For those of you who haven't heard this story yet, it's actually simple and soon-stated. Upon the prodding of my frequent-flying mentor --- whose prodding has led to many of the questionable and exciting things I've done with my life --- I joined the Air France KLM Flying View Photo Competition last June. With no entry fee, there was nothing to lose, so I submitted what I thought would be a strong entry, and promptly forgot about it. I've joined a good number of contests, and lost every one of them, because I suck, just kidding, but maybe I do? Anyway...
When I received an e-mail a month and a half later with the subject line "Congratulations! You're one of the Flying View winners!", it was pretty much out of the blue. I opened it (I was in a van on the way home from a shoot) and read that I was one of the grand prize winners, winning 200,000 miles on their Flying Blue program as well as a year of the highest level Platinum membership. My reaction: elated swearing inside the van, and possibly annoying everyone else in there who just wanted to go home and be rid of me.
To be honest, I refused to believe it 100% until the miles got credited to my account and I subsequently visited the Air France KLM Office in Makati --- just last Friday! There I met Raymond Reedijk, country manager for KLM Philippines, who presented me with my Platinum Membership kit. OFFICIAL. No take-backsies!
There were three grand prize winners: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. I got the Platinum Prize, besting over 140,000 other entries from all over the world, according to the Platinum booklet, and my photo will appear on Flying Blue baggage tags all over the world.
ABOUT THAT PHOTO...
This photo was taken at Abra La Raya, 4470 MASL, at the departmental border between Puno and Cuzco, Peru. I wasn't taking photography half as seriously then as I do now, so I'm just glad I actually bothered to snap one using a good camera (a Panasonic GH3, if you're wondering). To this day, despite how much I've grown in the craft, I consider it one of my best captures, a type of image I aspire to take more of.
Photography side note: SHOOT IN RAW. Especially if you're traveling. This shot had blown out highlights in the sky that I was able to salvage because I shot in RAW. Had I shot in JPEG, this photo would just not be technically all that good.
That was in the middle of a classic 82-day quarter life crisis solo trip, which some of you may already know about, because I initially made my hay as a blogger writing about it and encouraging others to travel longer (I even got on TV once because of it). It was really as life-changing as you'd expect, and was the beginning of a long transition in my life and career.
I know it sounds corny, but to me, winning free flights from that photo is an almost too-good-to-be-true instance of things coming full circle. It's travel literally begetting travel, and in many ways, it pushes things ever more strongly in the direction I was headed anyway: to travel more, and try and make beautiful things out of the experience.
Truth is, I don't really feel like I "won" free flights for a single photo so much as I invested an inordinate amount of money, time, and effort into travel, and the miles are just one (or 200,000) among several dividends that travel has paid back.
That said, (inspiring quote alert!) traveling is winning. That I got an actual prize for one of the thousands of photos I took? That's just a bonus. That the bonus is an opportunity for more travel? That's... A lot to be grateful for. **grateful praying emoji**
SO WHERE TO?
Uhh. I don't know yet. Haha. 200,000 miles is worth about 5 one-way long haul flights from the Philippines, if I don't blow it all on upgrades (I won't... I hope. Damn you Casey Neistat). My plan for now is to learn to take advantage of Platinum status and how to play the miles game (it's so complicated though, why do I bother) and see where timing, current obsessions, and friends abroad dictate I can go.
The agenda is the same as always: gain experience, take nice pictures of beautiful places, learn a lot, and make art.
In the meantime, I actually need to earn the cash I'm going to spend on these trips. So, back to work! Thanks for taking the time to read my story.
TO BE CONTINUED...