18/12/2008 The End of the Competitions
After some deliberation, we have decided to close the Places Prize Fund competitions early and make the Third Places Prize Fund which closes on 16th January 2009, the LAST one, so I urge everyone who has purchased credits in the past and hasn't used them up, to upload photos for the competition NOW! Please also remember to tag them with "comp3" so we can process them easily. Any unused credits will not be refunded and paid credits will revert to normal unpaid credits after 16 January 2009. There are two main reasons for this:
1. General lack of interest from people to enter the paid competitions, and perhaps more importantly,
2. Our nominated charity, the World Food Programme, needs our help. They have just released a plea for a "Human Rescue Package" and we think the funds accumulated from purchased credits that are being held back for the Places Prize Fund competitions will be better in the hands of the charity where they can be put to good use, rather than sitting in an account for the next year, waiting to see if anyone is actually going to enter. You can read more of this article here. http://www.wfp.org/english/?ModuleID=137&Key=3017
Another thing - unfortunately, our sponsors, the Rough Guides who have been supporting our monthly Photo of the Month Awards for the last two years, are unable to sponsor us going forward in the New Year. So the last prize for this will be at the end of February, so now is the time to get as many votes for your photos as you can if you would like to win a Rough Guides book before then. We will also be making some further changes to the site in the New Year, but more about this later.
I wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR, wherever you are in the world and I hope the New Year brings you whatever you wish for.
05/11/2008 Blogs, Monsters and the Definition of Travel
Blogs, blogs - who needs them? Who has the time to find stuff to write about everyday? And on top of that, stuff that's relevant and that people will want to read? Well, I for one am bucking the blog writing trend, as I just a) can't find the time to do it and b) can't find relevant stuff to write about. Now if I was travelling round the world taking photos every day, then yes, I would have plenty to write about but unfortunately I'm not; unless someone wants to sponsor me.... hmm, didn't think so.
Anyway, one of the reasons it's been so quiet on the MPOE blogging front is because I have been busy working really hard on my new project. Did everyone enjoy Halloween last Friday? Did you come across any monsters? Well, my new project is to do with a different kind of monster - a Green Welly Monster!!! A crowd-sourced eco-project, I need as many people to join up as possible to make it work and I'm inviting you to become a Green Welly Monster too. The website has just gone live so do take a look and register: www.greenwellymonster.com
On another note, I thought I'd share some definitions of travel with you. Here they are:-
Wikipedia's Definition of Travel
Travel is the transport of people on a trip/journey or the process or time involved in a person or object moving from one location to another. Reasons for travel include:
- Tourism—travel for recreation. This may apply to the travel itself, or the travel may just be the necessary investment to arrive at a desired location.
- Visiting friends and family
- Commuting–going to various routine activities, such as work or meetings.
- Migration—travel to begin life somewhere else; nomadic people do this
- Pilgrimages—travel for religious reasons
The word originates from the Middle English word travailen ("to toil"), which comes from the French word travailler ("travail").
Our Definition of Travel
"Far away places with strange sounding names....."
- To venture into the unknown.
- To go to a land where you have not been before.
- To open your eyes to the world around you.
- To explore your surroundings wherever you are.
- To look and see and feel a place.
- To experience the thrill of doing something different.
- To learn about different people and cultures.
- To soak up the beauty of nature.
- To absorb the atmosphere of a place.
- To sense the quiet of wide open spaces.
- To enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city.
- To have a great adventure no matter which road you choose to take.
That is travel!
28/01/2008 500 Photos and a Winner
A small milestone has been reached today - 500 photos have been uploaded to the site so far. It seems a small number compared to the 1000000 that we are aiming for, but a milestone it is nevertheless. Considering that 106 of these have been uploaded in the last two weeks since we went free, it seems that our new strategy is working. :)
We have also surpassed the 1000 user mark, so another small milestone, you could say.
Furthermore, the winner of our first Places Prize Fund has been announced today. The prize fund of £146.30 - a far cry from the $1000000 dollars we were hoping to give away to the winner - is, as my grandmother used to say, better than a smack in the face with a wet fish! I do hope that he is still pleased that he won.
On another note, has anybody been watching 'Paradise or Bust', screened on BBC2 on Mondays at 9pm? The second episode is on tonight. Do watch it if you can - my blog on 16/09/07 Vorovoro Island, Fiji, is about the very island where this documentary takes place.
14/01/08 Million Places on Earth is FREE!
The 14th has arrived and after a few days hard work, the updates to the website are complete.
We are definitely on our way to finding a million unique places on earth and breaking that World record. So let's get going and speed it up a bit, shall we?
I have a feeling in my bones that 2008 is going to be an exciting year!
04/01/08 A New Year, a New Beginning
As the beginning of the New Year draws near, we want to wish you a belated Merry Christmas and inform you of the changes that are going to be happening to Million Places on Earth.
Our main aim for this project has always been to find a million unique places on earth and this is what we want to achieve. Based on the votes that were received and the feedback that we got from our questionnaire, we have decided that getting rid of the entry fee to upload photos and the million dollar prize is the best way forward in order for us to reach our goal.
From the 14th January, Million Places on Earth will be FREE to upload photos and take part in the world record breaking attempt. The Photo of the Month voting and prize will remain the same.
We have thought long and hard about a solution for the competition and what would be the fairest for all involved who have already bought credits and uploaded photos. A few of the options were:-
a) refund the entry fees
b) donate all the funds received to date to charity
c) run a separate paid competition for those who have already entered and any others wishing to enter with a monetary prize equal to half the funds received less 10% for PayPal fees and paid out every six months, the other half still being donated to charity
d) have an early cut off date for all who have entered so far with the prize fund paid out early.
We decided that option c) is the fairest, so that everyone will still benefit, probably more so in fact, from more than one monetary prize. We will run the paid competitions separately on a 6 monthly basis with the prize fund equal to half the funds received for the number of photos entered less 10% for PayPal fees. The other half will still be donated to charity. These competitions will be optional so you don't have to pay to enter if you don't want to.
The cut off date for the first part of the competition is the 16th January 2008 and all photos that have been uploaded to the website thus far will be judged according to merit and entry criteria. Photos that are judged in the first competition will not be judged again for the second, third, forth, etc.
Any unused credits will be carried forward for the next six months so you will not lose any. You will also be able to upload more photos than the number of credits that you've bought and choose which ones you want to enter into the competitions. Sounds complicated? Not really. It will just give all of you a greater chance of winning.
The website will be changed over the next 2 weeks to reflect the new structure. We are greatly looking foward to pushing this project to new heights in the New Year and hope you will be as excited as we are. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.
We wish you all the very best of luck for the New Year!
03/12/07 We want YOUR opinion
Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat..... and before it does, we would like to hear your opinion on a few issues surrounding the future of Million Places on Earth. This is really IMPORTANT to us, so please spare a minute of your time to click on the buttons below and submit an email to us.
Thank you in advance for submitting your answers. We will let you all know the outcome soon.
01/10/07 A Perfect Day
This morning, I was up and out of the house before 6.30am, heading up the motorway on my way to Scotland where I have been working for the last six months. It was still dark when I left, a sure indication that winter is on it's way.:(
I was doing my usual 90 miles an hour (about 10 miles too fast, really) and concentrating on the traffic when the sun rose and gave way to a glorious day. It wasn't until I was bypassing the Lake District - my favourite part of the M6 when it winds through the hills and you really feel like you are driving - that I noticed what an absolutely perfect day it was. The sky was blue (normally it's grey in England, so blue is a rarity), not a cloud in sight, the sun was shining brightly and there was hardly a breeze at all. In fact the air was so still, I really had to look hard to see if the leaves were blowing. I can tell you, I have driven through some disgusting weather on the M6, but today it was just beautiful. I can't describe it well enough. I was so tempted to pull off into the Lakes as it was the ideal day for walking, but unfortunately, there are bills to be paid and mouths to feed, apart from the fact that I didn't have my walking boots with me.
Sorry, I know talking about the weather is boring, but I just had to share this. It stayed like that all the way up to Scotland and for the rest of the day. And here I was stuck in an office, staring out the window instead of at the computer screen and wondering how on earth I had managed to end up here instead of being able to enjoy such a beautiful day outside. Well, I have made a promise to myself. I am going to somehow do something that will allow me to enjoy days like this in the future because I don't want to miss out on any more perfect days again. Life's too short!
27/09/07 Waste and Composting
Since being on Vorovoro Island in Fiji, I have become acutely aware of how much rubbish we generate as a family and how much we used to chuck into the dustbin without really thinking about it. It is an unbelievable amount! Why, just last weekend, we had some friends round for a BBQ and we must have filled at least 10 plastic bags of rubbish that day. I also found myself trying to squash as many groceries into as few plastic bags at the supermarket as well. Fortunately, none of them broke else we would have had scrambled eggs before we got home, but they were almost overflowing.
Our local council does collect garden refuse, glass bottles and paper, and I have also started a compost heap in the back garden, but what are we going to do about all this plastic? Even the home composting bin that I ordered is made of, yes, you guessed it, plastic! I read the most horrific article on the web the other day which I think everyone should read. Here is the link to it.
You would think that all these clever scientists who invented the various types of plastic would have also invented some chemical concoction that could destroy it as well, without giving off poisonous gases and harming the environment, of course. Well, there's nothing that I know of, but I certainly wish someone would come up with something.
Here's a challenge for you. Next time you do the weekly or monthly grocery shopping, notice how many items you pick up in the supermarket that are wrapped in some form of plastic or other. Now think about all the millions of people in the world buying all this stuff and what happens to it when it goes in the dustbin. Of course, it goes to a landfill site, but it NEVER goes away!!! Scary thought, hey?!
Some plastics are recyclable, but most are not and at a guess, I would say very few people can be bothered collecting it all up and taking it to the nearest recycling depot. I think I am going to set a task for myself and my kids to experiment with ways of destroying the various types of plastic by any means possible and see what happens. I will keep you posted. Could be interesting!
Vorovoro Island is a small island (it takes approximately 2 and a half hours to walk round the perimeter, if you are dawdling that is, probably about an hour if you aren’t) off the north west coast of Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji. Approximately half an hour boat ride from Labasa with captain Appi, Vorovoro is owned by Fijian Chief Tui Mali and inhabited by the local tribe and members of Tribewanted, a “virtual tribe” who leased 200sq m of land to develop and build a tribal village.
From nothing, Tribewanted together with the building skills of the local Fijians, especially old Apeli who is an expert, have built accommodation in the form of the Grand Bure (a bure is the traditional house that the Fijians live in), the Chief’s Bure, the Family Bure, the Vale (a dormitory type room), and most recently while we were there, the Love Shack. The Grand Bure is where people sleep, ceremonies take place (only when it’s raining) and people on the island gather to play games in the evening (again, only if it’s raining). Otherwise, everything takes places outdoors as the weather is generally hot and reasonably humid all year round.
More importantly, a fairly primitive kitchen with the most amazing wood fired oven where the kitchen staff, Ronnie in particular with the help of Mateo and others, bake amazing cakes and buns. Brendan, who is chief chef when he’s around, and Va, cook up delicious meals using the freshly grown fruit, vegetables and herbs that have been planted in the gardens. There is an abundance of coconut palms on the island so coconut is used widely in the cooking. Pawpaws from the trees on the island and fresh fish, caught frequently by top fisherman, Marau, feature on the menu and whatever else is needed that is not on the island, gets bought at the market in Labasa and brought in by boat. Porridge is the norm for breakfast, rice is cooked for most meals and watermelon and/or cake for morning and afternoon tea. The bell is rung five times a day to call the islanders for meals. Healthier and fresher food would be hard to find, but cooking in the kitchen for 20 people is quite a challenge as I found out when I volunteered to be the chief chef one Sunday! I did manage sausages, fried eggs and beans for breakfast, pumpkin soup for lunch and spag bol for dinner which went down pretty well.
And where do you go when you need to go? Well, the compost loos of course, which surprisingly don’t smell much at all. And where do you shower? Well, you have the choice of a very eco-friendly trickle of rainwater out of a bucket or the sea. We opted for the sea most of the time, taking our coconut soap, shampoo and conditioner with us. Although you still feel a bit sticky from the salt water, it’s not too bad but a fresh rainwater shower can’t be beat – if only there was more water!!
Speaking of sea – the water is warm and the snorkelling is fantastic! Most of the Fijian islands are surrounded by coral reefs which are home to an abundance of tropical fish. We saw bright blue ones, yellow ones, black and white striped ones, huge blue starfish, red starfish and a variety of others. Reef shoes are a good idea as the coral and rocks are really harsh on bare feet. The only thing you need to watch out for are the poisonous black and white striped sea snakes. You would only have 6 minutes to live if you got bitten, but their heads and mouths are really tiny and they are not aggressive, so the chances are pretty slim. We saw two, a little baby one and a rather larger one sunning itself on the rocks, neither of which moved when we were nearby.
The Fijians are happy, friendly people, who laugh and joke a lot and enjoy singing and drinking kava – the local “grog” or “muddy water” as we called it. You can hear them singing to the guitar long into the night as they gather round the kava bowl after a hard day’s work. They have not much need for money or material things, living off the land and sea and sharing with everyone in their village.
Being on Vorovoro means integrating with the local tribe (more so than we realized before we went) and learning their culture, courtesy of Tevita (David), who is always willing to teach newcomers. We attended a sevusevu (welcome ceremony) with the chief when we arrived on the island, a tetau (leaving ceremony the night before we left), a blessing by Chief Tui Mali of two of the tribe members who were getting married and the big event - the first year anniversary of Tribewanted on Vorovoro. We learned and performed a number of meke’s (traditional dances) at Nakawaga village on Mali island and during the anniversary celebrations, which were great fun. We also visited the children at the local Mali district school where we played games and made friends. Girls need to cover up their shoulders and guys and girls needs to wear sulus (bought from the local shops for a few dollars) when attending ceremonies or visiting the local villages (not in Labasa though).
There is plenty to do on Vorovoro and there are always on-going projects to get involved in. Building, plaiting palm fronds, collecting and scraping coconuts, working in the gardens, feeding the chickens and helping in the kitchen. My children became proficient at brandishing a masheti (what, no health and safety?), watched two pigs being slaughtered, built a den, had a go at pounding kava, scraped coconuts (and their hands), carved spears for the meke, learnt how to play poker(!) and had a wonderful time playing in the sea, on the boats and in the hammocks. It’s not all work - there was time for a game of football, volleyball and coconut Olympics as well as socialising and drinking Fiji Gold beer or Bounty rum around the fire at night.
So is Vorovoro a tropical paradise island? Tropical – definitely, paradise it may be – the sunsets were stunning, you can see millions of stars at night due to the lack of white light and we even saw a lunar eclipse - but paradise certainly comes with it’s own challenges. We learnt a lot about island life, composting and recycling while we were there and conserving fresh water which I’m sure is a problem on any island. Solar panels and a wind turbine are used for the supply of “green” energy and paraffin lamps light the tribal village at night, however, a torch is still vital. There are also the ants, flies and mosquitoes to contend with, which are minor irritations. Sleeping on hard ground is the norm for any camping trip, so that’s not a problem, but trying to get cool and clean is. Having no TV, computers or DVD’s is a pleasure and the intermittent mobile phone signal is not necessarily a bad thing. Dealing with democracy can be tedious at times, but travelling everywhere by boat is a welcome change compared to being stuck in a traffic jam! A few controversial issues arose regarding the way the Fijians keep the pigs tied up and the sea turtles on their backs before they kill them to eat, but I think, the most annoying thing for me was “Fiji Time”. Nothing ever happens when people say it’s going to and sitting around, waiting for hours in the heat covered with t-shirts and sulus, is not my idea of fun.
I can’t say I was sorry to get back to a decent shower, aircon and a soft bed in the hotel after two weeks, but visiting Vorovoro Island has made more of an impact on my life than I care to admit. Leaving the island is emotional for some, causing men and women to sob as they say “mothe” to the sounds of the farewell song Isa Lei. Have Tribewanted done a good job? Absolutely! It is definitely a very different kind of holiday and an experience never to be forgotten. I don’t think it will ever be what you expect it to be, but my children loved every minute and I smile when I think of the people that we met and the time we spent there. I can’t get the Fijian songs out of my head either which I have been singing for days now. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see any other parts of Fiji, so we will just have to go back there again one day.
In the meantime, vinaka Vorovoro!
13/09/07 News and reviews
Apologies to all for being rather quiet on the blogging front lately. We sailed (not all the way, otherwise we'd still be getting there) away to a tropical island,and only just got back last week. Yes, really, we did! More about that in the next blog.
Well, our second press release went out today - the first one was ages ago when we originally launched the website - so we'll have to wait and see if we get any publicity out of it. You can have a read of it here:-
We also had a fantastic review from Killerstartups.com today which you can read about here. Please spare a minute and vote for us on their website.
16/08/07 Seven month's today
Can you believe it? It has been seven month's since the website went live. Where does the time go? I remember the very first person who registered on the site and the first person who bought some credits. It was so exciting! The amazing thing was how they had managed to find the site in the first place as it had only been up and running for a day or two. The mind boggles that a person on the other side of the world can do a search for something on the Internet and stumble across this website without any marketing or any links on other websites at all. Amazing!
Well, seven month's down the line, things have changed somewhat from when we started out. We've added some features, changed some rules and taken some things out, but as with any other website we want to keep on improving it. A few other changes I've noticed - more grey hair, weight loss, tiredness...!;) I never understood when one of my friends who ran his own business always used to tell me he was exhausted all the time. Now I understand! Let me tell you - anyone who is thinking of starting up a business in their spare time as well as carrying on with a normal job - don't! There are not enough hours in the day to do both, even less when you have children.
Having said that, here I am doing exactly that. And now we are going for the BIG one, a World Record! Well, we always said that your photos would be published in a book - we just never told you that it was going to be the largest book on earth - until now. And you know what, I know it can be done and we will do it. Yes, we will beat the World Record for the largest book on earth and we will get into the Guinness Book of records. Imagine that - knowing that one or some of your photos are published in the largest book on earth. Imagine being able to tell your children and your grandchildren that you were took part in such an enormous global project and helped make history. That would be incredible, wouldn't it?
Well, things are going to be buzzing in the next few weeks as we start to get the word out there about our world record breaking attempt. Hopefully, we'll get some press coverage which will boost things up a bit. Please let us know on the forum if you do see any news articles in case we miss them.
Just got back in the early hours of Sunday morning from a weeks' hols in Turkey. We went to Kusadasi, a bit of a concrete jungle of a resort, I have to say, but the weather was good - actually a bit too hot to even sit in the sun for long. 37 - 38 degrees the whole week, with not a cloud in the sky, just to make all you people in the UK jealous. Yes, we escaped the rain and the floods, thank goodness.
For anyone going there, I can recommend the hotel we stayed in, the Korumar, which was a bit out of town so you don't get woken up by the mosque calling everyone to prayers at 5am, which you would do if you were in the middle of town. The snorkeling was good and the swimming pool is great for kids too - also warm, both about 24 degrees.
The old town has quite an atmosphere at night, with all the shops open 'til late, plenty restaurants, bars and night clubs. The streets have nicknames, for example, Shoe Street, Bar Street, Genuine Fake Street. The Turkish people are quite a laugh as they try really hard to get you to buy something. One shop we went in, the guy said to us "Good evening, how can I take your money?" Well, that just cracked me up. It’s a good place to people watch if you’re sitting having a drink somewhere! The apple tea is good, the Turkish coffee is STRONG, the beer, Efes, is not bad but stay away from the raki, which tastes the same as the Greek drink, Ouzo. Headache material! Of course, you should also try some authentic Turkish Delight while you are there.
Ephesus is 18km from Kusadasi. It was very hot, the day we went there but an interesting place and worth a visit. Some photos of the library attached.
So much for sun and sea……..
Back in the UK and back to the grindstone ;)
10/07/07 A Bit of Background.
So, I've eventually got round to writing a blog. Something I've been meaning to do for the last six months. However, there never seems to be enough hours in the day for everything and it was low on the priority list. Anyway, firstly a bit of background.
"Far away places with strange sounding names.........."
This is how Million Places on Earth started, way back when I was a kid, living in South Africa. I was fascinated by other countries and cities around the world and always wanted to go and see them. We couldn't at the time because my mum couldn't afford the airfares so I had to make do with looking at pictures of places in various books. It wasn't until many years later that I started travelling with the company I worked for at the time. I remember being so excited, the first time I flew to England and Holland when the company sent me for some training courses. I was going to see the places that I'd been reading about for so long. I was hooked.... I got the travel bug! Still have it, as a matter of fact. More about my travels later.
My first camera, a 35mm instamatic something or other. I can't even remember the make or when I got it, it was that long ago! I must have been in primary school because I still have some really horrible photos that I took with it. Well, the camera's have got better and so has my photography over the years, but I am still just an amateur like the rest of you entering this competition.
So who are we....?
Name: Terri Crowther, founder of Million Places on Earth.
Born: South Africa
Lives: Cheshire, UK
Age: Not telling! ;)
Got: 2 children (twins, actually, a boy and a girl)
Occupation: IT consultant, but spend most of my time preoccupied with some crazy and some not so crazy ideas.
Love: Travel and taking photos (goes without saying really)
Claim to Fame: Completing the 3 Peaks Challenge in July 2004. For those that don't know, it is a charity race where you have to climb all 3 highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours. And I did it!
Of course, there's many more people behind the scenes without which this record breaking attempt and competition would not be possible.