In September we were in territory a bit closer to home: Jackson, Wyoming! Aside from spending time in the country of cowboys, wide blue skies, and dramatic mountaintops, we busted out our denim for another reason: we were headed out west for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival as their exclusive travel partner! Staffers Katie Losey and Brooke Garnett were lucky enough to attend. On the final night at the awards gala, Katie spoke to this commanding audience of 700 people about what stirred the partnership, why travel is critical to conservation, and the power of film to transform us, compel us, and inspire us to care and do our part. In case you missed it…
Channeling the Dalai Lama, my great friend Alexis relayed some words of wisdom to me last week. She said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in your tent.” I want to pose to you what we were discussing that day: can one person watching one film, or in our case, one person embarking on one journey, make a difference?
Absolute Travel’s team of luxury travel specialists create memorable life-changing journeys. Most of the time they are not your park-yourself-by-the-pool type of trips. Our clients are curious and adventurous and seek the world’s most inspirational experiences: sailing between the fabled Galapagos Islands, bowing with monks in Bhutan, and dodging hippos in Botswana’s Okavango Delta are a few. We’ve recognize that there is nothing more powerful than a personal experience to inspire others to care about our planet.
We are so proud to partner with the festival for many reasons. For starters, the numerous friends we have in common: Praveen with Volcanoes Safaris and the Joubert’s behind Great Plains Conservation Trust, whose lodges we’ve been working with for years; Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her fearless team; Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka with Conservation Through Public Health trailblazing solutions in Uganda; there is even a film that highlights Lek Chailert’s work in Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary my colleague, Brooke, and I visited a decade ago.
Common friends aside, this partnership makes perfect sense: the festival inspires wonder and catalyzes change through media—Absolute Travel through our trips. A change I know we are both focused on right now and what I want to focus on is conservation. The cornerstone of our approach is called Absolute Awareness, and its mission is three-fold.
1.) To inspire people to care about protecting our planet’s wild places, its creatures, and people. We accomplish this with custom journeys that allow for powerful personal experiences and connections that lead to concrete action. (I challenge you to lose a staring contest to a silverback mountain gorilla and leave without being compelled to protect them.)
2. To prove to the locals that their natural resources are invaluable and vital to their livelihoods. Again, our trips play a role; our presence demonstrates that people will travel across the globe to experience their backyard—whether for a family of elephants or an ancient rainforest. Our presence proves an elephant is worth more alive than reduced to an ivory trinket, and Borneo’s jungles and their unrivaled biodiversity are more precious than palm plantations.
3. We work with a handful of organizations facilitating their donor trips. We work together to engage their donors so they can see their contributions firsthand, in the field, and witness conservation in action.
Here’s an example that drives this home for me: while tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda, I hired a porter to carry my backpack. On that hike I learned that my porter was formerly a poacher; he made the career switch when he realized this job was a safe, stable and legal line of work that enabled him to provide for his family. He transformed from someone taking away from his country into someone contributing to it.
I’m a prime example of the powerful combination of film and travel. While contemplating trip ideas earlier this year I watched Green (a Grand Teton Award Winner), The Orphaned Orangutan and Born to be Wild. Naturally the island of Borneo—a place I was curious about, but never really focused on—skyrocketed to the top of my list. I wanted to witness orangutans in the wild before it was too late. And that’s what we did. In May I embarked on this epic adventure to Malaysian Borneo. I will never forget locking eyes with a scruffy orangutan mom and her baby, who was smaller than a backpack, as they made their bed for the night in those legendary 130-million-year-old rainforests.
This encounter made my heart beat out of my chest and trigger something deep inside of me. It made me fall in love with this virgin jungle, providing me with a lifelong connection to this forgotten place, so far from home. Borneo’s imposing forests and charming redheads fulfilled all of my yearnings for discovery and adventure that I have had since I was a little girl. I want them to be around one day for my little girl. And I know my being there helped make that happen. I want to give the festival goers the opportunity to take the sensational festival films and witness these epic stories on their own journey. I know Absolute Travel can help them live out their wildest adventures too.
And now channeling one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, after her inspirational talk at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival: “Every single person can make a difference every single day.” So let’s all continue to be those mosquitoes, making a difference, every single day.
If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved with Absolute Awareness or partner with Absolute Travel, please contact Katie Losey at 212 627 1950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.