grab-bag challenges” where teams will be given your choice of tasks and you get to pick which ones to tackle based on your own skills and interests. All challenges focus on the building of team chemistry, hands-on local perspective experiences, and doing things that are fun and quirky.
The scoring is based on a mix of objective and subjective criteria. In previous races, the rankings continuously change from day to day so everyone is fighting for those top 3 spots.
Check out a sample of the challenges below and you'll realize how close this is to the real deal on The Amazing Race:
- Participate in a gelato making class and get judged on making the perfect gelato with a balance of ingredients, temperature, air, cooking time, and color.
- I don't know if you remember a previous season of The Amazing Race where there was a leg in Rome and one of the detours was to become a Roman gladiator stuntman? Yep Competitours has done that.
- Learn a traditional dance in a turbo-charged lesson and then perform the routines head-to-head.
- Eat dinner in pitch black and try to figure out what you are eating.
- Commandeer a street artist's tools and make a piece of art that replicates the artist.
Each destination is revealed only 24-36 hours prior each day so you are really on the edge of your seat all the way through.
The race will take you anywhere from large cities, small towns, remote mountain hamlets, and coastal villages spanning the countries of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.
Transportation to get from place to place can be in the form of a train or a flight.
The price for this year's season (2015) is $3850 USD. I think this is completely reasonable considering you get to be in Europe for a little over 11 days including all the challenges, lodging, some meals and transportation within Europe.
If you think about it, $350 a day for activities that you'd never be able to do as a regular tourist, a night's stay which is easily $80+, and transportation which will be at least $60+ a day is completely reasonable.
What I love about Steve is that he's completely transparent about the pricing. He ensures that the prices are not inflated and no cushion is added as travel agency commission.
There are a bunch of things the price doesn't include:
- Flight to Europe
- Majority of meals – This allows teams to have the freedom and flexibility to eat where and when they want
- Local transportation
- Cellphone plans – Especially important if I want to do social media on the road ;)
- Personal expenses
Now onto the best part. What would a race be without a prize? The entry price includes money that will pool into 3 prizes.
- 1st Prize – $3600 max or 50% of prize pool
- 2nd Prize – $2520 max or 35% of prize pool
- 3rd Prize – $1080 or 15% of prize pool
OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be in one of the teams for Competitours 2015!
I'm super stoked because I've been wanting to do The Amazing Race for a long time. I've been a loyal follower since the show began and even submitted an audition tape to The Amazing Race Canada when it finally came north of the border.
With that, there was no question that I was going to do Competitours with my buddy Sam. What's going to be interesting about this is that we've actually never travelled together before. As childhood friends we've known each other for a long time but who knows if we will get along completely fine on the road or start bickering?
All I can say is that this is going to be a once in a lifetime adventure. Expect a little bit of live blogging along the way when July rolls around!