Thursday, August 31, 2006

Everyone has their own Mt. Everest

Obviously, I've gotten sidetracked from my very first post in 2005 - I lost my blog for over a year, didn't find it again until April 2006, actually (okay, look. I'm blond, and I'm a grandmother. It happens. At least I know where I put my keys.)

But back to travel. I got into the travel business 15 years ago. It has always been my believe that travel is a path to peace, because when we travel - I mean REALLY travel, and get an in-depth experience where we meet people on their terms, and on their turf - our hearts are open and we bridge gaps of misunderstanding. So my goal as a travel consultant is to give people real travel experiences - at some point in the itinerary, I build in a few unique experiences that are intended to touch their hearts. Not always, but often enough.

Certain things I won't touch: extreme adventure is one. In the fall of 1995, I met Scott Fischer, of Mountain Madness. He was promoting his adventure company, and also still selling space on the upcoming May, 1996 trip to climb Mt. Everest. At about $50,000 per person, commissionable at 10%, Fischer made it sound like a walk in the park. He was charismatic, and really handsome, and I thought I could for sure find a client or two for that trip. (I did not find clients; Fischer died on Everest in a storm that claimed seven other lives, making it one of the deadliest climbing seasons ever on that mountain.)

So today, I'm reading some headlines, and I see this:
American to Be First Female Space Tourist
and I'm of mixed reaction. First, I think, rock on! You go girl! And, at $20 Million, commissionable at 10%, I wish I'd been her travel agent. In 2002, I met with a company that was promoting commercial space travel - space tourism - and I came away with ambivalent feelings. Truthfully, it is the same ambivalence I feel toward commercial (tourist) climbs on Mt. Everest.

Anousheh Ansari is Iranian by birth; she came to America as a teen. She is chairwoman and cofounder of Prodea Systems, a multi-media and digital home solutions company. She will travel to The International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with Spanish-born, American Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. It doesn't get more international than this group.

She's been training since March. Her goals, her personal goals, are quite noble. "I'm hoping that not only my flight but the life I've lived so far become an inspiration for our youth anywhere in the world, especially women and girls around the world, to pursue their dream, whatever that may be," Ansari said Wednesday. I applaud that. She is a strong woman, and I am all about pursuing dreams. God knows I've done my share of that in my lifetime.

But in general, I am somewhat leery of space travel given our current administration. All I can think of is the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka Star Wars, Reagan's ill-conceived missile shield. I think about we've gone into space with a military bent, and our propensity to litter, and clutter whatever we visit - and that certain places should just be left pristine. Everest, Antarctica, Space. And then I think, why?

It isn't that I am saying people should not climb Mt. Everest. But I feel that commercial trips to this sacred mountain attract people who might not be capable, who lack the technical skills to climb it. The Sherpas know it is a sacred place; they respect this mountain. It is littered with corpses, discarded oxygen cannisters, ropes, pick-axes, other gear. It is covered with the detrius of failed attempts. Should a wealthy dentist from Texas, who has never been above 12,000 feet, be allowed to join a commercial climb to the rooftop of earth just because he can afford to pay $50,000?

It isn't that I am saying that people should not tour space. Frankly, given what we are doing to earth, eventually we'll have to start colonizing other planets (Mars) or our own Moon. (Why does OUR moon not have a name other than "Moon?") And while Ms. Ansari is not the first space tourist, she is the first female space tourist, and she's been something of a rebel. Her goals are not selfish, she really wants to make this an educational experience. Her goals, I believe, are really peaceful goals. I applaud her. She can afford the $20 million, but she intends to go to schools after her trip to talk about science and pursuit of dreams - to reach out to young people and light their personal fires.

That's what I believe travel should do to a person. Come to think of it, I wish she was my client, because she gets it. She knows that when we leave home, we need to travel with an open heart and an open mind. You go, girl. Bon Voyage.

8 comments:

Pete's Blog said...

What a lovely post Jood. Often its only in hindsight one realizes what dangerous places ones been to and risks taken.

Pete's Blog said...

Jood

You asked about weather in Melbourne (if you haven't left already) see http://www.weatherzone.com.au/local/local.jsp?fcast=94868&obs=94868&img=radar&rad=002&fn=true which also gives Brisbane.

Melbourne - windy Friday and raining for the next 6 days.

Brisbane - showers Friday, mixed after that.

Safe Trip

(Pete's weather service :-)

Sue Woo said...

Hi diva!

I wish I was that lady. I would SO go into space if I had the money. and as for the moon-don't you just love saying that word? I do.

DivaJood said...

Pete, thanks for the weather site - whadya mean, rain? Don't they know it's bad for my hair? I guess this is gonna put the kaibash on my balloon ride; and I'm scheduled to do a Harley tour of Melbourne, and the Great Ocean Road by Helicopter. So much for luxury travel. I will pack my drizabone. But back to the travel thing: I wonder about people who do the "continent collecting" thing - just to say they've been. People who travel with a closed heart, and are merely trying to acquire status. This lady seems to be so much about hope, and dreams, and growth - she will be an inspiration to a lot of people. She already is.

Sue, I do love saying moon - in every context possible. I love moon-pies too. And yes, I would do it too, if I could - but for the same reason I scuba dive, and for the same reason I send people to exotic destinations with contact with local peoples. And do that myself.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

Oh I'm with you, honey. No space travel until I'm sure the damn thing works. So NASA - not so much. But Burt Rutan's company now - that I could get into! He knows how to build a spaceship - and I'd take a ride with him in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact - he's partnered up with Branson from Virgin Air. The new company is called Virgin Galactic. By the way - they expect to be up and running by 2010 - and a ticket into space will cost 200K - not 20 million. Not exactly affordable - but not out of the question!

DivaJood said...

TFLS, Branson and Burt Rutan's Virgin Galactic is going to be hot. And my god, I'd fly with Branson any day of the week. (Gonna fly on Virgin Blue in Australia one segment, too. I hope he'll be on the plane.) Kidding.

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