I’m trying NOT to think about this…………because my mind is racing.
About a month ago I found out about a travel contest sponsored by Cathay Pacific. The contest, “Around the World in Eighty Days” was the near perfect contest offering. Participants were to create a one minute film, or photographic piece, or written essay regarding what they would do if they succeeded in claiming the grand prize; eighty days of unlimited travel on Cathay Pacific’s network.
I bookmarked the link, put it aside, and began to think about what this contest actually meant. My life, as you know, is fairly hectic, so the idea of this contest, and what the grand prize actually meant, began to creep into my mind during all times of day and night. Where would I go? Why would I go there? And what would the overall message be? The possibilities, as you can imagine, are nearly endless, so this wasn’t something I could plan or resolve in brief moments of uninterrupted thought.
My entry was a film comprised of still imagery and sound, which is not only my favorite combination, but has also been shown to be one of the most powerful ways of delivering online content.
I entered the film, hit send and received the “Successful Upload” signal. I then boarded a flight for Atlanta to give a presentation at the Society for Photographic Education’s national conference and promptly forgot about the contest. Orange County, Dallas, Atlanta, presentation, Atlanta, Dallas, Orange County, San Francisco…….hotel……….5:30AM……..raining……….looking out the window…….check my email………a message from Cathay Pacific. Hmmm, that’s interesting.
All I really saw was, “Congratulations……….” “What?” “Come again.” Wipe my eyes……watch the rain again…….look back at phone. “Let me try this again,” I thought. “Congratulations…..finalist…..one of eight…..Hong Kong……..one day trial……..interview…..” “You have got to be kidding me.” Suddenly the world came racing in through my hotel window. Buildings of glass and steel, towering about my little portal to the world began to resemble other cities scattered across the globe.
Later that morning I descending on the Blurb office where we were creating short films regarding the upcoming Photography Book Now Contest. My mind was bouncing from books to films to Hong Kong to travel and also to the past.
In 1996 I was offered the chance to go to Cambodia to make photographs for a lawyer who had started a law school in Phnom Penh. By chance encounter I met the lawyer in a coffee shop in Laguna Beach. Two weeks later I was on the ground with him in Cambodia. My flight path was Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Phnom Penh. The carrier, Cathay Pacific. I had never flown Cathay Pacific before and can remember getting on the plane and thinking, “I’m in the wrong section.” Economy class was enormous, as were the seats. In short, it was an entirely different flying experience.
At that time Cambodia was like the Wild West. It was very dangerous to travel at night, the Khmer Rouge were still active in the West and South of the country, and the tourism infrastructure had yet to be assembled. Three weeks went went by quickly and suddenly I was on my way back to Hong Kong where I stayed with a friend and tried to process all that had transpired in Cambodia. Hong Kong felt like another planet. I walked the streets in my muddy boots and felt the freedom of shooting randomly and not having to focus on any particular subject. What comes to mind now is the skyline, the water and the bustle of one of the world’s mega-cities. My friend, also a photographer, took me around to places like The Foreign Correspondents Club and to editors at the magazines he was working with. For me to get to know a place I have to be on the street. We spent hours walking the highs and lows of the city and at one point I found myself face to face with an elderly Chinese woman walking with her bike. She took one look at me, with my long-hair, muddy boots and sunglasses and stopped in her tracks. She looked at me, pointed at me, pointed at her bike and then pointed at me again. “She wants me to ride her bike?” I thought. No, probably not. Again she pointed at me pointed at her bike and then pointed at me again. I realized her chain was off and she was saying, “Hey, fix my bike.” A mechanic I’m not but putting a chain back on is well within the limits of my ability. Her chain back on, my hands covered in grease, she gave me a nod and was off.
I sit here now watching snow fall in Santa Fe. My photographic and Blurb duties are keeping my schedule full, but in the background my trip to Hong Kong is quietly humming. I learned a long time ago not to previsualize when it comes to my life, but I’m finding this difficult to do in this particular case. Regardless of what happens with this contest I know that this trip to Hong Kong will lead to many interesting things, and for that I’m grateful. It’s nice to know that someone will be offered this chance of a lifetime to not only explore the world but to share it with the rest of us. The amount of time being offered, eighty days, is enough for the winner to connect at a level that goes beyond the temporary nature of much of the travel we find ourselves doing, and this is what is so intriguing.
What truth is out there waiting to be discovered?
What theme will illuminate the winner’s footsteps?