February 25, 2015, around 11 PM
I walk to the end of an unfamiliar terminal in LAX to board a plane to Mexico. The destination is the first on a 45 day trip all the way around the world. The organization sending me on this venture is Youth For Human Rights International. A non-profit founded with the self stated purpose:
"To teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspire them to become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace."
The founder of Youth For Human Rights International (We'll call it YHRI) has made a tour around the world every year for the past 11, spreading the knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to scholars, governments, learning institutions, and most importantly students. And every year, they bring a photographer to document it all. Every moment.
I've been given numerous warnings from previous travelers on this trip, people involved in the tour and even the founder herself that it is easy nor comfortable, that sleep is a luxury and meals an ever-changing and always new experience.
But I've also been told stories of adventure.
Stories of exploring firefly filled clearings in the quiet of night while wandering a Taiwanese mountainside. Stories of abandoning luggage and narrow escapes from foreign lands. I'v been shown images of South Native American chiefs, eyes deep with knowledge dating back through the ages. Images of beautiful Russian architecture, alone in the early hours of the morning, kissed by the sunlight. And I've been told other stories.
Stories of aide and humanity. Of teaching and progress. Of arming masses of interested youth, from children in primary school and young adults, grade school to college classes. Arming them with information. Arming them with their human rights.
This did not seem like an opportunity that would be wise to pass up.
the planning has been done, I've researched the countries, and my bags have more in them than they should be able to fit. Including, but not in total:
- Enough camera gear to cripple a healthy young man
- A mini tripod stuffed into my suitcase
- a small arsenal of lighting gear with lights and stands
- chargers of every type and size. Computer, phone, camera batteries, international adapters, etc.
- a shaving kit with what I hope are enough supplies to last a month and a half.
- 30 instant coffees from Starbucks
- a laptop and hard drives to store every photo and video on, hidden in my camera bag
- 4-6 usable outfits, all black.
And a journal.
So I hand the stewardess my ticket, board the plane and find my seat. After a short battle with my luggage to get it into the overhead bin, I settle into my seat and pretend to sleep, wondering what will happen in Mexico.