Archive for January, 2013

World Tour Update I

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Here I am in India in 2007, where I got 88 SOTMs and was totally unaware that I'm about to take part in a Holi festival smackdown

Here I am in India in 2007, where I got 88 SOTMs, and am unaware that I’m about to take part in a Holi festival smackdown

IT has been a week since I announced that I’m going around the world on a SOTM Tour, and already plenty of offers have come in.

I’ve had a good number of kind messages of support from people, and happily a number of you have embraced the idea of the SOTM tour, putting out feelers and making great suggestions on people I could stay with.

A big Thank You to those who have put the word out there so far, it’s very much appreciated. This tour really can’t happen without your help, and every single offer that I get, no matter how small, is making this year-long journey a reality.

So far I’ve had offers of accommodation in places like Paris, Geneva, Cairo, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong and several places in the US. I also have contacts in two Bangladeshi cities – Dhaka and Chittagong. Some of these offers are coming from friends of mine dotted around the globe, and some have been made by friends of those friends, whom I’ve never had any contact with before. (You have to love social media for putting people in touch with one another so easily for an event like this).

I’m delighted that people are willing to get involved and help me on my way. And they’ll be a great starting point for taking SOTM photos in those countries, too.

I’ve also spoken to members of the press in London, Scotland, Dubai and Geneva, who all want to do something on SOTM having heard about the tour. I’m really pleased by this, as I haven’t yet put out a press release or made any widespread approaches to the media – that will come closer to the time.

Overall, then, things are off to a good start.

But I need to keep making plans – I’m in the process of firming up a route for starters. I’m talking to two South African charities about visiting them, which I’m very keen to do, but that will depend on the cost of flights to and from that country. And it looks like I might do a little more of Europe than I originally planned.

Also, I think I might have to rejig the timing of when I pass through South Asia and South East Asia, as I don’t want to hit the rainy season and general bad weather. I’ll continue to work out a schedule based on what the typical weather is in the countries I’m planning to visit.

Here’s a remind of what I’m still looking for:

  • Contacts in the countries I’ll be visiting. Would you like to pose for SOTM, round up friends who’ll be photographed, and possibly translate into English where necessary?
  • Places to stay. I’ve had some offers already, but will always need more. Do you have a spare room or couch where I could stay for a few days? In return, you’ll receive my eternal thanks, a print of your SOTM photo, and a special mention on the SOTMario blog.
  • Contacts in the press anywhere in the world, particularly in those countries that I’ll be visiting. Do you work in the media – online, radio, and TV? Would you be interested in writing about the SOTM journey? I need as much media coverage as possible, to get people’s attention so that they either offer to meet for a photo, or send one in. The SOTM story makes for an eye-catching picture feature, as it already has in the London Metro, Times of Malta, and Boing Boing.

And here’s an updated list of the countries I currently hope to visit, not necessarily in this order:

  • France (Paris)
  • Germany (Berlin, Munich)
  • Holland (Amsterdam)
  • Switzerland (Geneva, Zug)
  • Austria (Vienna)
  • Italy (Emilia-Romagna)
  • Malta
  • Egypt (Cairo)
  • South Africa (Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Kliptown)
  • UAE (Dubai)
  • India (Punjab, McLeod Ganj)
  • Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong)
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Philippines (Manila)
  • China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing)
  • South Korea
  • Japan (Tokyo)
  • Australia (Sydney, Melbourne)
  • Canada (Vancouver)
  • USA (cross-country tour)

Please get in touch if you can help me out. You can contact me on Twitter, Facebook or you can email me via mario [at] sotmario [dot] com.

Thank you!

Announcing The SOTM World Tour

Monday, January 7th, 2013
Earth

Here’s the Earth – I’ll soon be going around it, taking SOTMs along the way!

I’M going around the world.

Not long after I started Someone Once Told Me, I realised how great it would be to take it around the world, visiting people in their own countries, finding out the memorable things that they’ve been told in their own languages and photographing them in far-flung places around the globe.

So that is exactly what I am going to do.

I earn a living as a journalist for the BBC News website. But my boss has kindly agreed to a career break – which is common at the BBC – and I will be travelling the world for one year from the start of June. I will not be drawing a salary from the BBC during this time.

The Itinerary

My route is largely driven by SOTM readers. Since early in the site’s existence, I’ve had offers from SOTM readers around the world to visit them where they live, from Italy to India and across the United States, among other countries.

Although I expect the itinerary to change significantly in the coming months, these are the destinations that I hope to visit:

  • France (Paris)
  • Germany (Berlin)
  • Switzerland (Geneva, Zug)
  • Italy (Emilia-Romagna)
  • Malta
  • Egypt (Cairo)
  • South Africa (Port Elizabeth, Cape Town)
  • UAE (Dubai)
  • India (Punjab, McLeod Ganj)
  • Bangladesh (Chittagong)
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Philippines (Manila)
  • China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing)
  • South Korea
  • Japan (Tokyo)
  • Australia (Sydney, Melbourne)
  • USA (cross-country tour)

I’d also like to include Scotland, Brazil and Mexico but that will depend on my budget so I’m leaving them off for now. If I can find a way to get to those places then I will add them in.

Giving Back

I’ve plan to continue my work with Operation Smile, the charity which operates on cleft palates for children around the world. All profits from the SOTM app already go directly to it, and I’d like to visit one of its clinic events while on my travels, to take SOTMs of the children and parents there. I’ll need to work out if I’ll be close enough to a clinic when one is in operation, as they run at certain times in various locations.

In addition to the app, I’m considering more ways in which the SOTM World Tour can support Operation Smile and the life-changing work they do for children.

Documenting The Trip

I’ll be blogging about the trip here on SOTMario and putting video clips on the SOTM YouTube channel. Plus I’ll be sharing on SOTM’s social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Even more news: I’m planning to write a book about this journey.  It will be a memoir combining my own stories from the road with those of my most fascinating SOTM subjects.

This trip is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years. Whenever I considered SOTM’s future, I kept returning to the idea that doing a trip like this would advance the project in a beautiful, noisy, thrilling way. So I intend to gather as many pictures during this year as I flipping well can, hopefully at least 1,000 which will tell three years’ worth of daily stories on the site.

The thought of doing this trip is immensely exciting, hugely challenging and very terrifying at the same time. It will change my life forever. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, and now I have a website as a theme with which to do it. It won’t be without its challenges – it’ll mean living in casual clothes for a year (I love my suits), not having access to an iron (I love my iron), and sleeping on a fair few floors and couches (I sleep badly in a bed, let alone on a floor).

I Need Your Help

This trip can’t happen without you.

My budget is extremely tight. If I were to delay, it would be until Spring 2014 and for various reasons that’s too far away. If I’m ever going to go, it’s got to be this summer. So I have to keep the costs down by relying on people’s goodwill.

These are the sort of things that I need:

  • Contacts in the countries I’ll be visiting. Would you like to pose for SOTM, round up friends who’ll be photographed, and possibly translate into English where necessary?
  • Places to stay. Do you have a spare room or couch where I could stay for a few days? In return, you’ll receive my eternal thanks, a print of your SOTM photo, and a special mention on the SOTMario blog. I’ll buy you a nice dinner, too.
  • Contacts in the press anywhere in the world, particularly in those countries that I’ll be visiting. Do you work in the media – online, radio, and TV? Would you be interested in writing about the SOTM journey? I need as much media coverage as possible, to get people’s attention so that they either offer to meet for a photo, or send one in. The SOTM story makes for an eye-catching picture feature, as it already has in the London Metro, Times of Malta, and Boing Boing.

Please do get in touch if you can help with any of the above – you can contact me on Twitter, Facebook or you can email me via mario [at] sotmario [dot] com.

Thanks for reading all this, and look out for further updates as time edges closer to my departure. It’s going to be a hell of a journey, and I’d love for you all to come with me, in some way or another.

Entertaining Edinburgh

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

kaySOTM

AS it turned out, 2012 was a real year of achieving ambitions for me.

I got round to doing a good few things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, like go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visit the Moulin Rouge (both for my birthday) and even went to some fascinating sites in Germany, which included Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and an SS museum in Wewelsburg.

Last, but not least, I went to Hogmanay in the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh.

As my previous post explains, I was there as part of Blogmanay which saw a number of top travel bloggers descend on the Scottish capital to sample the best of its new year festivities, and push out their opinions of it via social media and their own blogs, using the #blogmanay hashtag on Twitter in particular.

I heard some captivating SOTM stories while I was there, and managed to get 21 photos and accompanying stories in total. One of the funniest was told by the charming Kay, who works as a tour guide for Haggis Adventures.

I posted a sneak preview of her SOTM on Twitter and Facebook, which you can see here. I’ll be putting her full picture and story up on SOTM quite soon, but in the meantime have a guess as to what the missing word is. Her tale is linked to a wardrobe malfunction…

Aside from Kay’s story, I heard tales of a man being arrested when aged 17, of how asking for chicken in a Spanish supermarket can easily be mistaken for something much ruder, of a mobile phone text that ripped a family apart, and what a stripper in Amsterdam told an Aussie chap as he clambered onstage to be part of her show.

Otherwise, Edinburgh offers some smashing opportunities for memorable photographs, especially if you can get your hand out your glove long enough to bear the cold and take some smartphone shots via Instagram. You can see the sorts of things that I snapped as I walked around on my Instagram feed.

Among all those shots, which included the beautiful castle, traditional Scottish pipers and even discarded headgear, this image of a side street, which took mere moments to capture, was my favourite.

I also set myself a challenge – to actually use my flash for a change. I have a Nikon Speedlight SB-600 and it seems perfectly mid-range, good enough for the sorts of guerrilla shots that I like to take, especially of SOTMs in dark bars and dingy alleyways, which is often the case – not that I’ve ever used it to actually find out what it can do. Seriously, I’ve had the thing years and have never used it.

But during Hogmanay I simply couldn’t employ my usual technique of holding my breath, trying to keep perfectly still by leaning on something solid and listening to the rhythm of my camera’s slow shutter.

Taking lots of shots this way, without a tripod and only using whatever light is available, has usually been good enough for me, believe it or not, particularly when shooting in black and white.

But it is not good enough for a fast-moving torchlight procession through the Edinburgh streets. I finally had to give in and strap on the flash.

I’ve actually never read the manual for my Nikon D90, and paid the same courtesy to the flash that I’ve had in a drawer for the past four years.

So I just whacked it on the hot shoe, figured how to knock down the power so that it was only punching out a bit of light (it already has a diffuser) and hoped for the best. As ever with photography, I just act instinctively. Everything is always set to manual, so I’m completely responsible for my successes and failures.

My first attempts were patchy, but then I worked out that my shutter speed was too slow, and recalled how I’d recently read a photography post about keeping the shutter speed above 1/60 while using a flash.

So I quickened the shutter and bang! – the SB-600 started to seduce me with its ability to grab fast-moving shots that were in focus and not bleached out, as you can see here from this shot of travel bloggers Budget Traveller and Adventurous Kate.

Taken in the dark, at high speed - saved by the flash

I’m always going to want to take photographs using natural light, but I grew more confident with the flash during my trip, and will definitely be using it more in future, as the results I got were definitely an improvement on what I’d have got just using the torchlight from the procession.

So, Edinburgh. Great for shots of a beautiful city full of history, dramatic skies and charming streets that make lovely backdrops. Also, full of friesndly people

with weird and wonderful stories. And if you’re in town around December 31 on any year, prepare to party!

This campaign is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by Visit Scotland, ETAG, Edinburgh Festivals, Haggis Adventures and Skyscanner. As always, opinions are my own.