RAW TRAVEL WINS TWO TELLIES FOR “STEADFAST IN UKRAINE” – For Ten Seasons I resisted nominating Raw Travel for any awards, for a variety of reasons I won’t get into. However, I felt it was finally time to allow the people who worked on the very special “Steadfast in Ukraine” to garner some well-deserved recognition. Some shows may be titled “Solo in…” but they are anything but. Television is a collaborative medium, and thankfully so, as I enjoy nothing more than working with fellow creators to hopefully create something of value.
Congratulations to Creador Pictures (Editing), BtOVEN Music (Sound Design), Chaliwa Music + Sound (Audio Mix), Anastasia Zui (Videographer) Julia Avramenko (Consulting Producer), for winning the Silver in “TV – Travel & Tourism” and the Bronze for “TV – Video Journalism.”
Also, a shout out to fellow Telly Award winner Mickela Mallozzi of “Barefeet with Mickela” who convinced me to apply, proving she’s broad-minded and big-hearted enough to know it’s all about “coopertition”, not competition. Press Release Below:
RAW TRAVEL’S “STEADFAST IN UKRAINE” WINS AWARDS Visit to Ukraine During Wartime Wins Two Telly Awards in Two Categories
NEW YORK, NY: May 31st, 2023– AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), producers of the nation’s most-watched travel show, Raw Travel®, announced their episode “Steadfast in Ukraine,” featuring a visit to wartime Ukraine garnered two Telly Awards. The episode won a Silver Telly in the Television, Travel and Tourism category and a Bronze Telly in the category of Television, Video Journalism.
The special episode featured Executive Producer, Writer, and Host Robert G. Rose as he and Ukrainian refugee videographer Anastasia Zui traveled from Poland to film in Western Ukraine. Anastasia, a talented cinematographer and regular member of the Raw Travel crew, is a twice-displaced refugee from the Donbas region. In the episode, she continues from Lviv to Kyiv to reunite with her mother for the first time since fleeing the country with her young brother. At the same time, her father serves in the military.
The episode also documents the difficulty and misery of crossing borders during wartime and an impromptu “off-camera” interview with an anonymous escapee from then-Russian-occupied Melitopol. There is also a life-affirming on-camera exchange with a recently injured Ukrainian soldier and an emotional visit to the ever-expanding Lychakiv Cemetery, where recently killed soldiers are buried. All set among the unpredictability, suspense, and drama of air-raid sirens as Russia fires missiles into Ukraine.
But the show’s primary theme is the Ukrainian people’s steadfast, optimistic, and hopeful spirit as they bravely fight for survival and freedom.
In addition to Anastasia and Robert providing videography and direction, the episode was edited by Renzo Devia, Executive Producer at New York City-based Creador Pictures, and sound designed by New York City-based BtOVEN Music. The episode was audio mixed by Chaliwa Music + Sound in Miami, Florida. Julia Avramenko, a Ukrainian television professional living in New York City, provided Consulting Production services.
“Winning awards is never our objective, especially in this case,” says Robert G. Rose, Producer and Host. “However, I felt it was important for the creatives on this special episode to be recognized for their work and professionalism, especially under the circumstances. I’m grateful for the Tellys for recognizing their achievements,” Rose continued.
Raw Travel is currently in its Tenth Season of broadcast syndication and can be viewed in 180 U.S. cities in over 96% of US TV homes. Viewers have thus far helped raise over $20,000 to support grassroots organizations such as Care4Ukraine.org and Keep the Kids Learning, two organizations led by Joseph Nichols, an American logistics professional living in Ukraine. Viewers may visit RawTravelGiveBack.com to learn more and donate.
Multifaceted Media Campaign Poised to Help Ukraine for the “Long Haul” –
NEW YORK, NY: June 1st, 2022 – AIMTell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV), producers of the nation’s most-watched travel show, Raw Travel®, announced “Let Freedom Ring inUkraine” to help Ukrainian refugees. The multi-platform and multi-faceted initiative will provide grassroots, long-term financial, and tangible assistance to externally and internally displaced Ukrainian refugees and citizens affected by the Russian invasion.
In June, producer, and host, Robert G. Rose will be filming in Paris, France, and then at the border of Poland and Ukraine with Raw Travel videographer and displaced Ukrainian refugee Anastasia Zui. Conditions permitting, they hope to go into Ukraine embedded with “Keep the Kids Learning” and “Help 4 Ukraine,” two small, independent organizations founded by American logistics engineer Joseph Nichols, living in Ukraine, and other Expatriates. The grassroots organizations are dedicated to helping keep Ukrainian refugee children and teachers in school and moving needed medicines and medical supplies from the US and Europe into Ukraine.
On July 2nd and 3rd,2022 just before USA Independence Day, Raw Travel will premiere a special episode entitled “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine.” The special will feature updated, relevant Ukrainian segments that showcase the country before the 2022 invasion, along with updated narration and ways viewers can help. The episode will re-air on August 27th-28th.
“Raw Travel offered valuable context to viewers when filming in Ukraine and the border areas of Russian-occupied Georgia in 2019,” said Robert G. Rose, Executive Producer and Host of the series. “Given our past coverage of Russian aggression’s consequences in both Georgia and Ukraine, we feel we can offer a unique perspective,” Rose continued. “I think we can show a different, potentially more uplifting angle of this tragedy that may inspire people to help the many good folks and organizations helping Ukraine on the ground, long after the raw emotion of Russia’s 2022 invasion has subsided, but the need persists.”
The “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine” effort has already begun in a limited capacity
with on-air billboards and social media posts encouraging viewers to visit
RawTravelGiveBack.com. The special web page is a constantly evolving, dedicated entry point for concerned viewers. There, they can get updates about Ukrainians featured in the show and donate directly to vetted organizations or buy specially designed Raw Travel “Let Freedom Ring in Ukraine” merchandise (shirts, mugs, glasses, etc.) benefitting the efforts of these organizations.
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism and voluntourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a unique way. Each weekend the show is seen in 174 U.S. cities on major broadcast affiliates and several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe…). It can also be found on several major airlines. AIM Tell-A-Vision Group produces the show and oversees its domestic and international distribution. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) Group is an independent production, content, and distribution company founded by media veteran and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has been producing and distributing positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters.” Visit AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
ABOUT KEEP THE KIDS LEARNING AND CARE 4 UKRAINE
Joseph Nichols is a US Citizen and logistics expert that has lived and worked in Ukraine since 2014. He and other US Expatriates are raising money for medical supplies and medicines distributed to Internally Displaced People (IDPs – Ukrainians displaced within Ukraine). They are also purchasing computers, books, and supplies to set up learning centers in Lviv, Ukraine, for children that the conflict has displaced. They have established transport lines across the Ukrainian/Polish border into most areas of the country and have received donations of supplies, equipment, and medicines. They are also offering space on trucks to other aid groups. Visit https://gofund.me/13be73ab and https://gofund.me/06fa1840 for more information on Keep The Kids Learning and Care 4 Ukraine.
I’ve visited Puerto Rico before. I always stated that technically correct fact. But truth be told, I remembered little about my first and only trip so many years ago. I remember it was a long weekend. I remember I stayed in the newer part of San Juan, ventured into Old San Juan for the day, and the next day rented a car to drive to Ponce where it proceeded to rain. That’s it. That’s about all I remember. What a disservice.
Ever since Hurricane Maria I’ve been itching to get back. Something about witnessing people recovering from a devastatingly miserable experience from afar moves me to get closer. Then there was an earthquake, then Covid. After a long absence from travel (20 months), now seemed the time. So I scheduled back-to-back trips “abroad.” First to Croatia, then to Puerto Rico. In both instances, I was hardly alone.
US travelers abounded in Croatia. That was surprising to me. US travelers abounded in Puerto Rico. That did not surprise me. Puerto Rico is, after all, for better or for worse, a US territory and there is no need to test for a Covid infection before returning to the mainland. I’m not sure if that’s what drew so many US travelers to Puerto Rico during their traditional off-season (the summer), if it was just pent-up demand for travel or the fact that no passport is needed. My hunch is it is a combination of all of the above.
But I did get a distinct impression that many first-time “international” travelers were in town, at least in Old San Juan this time. They were likely taking advantage of the good deals to be had as Puerto Rico welcomed back travelers from the mainland US.
But, alas, those were just my first impressions during a second trip. This time, my second trip to Puerto Rico would be the second impression that meant the most. This time I’d be filming with a crew of locals, and I’d be staying in the heart of Old San Juan, at the beautifully recently restored “Palacio Provincial Hotel.”
I was told that this beautiful, historic, building in the heart of Old San Juan was originally built in the 1800s and that it was a former government building before being restored fairly recently.
It did not disappoint. I loved the hotel’s classic style and old-school atmosphere of Spanish style courtyards and high ceilings- while simultaneously basking in the modern, almost luxurious features like an infinity pool, hot tub, gym, uber-comfy bed, modern hot shower, super fast wifi, etc.
But my favorite thing about Palacio Provincial was location, location, location. I was within walking distance of so many sites, great bars, and restaurants. Indeed, this trip, I felt a part of Old San Juan.
Almost every morning, I’d head to the corner coffee and pastry kiosk at the park nearby and get a Cafe Negro (black coffee) con Mallorca sandwich pastry. Or I’d hit up the Restaurant El Jibarito nearby for an authentic, down-home Puerto Rican lunch.
Or visit the Poets Passage on open mic night. Here I’d be treated to traditional poetry slam from poets as far away as Minnesota; or some Brazilian Batucada fused with Puerto Rican Plena and African drumming from a surprise musical act Baturepike who simply rocked the place.
Thanks to my local pals and film crew from Discover Puerto Rico, I’d eat very well (it was Rocio from the Spoon Experience who introduced me to my new favorite sandwich, the Mallorca) while venturing outside of Old San Juan frequently.
Our visit to the nearby beach community of Loiza was memorable for a few reasons. Mainly thanks to Rafi from the famous foodie Vlog and IG account La Mafia who showed me the ropes of eating Alcapurrías and Bacalaítos (two types of cuisine I’d never even heard of before).
Rafi instinctively knew which local food kiosks were best and did the thinking for me. I’ve never interviewed anyone on the show with such an obvious knowledge and love of their local cuisine. We both did the eating, and I didn’t need to eat dinner that evening. I can’t speak for Rafi’s dinner that evening but given the performance he put in at lunch, I do recall wondering how the guy maintains any semblance of svelte appearance.
We also visited gorgeous Bahia Beach Resort to see the work the resort is doing to save Sea Turtles, Manatees, and various bird species on the island.
The “Alma De Bahia Foundation,” which translates to “the Soul of Bahia,” is their non-profit arm focusing on local sustainability through conservation initiatives and environmental education.
The Foundation works very closely with the residents and guests at Bahia to give back to our community and the natural environment. Our guide, Marcela, is an inspiring mixture of environmental warrior / marine biology nerd. She knows her stuff.
Marcela kindly offered us a bonus tour of the rescue shelter for dogs (watch the show to see how that ties into saving wildlife) and their farm, where they grow fruits and vegetables for the resort and surrounding community.
Speaking of farms, I must be getting old because I have this inexplicable desire to get back to my farm boy roots these days. Which I find ironic considering my city boy ways (yes, I know, I’m far from a “boy” anymore, but you get the point).
Anyhow, one of my favorite day trips outside of OSJ was a visit to the town of Maniti to tour Frutos Del Guacabo . There I finally milked a goat successfully, putting the “great Romanian goat milking scandal” from Season 2 in the rear view mirror. I hope!
I also learned a new term, culinary agriculture, which is a fancy way of saying that you’ll get to taste some delicious results of their cutting-edge hydroponic and natural farming methods.
Efran showed us how it’s grown. Chef Adrian showed us how it’s cooked. And , you guessed it, I showed them how it’s eaten.
Other day trips were on our agenda, like our trip out to El Hippie Waterfall in Naguabo. Unfortunately, it had rained earlier and created a situation where I wouldn’t be able to get into the raging water. But it made an alternative beauty that showcased just a taste of the tremendous power of nature (though most Puerto Ricans likely don’t need reminding).
We ended the “official” shoot with a trip to Fajardo. After I finally got my mofongo fix at a late lunch, we night-kayaked to the Nestor Martinez Luminescent Bio Bay, one of three in Puerto Rico and five in the whole world (all in the Caribbean). Because of the temperature of the water, light pollution, and overall climate change, the luminescent critters took some work to see. But my favorite thing about the whole experience was the relaxing kayak trip back (going with the current on the way back) and hearing the sounds of the water and coqui frogs singing. I could have stayed out there all night, if they’d let me.
But alas, I had to fly back the next day and get to work editing, writing scripts, backing up, and in general, getting ready for Season Nine. We were far ahead pre-covid but now are behind. But I’m so happy to be traveling again, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to get a second opportunity to visit Puerto Rico.
Speaking of covid, I was very comfortable filming there. Most people I knew or worked with closely indicated they were vaccinated and the retail establishments, generally speaking, enforced mask policy. I was tracking the numbers, they were lower than where I live in NYC and far lower than parts of the unvaccinated USA. Puerto Ricans seem to understand tragedy, and more importantly, the resilience required to overcome tragedy. They did not seem eager to court more tragedy and seemed to understand the balance of living their lives, making a living, while doing everything possible to keep everyone, visitors and locals alike, as safe as possible. It worked for me.
Yes, I was only in Puerto Rico for five days, but thanks to so many, this second trip was far more memorable than the first. So when I say it feels like the first time, this is what I mean. Besides, if I forget any details, this time, for better or worse, we have it on video… well, most of it! And besides, it gives me a good reason to return.
I recently went abroad for the first time in 20 months to film. I had both my jabs back in April, so I was itching to use my get out of jail- I mean, get out of the USA, free card, and Croatia was welcoming vaccinated US travelers. I’d never been. This seemed an opportune time to hit up this over-touristed travel darling before the crowds bounce entirely back. I’m glad I did.
I began my trip in Dubrovnik, staying in the Old Town, which seemed crowded to me. But I was told the crowds were like 40% of 2019 levels. Dubrovnik has been struggling with over-tourism the past decade or so, culminating and untenable crowds in 2019, so 40% is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, the locals catering to tourists would like to make more money, I get that. But the reality on the ground is many of the more touristic local establishments cater to same-day in-and-out cruise crowds. Hence, quality control is not a big deal in many places. It was also expensive. While Dubrovnik tourism is working to come back smarter, not bigger, the Old City is charming and will always be a draw for travelers, pushing locals out. Thus it didn’t feel very punk rock.
But I was told to head over to the Port Gruz (Gruz Harbor) area, and indeed I got a much different vibe. Port towns always seem a bit more bohemian, and I’m not 100% sure why, but probably back in the day they were a little rough around the edges, while also being welcoming point for travelers (unlike the Old Town which had only two entrances and required foreign visitors to quarantine centuries ago… well before Covid).
Port Gruz felt more real, if not exactly punk rock, at least DIY. After stopping in a new vegetarian restaurant I’d heard about called Urban and Veggies, I had one of the most amazing vegetarian meals of my life. Scratch that, one of the most amazing meals ever, vegan or not. Ivo, the talented proprietor, wasn’t expecting me, yet he rolled out the red carpet and prepared a feast fit for King whatever-his-name was from Game of Thrones (GOT was famously filmed on location in Dubrovnik). I was hungry but there was no way I could eat that entire spread myself.
After stuffing myself, I waddled my way to the Dubrovnik Beer Company, where I met the proprietor Dario and his merry band of craft beer mates. The beer was excellent, but the conversation was even better. These smart fellas are doing everything they can to showcase another more authentic side of Dubrovnik away from the tourists-laden old town, and it’s working… or at least it worked for me.
After the sun went down, Dario escorted me down a dark side street to meet Kreso, owner of the Red History Museum. Kreso refused to talk shop until we’d had a few shots of Rakia and no arguments from me. After three or four shots of Rakia, I was ready to relive some communist history.
The Red History Museum is a highly entertaining way to see what the former Yugoslavia was like during communism. For those who don’t know, Yugoslavia had a much different history than the rest of the Soviet Union, thanks to Tito, the enigmatic, Dictator who held the territory together through his reign. Ask a Croatian today about Tito, and you’ll get decidedly mixed reviews. Still, there is no denying he kept the place together as shortly after his death, a power struggle ensued, war broke out. Some of the worst crimes against humanity and mass murder in recent history occurred.
But all that seems blissfully behind Croatia now. You can still see the wounds of war, but not so much on the Dalmation coast where Dubrovnik is located. Though I did stop by the Museum of Martyrs to get an idea of what the town went through. I’d find much more damage and destruction as I wound my way inward toward the Serbian border town of Osijek. However, I still had a few days left on the Dalmatian coast. Next stop, Split. You guessed it, it was time to split for Split but not before bidding a regretful goodbye to the friendly folks of Dubrovnik and especially my new pals in the Port Gruz area.
– TV’s Most Watched Travel Show Ready to Help Lead Travel’s Comeback –
NEW YORK, NY: July 15th, 2021 – AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced that its first-run, syndicated TV series Raw Travel® has been greenlit for a ninth consecutive season. The long-running, syndicated travel show’s new season will kick off in late September with a retrospective from the early days of Raw Travel’s past episodes. Viewers will have the opportunity to vote on their desired destinations and episodes at RawTravelRebooked.com and on the show’s various social media platforms.
Coming in November, a full slate of brand-new episodes will debut. These new episodes will include Raw Travel Host and Producer Robert G. Rose’s first trip to film abroad in over 18 months as he heads to Croatia to film. It will also include a taste of the Caribbean as Raw Travel showcases Puerto Rico’s road to recovery from Hurricane Maria and the pandemic.
Next up, the series will turn its attention to the US, with travel in the northeastern United States, including a stop in New York City documenting the Big Apple’s comeback. In typical Raw Travel style, the show will focus on the less publicized, off-the-beaten-path hidden gems and neighborhoods of the beloved city that was once the pandemic’s global epicenter.
Then it’s RV Road Trip time as Rose jumps in the new Raw Travel branded Jeep Gladiator and Sunset Sunray Mini Travel Trailer on a solo road trip originating in Tennessee before heading on a route westward. Current plans call for Rose to make his way to the Pine RidgeNative American Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, which he initially visited in 2016. Rose will document how the nation’s poorest county has fared in the years following. Rose will then loop the travel trailer back home, stopping and filming at points of interest along the way.
“Like so many other vaccinated travelers, I can’t wait to get back out in the world to see our neighbors,” says Host and Executive Producer Robert G. Rose. “Travel has always been a way to heal my soul. It’s been a rough stretch for so many people. I hope that we can help provide some relief and inspiration for those seeking travel’s healing power,” Rose added.
Raw Travel’s 9th Season will debut in over 170+ US cities in over 95% of US TV homes. The show currently airs each weekend in the USA on broadcast affiliates such as WNYW Fox 5 & WWOR My9 in New York, KCBS 2 & KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, WCVB ABC 5 in Boston, KPRC NBC 2 in Houston, etc., with multiple airings each week in most markets.
Raw Travel continues to expand its international footprint on various outlets worldwide. Viewers can also watch it via several In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) offerings on airlines such as American Air,Delta, Air Canada, Virgin America, and more. The show’s first season can also be streamed on various platforms such as Vimeo On Demand,Crackle,Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Flex, with more being announced soon. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
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ABOUT RAW TRAVEL TV
Raw Travel is an adventure travel & lifestyle series showcasing socially and environmentally aware, independent travel. The series weaves together themes of eco-tourism and voluntourism (giving back) with underground music and authentic culture in a unique way. Each weekend the show is seen in over 170 U.S. cities on major broadcast affiliates as well as in several international territories (Asia, Africa, Europe, etc.). It can also be found on several major airlines and Over the Top (OTT Digital) platforms as well. AIM Tell-A-Vision Group produces the show and oversees its global distribution. Visit RawTravel.tv for more information.
ABOUT AIM TELL-A-VISION GROUP
AIM Tell-A-Vision (AIM TV) Group is an independent production, content and distribution company founded by media veteran and entrepreneur Robert G. Rose. Since 2000, AIM TV has been producing and distributing positive, compelling content that reflects a mission of presenting “Media That Matters.” Visit AIMTVGroup.com for more information.
KILLER CROWS IN ROME, LUCKY SHIRTS IN QUITO, When I was filming Raw Travel Season 1 in Quito, Ecuador, a raptor or some enormous avian creature excreted on me in mid-shoot. Cameras weren’t rolling, and we didn’t have the presence of mind to film a “When Travel Goes Wrong” segment at that point, sadly. I thought someone had thrown something on me, but alas, it was just a big old bird with digestion problems. In Latin America, it’s supposed to be a sign of good luck. Hmm, maybe, but the color was obscene (not the typical white), the amount voluminous, the smell was rank, and the look even worse.
I went to a public bathroom, washed off the shirt as best I could, and proceeded to film the rest of the day’s shoot shirtless, in a zipped up hoodie (Quito is high altitude, it’s chilly even during the day), until I could finally replace with a shirt bought off the street. Just in case the “luck” thing is true, I still have the original shirt that was splat upon to this day. I love that shirt and can’t find myself willing to part with it. Not sure of the replacement, probably not since it was likely something cheap and, most importantly, a bird hadn’t shat it upon.
I don’t normally promote a personal cause on the show’s page, but there are many people who’ve expressed a desire to help. So here we go – As many of you know, I have a pal struggling with covid for the past several weeks. His lungs have failed, and his only option is a double lung transplant, of which he’s been approved. Because I’ve struggled off and one with a relentless cyberstalker for over a decade, I wanted to keep his identity private, but that is no longer practical. Giovanni (Gio) was one of my first group of good friends when I moved to NYC, part of a period of my life I didn’t realize would be so important to me. I just knew I was having a blast getting to know a crew of funny, engaging, beautiful people at WXTV Univision 41, where I worked. We were drawn tightly together by the shared experience of working for a silly, silly company culture with a cast of characters running things that were hilarious when it wasn’t enraging—like my commission always getting shorted by some financial guy named “Ernie” in Jersey who couldn’t seem to add 2+2.
But don’t get it twisted. That experience was not bitter but sweet! It shaped my life in unimaginable ways. How could it not? I was from Tennessee and was living in the Big Apple, surrounded by people who were so different from me, yet so very, very much the same. Yes, it’s where my wanderlust first began to sprout.
Gio is a good guy. We’ve thus remained friends all these years. And as you can see, he has a lovely family, five kids, and a lovely wife, Jen, who is TRYING to hold it together while holding down a job. My heart is simply breaking for them, breaking in two, actually.
I’m a softie, but Gio is a hard worker. He had to be. He has five kids, all smart as whips, some receiving full scholarships to prestigious universities. They’re going to be givers… not takers. But they have to get to the other side of this misery with their father first. Right now, they are all holding down part-time jobs to help themselves, and alas, that is how covid entered Gio’s household. People who HAD to work in hospitality, in risky scenarios around other people who did not take things seriously. Many insurance companies have quietly discarded their covid deductible waiving policies. Health costs are going to run into the millions of dollars on this one. I like to give my money to places where it can do the most good, hence my fundraisers for Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Laos, etc., and other developing nations. But when it comes to bearing healthcare costs, the USA IS a developing nation. Work all your life, save your money, do the right thing, but don’t get sick, or it’s all gone in a flash. That’s the American dream? Sounds like a nightmare to me. Or a bait and switch.
But this isn’t about politics. Gio and I may or may not even see eye to eye in that regard. I don’t know to be honest, as we rarely discussed it. I’m hard-core. Most people aren’t. That’s okay. I am who I am, and they are who they are. Friendship has nothing to do with that, so long as someone is a good person. And Gio is a good person. If you know Gio, you know this. If you don’t, I hope you’ll take my word for it. And if you have the means, desire and motivation, I hope you’ll help me help his family through this difficult time—nothing too small. $5, $10, or $20 shows love and support, and if not able to give, that’s okay. Your continued prayers and support are and will continue to be treasured.
Christmas 2020 means most of us will not be traveling, or perhaps even carrying on with our typical traditions. It’s Christmas 2020, and we have to accept the situation as it is, not as we’d like it to be.
In matters of public health, we do have some control. It requires us to act in a mature, thoughtful, empathetic, and unselfish manner, traits that are useful and can be honed with international travel.
When traveling, so often it “goes wrong,” and the situation changes beyond our control. We have two choices, throw a temper tantrum like a child and likely make the situation worse, or accept things as they are, control our response and let things flow. I’ve done both and the second approach is far more useful and dignified.
Travel is unpredictable, and indeed, that is part of the appeal, if not the main focus, of independent travel. Those who want everything to be controlled can try a group tour, but even then, things happen.
Some typical examples I’ve experienced personally: the bus in Honduras is eight hours late, and we’re out of local currency, and there are no working ATMs; the directions in Nicaragua aren’t clear because the streets lack signs and we are perpetually lost; we don’t speak the language and are having trouble communicating and must rely on a series of mimes and hand gestures in Slovakia, one tempting one being the middle finger after I’m ripped off yet again by a taxi driver in Bratislava; there’s a strike in Buenos Aries and the trains are not running; thus our planned day-trip out of the city must be postponed; our flight was canceled due to a mechanical issue with the plane, and now we have to spend another night in Accra Ghana rather than go home as planned after 36 hours of no sleep; the people with the Airbnb in Kyiv I booked are not picking up their phone, and I’m locked out in the cold in the middle of winter and no one around that can help… the list goes on and on and on.
When this happens during travel, it’s exceedingly frustrating… and predictable. Yes, after a while, I have learned to expect these things. While it doesn’t make enduring them more pleasant, I am reassured that, in the past, things turned out ok, if not better than I had initially planned. Let’s face it “travel gone wrong” creates the best stories when we’re a few days, months or years removed.
We hopefully learn to adjust and roll with the punches and use that experience when things really go wrong, as in 2020. Not to minimize the suffering of those who’ve lost their lives, livelihood, or loved ones. On the contrary, I respect and empathize greatly what they’ve been through. I recognize how fortunate I have been (so far – knock on wood). I TRY to greet each day with gratitude, not bitterness over what relatively small inconveniences this has caused me. I’m not always successful. Sometimes, more often than I care to admit, I succumb to hopelessness, despair and depression. But then, eventually, the lessons learned from traveling serve as a reminder to “buck up,” “grow up,” and “mask up,” understanding this is next to NOTHING compared to the misery faced by countless ancestors and countless beings on this planet right now.
Wearing a mask is a small ask compared to the relative good it does. Staying home for a few months can be a welcomed change of pace, if we know we’ll eventually be back out in the world again. And let’s face it, this experience has reminded many of us of our relative smallness and unimportance compared to the vast universe and the realization that time will march on, with or without the human race. Perhaps this will inspire a collective shift in how we measure success and our relationships with each other and our mother earth.
A friend of mine typically visits New York City this time of year. She was doing the smart thing and staying home this year, so I volunteered to send her some photos of the Christmas lights in New York City.
I realized that I had never taken in these sights on my own, in my own neighborhood. The reason? The crowds. After living in NYC for a while, I had become anti-crowd. I went to a Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting only once when I first arrived in New York in the late 90s and have never gone again.
This might be the only Christmas where I can roam, relatively crowd-free, and appreciate the festive beauty that so many millions of people come great distances to see.
As I strolled around last night on an appropriately chilly, wintry evening taking photos, there was still a festive atmosphere in New York City. Yes, there were definitely pockets of people and crowds, especially near Rockefeller Center, the Bloomingdales’ Window Display, and Radio City Music Hall. Yet, the crowds seemed somehow local. They were mostly families with kids, almost all with masks, trying to social distance, and all making the best of a situation they could not control but refusing to let it keep them from enjoying the holidays.
No, we can’t (or shouldn’t) shop till we drop at big department stores, nor can we (or should we) hit big Holiday parties. At least not this year.
We can instead celebrate the silver lining of this moment in our lives. We can rise to the moment to revel in Christmas’s true meaning by giving to others and practicing goodwill towards all our fellow humans.
I’m sure there are many websites with great photos of the New York City Holiday Lights out there, but I’m uploading mine as a gift to you. 2020 was a gift to me that I probably won’t realize until I’ve had a few months or likely years to appreciate. Life changed. Priorities changed. My mortality, which I thought I was all too aware of previously, was cast front and center for a couple of scary months. This usually only happens when one is faced with a life threatening disease or a near-death experience. For me, it was just another, yet more intense, in a line of (so far) near-misses.
I’ve had my share of close calls throughout my life. I barely made it out of my teens and young adulthood alive, and indeed too many of my friends and family did not. Car accidents, disease, plane crashes, suicide, murder, and in the case of most of my family, old age.
Amid the sadness is a small, joyful cue that I am yet alive and their dying gift to me was this reminder. I have again been reminded that I, and only I, can do with this life what can be done. Will I reach my full potential or fall short? I will most assuredly fall short because I am all too human and I have already wasted so much precious time. While I can’t control or change the past, I can impact the future.
I will undoubtedly waste more time and some things will still happen beyond my control, but there are so many things that will occur within it and I will try to waste less of it.
The future is unwritten, and we don’t know what challenges await, but we know there will be some. But we also don’t see what good things await, and this, we also know, will be coming as well. How we react can determine how much of each is in store for each of us.
With that in mind, I say a silent prayer of gratitude for 2020, and yes, I hope 2021 will be better, and I believe it will. Meanwhile, I’m going to seek the light shining through the darkness of this time because, as you can see from the photos, there is plenty of light… if we will just avoid the crowd, go out and seek it.