I won a travel contest! Wait, really?

It's true. I won a travel-photo contest, and I'm going to Mumbai in early 2015. 

But real people don't ACTUALLY win these things, right? Winners of sweepstakes, lotteries, and international contests live on page 6 of the newspaper, in blurbs in your sidebar, and as yokels with stupid faces in your newsfeed. No one REALLY knows these surely fictitious winners...

Well, I guess I'm the yokel with the stupid face this time.

First, let me make one thing clear: I'm not a professional photographer. I don't even consider myself a particularly good taker-of-pictures. I have far too many friends who do that professionally, and I wouldn't want to sully the reputation of their craft by tossing my name alongside theirs. 

Still, a couple of months ago - back in October, I think - I was editing some photos and cruising the internet for inspiration, and I happened across this Lufthansa #NetworkingTheWorld contest. I gave it a quick once-over and learned all I had to do was hashtag an Instagram photo of a "world destination" along with some words for context.

Easy! I had hundreds of photos from my recently completed bike trip already published to Instagram, so all I had to do was hashtag those pics and make sure they each had an adequate caption. I did it, and then, I forgot all about it.

About a month later, I opened an email from Lufthansa telling me I was one of 50 finalists from a field of more than 5500. The email itself made me laugh:

I laughed, because apparently this was the "serious journalistic talent" that catapulted me to the final round:

"I camped on the Salar de Uyuni itself for two nights, and camped for two others on its shores or nearby. They were some of the most memorable places I've ever pitched my tent.
It's dead silent up here, with just the wind and the sound of my bike to keep my mind company. And the nights are cold; I wake up every morning to frozen water bottles. Still, the stars are the best I've ever seen, with absolutely 0 light pollution for hundreds of miles."

I am self-deprecating by nature, but I certainly didn't expect this photo - which actually isn't a photo at all, but rather an overexposed video still that I pulled when putting together a short movie - to garner any sort of acclaim. But I wasn't complaining.

I still had no silly hope that I'd win the contest. There was no way I was going to beat out all (well, technically 45) of the other contestants, some of whom appeared to be seriously talented photographers and journalists (although, to be fair, at least a handful seemed to be run-of-the-mill photographers with limited aesthetic sensibility. I'd at least place ahead of them, I thought).

The Lufthansa email went on to state that I'd need to submit 5 more photos OR one 50-second video  that "captures the vastness of the world, the uniqueness of the people there, and the spirit of Lufthansa Cargo, a company which brings it all together, connecting the peoples and places," in addition to 500 words of text explaining my entry. Oh. Ok. Sure.

I immediately made the decision to create a video instead of submitting 5 more photos, even if 50 seconds was pretty limiting. It's way easier to cram more visual appeal and a more, um, pandering concept  into a 50 second video than it is in 5 photos, and I knew I needed to make my entry memorable after only one viewing. Dress to impress, or whatever.

So, even though I had never used iMovie before (I have a pretty rudimentary PC laptop - shit's expensive, man), my friend Echo let me spend a night with her MacBook to edit this together:

It's a pretty cheesy video, most certainly. But I knew I wasn't entering a contest with a seriously discerning set of artistic criteria (it was through an airline, after all). I was betting that the sentimental storyline in a genuine context would make more of a difference than an objectively beautiful set of photos or video clips with limited relative context.

Turns out, I was right:

So, I'm going to India in January. Lufthansa is paying for my flight and accomodations (with a likely overnight and ensuing brunch in Frankfurt on the way), and I'll spend several days in Mumbai as the guest of the local Lufthansa station. I'll likely take a few more days to explore while I'm there - I'd love to take a long train ride to another Indian city - and then fly home for free as part of the prize package.

I'll keep you posted.