Passports with Purpose raises $13,000 to build school in Cambodia

One of the most difficult parts of travel is visiting a less-developed country, seeing a need, and wishing there was something you can do to help fill it. So four travel bloggers from the Seattle area got together and decided to raise some money and put it to use on a particular project. This year, that project is building a school in Cambodia, and they’ve been joined by over 50 additional travel writers, bloggers and travel websites in raising the funds.

The effort, dubbed “Passports with Purpose” started with a goal to raise $13,000 by December 21. But they weren’t just asking for donations out of the goodness of your heart – those who contribute will be entered to win in drawings for some pretty cool prizes like Flip cameras, Shutterfly gift cards, travel gear, and even free stays at hotels around the world. Each entry costs $10 and you can enter to win the drawing for the prize of your choice. Each prize will be valued at $75 or more.

As of yesterday, the group met their $13,000 goal, but rather than stop there they’ve decided to go even bigger. Now they’ll try to raise an additional $13,000 to staff the school with a nurse, install a water filer, and plant a vegetable garden.

The deadline to donate and win a prize closes December 21 and winners will be announced on January 5. All proceeds from the entries will go directly to American Assistance for Cambodia, an independent nonprofit organization formed in 1993, which works with the Cambodian government to build school in rural villages.

The Galavanting Girls help the children of Roatan

Travel writer, founder of The Galavanting Girls, and creator of the Travel Blog Exchange conference, Kim Mance will soon be setting off on a cruise to visit, among other places, the island of Roatan in Honduras. Rather than spend her time in port sunning on the beautiful West Bay or browsing the new shops at the Port of Roatan, Kim and her crew decided to do something a little more constructive with their time.

While their Princess Cruises ship is in port on November 11, Kim and the other Galavanting Girls will head to Elfrida Brooks School in the area’s capital city of Coxen Hole. Honduras is the second-poorest Caribbean nation (behind only Haiti) and the school, which educates 180 children, is desperately in need of funding.

The Galavanting Girls will be spending the day at the school and dropping off supplies they’ve rounded up. They’re also taking online donations, as little as $5 per person, through the Roatan Children’s Fund on the secure First Giving website. The Girls have already raised $550 for the project, more than double the goal. They’ll be videotaping their visit to the school and will post the footage on their website after November 11.

Geography lessons: Can you draw a map of the U.S. as well as Al Franken?

Watching Minnesota senator Al Franken draw a map of the United States reminded me of 7th grade. Back then at Olympia Jr. High in Columbia, South Carolina, I had one of those social studies teachers who handed out blank pieces of paper and had us draw a map with every new unit. Perhaps you, Gadling reader, learned geography in a similar fashion.

For example, if we were going to study Europe, we would open our books to the map of Europe and replicate it as best we could. Countries were to be drawn to scale, colored a different color than the ones they bordered, and include major mountain chains and bodies of water. By the end of the year, the world had become a grand kaleidoscope that I could picture with my eyes closed.

Even though I’ve traveled to many of the places I’ve drawn, I couldn’t replicate those maps from scratch–not without looking at a picture at the same time. Can you? Al Franken can.

Senator Franken can draw the United States like nobody’s business. He showed off this talent at the Minnesota State Fair this summer. I wonder who his social studies teacher was? I’m impressed. Watch to see what I mean. . .

Twitter to win free MatadorU tuition

Last month, Brenda announced the Matador Network’s new travel writing curriculum, Matador U. The 12-week course is geared towards travel writers at all levels in their careers, from those who are just dreaming of a getting their first piece published to writers with years of experience.

The course covers topics like crafting the perfect pitch letter, using social media to promote your work, honing your voice, working with editors and going on press trips. Students also have access to exclusive market leads and forums where they can discuss what they are learning with other students. I’m on week two of the class and finding it to be very helpful and motivating.

The course isn’t cheap at $225 (for the first 100 students, then it goes up to $350) but if you can’t quite afford it, you may still be able to participate. Every month, Matador will award free tuition to one of its Twitter followers. The rules are simple. Just follow @MatadorNetwork and send them a tweet saying you want to win free tuition. If you are selected, they’ll contact you with details on how to register for the course free of charge. If you’ve ever considered a career as a travel writer, or if you are already getting published and want to move to the next level, here’s your chance to take the course for free.

Galley Gossip: Interview with a flight attendant – ME!

Dear Heather,

I know this is really random and weird, but I’m a Jr in high school and we were given an assignment to write a research paper over a job that we would like to do once we graduate and I have become very interested in becoming a flight attendant. Anyway part of the assignment is to interview someone that does the job we would like to do. It’s been very hard trying to find someone that is a flight attendant. Well I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions…

  1. How long have you been working at your job
  2. What kind of training/education is required to do your job
  3. Is college or a vocational school needed to prepare for this job?
  4. How have the things learned in school helped when beginning this line of work?
  5. What do you like most about your job?
  6. What do you like least about your job?
  7. What advice would you give a student that is interested in doing what you do?
Thanks for your time,


Dear Lacy,

I’d love to help you with your research paper and thank you for including me. When you’re finished, can I take a peek at what you wrote? Oh and if you, or anyone else, have any other questions please feel free to ask!

How long have you been working at your job: I’ve been working for a major US carrier for fourteen years. Before I began working for my current employer, I worked three months for a low cost carrier called Sun Jet International Airlines, an airline that is no longer in business. I’ve even done a little corporate flying on a GV (gulfstream) owned by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, which was actually purchased over the internet for $41 million, the largest internet purchase ever made. Talk about an amazing experience. My jumpseat alone was something to write home about.

What kind of training / education is required to do your job: It depends on the airline. However, I do not know many flight attendants who do not have a college education. Even with a 30% pay cut, longer duty days, and shorter layovers, all of which happened after 9/11, the job is still a highly competitive one to obtain. That means if you want to work for a major carrier your best bet is to go to college and get a degree.

Besides a college education, airlines are also looking for people who have good customer service skills. Remember, you will be dealing with people, all kinds of people and lots of them for up to 14 hours a day, and most of these people are not happy and want to tell you all about it. It’s important that you have the right kind of personality to handle this kind of job. Even people with the right personality can lose a little patience after a long duty day. Being flexible is also a must in the airline industry, as flights cancel and schedules change. And keep in mind, you probably won’t be based where you live now.

As for training the airline will provide, it was the longest seven and a half weeks of my life. It’s not that it was hard, because it’s really not, but there’s a lot of information to retain in a very short period of time. In training we learned everything from how to evacuate a smoke filled cabin to how to handle a “gassy” passenger without insulting them.

Trust me, it’s not all about doing a drink service. Things do happen in flight. Just a few months ago I walked out of the business class galley with a tray full of drinks and noticed the entire business class cabin had turned around in their seats, all eyes on me. That’s when I spotted the unconscious young lady lying on the floor. No one had moved a muscle. Immediately I went into action. Fortunately flight attendant training prepares you for anything and everything. Though I must admit I was completely unprepared once while working a Sun Jet flight when a passenger complained to me because she didn’t get a blueberry muffin inflight due to the fact that the flight diverted because of smoke in the cabin. Ya see, this is one of those times when customer service skills come in handy.

Is college or a vocational school needed to prepare for this job: I wouldn’t say it’s required, but as I mentioned above, the more educated you are the better your chances at getting hired, especially if you want to work for a major carrier. So if you have the opportunity to go to college, by all means go! If you are thinking about a vocational school, do it! I can’t tell you how many flight attendants I know who are trained in therapy and nursing. It’s just smart to have a backup plan in life, because even if you do get hired to work for an airline you never know what’s going to happen in the future. Airlines are struggling just to stay afloat in our weak economy and each month a different airline seems to be going out of business.

If for whatever reason college is not in the cards for you, don’t give up. Get experience! Customer service experience is what you’ll need, and you’ll need a lot of it! Try waiting tables (even if you are going to school), but not just at any restaurant, a nice restaurant. Years ago when I interviewed to work as a corporate flight attendant for a company called Million Air out of Dallas, I was asked about my experience with first class service. At the time I had none. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Oh sure I waited tables in college, but that was at a hole in the wall dive, so that didn’t quite count. Probably explains why I didn’t get hired. I’m sure the canary yellow suit I wore to interview in that day didn’t help matters, either.

Speaking other languages always helps, too. Airlines love to hire bilingual employees. Just the other day I saw that a major US carrier is currently hiring ONLY flight attendants that can speak Mandarin Chinese. Those who speak Mandarin Chinese do not need more than a high school education to apply.

How have the things learned in school helped when beginning this line of work: Honestly, I can’t think of one thing that I learned in school that did not somehow help me later on in life as a flight attendant, or any other job that I’ve held. Just going to school, for one thing, is an education in itself. You are multi-tasking, learning how to deal with different people, handling responsibility, while studying and learning new things every day. Trust me when I tell you that airline training is not easy. There’s a lot of information coming at you at once, so the better you are in school, the better off you’ll be in flight attendant training.

While most days you won’t be handling onboard emergencies, thank goodness, the majority of your time will be spent dealing with passengers, and that includes passengers who have problems. A flight attendant has to be able to communicate not only with the mother and child in coach, but also the CEO of a very large company sitting in first class. That means you have to be knowledgeable and up to date on current events, as well as what’s going on in the aviation industry.

What do you like most about your job? What I like most about my job changes every few years. In my early twenties all the days off seemed to be the best thing about my job. Back then I worked about 12 days a month. That’s it. As I began to make more money, it was traveling (for free!) that I began to love. There’s nothing like flying to Paris in first class on a whim. Now that I’m married (to a man who flies over 100,000 miles a year) and have a two-year old son at home, I have to say it’s the flexibility of the job that I love most. When my husband is out of town, I can stay home and take care of my son. If the husband has to go away on business to…let’s say…Japan, my son and I can go along with him. If I want to make a little extra cash for the holiday season, I can pick up extra trips from other flight attendants.

What do you like least about your job? Reserve. Because everything is based on company seniority, reserve flight attendants are the most junior flight attendants at each airline. When you’re on reserve you have no life. Except for a few known days off, you do not have a schedule, which means you’re at the beckon call of the airline – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until your official day off. Thank goodness I’m no longer on reserve. But that can always change. So now that I’m holding off reserve, I have to say that working holidays is what I like least about my job. Yes, I will be working Christmas day. Luckily I was able to drop my trip on Christmas eve.

What advice would you give a student that is interested in doing what you do? Finish your education and if you still want to be a flight attendant apply! Then, when you get called for an interview, make sure to read my blog so that you know exactly what you’re getting into, and talk a lot about customer service. Oh and whatever you do, do not wear a canary yellow suit. Think blue. Navy blue.

Hope that helps,

Heather Poole


Photos courtesy of Heather Poole (yeah, that’s me!)