I was fortunate to be invited to attend Conde’ Nast Traveler‘s 25th anniversary gala honoring 12 visionaries who work to make the world a better place, and also presenting their World Savers Awards to travel companies that combine social work of a variety of kinds with their hospitality efforts.
I imagine the invite was extended because I’ve been on Conde’ Nast‘s list of world’s top travel specialists (for my award booking service) since 2010.
Wendy Perrin further invited me to the VIP reception. Unfortunately my flight’s diversion to Connecticut due to insufficient fuel meant that I wouldn’t make it for the VIP event or even cocktails before the start of the evening’s ceremonies. And by the time I arrived, the place was packed.
So I got only the briefest glimpses of Olivia Wilde, Richard Branson, and Susan Sarandon before the event.
I admit I didn’t know who Olivia Wilde was, I guess I’ve seen her on House and had no idea she was PETA’s sexiest vegetarian celebrity in 2010.
The honored Visionaries had some really incredible stories. Some I didn’t connect with at all, though.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is certainly well-traveled. She wasn’t present, Chris Matthews offered the salute to her and I didn’t walk away with an understanding of her contributions (which isn’t a comment on those contributions, just that I didn’t really get the case from Matthews’ presentation).
And as far as I could tell, Mayor Bloomberg travels to lots of conferences around the world and “makes progress” and says it’s really important to “lead.”
Those two fell flat, but perhaps only in contrast to some of the amazing stories that were heard.
Adrien Grenier introduced the founder of Water.org (Gary White, not Matt Damon!).
Richard Branson is just incredibly cool, though he seemed a bit too unscripted.
Perhaps most powerful to me was Susan Sarandon’s introduction of Somaly Mam whose organization helps rescue girls from sexual slavery in Cambodia. Appearing with them was one of the girls who had been rescued, telling her story. Incredibly powerful stuff.
The reception after the event was impressive, with plenty of food and drink to be had.
I got to meet not just some of the award winners but also some of the Conde’ Nast staff that I hadn’t connected with in the past, such as the online team (that publishes posts of mine over at their Daily Traveler site. And I even bumped into The Points Guy.
The visionaries winners had been invited to design globes, which were being auctioned off for charity.
I admit I had a momentary thought of buying the Richard Branson globe.
But it was fetching the highest price — way too rich for me, even with the proceeds going to good causes. So I had to be satisfied with a fun and inspiring evening as my souvenir.