Forcing Accountability

Yesterday was one of those days that I had a hundred things to do and only a few hours to do them.  I had to give final approval of an ePub I was wrapping up, package and send out exhibition Blurays and posters to film festivals that I have been invited to and finish a video job I was editing, all before heading into NYC to moderate a panel discussion on video for the NYC chapter of ASMP.  My mom used to say, “If you want something done – ask a busy person”.  I never did understand that when I was younger but I know now, that the busier I am – the better I am with utilizing my time.

I was also fine-tuning the presentation that I was going to be giving to the students at Brooks Institute next week. As an alumna of Brooks,

Gail Mooney as a student at Brooks Institute
© Chad Weckler

I was honored when I was asked to speak. I was also taking this responsibility seriously and I was getting a bit stressed over it, which is uncharacteristic for me.  I’m usually very comfortable with public speaking.  I knew I wanted to talk about the value of “community” and how being part of the ASMP has played into that, but I didn’t want to sound “canned”.  I knew that I needed to personalize that message and really boil it down to what that has meant to me.  But I also knew I needed to come off as someone who is still relevant and not be perceived by the students as just someone whose their mother’s age. I needed to show my spirit inside that hasn’t aged at all since graduating from Brooks all those years ago.  I knew I needed to put myself in their shoes and see through their eyes in order to really connect with them. I started thinking in terms of what I know now and what I wished I had known back when I was a student at Brooks.

So, as I headed into NYC, I had a lot going through my mind.  The ASMP event was great.  It was a packed room with an engaged audience and terrific panelists.  But the best part of the evening was the networking after the event.  That’s where the real sharing of information happens and a sense of community is felt.  It’s easy to get disconnected these days from the human connection because we all spend so much (too much) time online.  That human connection will never be replaced by technology. That was one thing I wanted to point out to the students when I talked to them next week – to physically get “out there”.

I got home late and woke up early and needed a good jolt of coffee while I checked my emails.  One email jumped out at me. It was a newsletter from Jonathan Fields who I started subscribing to after hearing Jonathan speak at the World Domination Summit this summer.   The newsletter had a link to a video of Jonathan interviewing, Chris Guillebeau the founder of the World Domination Summit.  Chris writes a blog that I follow, called the Art of Non-Conformity.  As I listened to the interview, it became clearer as far as what I wanted to say to the students in my presentation next week. Chris said one thing that was right on target.  He was talking about pursuing an idea and he said that by putting your idea out to the world – by telling someone about it – you were in fact “forcing accountability”.

I thought back to when I first had the crazy notion of traveling around the world with the purpose of creating a feature documentary about individuals on six continents who were making a positive difference in our world.  The idea had been tossing around in my head for months before I told anyone.  Then one evening as I was walking back from dinner with fellow ASMP board member, Blake Discher, I decided to put the idea “out there”.  It was something I did on impulse, but as I look back on it now, Blake was probably the right one to “test run” this crazy idea on.  He responded with an affirming, “thumbs up”, but not overly exuberant, which was exactly what I needed. Blake is a very grounded person, so for someone like him to not look at me and tell me that I was out of my mind, was the nudge I needed.  So, it was that short, impulsive, casual conversation that forced me to be accountable with my idea.

I went on to make the movie that I set out to make and even better, I got to share the experience with my daughter Erin.  It has changed both of our lives for the better.  That’s not to say that everything has worked out in ways that I may have wanted or thought I wanted.  But it has been a journey that I was meant to take. I have met people that I never would have met in the process and that in turn has led to so many more incredible experiences and adventures that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I started thinking about my life’s journey and all the things I have learned since my days as a student at Brooks.  And then I thought,  “what if I knew then what I know now? “  The thing is, if I had already known all those things back when I was a student, I never would have had the journey that I’ve had.  Everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  And that’s what life’s all about – the journey along the way and that only happens when we leave room for the unexpected.


Heading Off Around the World

Gail and Erin in Egypt in 2006

It’s very early in the morning, my favorite time of day – no distractions and a whole new day ahead of me. But today’s a bit different, it’s the day before I leave on a 3-month journey around the world to take on probably the biggest personal project of my life and I have a million details running through my heads.

Just the other day I wrote about the “what if mentality” and how we sometimes fall victim of sabotaging ourselves by talking ourselves out of doing things. And today I have a whole host of “what if’s” running through my head. What if we can’t get into Bangkok or get out? There’s a State Department warning advising Americans not to travel to Thailand and we’ll be traveling with a doctor going into the northern hills – not an easy place to get in and out of in peaceful times. What if one of us gets sick? What if something gets stolen? What if one of our 27 flights get canceled or delayed? What if I don’t get the material I’m after for the documentary?

Certainly, lots of trepidations but I’m a pretty savvy traveler and I’m about as prepared as anyone can be. I try to remind myself of that and focus on the incredible journey ahead of us. I’ll be sharing this experience with my 23-year-old daughter and that in itself will be something we’ll never forget and create a special bond between us for the rest of our lives. We’ll not only be circling the globe together, we’ll be working together to create a documentary on people who are making a positive change in the world. Those connections will be life changing, and in fact one of our hopes is that our film will inspire others to do the same.

So one more day of details and then we’re off – first stop Entebbe, Uganda by way of Johannesburg, South Africa. Our last stop is Buenos Aires, Argentina via the jungles of Peru. Lots in between – lots of laughs, tears, lands and miles. I will be writing as often as I can and uploading when “connected”. And if I disappear at times – you’ll know why. You can follow our journey at Opening Our Eyes.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Booking a Round the World Airline Ticket

I am embarking on a personal project with my daughter this summer. Our goal is to create a feature length documentary on “people who are making a difference”. Ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. Ultimately we will end up with 7 stories on 7 continents – each story standing on its own as a 10 minute web video and becoming a part of the whole – a feature length film. I’ve set up a website just for the project: Opening Our Eyes. But I’ll probably talk about parts of this project on this blog as I proceed with the logistics – certainly the photographic/video filming logistics.

I spent the better part of last week on the phone with the airlines creating our round the world itinerary and ticket which wasn’t all that easy given the fact that there were two of us traveling and we were using airline miles – 160,000 miles each to be exact. As a side note – the fact that I had so many miles piled up is one small thing that prompted this trip, and when Erin became a part of this – Tom gave her his miles so she could come. That should tell you something about Tom – that he would do that for his wife and daughter.

Our initial plan was to depart from the US in mid-June, heading first to Namibia to visit a friend and then on to Uganda for our first story. Our first hurdle was that the Star Alliance airline partner that went from the US to Africa was South African Air and there were no award seats into or out of Johannesburg for the entire month of June – Johannesburg is hosting the World Cup and everything is sold out. I was told that we couldn’t connect through Europe on another carrier like Lufthansa because that would mean going back thru Europe after leaving Uganda and the rules didn’t allow this. I’m broken hearted that we can’t get to Namibia because it means that another opportunity is lost in connecting with my friend while she is living there – but it wasn’t meant to be.

The airline agent could get us to Entebbe, Uganda but in order to make that work, we had to move up our departure date to May 25th giving me a slight panic attack knowing how much I still needed to do before leaving for this journey – vaccinations, visas, lodging arrangements, not to mention getting my gear ready for filming. I’ll talk about my gear in another blog, but essentially since I want to shoot both stills and video – I’m opting to use a hybrid DSLR system because I need to pack light and can only bring one camera format. If it doesn’t fit on our backs – it’s not coming. But I digress.

Our next challenge in ticketing was going from Uganda to our next destination on the European continent. I was aiming for Warsaw or Moscow but we settled on flying from Entebbe, Uganda to Istanbul, Turkey. We’ll figure out how to go to Warsaw and Moscow on our own – that will be a piece of cake. Incidentally, there are a lot of rules on these round the world award tickets – you must keep going in the same direction (can’t backtrack) and you’re only allowed so many segments – I got answers anywhere from 12 to 16. And you can’t go back to a continent more than once – that came in handy going to Istanbul when the airline agent and I had a lively debate as to which continent Istanbul was on. I think the agent liked my creative way of solving the problem and gave me a little leeway.

In the end after many hours on the phone – we created an itinerary: NY > Entebbe, Uganda > Entebbe connecting in Cairo to Istanbul, Turkey > Istanbul connecting thru Frankfurt, Germany to Delhi, India (somehow that was ok) > Delhi to Bangkok, Thailand > Bangkok to Melbourne, Australia > Sydney connecting thru LAX to NY. The agent told me to call back the following day because all the carriers needed to make confirmations. She also told me our reservations would only be held for 48 hrs till they needed to be ticketed.

The next day, I called the airline and was told that there was a leg missing on Erin’s itinerary – Istanbul to Delhi – she corrected it and told me everything looked in order but to check back that afternoon. I did and found out that we were still waiting on Thai Air to confirm our flights from Delhi to Bangkok and then on to Australia. The agent said, “don’t worry – Thai Air is slow – call back tomorrow”. Being the worrier I am, I knew that “tomorrow” was the day the tickets needed to be purchased or our reservations would be dropped, so if there was a problem I needed at least to know about a plan B. So I asked what other airlines flew that route – Delhi>Bangkok>Melbourne. I was told that Singapore Air flew that route but connected through Singapore.

The next morning – the day the tickets needed to be purchased – I called the airlines and was told that all my Thai Air flights had been canceled but Erin’s had been confirmed. I didn’t freak out – instead I suggested that the agent route us using Singapore Air – which he did. He put a rush on the confirmation process and told me to call back that evening.

To cut to the end of the story – I literally purchased the tickets right down to the deadline hour. I didn’t get everything I wanted – but I did get what I needed. We’ll be leaving May 25th and returning August 3rd. We’ll have to purchase separate tickets to get us to and from our destination in South America sometime in August and we are still trying to nail down those story ideas and dates.

People ask me why I didn’t use a travel agent. I have been handling my travel logistics for over 30 years and my answer is – I’m the one who will be doing the flying and I want to have control over that. Even if it looks doable on paper to have a one-hour connection in Frankfurt when flying from NY to Lagos, Nigeria – even for an optimist like me – I know better than to tempt fate like that.

All total – flying 7 different airlines, 12 flight segments and traveling across 5 continents I managed to get us 2 tickets for $263.44 each – that’s for the taxes. Now I need to look into vaccinations and visas. Yesterday I discovered that my passport, which is still good for another 4 years, has only two pages left in it for visas – and India requires that you have two empty pages for their visa. Another thing to add to my “to do” list.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

%d bloggers like this: