In 2013 ...

Earthwatch Amazon Riverboat Expedition -- $5000 Travelocity Grant Contest


 I spent 2.5 years as a field biologist and absolutely loved it. However, this work was seasonal and paid very little (think $900/mo or free if you volunteer). Naturally, I knew I needed to find a "real" job some day so I was constantly scouring online career postings from different environmentally related institutes I had heard about. Earthwatch was one such institute that I would regularly stalk. One day I saw a small link on their website for $5000 grants to participate in an Earthwatch expedition awarded by Travelocity so I clicked on it.  Travel for Good grants given by Travelocity ?? 

There were 8 signature trips that you could apply for and one of them pulled at my heart strings:

Amazon Riverboat Exploration. Iquitos, Peru
$3,895. 14 days

Help Dr. Richard Bodmer conserve the Amazon Basin's pink dolphins, giant river otters, monkeys, turtles, fish, and macaws and contribute to sustainable management strategies. Volunteers will live aboard the Ayapua, a restored boat from the Rubber Boom era, and work with a team of skilled Peruvian biologists to collect information about the wildlife populations in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, along the Samiria River, a major Amazon tributary. 

Normally there would be NO WAY I would pay $4000 to do a 14 day expedition into the jungle. Who can afford that?!?! I'll tell you who: 60 and 70 year olds, because those were the other voluntourists I was on the boat with...
 ...but at this moment the opportunity seemed possible so I looked more into what was required to apply for this grant.

Upload a 2-minute video explaining which Signature Trip from Travelocity's voluntourism partners inspires you, your previous experience relating to the trip, and why you deserve to win.Upload your video, get your friends and family to vote, show us your passion and you could win! 

Two-minute video and you get $5000?!?!? That's NOTHING! Of course I immediately set out to create a montage of photos and experiences to show them my intense passion for field biology. Who could BE more passionate than I?! I even had the perfect background song by an actual Andean band: Quichua Mashis. I had never used video editing software before but luckily iMovie was very user friendly.

I uploaded my video and started promoting the link like crazy. Friends and family could click the "YES" button from one I.P. address per day. I discovered my iPhone could 'vote' more than once a day with every cell tower it switched to as I traveled around the city. I bugged the crap out of my friends. Constantly reminding them. Emailing them. Facebooking them. to vote from every possible device they could get their hands on. For TWO months I harassed them.

There were 75 other videos entered (for any of the 8 trips) and only FOUR of them would win. First I had to get past the first round. If all the voting put me in the top 25 videos then the 4 winners from those top 25 finalists would be determined by Travelocity employees based on 50 percent audience support and 50 percent quality of their videos.

I held my breath. Two months of voting later I saw I was in the top 10 best videos!!! My hopes were HIGH. The voting round closed and now we waiting in nail-biting anticipation for the 4 winners to be announced. I was SURE I would  get it. Waiting....waiting.... The results are in!

I didn't win.

I was incredibly bummed! It was an easy contest and I had a great shot at it. I moped around for a couple of days and then realized that there were TWO CYCLES A YEAR! and they strongly suggested people re-enter, even with the same videos! I debated editing mine. Nah. I waited until the second cycle and saw that this time there were only 40 contestants. My chances would be TWICE as good! I had 2 weeks left in the voting round so I quickly re-uploaded my video.

In 2 weeks I amazingly managed to harass my friends and family enough to get into the top 25 videos and make it to the panel of the judgmental Travelocity employees' eyes.  On January 2 I opened what I thought was a spam email in my inbox. CONGRATULATIONS YOU WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I cried. Joyous tears. I'm GOING TO THE AMAZON!!!!!!!!!!!

Watch my contest video below:

I uploaded all the photos of my trip to Facebook so I suppose that is the best way for you to view more photos:
Photo Album 1:
Photo Album 2:
Photo Album 3: 

Read more about Dr. Richard Bodmer and his research here.

Read more about Earthwatch here .

Peruvian Biologists (~22 years old)

Glam night on the boat. I am a GIANT compared to these petite girls

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