Why Everyone Should Travel

 As I prepare to head out of the country next week I’ve been thinking about why I travel. I’ve been a bit of a rolling stone most of my life, moving 10 times before I graduated high school and pursuing a career as a professional photographer which has taken me to over 100 countries.

Gail at the Great Pyramids 1971
Gail in Egypt 1971

I think if I ever had to give up traveling I would wither and my spirit would die.

Here are my top ten reasons that I think every American (and other citizens of the world) should travel:

  • It gives you a much better perspective on our world rather than just experiencing it virally. Let’s face it, when you are an armchair traveler, you are getting someone else’s perspective.
  •  It makes one grateful for what they have. Many, if not most Americans are very privileged but don’t really have an understanding of that because they isolate themselves in their own environment.
  • You get to be a true diplomat for your country. When I’m traveling I try to give people from other countries and cultures a more realistic idea what an American is beyond our government’s policies and how we are depicted in the movies.
  • It creates lasting memories of importance or at least memories that last longer than buying a consumer product.
  • It teaches you a lot about yourself. When you travel things don’t always go according to plan. You get to see how you handle stress in situations beyond your control.
  • You learn how to communicate. Many times you don’t understand the language and you learn to read body language and pick up people’s vibes.
  • You meet people you would never get to meet at home. It makes you less fearful when you get to meet people from other lands.
  • As a photographer my camera has given me access to incredible experiences that I have shared with the world.
  • You can affect change.
    Gail showing video to children of remote Amazon village, Peru
    Gail with children in small village along Amazon River, Peru

    When you travel you realize that regardless which country you come from we are all part of the human race. We all share this planet and we are all stewards of keeping it healthy.

  • It brings wonder to your life. I have had many awe- inspiring moments and not all of them were at typical tourist sites. Some of my greatest memories are the simple conversations that I’ve had with people all around the world.

Check out some of the images that I’ve captured from my journeys. www.kellymooney.com

Maggie Doyne – a Bright Light in Our Troubled World

The other night, Maggie Doyne of Blink Now,  became the CNN 2015 Hero of the Year. Maggie is a 29 year-old American woman, who has 50 kids and lives in Nepal!

Maggie Doyne, Erin and Gail at the Kopila Valley Childrens Home, Surkhet, Nepal
Erin and I with Maggie Doyne and her children, Kopila Valley Children’s Home, Surkhet, Nepal

Maggie’s story and the path she decided to take early on in life, has touched the hearts of people around the globe and changed the lives of hundreds of Nepalese women and children.

Maggie was a high school classmate of my daughter, Erin. After graduation, Maggie decided to take a gap year and travel before heading off to college. Eventually, she ended up in Nepal and saw a country devastated by 10 years of civil war and thousands of orphaned children left in its wake. She used her babysitting savings to buy property and build a home for herself and orphaned children – she was 19 years old. Maggie has 50 children now, has built a primary school for 250 kids and is currently building a high school.

When Maggie accepted the Hero of the Year award the other night, she said; “ And to all of you in this room and who are watching, please, please remember that we have the power to create the world that we want to live in”. She’s done just that and has inspired countless others, to do the same.   She inspired my daughter and I to seek out other individuals all over the world who were creating positive change and to make a film about them, with the hopes it would inspire others to make a difference.

Imagine if we all thought like Maggie and believed we all have the power to create the world that we want to live in. The fact is we do have that power. It starts with the little things we can do – in our own lives, in our family’s lives and in our communities. Small things have a way of growing into big things. When you educate one child, you change a life that has the potential to change other lives.

Maggie, you continue to inspire me. You are a bright light in a troubled world and a beacon of hope. Congratulations for this well deserved honor.

 

If you’d like to watch Opening Our Eyes, a film about Maggie and other change makers, you can view it here. Use the code THANKS2015.

Being Yourself

Yesterday, I gave a talk and showed a bit of my film, Opening Our Eyes,

Movie poster for Opening Our Eyes

at the PACA conference in New York City.  I had been asked by ASPP to speak about the making of the film and my plans for distribution.  To tell you the truth, even though I’m always thrilled to show and/or talk about the film, I was a bit nervous with this crowd.  PACA stands for the Picture Archive Council of America and its member include some of the biggest stock photo agencies in the world, including Getty, Corbis, Masterfile and Alamy. I was nervous because part of my message was that I no longer needed the validation or others to get my stories to market.

I thought my message would be somewhat threatening, because I was telling the audience that content creators no longer needed the traditional gatekeepers of the past, to get their stories “out there.”  That because of technology, it was possible for the individual to have a global reach and if one is willing to do the work – the prize is all theirs – meaning the monetary rewards.

I had a tough time slot to speak – right after lunch  –  I knew that I would be dimming the lights for the film and that is never a good thing to do in that time slot.  But, Tom Kennedy had given his very inspirational talk about new media and new opportunities in the  marketplace.  I had heard Tom’s talk  as part of ASMP’s SB 3 series this past year – and I knew that my presentation was a great follow up to his – and in fact it was almost like a case study example of what Tom was talking about.

My presentation went amazingly well and as I looked out into the dimly lit audience as the film was playing – I couldn’t see any closed eyes.  I felt that I made a connection, and that perhaps in some small way, I had made a difference.  Maybe, I just got people thinking about what they could do to make a difference in their own lives.  And maybe I had influence beyond that.  But, I know that I stayed true to myself.  My intent was not to come off as threatening  – but I did want to make people feel a tiny bit uncomfortable.  It’s when we get uncomfortable that we push ourselves to a better place.

My message was simple.  Someone doesn’t need to lose – in order for someone else to win.

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Validation No Longer Necessary

There seems to be a prevailing attitude of doom and gloom. We have an economy that can’t seem to turn itself around and we’re bombarded by change that technology continues to thrust upon us.  We’re scared to death of the unknown and nobody seems to know what to do next and how to make any money doing it.

Yet, I’ve never been more hopeful in my life. Why?  Because I no longer need someone else to validate my ideas – and that is a powerful notion.  Those of us in the communication business seem to be particularly fearful. Some believe that the “news” business is dying because print publications – newspapers and magazines are folding every week.  But the “news” business is not dying – it’s just being delivered  in another way – electronically and globally.  There are no longer just a few gatekeepers with a lock on the playing field.

Human beings are social animals and we will always have the need to communicate with each other.  These days we can communicate with one another globally.  An idea or creation can be shared around the world in a matter of minutes.  Think of the power in that and think of how we can use that power and the opportunities it presents.  I could digress into a discussion on the ethics of this thought but I’d like to focus more on the reach and influence that each one of us has in creating awareness.

Many of us get enamored with the latest devices that enable us to deliver and receive information with speed and ease. As technology’s exponential growth continues to change our lives in every way imaginable, we will constantly be incorporating and upgrading new gadgets and devices as part of our lives.  We need to be mindful that these “toys” are merely enablers and that each one of us can use these tools to create and distribute our words, images, designs and ideas across the planet.

I think that we as creative’s or journalists underestimate ourselves sometimes.  Perhaps because we chose professions that aren’t lucrative – at least in terms of money.  However, what one is paid doesn’t necessarily correlate with one’s worth. We live in a time now where we can use our creative skills to really make a difference and to tell the stories that we feel need to be told. Mass communication has been democratized. We no longer need the traditional gatekeepers to validate our ideas.

I never would have dreamed that I would be able to circumvent the globe, create a documentary with only one other person in my crew  – my daughter and then distribute it internationally. I never imagined that I would have the power to create awareness on a global level like I did when I uploaded my trailer to Vimeo.  In a little more than a week’s time people in over 72 countries had played that video. Now in less than a month’s time, that trailer has been played in almost half the countries on the planet.  Staggering thought.

This was not a commissioned project by a network or a motion picture studio. If I had waited for that – it never would have happened. I assigned myself.  I was able to fund it by using my airline points, hotel rewards and doing trades with manufacturers for equipment.  I also successfully raised money via Kickstarter a crowd funding site  that made it possible for me to hire a professional editor. My daughter and I have been building an audience for our film since we started blogging about our journey. Our readers got more and more engaged as they followed us on our 99-day adventure around the world. They spread the word through Facebook and Twitter and via their own blogs and pretty soon word of our project spread virally. That was precisely our goal.  To use our tools and skills to create a film about the change makers of our world so that others would be inspired and motivated as to what they can do.

I often think about how things in my life and in history would have been different if we had the Internet when I was growing up.  For starters it would have had a huge effect on the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and the Vietnam War.  But everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  Change can be scary or it can be embraced and sometimes both at the same time.

Never stop dreaming. Never stop learning. Always listen to that inner voice.  Then use the means and the tools of the day to do the dance you are meant to do.

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