At the end of October, with the launch of my new book Escape Plan, my guide for long-term travel and living abroad, I also announced a special contest where I offered to send one person anywhere in the world on their dream trip for whoever came up with the most unique and original idea.
The contest ended on December 1st (a few people submitted late entries, sorry, but they were not considered). The winner is Richard Feicht of Indianapolis, USA. He will be spending a month training in aikido in Tehran, Iran, working and collaborating with Iranians in the Japanese “art of peace” and communicating both in Japanese (with the dojo members who lived in Japan) as well as studying Farsi before he goes.
What impressed me about Richard’s entry was not only the boldness and creativity of the trip, but also the detail and thought he put into it beforehand. He already knew which dojo and which senseis he would train with. He knew the process in which he would acquire a visa to Iran and what that process would involve. He was aware of the risks of traveling to that country and how he would handle it. And he was prepared on how to deal with the Iranian government handlers who will be assigned to him (American tourists CAN enter Iran, but they are assigned government employees to track their whereabouts and make sure they’re not up to mischief).
Research has shown that the vast majority of American tourists who visit Iran are not only safe but overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and hospitality they’re met with by the locals. As I’ve experienced many times, sour relations between extremist governments rarely reflect the real personalities of the people they claim to represent. I have few doubts about Richard’s safety, and he’s aware of the risks and has accepted responsibility for them himself.
The primary criteria for the contest submissions were: creativity, boldness, and the level of thought and planning done beforehand. Richard nailed all three of those.
Some other entries that I found intriguing were: a month spent with a Zulu tribe in South Africa, staying in the canopies of the Amazon rainforest while meeting local indigenous tribes, swimming with sharks in Seychelles, and hiking through the Khawak Pass in Pakistan.
All entries demonstrated each person’s passion and personality. It was clear everyone put a lot of thought into where they wanted to go. Thank you everyone who submitted.
Richard’s trip probably won’t actually happen until mid- to late-2013, but I will arrange for us to get updates from him on the blog probably at the beginning of his trip (for first impressions) as well as after his trip.
I am considering making this an annual contest. But much of it will depend on the continued popularity of the book as well as the interest and publicity generated from Richard’s trip. If I do it again, it will once again be limited to people who have purchased Escape Plan.