Tag Archives: round the world travel
This photograph was taken when my daughter Erin and I were filming in a
small hill tribe village in the northern mountains of Thailand. We were following Dr. David Mar Naw, as he trekked through the villages, a “one man band”, dispensing medical care and building latrines for Burmese refugees. Some of them had never seen a doctor before. This lady was waiting to have her tooth pulled.
It was painful to watch as the doctor pulled this woman’s tooth, without anything to ease her pain. She was stoic and barely winced. Perhaps she was thinking about the relief she would have, after the tooth was removed.
These people humbled me, in fact I was humbled by all the people we met, along our journey around the world. I will be forever grateful for that journey. It opened my eyes to so many things and I am a better person because of it.
This is just one story that makes up the film, Opening Our Eyes, a documentary about the “power of one” and “making a difference” in the the world.
Tom and I will be headed out tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. We’re bound for Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter Erin, her boyfriend Bryan and his family. For me, it’s also a welcome road trip and a journey home to my birthplace. It’s funny how things have a way of coming full circle. I was born in Chicago and left to head “East” with my parents and family when I was a young child. But for someone like me, who has moved more than a dozen times in my lifetime – Chicago feels like home. It’s where my roots are.
I’ve been a bit of a “rolling stone” over the years, but I’m also extremely grateful that I have been able to share many of life’s incredible experiences and travels with Erin and my husband Tom. It’s been a gift, to be able to combine my passions with my career and family. This Thanksgiving I am mindful of my blessings and am most grateful for what I have.
One of the things I am most proud of is the creation of the film, Opening Our Eyes, that I made in collaboration with my daughter. The journey in and of itself was rewarding, but I have found that sharing it has not only inspired and motivated others to create positive change, it has also enriched my own life.
If you would like to see the film or share it with others over the holidays, we are now offering it online. We are also offering a Thanksgiving special.
Click here and use the coupon code “THANKSGIVING2013”.
We had friends over this past weekend, and we started talking about technology and the impact it’s had on our career, photography and life in general. I was talking about traveling and how much different it is now in regards to ease of communication and staying connected.
When I backpacked around the world, as a solo 19-year-old woman in the early 70’s, I pretty much left most communication with my family and friends behind. In a year’s time, I probably only called home 3 times and it was a lengthy and expensive process, going to a call center and waiting until an operator could put your call through to the other side of the world. And there wasn’t any Internet or email or cells phones and texting. When I left home for that yearlong sabbatical, I was really going out on a limb as far as disconnecting from the world I knew.
I’m always asked, “Were you scared?” I suppose I was afraid at times, when I thought about what I was doing and what could go wrong. But most of the time, I was too much in awe of what I was experiencing. I was very tuned in though, to my surroundings and I quickly developed a sixth sense about people, determining if they were good or bad. Those instincts stay with me to this day and have managed to keep me safe in my travels.
I could not have imagined what the future would bring to my life in terms of technology. The world we live in now is far different than it was some 40 years ago. We are more aware – of other cultures, world politics and global news. You would think that would help in bridging the gap of understanding between different cultures. I think it has in many ways, but we have a long way to go.
Our fears keep most of us from “daring” to do something different, especially if our life seems to be working. Usually, it takes a big change in our lives for us to muster up the courage to face the unknown. And when we do venture outside our norm, we are almost always glad we did and wonder why we had hesitated for so long.
I’ve been lucky. I had parents who encouraged me to take some risks. When I was hesitant about doing something, my dad used to say to me “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and when I couldn’t come up with any really horrible potential scenario, I’d take the plunge and face my fears.
I wonder, what’s in store for me now? The future hasn’t been written yet and the choices are mine to make. Is it scary? Only if I imagine it that way. The story isn’t over yet.
I’ve attended two film festivals to date: The San Luis Obispo Film Festival and the Los Angeles Women’s Film Festival. I can’t begin to describe what it feels like to have a film in a festival, especially so late in my career. As I write “late in my career” there is almost a disconnect. That may be others’ perception of me but for some crazy reason, I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, in many ways I feel like it’s just the beginning.
“There’s a time for everything” That’s what Dr. David Mar Naw told Erin and I that rainy day we interviewed him in a bamboo hut in a remote hill tribe village in northern Thailand. It seems like a lifetime ago that we met Dr. David, yet it was but a year and a half ago. Had I known that this project would have consumed my time – and me – the way it did – well, let’s say I might not have started it. Yet I did start it, perhaps because I felt that this was the time in my life to do something like this.
Last night the film screened in Los Angeles and it was close to a full house – a few empty seats here and there. There were a lot of friends and colleagues there last night, and even someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years. And to top it off, Gina Low, one of our subjects was in attendance with lots of her family and supporters of Apeca. I hadn’t seen Gina or Pablo since we left Peru in August of 2010. For me, that is the best part about festivals – sharing my film with friends – new and old. That’s why I made this film – to share – not just the film but also the message behind it of what one person can do to make a difference in the world.
After our film screened, there was one last film that night – “Gloria”, a movie about Gloria Steinem. The film was fascinating, a combination of present day and past interviews of Steinem along with lots of historical footage and photos. Even though Gloria has more than a decade of years ahead of me, I vividly remember that period of time in the “women’s movement”. I attended at least two marches that showed up in the film, as a young college aged woman of the time. That era had a profound effect on my life. I had always questioned “fairness” even as a child and when I came of age as a young woman during that time in history, I had little tolerance for people who told me I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. I vividly remember feeling during that period in time, that as a woman, I had been born at just the right time. A time of change.
It’s never easy to be on the forefront of change and yet it seems to be the pattern of my life. So maybe now, during this time of “change”, this is my time to begin yet again another new chapter of my life. I was interviewed last night and was asked two great questions that were easy for me to answer:
The first was “What got you through it” (meaning the journey).
I answered, “The people, behind these stories, they were incredibly inspirational”.
And the other question, “Did making this film change your life?”
My answer “Yes, in every way imaginable – but I knew that it would.”
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem
I gave a TEDx talk in Sao Paulo, Brazil last week, which was an energizing experience on many levels. I also had the opportunity to screen the film for a non-US audience for the first time. This has always been a very “global” project by the very nature that I’ts comprised of 11 stories on six continents. But it was the first time that I received a more “global” perspective and feedback on the film.
One young man from the audience asked a great question that had never been asked before in previous Q & A sessions. He asked me if making this film had changed my life. My answer was “yes, and it continues to change my life in many ways”.
Even though this was the first time anyone has asked me this question,
I think about how my life has changed all the time. Perhaps the biggest change was for me to really recognize what’s important and what’s not. I’ve come to realize that the thing that’s most important to me is for me to live my life doing the right thing. By that I mean, recognizing the fact that while it may seem to get me a little further ahead, by beating out the “other guy” or their agendas – it really doesn’t. Just because someone else “loses” doesn’t necessarily mean that I win.
When I returned to the US after being away for almost four months, I was struck by how we were behaving as a society. It seemed to me like we were spending more time and energy focusing on how to stop “the other guy” than we were on focusing on what we wanted and what we can do. So for me, after spending four months with people who were living their lives according to their own doctrine and happy because of it, I decided to shift my way of thinking. I’m now much more focused on what I can achieve while doing the right thing without the detriment to others. Perhaps if we all thought like that, everybody would win. Nowadays it seems like there are too many losers in our collective society.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since Erin and I returned from our round the world adventure, and I am very aware and grateful of how the making of this film has changed my life. I’d like to think that it has made me a better person.
I woke up in kind of a funk. I watched the news and I instantly felt worse. Everybody was pointing their finger at one another and they all needed to be right.
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I had just come home after being out of the country for almost four months. I had never felt better in my life, both in body and in spirit. I had been following my heart and I had been on” purpose ” I had spent the entire past summer with people who were making our world a better place. They were inspirational and they all had one thing in common. They were exactly where they wanted to be – in both body and soul.
Every now and I need to remind myself of the state of mind I was in after returning from that journey. I start thinking about all the ways that I can make a difference – even if it’s just a small act. Its those small acts that
make big differences in people’s lives.
Robbin Moulds, a subject in our film said: “At 211 degrees water is hot. At 212 it boils. That’s a one degree difference. I say to people – what’s a one degree difference you can make?”
- 1. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You’ll make them feel good – I guarantee. Don’t put it off – you may not get the chance again.
- 2. Take someone else’s call. Call waiting can be cruel sometimes and it makes it easy for people to avoid and ignore. Would it be so horrible to have to listen to someone for a few minutes? Ignoring someone is the worst thing you can possibly do.
- 3. Say something nice to someone that you don’t really care for. Surely you can find something nice to say.
- 4. Don’t always try to be right. It’s a lonely path to be on.
- 5. Help a child with their homework or teach them one of your passions.
- 6. Read to someone – a child, an older person, someone who needs help with English.
- 7. Pick up a piece of litter that someone else has discarded.
- 8. Write a note or a letter to someone. I treasure every hand written note that I get in the mail these days. They are rare meaningful gems.
- 9. Don’t judge someone by how they look. Get past the clothes and adornments – the hair – the size and have a chat with someone you normally wouldn’t talk to if you judged them by their “cover.”
- 10. Make amends with someone you’ve had a falling out with. I try to patch things up if friendships get off track. I treasure the relationships I have with people and I don’t take them for granted.
Live in the now and as Steve Jobs said: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
A year ago today Erin and I boarded a plane, bound for home on our final flight of our 99-day journey around the world. Seems like that happened in another lifetime – so much has transpired since then.
The day before we headed home, we sat down with our friend Ethan G. Salwen, who interviewed us on camera. We are grateful for that because we were able to capture our thoughts at the time – at the end of an amazing adventure.
We had just finished our last story in Carlos Keen, Argentina – a town about an hour outside of Buenos Aires. It was a story about Camino Abierto, a farm, a home to adolescent boys who had nowhere to call home, and a restaurant – all filled with love. We only spent two days there but those two days came at just the right time giving us one last burst of energy to complete the project we had started over 3 months prior.
At the time, I didn’t realize that it was really just the beginning of this project in so many ways. As Erin headed back to Chicago and settled back into her life, I immersed myself deeper into this project with hundreds of hours of footage that needed to be edited. I managed to get through one of the toughest winters of my life that taxed every ounce of my spirit on the darkest days. But after a round of crowd funding via Kickstarter and finding the perfect editor, Erik Freeland and many more months of post-production – we now have a film that we are proud of.
As I mailed out the “rewards” yesterday to all of our backers that supported our project, I realized once again that this project is still not yet complete. There are film festivals to submit to and community screenings to line up and plans to make different “cuts” at various lengths for different markets. One idea is to break up the stories for the potential of a broadcast series. I actually went out to LA this past winter and “pitched” the idea to some industry folks and a couple of people were quite interested. I even made a new version of the trailer and renamed the show. We shall see if anything develops along those lines.
I have been richly rewarded in so many ways on this journey. Getting to really know my daughter has been perhaps the biggest reward. But some of the kind comments that I have received from people who have seen the film have confirmed in my mind that this quest was meant to be. I’ll be sharing some of these comments with you in the coming months, on this blog that I have neglected as I’ve been off the radar working behind the scenes.
Here’s a tidbit from our Buenos Aires Interview on the final day of our journey. I will share more soon. This project was meant to be shared – that is the only way to manifest the true power behind this thing that we put into motion so long ago.
It just hit me this morning that we have completed this film. I cried because I was happy, we had done it. I cried because it was finished. I was sad the journey was over – but is it?
Yesterday, I hand delivered the first DVD to someone in the “business” who could really help me as I face the next step – getting the film “out there”. That’s the hard part – coming up with a plan to give this film legs. What would have been the point of my daughter and I traveling all around the world, creating a film about people making a difference that could motivate others to action – if people don’t see it?
I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, sending DVD’s to film festivals, outreach directors and potential distributors. I will be networking with everyone I know as far as making the rights connections with people who can help us get our film out there so that we can achieve what we set out to do- turn this film into a ground swell of action.
Here are some thoughts of what we’d like to do with this film. Start thinking about people you know who could help us realize these goals.
• Submit to film festivals to create awareness and publicity for the film. Festivals are very competitive but I believe our film is a strong contender. If the film is selected for a festival, then we will want to find a sponsor and make an event out of it and/or have a “premiere screening” in that city to coincide with the festival. It’s a cost effective way to do a premiere and the audience is already there.
• Have community screenings that would be “move to action” events. This could take place in a variety of venues, from schools to churches, with the filmmakers present or not. It could be a community fundraiser, centered on the screening of the film. Generally, filmmakers hire outreach directors or bookers to find these venues and matches. This can be a win/win where the filmmakers have a chance to recoup their costs and the community raises money for their cause. In our case, we can also structure it so that our subjects’ causes receive a percentage.
• Have screenings at universities. This is something that I would love to do – show the film with a Q&A to students. The film could really make an impact with young people who are just starting out in life. If anyone knows people who book college activities – let me know.
• Theatrical screenings. This takes money. But it can lead to rewards – including the academy awards. My executive Angel Burns is confident we can do this. Essentially, there needs to be theatrical bookings in LA and NYC, well publicized with mandated advertising in the NY and LA newspapers. We may need to do another fundraiser ourselves or find a sponsor to make this happen.
• Broadcast. Maybe the best way to get eyeballs on it. Anyone with contacts at OWN (Oprah’s network), Oxygen or Lifetime – viable candidates for this documentary or even a TV docu reality series? Imagine how refreshing that would be to see on TV – a series about people making a positive difference in the world – instead of watching yet again another show about the worst in human nature.
This film has had an amazing effect on our lives. We’ve traveled the world, seen our name in lights on a theater marquee and met extraordinary people along the way. In fact it seems like we are like magnets, attracting just the right people into our lives at just the right time. First of all we “found” all our amazing subjects who brought tremendous value to our lives – we learned so much from them. We found our executive producer, Angel Burns – or shall I say, she found me when I spoke in LA at a “photocine” event about creating a documentary with no money. I found the perfect editor, Erik Freeland who brought his wonderful vision to this film and made us look good, and Maria Grillo, a graphic designer in Chicago who designed our logo and overall look. I have another friend, Ally Raye who put together a great “deck” and “sizzle” for a TV pitch for me. I can’t even imagine what life was like before these people came into my life. This film just seems to have some inexplicable power of connecting people.
If you know anyone who is good with marketing and PR, or works in broadcast or knows a sponsor who would be a perfect match and could infuse some financial support to this project, please let us know.
Like one of our subjects, Marian Kramer said, “We’ve got to shine each other up”.
I’m anxiously waiting to see a rough cut from my editor Erik Freeland of Springhouse Films. Maybe “anxious” isn’t the right word because it kind of implies that I’m nervous when I’ve not at all. Erik and I have had conversations that confirm in my mind I picked the best editor for this film. It’s the little things he’s said – the comments he’s made about sound bites etc. that affirm in my mind that he understands the story to be told.
I’ve also been kicking around different titles – other than Opening Our Eyes. I’ve contemplated changing the title to the Power of One but I’ve decided against it.
The reason is, even though each and every one of my subjects is an extraordinary individual, they would all tell you that they aren’t alone in their efforts. Every one has support in some form or another. They could be financial supporters, staff people on their foundations, volunteers, or family and friends that are always there for them.
I know I could never have done this without the support and encouragement of others. When I first thought of this undertaking, I thought I would do it solo. It never would have occurred to me to involve my daughter because she had left the nest, taken up roots in another city and started her own life. Now looking back, I know that I could not have done this without her. And of course, I could have never pulled this off without all the back support from my husband.
I have been blessed to be in a position to work with a great editor. I have been blessed to have incredible friends who have helped me with their feedback on the trailer, the music I chose, the still images I’ve selected and how I phrase things in my written correspondence. A true collaboration of spirits. This past week, I’ve been particularly blessed by the help of two very good friends. I won’t give you the details just yet – because I don’t want to jinx what we’ve been working on. I have grown so much with the help of these special people because I’ve opened my mind up to their suggestions. They may critique my approach at times, but they know they can do that without offending – because I’m eager to learn.
Most of all, I’m grateful to all of you and all my “backers”. Just knowing that there were people out there following our journey and cheering us on – gave us the strength to carry on. You all are the best and I thank you for sticking with us. If we’ve been quiet on the blogging site – it’s because we’ve been really busy taking this to the next step and that is getting this film “out there”. That’s when the magic will really happen and I want all of you to know – it could have never happened without you.
In the words of Marian Kramer “We’ve got to shine each other up.”
Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that mothers do – making you grilled cheese on a rainy day, helping you finish that diorama that you waited until the last minute to do, buying you your first prom dress, encouraging you to follow your dreams and supporting you every step of the way. While I’m certainly grateful for all of those things, I’m even more grateful for what my mother did for me last year – provide me with the opportunity to travel around the world and meet incredible individuals along the way.
There aren’t too many mothers who could accomplish such a feat. Sure, they would love to do that with their daughters, but very few take the plunge and I bet even fewer could handle the conditions. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all the way. Staying in hostels, sleeping on the floor of a bamboo hut, getting bitten up the wazoo by mosquitoes, going without running water and air conditioning for days on end. And the hardest part – traveling with your daughter for 99 days straight. Nobody loves his or her kid that much to want to spend that much time with them, right? All in all, you certainly have to have an adventurous spirit to do such a thing, and no one has more of one than my mom.
I was continually amazed at her tenacity and determination throughout the trip. It didn’t matter how hot it was in Nepal, how badly her knees were hurting, how congested the streets of India were – she always kept going, no matter the obstacle. But then again, she has been like that all of my life; never making excuses and never giving up.
I think the best part of the trip for me was the fact that I got to do it with my mom and see her in action; not just as a mother, but also as a traveler in her element. I learned so much about her as a person, someone who has dreams and fears, just like me. And consequently, I have learned more about who I am as a person and why I am that way. Or in some instances, why I’m not a certain way. It’s fascinating to me how two closely related people can have such opposite reactions to the same situation. How can one person just jump on a subway train in Moscow while the other is compelled to stop and take the time to decipher the Cyrillic signs first? It’s a mystery.
I guess what I really want to say is that my mom is the coolest, most supportive and most inspiring mom I know. I am so lucky to have her in my life and that is what I am grateful for the most. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.