People are home from work and school. Sports (usually) airs on the weekends. So why are so many phoning it in on the weekends?
With sports so uncertain, how are your weekends really looking?
We get it. You’re running a million miles an hour just dealing with day to day and these aren’t exactly routine times. Since we focus exclusively on the weekends, we pay attention. So, we thought we’d let you know some of our findings and observations.
There are rich opportunities for stations on the weekends to capture and retain new viewers and eventually, when things normalize, revenue.
RE-RUNS: Will you capture or shed viewers with oft-repeated, long-in-the-tooth programs “tired” from exhaustive network or cable runs? Have you ever noticed the copyright year of your weekend programming? Take a look sometime.
REPACKAGED SHOWS: We get it, COVID presents a challenging environment for us all. But if content suppliers are repackaging old stuff that is disguised to look like new stuff (new openings, themed re-runs, etc.), they need to be honest and let you know. First-run original content is KING and will be rarer than ever this fall 2020. Stations airing all-original, first-run programming will have a competitive advantage.
COMMERCIAL LOADS: There is no sugarcoating that some weekend program suppliers are cramming in so many commercials that the content is now “that stuff that goes in between ads.”
Why would viewers, with a plethora of choices, watch sub-par, old programming crammed with interruptions? Even the commercials themselves are sometimes repeated so often in the same show that it causes viewer tune-out.
CREDIT SEQUENCES: Ever notice some producers cut corners on content by featuring abnormally long, drawn-out credit sequences with little or nothing to entertain the viewers. This isn’t vanity, but a sign of a somewhat sloppy (or perhaps greedy) production. And it means that lead-out programs and the station’s overall weekend numbers suffer. Why not hold on to viewers at every opportunity?
ELECTRONIC PRESS KITS DISGUISED AS CONTENT: EPKs are not TV content. EPKs, at best, are meant to support or enhance story-telling, not replace it. Travel, Cars, Pets, or other types of themed-programming that relies almost exclusively on “b-roll” or EPKs provided by a hotel, travel destination, car manufacturer, etc. is NOT compelling content and does NOT belong on broadcast TV.
EXPLOITED CONTENT: This is difficult to say but it is true. How is a “sports clip” program, with a straight-face, showcasing footage of girls in bikinis dancing around as sports content? Are so-called “outdoor enthusiasts” hunters skirting regulations to kill endangered animals? Is this now considered entertainment? Do we understand it’s 2020? Viewers certainly do.
Weekends matter. These long-creeping trends are not just one production by one studio. These issues can be observed every weekend on programs from studios and distributors of all sizes. Many of us are just too busy to notice, but it hurts overall viewership and we’re missing golden opportunities to court new audiences.
Broadcast TV has a rare opportunity at a renaissance in 20-21. Still, it could be a final chance to garner new audiences before viewers return to pre-pandemic media habits (and advertisers will hopefully return).
Our industry needs to be “all hands on deck,” to claim these new, and often young viewers. Weekend programming beyond the strip is a great way to experiment with unique, under-served content to garner new viewers while offering current viewers something blessedly original.
Like you, we can’t see the future, but we all know that the short-term will be challenging. However, we think the long-term prospects for broadcast TV could be bright… if we don’t phone it in. If we cease some bad habits and laser focus our approach to super-serving our viewers and advertisers like never before, perhaps broadcast TV can come out of this challenging environment as a more robust, healthier, and savvy industry.
Raw Travel pledges to you, our station partners, that Season 8 (20-21) will feature original content from around the world. Most, if not all, was filmed in 2019-20 (pre-pandemic). No previous season re-runs, or old, repackaged, “best of” stuff until we get to summer 2021.
October through June we pledge to premiere brand-new, first-run, top- of-the-barrel stuff. Travel offers escapism many viewers crave, especially now. We owe them our best. We’re working harder than ever to seize this unprecedented opportunity to garner new friends, fans and viewers.
RAW TRAVEL PLEDGE TO AFFILIATES
1) ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT FOR SEASON 8 (20-21) I’ll admit it. We were lucky. We never said “no” to a travel opportunity in 2019, and we’re sure glad we didn’t. The happy result is plenty of content to ingest and many great and inspiring travel stories yet to tell!
2) LIMITED COMMERCIALS: We will stick to our agreed-upon commercial load and will NOT try to sneak in extra commercial breaks. If we can’t make a living on our agreed-upon inventory split, then we need to find another way to make a living. Viewers crave content. Greedy pigs get slaughtered. We’re in this for the long haul.
3) EXTRAS IN THE CREDITS COUNT: We believe in TV and the power of storytelling to lift up, inspire, and yes, affect positive change. We will always endeavor to entertain viewers right up until the closing credits finish rolling with behind the scenes or “extra” bonus content to keep them engaged into the lead-out programming whenever possible. Even our music during credits is carefully selected.
Our mission is larger than Raw Travel. We want to make heroes of our affiliates and our advertisers. We wish to entertain and inspire viewers to see the world in a different light, and someday soon, when it’s safe again, experience the life-changing benefits of travel first-hand.
Season 8 Trailer below (3 Min. TRT).
To see how Raw Travel Stacks up to other weekend shows go HERE. and email us at RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com for password access to the research included in this presentation.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Robert G. Rose Executive Producer AIM TV Group & Raw Travel TV
Today Alamo announced all employees are required to wear masks. I don’t know if our posts had anything to do with it, but I assume it didn’t hurt. Let’s hope other car rental companies follow suite. Here is the letter I sent their customer service.
To Whom it May Concern at Alamo Rental Cars / Enterprise Holdings
My name is Robert G. Rose. I’m the producer and host of Raw Travel TV and a recent Alamo customer. On April 1st, 2020 during the beginning of the peak of COVID 19 pandemic in New York City , I decided to travel and self-isolate on the farm where I grew up in Middle Tennessee. I booked a one-way flight to Nashville Tennessee.
After flying on a near-empty flight to Nashville International Airport (BNA), I proceeded to pick up my rental car from Alamo, which I had reserved for 14 days since I knew I would be self-quarantined at least 14 days. During the trip, I took every possible precaution, including wearing a mask and gloves the entire flight and drive home, as well as frequently sanitizing my hands.
When signing paperwork for the vehicle, I asked the gentleman at the counter if I could extend beyond 14 days if needed. He replied I just needed to call into the number on the receipt jacket to do so.
After my initial 14 days of isolation, it became clear that New York City was still not safe. I thought it safer for me and others to remain on my rural farm rather than a small apartment in a crowded city rife with the virus.
On or about April 13th, I called in to extend my rental. I spoke to Michelle, who said she would extend the rental for 14 more days until April 29th at the same weekly rate I’d previously booked. She specifically recommended April 29th as the return date because that date would lock me into a lower weekly rate rather than a more expensive monthly rate. I thanked her and agreed to her terms. She gave a reference #35133893.
I took the opportunity to report to her that the front passenger tire had a leak and was flat on day 2 of the rental, but that we had fixed the tire by plugging it ourselves to avoid any unnecessary contact with roadside assistance. Also, I told her about damage on the rear left fender, which I hadn’t noticed when I had picked up and she said she made a notation
On April 28th, when it became apparent I would not be returning to NYC anytime soon, I called customer service again to inquire about extending the rental for another two weeks. The lady I spoke with informed me that since I had already extended once on the phone, that I would need to go into a physical Alamo location to extend the rental again.
I asked her if I needed to go to the Nashville Airport
location specifically, or if there was a location closer to me where I could
take care of it.
After giving her my current zip code, she suggested that I instead go to the Huntsville, Alabama airport (approximately 40 or so miles away from me as opposed to Nashville almost 90 miles away).
Since I had an issue with the tire and back rear damage, I
inquired about the possibility of exchanging the vehicle.
She stated that if I wanted to exchange the vehicle, I’d have to do that in Nashville, but if I just wanted to extend the current reservation, I could do so in Huntsville. She stated she was sending a message for Nashville to ring or email me within 48 hours to be certain, but I never heard from them (and my frequent phone calls and emails went unanswered or flipped over to the national customer service).
To my initial confusion, she also insisted that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th, not April 29th as I had in my notes. After a little back and forth, I took her word for that. However, to be sure, I did call back a few hours later and spoke to Robert, who confirmed the information, and he also stressed that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th and he again confirmed that I could extend the rental at the Huntsville airport.
On April 30th, I ultimately chose to extend the car rental in Huntsville because it was 1) closer than Nashville and 2) I was short on time and 3) I could then be assured of keeping the same vehicle which had only had one occupant for the month, so I knew it was clean and safe from infection.
I arrived at Huntsville airport at approximately 5 pm, one hour before the car was supposedly due at 6 pm. I was surprised to see that receivers at the return area were not wearing masks, nor were they seemingly practicing social distancing, even though I had on a mask and gloves and was clearly trying to maintain distance.
When I walked into the airport to extend the rental, the clerk was behind a makeshift plexiglass window, and she did seem to be sanitizing her hands frequently. However, after a few minutes on the computer, she informed me that she was unable to extend the rental beyond one more day. And when she tried to extend for one additional day the entire bill increased by over 50%.
She seemed incapable of grasping the billing discrepancy but
made no attempt to call Customer Service Headquarters or to ask for help from an
on-site supervisor who she said was busy with other customers.
So, I called Customer Service while standing there and after getting hung up on by someone initially, eventually spoke to Danilo. He said that because I returned vehicle April 30th instead of April 29th, the extra day had kicked in the monthly rate instead of the weekly rate I’d been quoted.
Frustrated that was getting late and I was getting nowhere
fast, I informed the lady at the counter that I was going to try to drive to
Nashville and return it there before they closed. I asked her what time BNA closed.
She again was unhelpful and was unable or unwilling to tell me and replied that
every location has different hours.
Before heading back to the vehicle to drive to Nashville,
now a 2-hour drive instead of a little over an hour drive, it would have been
for me initially, I tried customer service once again. I spoke to a young lady
whose English-language skills were challenging. However, she did connect me
promptly to a supervisor, David.
Unfortunately, David only made this deteriorating situation
worse. Instead of helping to resolve the problem, David droned on endlessly
without pause how company policy was that rental extensions had to be taken at
the physical location where the vehicle was picked up.
When I was finally able to edge a question in, I asked why both
previous agents had told me otherwise. David deflected and again went on a
long-winded explanation about company policy, without addressing the erroneous
information I’d received or offering a hint of apology.
He also all but accused me of being a liar, saying that he had no record of me extending the vehicle to April 14th. When I gave him the reference number provided, he said he could see in the notes that I’d called in and wanted to extend but saw no evidence of the contract being extended. He kept saying he understood that I thought I had extended but that since Michelle didn’t extend the contract in “the system,” I hadn’t actually extended the agreement. Thus, because I had returned the car a day later, I would be subject to the higher monthly fee. He then added that I was currently in breach of contract because it was past 6 pm on April 30th and would be subject to even more potentially higher penalties and fees.
I asked for David’s employee #, and he gave me #E772PF, but
given how the conversation was going, I have doubts that is his real Employee
#. If that is indeed David’s employee # and if his role is to de-escalate
tension and retain customers, he did the exact opposite. Because of David’s
rude tone and could-care-less, glib response to my inquiries, I then decided
that I’d return the vehicle to Alamo and use any another car rental company my
remaining time in Tennessee and, if I could help it, for any future travel.
When I finally arrived at Nashville Airport about 2 hours later nearing 8 pm (4 hours after I had set out) with a fully gassed up vehicle, the young attendant who received me was without mask and gloveless. He was climbing into the vehicle to check the mileage, etc.
He asked if everything was ok and I told him I was not happy. He then walked me over to the night manager and asked him if he could help me. The mask-less night manager and the other young man were standing right next to each other, about a foot apart. Despite me having a mask and gloves neither appeared to be practicing any social distancing.
When I mentioned there was a pandemic going on, they did
apologize and separated a bit. But when I aired my grievances with the night
manager, he mumbled something about the car was no longer accruing charges and
that he’d take up with management in the morning about my billing and
I rented another vehicle with Budget Rental Car on the spot paying a premium for the last- minute rental. I sprayed and wiped down the new car from Budget as much as possible and drove home with my mask and gloves on, trying not to touch anything other than what was necessary to drive safely. I arrived back home at about 11 pm, roughly 7 hours from when I’d begun an errand that should have taken 2 hours to complete.
Despite the billing hassles, the repeated misinformation, and the glibly rude treatment by David the supervisor and the shrugging treatment by the Nashville night manager, by far, my biggest concern from this experience was Alamo’s attitude towards customers during this pandemic. Instead of making it easy to extend via telephone, I had to interact with up to 6 people in person yesterday, each seemingly taking safety precautions much less seriously than their customers, many of whom were wearing masks.
This morning, May 1st, Anthony, the Nashville Tri-Brand Manager for Alamo, Enterprise and National called to apologize and straighten out the billing. He informed me that as of today, May 1st, 2020, all Alamo employees are required to wear masks when interacting with customers. Anthony was going to send me an email with his contact info and billing summary, but as of the writing of this letter about 4 hours later, I have not yet received it.
I did, however, also receive a call from Mr. Shawn Hurley, VP of the Middle Tennessee area rental car locations, and he assured me that corporately, Alamo and Enterprise Holdings do take customer safety seriously. Shawn expressed his frustration at my treatment and said he would do everything he could to improve his staff’s behavior when it comes to safety. I appreciated Shawn’s call and believe he will try his best to address this issue.
Based on my observations, neither Nashville or Huntsville
Airport Alamo Rental Car employees are taking enough safety precautions to
protect themselves or customers. It’s frustrating to see and hear companies pay
lip-service only to something as crucial as customer safety.
I, like many, am extremely challenged during this time. I’m trying to continue to run my business, while working remotely. I am trying to ensure my employees, vendors, freelancers, and others who depend on this show for their livelihood are taken care of while keeping myself and my loved ones safe. I’ve had many friends and friends and relatives of friends who have had COVID 19 and recovered but it was tough. I’ve had others who have not been so fortunate and have succumbed. I take this dangerous disease and health recommendations seriously and if you want my business, I believe you should as well.
I specifically chose Alamo because I felt the service would
be better than an off-brand, less expensive choice so I could focus on other,
more pressing issues. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. As a result, I
am behind on my sleep, my work, and my business.
Yet, I consider myself very fortunate compared to so many who have lost so much. I owe it to them to do what I can to communicate the urgency of this matter to others who may not understand or comprehend the potential of this situation. It is absolutely zero fun to watch a pandemic explode all around you, while you wonder if you will be next, or do you already have the virus and not know it or does your neighbor have it or who will die next from the disease or to wonder if you should shelter in place or escape while you can to a safer environment?
I could have easily dropped this matter when the billing discrepancy
was adjusted. However, I feel a bigger responsibility to my friends, family,
viewers and social media followers to be transparent so that they can
potentially avoid any unnecessary safety risks or additional stress during this
stressful time. I regret that I cannot recommend Alamo Rental Car to them.
I hope that by publicizing my experience, this may help in some small way bolster Alamo’s commitments to better customer treatment, more robust customer service training, and most importantly, during this unique time, a much more significant commitment to employee and customer safety and health.
Mother Nature got you down? Yeah, she seems kind of angry.
Well, here is something uplifting. In 2016 we visited the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota, located in the poorest county in the USA where the avg. male life expectancy is 48. Let that sink in.
The famous Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief Crazy Horse predicted that the 7th generation would lead a resurgent comeback for his people. They are here and It is now happening with Lakota youth at the Red Cloud School (where 95% of graduates are accepted into college) leading the way.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY USA: – I’m thankful for the unfettered opportunity to present our truthful travel and world experiences directly to our audience, free of government (or corporate) censorship, interference or fear of reprisal.
This simple but powerful right is still not enjoyed by too many in the world. May we always remember it, and not take it for granted and/or abuse it by presenting exaggerated, inflated, misleading or manipulated information to support a pre-judged position for the sake of money, power or influence.
May we always recognize, that each of us, by our very nature of being human, see things through a prism of beliefs and attitudes already embedded by our unique education, experiences, upbringing and exposure to information.
May we always seek to continue to evolve and grow based on new information and knowledge that travel brings and understand that we are all “works in progress” and deserve each other’s honest but respectful dialogue, regardless of whether we agree with someone at any given moment in time.
May I judge less and love more and understand that life is a short but powerful gift that should not be squandered.
Travel safe (but not TOO safe) out there and Happy Independence Day everyone!
We were all fired up about our trip to Portugal’s Azores Islands to film over the Memorial Weekend Holiday.
Weeks of planning had taken place and the Visit Azores folks had everything set for us and put together an excellent itinerary. This was going to be a great couple of episodes, but first, we had to get there.
Azores Air flies direct to the Azores once per day out of Boston Logan Airport at 9:05PM. Our flight was scheduled weeks in advance and was to leave on Thursday.
I had lunch with our Providence affiliate, WNAC Fox 64 and MyRI 64.2, so I decided to drive up from NYC via a rental car from Avis/Budget which has an office near where I live in Manhattan.
I booked a flight for the film crew on Delta Airlines leaving from JFK in NYC at 3pm and arriving in Boston Logan a little after 4 PM. Our plan was that I would meet them there around 5 PM after my lunch and a couple of afternoon meetings in Boston.
I was worried that the crew would be exhausted waiting around Boston Logan before catching our fight out hours later as we were to begin filming immediately on arrival to the Azores the following day shortly after 6:30 AM, so we’d all be sleep deprived.
Turns out, my worries were misplaced.
I began getting texts from the crew around 2 PM that Delta Airlines was postponing the flight. I began to get worried because I know things can go south quickly when this begins to happen. It was a rainy, dreary day but a little light rain shouldn’t be enough to cancel flights, especially a shuttle flight from NYC to Boston which are pretty much every hour on the hour. I’ve made that same commute many times myself.
After receiving notification that the flight was going to be really late getting into Boston Logan, I decided to pull over at a rest area about 70 miles and 1.5 hours outside of Boston Logan to make some calls.
I alerted our travel hosts at Visit Azores and called Azores Air to see what our options were.
They indicated the crew should be at the gate no later than 8PM. Delta’s new ETA for the crew’s flight into Boston Logan was now 7 PM (or at least as best as my crew could decipher from the reportedly un-helpful gate agent at JFK’s Delta terminal).
At that point, I could have booked the crew on the following evening’s flight on Azores Air out of Boston as the ticket agent told me there were exactly 3 seats available. But those 3 seats would go fast and the Azores ticket office was scheduled to close soon.
I decided against it assuming Delta would make the flight happen. Bad decision.
To complicate matters, after visiting the restroom at the Rest Area, I discovered my rental car had a flat tire and, surprise, surprise…the car did not come with a spare tire.
Roadside Assistance was called but the folks they arranged to tow the car were 1.5-2 hours from being able to assist me, so now I was in danger of missing the flight as well. David, the very nice telephone agent at Roadside Assistance, advised me to abandon the car and get an uber to the airport if I could.
I set about arranging for uber pick up and was in luck as one happened to be in my area. Uber driver Keith swung by to pick me up and we were on our way, albeit in heavy traffic.
Minutes later I get a call from the crew informing me that the JFK flight had just been officially cancelled. Delta gate agents then suddenly became helpful and booked the crew on a flight out of LGA to Boston that would get in around 7:30 PM, it would now be really, really tight but we could still make it. The Domestic Terminal was a 15 minute walk / run from the International Terminal I was told.
I instructed the guys to sit up front as much as possible. They already only had carry on luggage/gear.
But flying out of LGA is especially nightmarish these days, with construction going on. I was afraid the crew’s taxi wouldn’t make it on time with car traffic a mess there.
They actually did, but it didn’t matter because as soon as they arrived the LGA Delta Flight to Boston Logan began getting delayed, and eventually cancelled.
Unfortunately for us, all this happened too late, the 3 seats were no longer available and the ticket office for Azores Airlines was closed.
When I arrived to the airport (1.5 hours and $96 poorer from the Uber ride), I promptly checked in and received a call from my Azores Tourism contact, who, was working into the wee hours of the night there to try to accommodate us and save our trip. I felt so guilty.
She suggest I fly in (it’s not like I could just turn around and go home as I’m now in Boston, live in NYC and had abandoned my transportation due to the flat tire/no spare scanrio) and then we either try to get the crew on the next flight in the following couple of days, or I could scramble and try hire a local crew there. Either way, hopefully, I would still be able to shoot something.
Alas, after the Azores Airlines flight at was on the taxi way at around 9:30 or 10PM, we received word from the Captain that the flight had been cancelled due to a technical problem with the plane.
After waiting what seemed like hours for my checked luggage, I did a quick online search only to realize there were no hotels to be had in Boston as this was Harvard Graduation week. I had not graduated from Harvard, but even dumb little old me could figure out this was not my time to visit the Azores.
I could hang out in the Boston Airport for more than 24 hours and hope to catch the next flight to the Azores or take a train home (I was already exhausted having been awake since 6AM and it was now 12:30 AM the next day).
I ended up sleeping (or trying too among the bright lights and constant airport announcements of “if you see something, say something” and “Lexus the official car company of Boston Logan” or some non-sense announcements) at the Boston Logan Airport before taking the 5:05 AM train to NYC.
The Amtrak train home was by far the most pleasant part of the journey.
A lot of sweat equity and money was wasted on a trip that never materialized thanks to bumbling, fumbling travel corporations that dropped the ball and just plain old lady luck.
I also share the blame because obviously, in retrospect, I should have never relied on airplane travel or even car travel, I should have just trained it. But with Amtrak’s own woes of late, that carries it’s own risk.
Is there a boat service up to Boston that anyone is aware of?
I’ve included some photos and a short video of the entire experience. I hope you can enjoy it because I sure didn’t.
P.S. Be on the look out for this and more misadventures in Season 5 when we premiere “When Travel Goes Wrong” in February 2018 and here’s hoping the Azores trip gets rescheduled. Stay Tuned.
6/10/17 POST SCRIPT:
Today I received this bill from Avis/Budget Rental Car for $182.04 for the Roadside Assistance and Towing.
Remember they didn’t provide a spare tire in my car rental and advised me to call RA and take an Uber to the airport as a result. So let’s see
(1) Original 1 Way Car Rental Cost NYC to Boston = $115
(2) Uber to Boston Airport = $75
(3) Roadside Asst. Cost = $182…
so my $115 Car Rental Tab is now $372.04 for a trip. Ouch. Talk about adding insult to injury.
First time filming in Houston, Texas and what an AMAZING experience. Visiting Houston is like visiting several destinations in one swoop.
Like the state where it resides, Texas, Houston is BIG. Massive actually. It’s literally the size of a small state.
But what many may not know is that it’s also very diverse.
We ate a scrumptious Viet-Cajun feast, got outfitted in a custom cowboy hat & boots, participated in a ancient Chinese calligraphy and a tea ceremony in Chinatown and I learned to dance to Zydeco music with the “Queen of Zydeco” at a cajun honky tonk all while taking in some of the quirkiest art scenes I’ve ever experienced and eating some of the most amazing internationally influenced cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
It was unusually cold (my lips are still chapped), but the people were so warm and hospitable I didn’t feel the chill.
Thank you Houston, for your hospitality and for your kindness and yes for your diversity and quirkiness.
Be big…be Houston…but please don’t ever change, ’cause I love ya just the way you are!
Here is a clip from my appearance on KPRC – NBC 2’s “Houston Life” . Enjoy!
You may recall our “Raw Travel – Pine Ridge: Tribal Tourism” episode from Season 3 about travel to the Lakota Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Through your generosity via buying T-shirts and/or supporting our crowdfunding efforts, I’m happy to report we raised over $3k for the Red Cloud Indian School after school arts programs.
These kids grow up in the poorest county in the U.S. and have a ton of challenges facing them unlike anywhere else in the United States. It does my heart good to see the work Red Cloud Indian School does on the reservation and the support you so generously gave when we asked for it.
If you missed it and are looking for a cause to support this holiday season, there is not better organization than Red Cloud Indian Schoolor Re-member which were both featured on our Pine Ridge show. I hope the episode will be available digitally in the not too distant future, as we continue to try to raise funds for these guys.
You can learn more about Pine Ridge and our fundraiser HERE:
Please enjoy this bit of Holiday Cheer from our little pals at Red Cloud Indian School.
I first heard about the situation in Pine Ridge reservation a few years ago while watching Diane Sawyer profiling the tragic issue of teen suicide there. I pledged then and there that if ever I was able to help the people on the reservation, I would. Finally, during the 4th of July holiday weekend of 2015, I visited Pine Ridge to produce an episode of Raw Travel entitled “Pine Ridge – Tribal Tourism” and my life has never been the same.
Nothing that specifically extraordinary happened to me on that trip. I simply met regular folks from the reservation who were kind and hospitable to me, a total stranger. But I was very impressed by their resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances.
I was equally impressed by the large number of locals, transplants and volunteers working to help make the situation on Pine Ridge better, especially for Lakota Youth. I can think of no better way to inspire young people to believe in themselves than to allow them to explore the innate creativity present in all human beings.
I was made aware of the lack of creative outlets by youth on the reservation when I interviewed the local band “Scatter Their Own” where Scotti & Julianna informed me that no music schools existed on the entire reservation. After interviewing the folks at Red Cloud School I thought a good way to help would be to assist their efforts to expand their after school arts program.
I hope we can work with some talented musicians, filmmakers and other artists and entrepreneurs to visit the reservation and speak to the youth on a consistent basis. I’d also like to try to create a small film school. Who knows where, if anywhere this will lead but I do know that to do nothing, is in essence choosing to endorse the status quo, and that I cannot do. Whatever we can contribute, big or small it will help.
Even though this fundraising effort kicks off to coordinate with our Raw Travel – Pine Ridge / Tribal Tourism debut, it will be an ongoing effort and will continue as long as there is interest in helping Pine Ridge help themselves. For me this already is an ongoing cause I’ve pretty much resigned to be dedicated to until either things improve drastically or I die, whichever comes first.
With your help, they I’m confident they can and will get better. For more information on Raw Travel – Pine Ridge and to donate please go to www.crowdrise.com/rawtravel or for other ways you may choose to help then click the “How To Help” link at www.RawTravelPineRidge.com which will be updated as time goes on.
Thank you for not standing by while good people needlessly suffer.
While filming in Park City, Utah this summer I fortuitously came across a promotional flyer for a program called “Adopt A Native Elder” and was immediately intrigued. We made contact and interviewed founder, Linda Myer and her dedicated staff and volunteers at their warehouse in Salt Lake City where they were packing for an upcoming “Food Run”. According to their website, the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program exists to create a Bridge of Hope between Native Americans and other cultures. They do this by providing food, medicine, clothing, fabric and yarns to help these Elders, some of whom are in their 80s and 90s or even older.
As they have become elderly, it has become more difficult for them to support themselves on the Land in their traditional ways. After my interview with Linda and Roger, the organization’s Navajo interpreter and ambassador, I was so taken with the program that I pledged then and there to participate in an upcoming food run.
Months later, I was finally able to fulfill my pledge by participating in the Many Farms Food Run in a remote area of the Navajo reservation in Arizona and it was as amazing as I expected.
I flew into Phoenix on some business the day before and then drove almost 5 hours to the meeting point in Chimle, Arizona. I arrived late at night at the lovely Best Western hotel in town and woke up early to meet up with the volunteers and to get briefed at breakfast.
Linda immediately spotted me and after our greeting graciously asked if I’d brought any long pants (I was wearing 3/4 length pants). Luckily I had. It turns out the Navajo are conservative and to show proper respect, the volunteers are asked to dress conservatively with the females wearing long skirts and men wearing long pants. No sleeveless t-shirts either. The main thing is to keep oneself covered.
Linda introduced me to the group of volunteers as I nervously apologized for my inappropriate dress (an unintentional but now long running theme throughout the show), and everyone laughed. It was a jovial, giving and welcoming atmosphere with approximately 50 or so volunteers from all over the U.S. including Utah, California, Texas, Indiana and at least one other person from New York City.
It was a somewhat older adult crowd with many retirees taking advantage to give back, but there were also younger folks and families with kids as well as solo travelers in attendance. The kids particularly impressed me with their selfless attitude and commitment. In my view, these kids are bound for a lifetime of giving, empathy and betterment. I spent a lot of time with them and found their maturity and character at such a young age simply inspiring.
We left in convoy from the hotel and arrived at the gathering point on the reservation around mid morning before any elders would arrive, some making a several hour journey in from remote corners of the reservations and many arriving in walkers or wheelchairs, many of which had been donated. It was obvious that many rarely if ever are able to leave home but the ANE Foodruns are special occasion for these folks.
Not only does the event allow them to stock up on food and other necessities to get them through the winter, they view these ANE occasions as social where they are able to fellowship and see old friends be they fellow tribes people or volunteers from ANE, many of whom have been coming for years and have developed long held bonds and relationships with the Natives.
Witnessing deep friendships that transcended generational, ethnic and cultural gaps was perhaps the most heartwarming part of the entire Food Run process
The elders were as sweet as could be and they and their caretakers (if they had them) of sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, etc., were grateful and appreciative. Many of the elders did not speak English but as always, smile and a warm handshake or hug bridged any language or cultural barrier. Some of the Natives also brought gifts for exchange (rugs, yarn, etc.) giving the event a festive rather than charitable feel.
The ANE foodruns have been going on for over 30 years and by now, it’s run like a well oiled machine. Every possible scenario was covered and it was obvious this organization is a “waste not, want not” kind of place. The support that ANE receives goes directly to the native elders with very little administrative overhead that you would find in a larger organization.
They know by now the things that the elders most need. Items that might seem humdrum to you and I such as work gloves, knit hats, hand lotion, instant coffee, peanut butter, yarn, etc. Every elder is taken care of and every effort was made to create an event that was more of a celebration of a culture among good friends rather than a charity give away. There were skits, entertainment, games and giveaways along with a wonderful buffet style lunch that was a mixture of Native and non Native food.
Indeed, it was hard for me to keep a dry eye during the parts of the day. The love and good will flowing from Native to Non Native and back was palpable. When the young Native children showed up for their toys, I thought I would lose it. Simple pleasures from kids who don’t know a thing about a computer or video game but who were absolutely thrilled with a new plastic toy car or action figure that most kids in our country today would simply sneer at.
The Elders.. the kids.. the volunteers… the love… the warmth.. in the peaceful (if hot and dusty) setting of the Arizona desert, it was surreal as well as a mind and life altering.
I hope I’m able to actually “adopt” a native elder or return on a Food Run soon and while it remains to be seen, it’s a memory I’ll treasure and keep for life.
I encourage you to find out about the ANE and see if it’s for you and if you are so moved, participate on a Food Run or Adopt-A-Native-Elder yourself. Please visit their website HERE and look for their segment in 2016 on Raw Travel.
The “Live TV Shooting” tragedy in Roanoke, VA has hit home. WDBJ’s My Network channel is our new affiliate for Season 3 beginning October 3rd.
I very easily could have been on their morning show to chat up Raw Travel, as I’ve done in so many cities on so many morning shows. Ironically they were filming a segment on local tourism.
I don’t wish to add to the cacophony of opinion of “what is wrong” with our country except to say this.. If you think travel to other countries is dangerous.. consider this..
I lived in Colombia in 2011 and was struck by the # of Colombians, who’d commented to me how they perceived the U.S. a dangerous, violent nation. They would tick off the growing litany of high profile and mass shootings as examples of why they feared travel to the U.S. Many said stated they preferred go elsewhere or stay home… in Colombia.. where things are safer.