Crab-like I crawl out of my airplane seat and shake my legs in hopes that some feeling will return. Carefully, I pick my way past the sleeping passengers to the foot wide space between the two cabins. My friend and reader, Leslie, who had flown long-haul flights on Pan-Am, had reminded me to look out at the stars for they would shine so bright and yes, I could see that they were indeed glittering beacons of the holiday season calling to me...and yet...it is four and a half hours into the flight and we are suspended over the middle of the ocean. Half of my heart is reaching towards the tearful smiles that I shared with my family in parting and the other is longing for the joyful one that will be on Remi's face as I descend the escalator in Marseille to welcome me home. Love lies in both directions and it is keeping me warm.
In this quiet space, thoughts sift like snow.
I sip water from a plastic cup, shivering as the ice cubes clink against my teeth. I try to stretch into a bit of yoga as inconspicuously as possible. There is so much time to think. Wonderful memories of my visit to the United States play on repeat, all filled with such kindness and generosity of spirit. Actually, I realize, that is what struck me the most on this particular trip. The willingness to give. From my Mom's quick pecks to Ellen DeGeneres' instant life-changers to Middle School cheerleaders dancing in front of the grocery store for the Salvation Army on a Saturday afternoon.
All the essence of wonderful.
That is why I was so thrilled when Julie Mautner from The Provence Post contacted me a few weeks back asking if I was interested in contributing to a project for charity that she was working on. I immediately said yes for if Julie was involved, I knew it had to be very worthwhile.
Previously, during a road trip to Montpellier for a blogger's lunch, she had mentioned Passports with Purpose, a grass-roots charity initiative formed to both bring together the travel blogging community and help those in need. Amongst other goals, they had raised $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia and over $64,000 to build an entire village in India! This year, Passports with a Purpose is hoping to raise $100,000 for the fantastic organization Water.org (co-founded by actor Matt Damon) in order to build five wells for two communities in Haiti, where many areas have still not recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Each travel blogger that is participating in the fundraiser has offered a prize and Julie's is truly exceptional, not to mention that it is the most valuable of the bunch with a total worth of $4700! I almost think that you have to be from Provence to understand how incredible it is for she has created a week here of unforgettable experiences. No one can say no to Julie and no one did. This is your chance to experience la crème de la crème of Provence, including a stay at one of the luxury villas in "Provence Paradise" outside of St. Remy, meals at the most exclusive restaurants of the region, wine tasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a market visit in Aix-en-Provence, massages and more. For my part, I will be delighted to take the winner and their guests on my three-hour "Get Lost With Me" walking tour through the heart of Arles. Remi is donating a small print to be chosen by the winner from the Nature & Cultures collection, which includes many lovely photographs of Provence. To discover the details of how to "Win a Glorious Week in Provence" and to learn more about the involved groups, please see Julie's post here. It goes without saying that Remi and I are both extremely proud to be participating in such fine company for such a worthy cause.
What is especially wonderful is that it only costs a $10 donation to enter for each prize. To do so click here and enter as many times as you like! Julie's week is in the "Other" category but there is a lot on offer, including clothing, electronics, dinners and hotel stays all over the world. For those of you here in France, just think of what a phenomenal gift you could offer to friends and family if you win--I know that I will be trying my best! And for those who do not have $10 to spare (and I understand what that feels like), would you consider posting about this event on Facebook and Twitter? Because here is the catch, there is only ONE WEEK left to enter! December 11th will be here before you know it.
While I could have told you about this a little bit earlier (and would not have been in such a jet-lagged state to do so), I wanted to wait until today as this is my contribution to the By Invitation Only International Blog party. You see, I want as many people to hear about this wonderful project as possible. This month's theme is "Christmas" and while the initial directive was to either describe one of your favorites from the past or present your version of a perfect fantasy, I chose to focus on the additional question of "What one tangible gift would you give?"
In my travels, I have seen the power of water in both its presence and absence. It is the stuff that we are made of and none of us can survive without it. So please, will you consider helping to give the Gift of Life? I believe in us. I believe in the power of generosity. We can make a difference. Let's end the year by sharing the best of who we are.
Photo ©Remi Benali
Julie's Post with all of the details of this incredible trip!
To donate to Passports with Purpose
An excellent short video about the program, sponsored by Expedia
Blog on why Haiti needs help with Water.org video
Passports with Purpose on Facebook
Passports with Purpose on Twitter
Please spread the word!
I have included some unpublished photos that I have taken here in Provence to tempt you. And yes, if one of you take away this amazing prize, I promise to bring Ben along for the tour and will toast you with a glass of wine (or two) at the end...
To read the other entries for this month's By Invitation Only, please see the lovely Marsha's Splenderosa, here.