Thursday, July 21, 2011

See you at the Airport

Last night was our Commissioning Mass for our WYD pilgrims. Given that this was the last time that we would see many of the pilgrims before the airport, I finished many conversations with "see you at the airport". Many WYD pilgrims will be traveling overseas for the first time and so it might be important to look at a few basics about international airports.

Whilst there are many travel tips we could give you, the most important travel tip is about time. Here a four issues that you need to know about time when traveling overseas:
  1. 24 hour time: when you travel across time zones it is hard to juggle between am and pm so airlines use 24 hour time. A 3:15pm departure time would be 1515hrs. The afternoon times are 12 plus what the "pm" time is. So 3:15pm is 3:15 + 12 = 15:15. In 24 time it is always listed as "hundred hours" so it make it 1515hrs.
  2. Check in time: when you are checking into an international flight they advise people to check in 3 hours ahead of departure time, which we get to shortly. This means that you should aim to be at the check in desk three hours before your flight time. Sometimes the check in desk is open four hours before the flight but many check in desks close 60-90 minutes before departure time, so don't be late.
  3. Boarding time: some people miss their flights because they keep thinking about departure time, not boarding time. Boarding time is the time that the airline will ask you to board the aircraft so that it can depart at the correct time. Boarding will begin about 40 minutes before the departure time. If you are seated at the back of the plan you will board first. Some airlines board the back of the plane earlier so watch the TV screens around the airport for the boarding call. Please be aware that boarding will close well before departure time. Once the boarding has closed, the TV screens will display "gate closed" for the boarding gate.
  4. Departure time: this is the time the aircraft will depart the airport. If things are going well the aircraft will depart the terminal or gate on time so that it make it's take off window. If a few passengers have held up the flight then the departure time will be later, but don't count on it.
The importance of time is remembering which time you are meant to follow, is it check in time, boarding time or departure time. Getting your times wrong could be a very expensive exercise for the international pilgrim.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Daily Scripture reading

Pope Benedict in his Post Synod Exhortation said that the Word of God should be at the heart of every ecclesial activity.  Meaning that we should read, reflect, ponder, meditate and soak in the Word of God every day.  The best way to do this is to read the Bible/Scriptures every day.  Whilst some of us may be familiar with this style of daily devotion, it is not something that all of us are used to.  

In a previous post we looked at Good habits on a WYD pilgrimage.  Perhaps daily scripture could be one of the new habits that you pick up on your WYD pilgrimage.  However when most people start reading their bible they play a game of "flick to a random page and read".  Perhaps you need to be a little more planned that than.  Pick a book of the bible and work your way through it a chapter per day.  The book of Acts is a great place to start as you read about the birth of the early Church.

After reading the Chapter of the Bible here is a simple tool to process what you have read:

  1. Scripture: read the scripture through once more
  2. Observation: highlight the things that strike you, the elements that speak to you.  What words jump out to you as you read?  What links can you make with other scripture passages.
  3. Application: what does this passage mean for your life at the moment?  Ask God "what are you saying to me through this passage of scripture".  Write down any areas in life where this passage could strengthen you.
  4. Prayer: turn the experience into a prayer, perhaps ask for the courage to implement what you just read. This final step is important or else it can just been a task that you "get done" in your day.  The prayer element turns the word on the page to the "Words of God".
You will notice that these four steps make the word SOAP.  It is an easy formula to remember each day.  Perhaps you can start by writing your reflections in your journal and soon you will be able to do the entire exercise as a prayer with writing it down.

What is your daily reading advice?  Leave a comment about where you encourage people to begin their daily reading or perhaps share a favourite passage with our readers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Aussie gifts for WYD hosts

Many WYD pilgrims will be buying a few gifts to give away at WYD. Whilst many cheap gifts are made in china, it is possible to give away something made in Australia. Perhaps it might not be possible to buy cheap give aways that are made in Australia but if you are giving away one special present to a host parish or home stay family consider buying Australian made.

Australia Geographic stores have a great range of Australian made products. They have hand made leather items that look like Australian animals. They have a range of books that might make a good coffee table book. They have a selection of wood products but they might be difficult to get into another country. They also have a range of aboriginal art works that have the artists details on the back.

Be careful about what you purchase that looks like aboriginal artwork. It is important that any art work you buy has come from an Australian source. It may not hand made, it may be a mass produced piece that gives royalties to the artist. It wouldn't be appropriate to give away fake aboriginal artwork mass produced in china.

Do you have any advice on where to buy good Australian gifts? What will you be taking overseas to give away? please leave a comment so that you can help other pilgrims.

Check in Tomorrow, we will do a post on the rules of pin trading.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't forget the Radio

It was a small $10 radio that saved our WYD 2000 experience.  Our group was miles, literally, from the altar at the final Mass of WYD 2000 in Rome.  We walked for 30 minutes towards the main stage and we weren't even close to the stage.  We had no direct view of any large screens and JPII was a small white dot on the horizon.  We only knew that the Pope had arrived when the crowd cheered "JPII, we love you".

It was a small $10 radio that helped us to pick up the sound system at the main WYD events.  We were able to participate in all the events and hear the Pope's address.  The other advantage of the radio was that we could receive the english translation of the main events which were in Italian. 

In 2011 the humble radio has almost become an antique with iPhones and iPods ruling the music world. Yet this simple technology, old school, could make all the difference to hearing or not hearing the main events.  So my advice is to head to your local electronic store and spend a small amount of money on a small AM/FM radio.  This will help you to participate in the main liturgies and events at WYD. 

If you are feeling really generous then perhaps you could splash out on a small pair of speakers so that you can share the sound with the people around you rather than having to all plug the ear phones in.  Perhaps you can team up with someone, they can buy/carry the radio and you can buy/carry the speakers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Group Photos whilst at WYD

In the other day, when cameras only had film, everyone wanted the group photo to be taken with their camera.  So a group would line up for a group shot and then someone would take about 30 photos on 30 different cameras.  People wanted the group shot on their camera so that they had a copy of the group shot when they got home.

You would think that the invention of the digital camera would have changed all of this, because people can share a file electronically.  Yet you still experience the line of cameras for group shots even though every camera is digital.  It is much simpler to have one person take all the group shots and load them to a central location for others to access.  Before you start you pilgrimage make plan for this so that you have it ready when group shots start.  Have a group Picasa account or Flickr account to load all the photos to.

Broken Bay pilgrim gift bags

Check out the contents of the Broken Bay pilgrim gift bags.

If you are joining the Diocese of Broken Bay for the Saints and Mystics pilgrimage then you will recieve this gift bag at our Commissioning Mass.  If you are not traveling with the Diocese then have you packed these items for yourself:
  1. Water bottle - you will be drinking so much water at WYD that you need a water bottle that you can refill as you need to.
  2. Hat - it doesn't have to look cool it just has to keep the sun off you from all different angles.
  3. Swap Pins - you might not be into swapping pins back home but it is a great bridge builder at WYD to be able swap pins with someone.  Take a mix of pins with you, kangaroos are a well loved pin.
  4. WYD Journal - this is a great way to capture your thoughts as you travel.
  5. Bag tags - there are so many occasions where your bag will be one of many so have a bag tag that you can recognise.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Five awards to give out on Pilgrimage

"The Oscar for best actor in a movie goes to ...."  The Oscars is one award ceremony that many people watch because they know the actors receiving the awards, at least we have seen their movies.  Yet on a WYD pilgrimage we don't want to give out awards for acting, we want people to be real.  So it got me thinking about the types of behaviour that should be rewarded on a WYD pilgrimage. 

Here are the top five awards for roles on a WYD pilgrimage:
  1. The Gracious person: this award is given to the person that shows the most Grace.  It is the person who is able to take any situation and show how God was using that situation to talk to people.  It is the person who response to others in a way that reflects how God would treat people.  This award should be given with honour to the person who shows the Grace of God in everything they do.
  2. The Affirming person: this award is given to the person who is always building others up.  It is the person who is encouraging others to keep going when they feel like giving up.  It is the person who always notices the good qualities rather than what went wrong.  It is the person who says "that's what I like about you".  This award should be given with honour to the person who shows others how much God loves them.
  3. The Humble servant: this award is given to the person who is always putting the needs of the group before their own.  It for the person who helps clean up the meals area when everyone else goes out for the day.  It is for the person who always chips in to help unload bags from the bus.  It is for the person who sees it as a privilege to serve rather than to be served..  This award should be given with honour to the person who washes the feet of others like Jesus did.
  4. The Peacemaker: this award is given to the person who is able to keep the peace in the pilgrimage group.  It is the person who can help people reconcile any differences that may arise.  It the person who can keep the mood of the group positive.  This award should be given with honour to the person who bring a group closer to God through sharing peace.
  5. The Good Samaritan: this award is given to the person who goes out of their way to make a difference to someone outside the pilgrimage group.  It is the person who helps out someone they don't know.  It is easier to be nice to your pilgrimage group than to a complete stranger.  This award should be given with honour to the person who helps the stranger.
Some people might be thinking that we shouldn't give out any awards on a pilgrimage, perhaps remember Romans 12:10 "love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour."  Others might be thinking that everyone should be able to receive all of these awards, well give out as many awards as there are people deserving.  The positive side of giving out awards is that is reminds people of the behaviour we want on pilgrimage rather than enforcing a set of rules.

Last thing to remember is that in every thing we do, the Glory goes to God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does your bank know your travelling to WYD?

Does your bank know that you are travelling to WYD?  Don't tell them so that you can get extra credit cards but so they don't cancel your current cards whilst you are overseas.  Here are a few tips about handling money whilst you are overseas:

  1. Tell you bank where you are going: many banks will shut down a credit card if the card is used in a different country to where the card was issued.  The last thing you need on your WYD pilgrimage is for your cards to be cancelled as a security measure.  Inform your local branch that you are travelling overseas so they can add it to their records.
  2. Get a travel card: whilst you might take you normal bank cards it is wise to put some money on a Cash passport travel card.  Some of the banks allow you to buy another card from them that is not linked to your account, that way if you have you travel card stolen or lost then people can't access all your other accounts.  You can usually use internet banking to add more money to you travel card.  Many travel cards save you on conversion charges too.
  3. Don't bank at an internet cafe: whilst you might link to skype back home or check emails on a computer in an internet cafe it may not be the safest option for internet banking.  It is hard to trust computers that you don't know with your banking details. If you need to use internet banking then you could borrow a computer from a friend, use a smart phone on wifi or call someone you trust at home to jump online for you.
  4. Don't use an ATM for small amounts: many ATM's overseas will charge you a usage fee and a currency conversion fee.  So it is important to take a larger sum of money less frequently rather than smaller amounts every day.  Back at home you may withdraw $20 from an ATM, but overseas that same transaction will cost you a $2.50 usage fee and a currency conversion fee.
  5. Cash:  It is helpful to have cash to pay for items at the airports while travelling.  You should take some Euros with you on the plane so that you can buy something before you get to an ATM.  If you are carrying several hundred euros then split it up amongst your wallet, your day pack and your luggage, if one gets stolen you haven't lost all your cash.
What are your travelling tips?  Could you share a story with other readers in the comment section that could help us all learn how to be safer with our money when travelling?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing a great WYD blog

The explosion in social networking and blogging over the last 5-10 years has added a new dimension to an overseas WYD trip.  Even at WYD05 in Cologne many pilgrims were still beginners in this field.  However in 2011 more pilgrims than ever will experiment with social networking and blogging over in Spain. Whilst we have already written about social networking (click link), it is timely to look at how to write a great WYD blog. 
When you write a magazine article about your WYD pilgrimage, you try to squash every experience into 1000 words because print space is money.  When it comes to blogging the rules all change because a blog costs you nothing to write and costs the reader nothing.  So it is important to follow these simple rules for writing a great WYD blog:
  1. Serve the reader: the difficulty with a free blog is that readers don't have any commitment to reading because they didn't pay for it.  When you buy a magazine you tend to read every article twice to get your money's worth.  A blog is about drawing the reading in by giving them what they want in bight size pieces.
  2. One event per post: Imagine writing about Tuesday 16th August in your blog.  Many people are tempted to write all of day one in a single post.  So you would have to write about the Australian gathering, your afternoon in Spain and the opening mass in the one post.  Instead write 300 words about the Australia gathering in one post, write another post about your first afternoon in Spain and a third post on the Opening mass.  When you do this, readers can focus on the events they want to know about and you will serve your readers better.  If you think this is too much writing read the next point.
  3. Keep you posts short: instead of writing a wordy essay on your experience keep each blog post short. One rule of writing is that most people won't read past 500 words, so keep it below that amount.  Instead of putting the three events into one post of 1000 words, write three posts of 300 words and readers will love it but you have only written 900 words.  Short posts also save you words you don't have to link unrelated material.
  4. Include a photo: if you want to keep you blog post short then add a picture; a picture tells a thousand words.
  5. Invite participation and comments: many readers will never identify themselves but still invite them to comment or participate.  Finish your blog post with a question that allows people to comment.  Perhaps invite people to add prayer requests to your blog.
  6. Link to other posts: to keep posts short link to other posts in your blog rather than going over the same material.  If you write well people will stay connected to your blog so don't worry about them leaving.  If you serve your readers, they will always come back.
  7. Post regularly: don't miss a day, you need to be reliable.  This blog has generated readers when it has been weekly, if we miss a week it seems to take time to get the readers back, so don't miss a day.
If you want more information about blogging, check out these two amazing articles be Michael Hyatt who has generated thousands of readers on his successful blog:
What advice could you offer about blogging?  What are you looking for in a WYD blog?  Please leave your advice in the comment section below.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Code of Conduct for WYD

Every group needs a set of rules or guidelines in order to function as a group.  Even a secular travel company will have some guidelines about how people should behaviour as a travel group.  Yet when you are on a pilgrimage there is a higher standard for the group.  Instead of a set of basic minimum behaviours the group is aiming for something higher.  The pilgrim is modelling their behaviour on Christ.
So when you travel to WYD, go above and beyond the minimum standard set in the Code of Conduct for your group.  Set you sights on Jesus.  This scripture from St Paul is a great passage to meditate on every time you struggle with the pilgrimage experience and don't behaviour how you want to.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33
The Believer’s Freedom
 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Drinking wine at lunch in Spain

If you are under 18 whilst in Spain then you won't be tasting any of the Spanish wine.  But if you are over 18 then you will have a few opportunities to taste the wines of Spain.  
Perhaps one custom that you may not be used to is drinking wine with your meal at lunch time.  It is often customary in Europe to serve wine with the lunch meal.  However one difference is the opportunity to mix it half and half with lemonade or soda water.  This will lighten the wine which is perfect for the middle of the day.  This half and half mixture is a lot nicer on a hot day that a full strength red wine.  This is possible for both the red wine (vino tinto) and the white wine (vino blanco).
The final thing to remember is that just because you host is drinking wine it doesn't mean you have to.  If you don't drink alcohol then you don't have to drink to be polite, ask for a water or a lemonade.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are you following your plan or God's? A WYD story

Sometime the best laid plans fall apart and that is what God wants.  This is a story about trusting in God rather than trusting in yourself.

In 2000, my wife and I went to WYD in Rome, a beautiful and holy city but not one that is well organised.  On the first night in Rome the bus load of pilgrims that I was traveling with was taken to our simple accommodation site in a parish in the southern part of the city.  Whilst this was the parish that we were supposed to be staying at it was already full of pilgrims and couldn't take anymore.  It was nearing midnight and the bus driver wanted to go home, so asked us to all get off the bus.  Without a place to stay the group decide not to leave the bus but to pray for a miracle that this site would find some room for us.

The group prayed for what seemed eternity that the parish would welcome us and take us in.  At this point I was frustrated and just wanted to get off the bus but I didn't want to leave the group.  My prayer was "I'll do anything just get me off this bus".  After praying so hard for the parish to take us, we received news that the parish would not take us, but there was another parish that would if the driver would take us there.  Many people in the group were disappointed that our prayer hadn't worked, we didn't get into this accommodation site.

Well after midnight the bus driver dropped us off at an accommodation site, but it was still another kilometre walk to the hall where the guys would be sleeping, and I would have to separate from my wife.  When I got to the hall everyone was packed in like sardines and I thought "God why did I promise to do anything to get off that bus?"  It was one of the worst nights sleeps that I have had in my life, an over crowded metal scout hall in the middle of the Roman summer.

The next morning the guys walked the kilometre back to where the girls were staying.  Whilst it was a good place for the girls but I thought it would be a tough week being so far from my wife.  During the morning an old lady named Concetta walked into the parish office, she heard the parish was short of beds.  She had a double bed, if two girls wanted to share, she could take two pilgrims.  My wife and I asked if she would be prepared to take a married couple, which she would, so we walked to her house.

When we arrived at her house she welcomed us into her house and gave us a cup of good Italian coffee.  For the rest of the week she got us breakfast each morning and strong Italian coffee.  She started to watch the WYD events on Roman television to see if she could see her two Australian pilgrims.  In some way she became more connected to WYD because she had two pilgrims in her house.

After a great week in her home we left for Australia.  Concetta was a great host and we were blessed to be in her house.  Concetta had made it possible for my wife and I to share WYD together rather than apart.  Three months after WYD we received an expensive book in the mail from Concetta thanking us for our visit.  She had made our WYD experience more memorable yet she said she was blessed too.

Whilst it might sound like a long stretch, but I really believe that if our prayers had worked and we did get a piece of floor in the first parish we tried, Lisa and I would never have met Concetta.  God had a plan about who we would meet and where we would stay and no tired bus driver or bus load of pilgrims could change that plan.  Sometime what we think is in our best interest is really not as good as what God has prepared.  
Ephesians 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think ... to Him be the glory"

When you travel to this WYD be prepared to give up your plans so you have the opportunity to follow God's plan.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Don't "show me the money"

It is a great time to be buying euros, the currency conversion hasn't been this high in months.  So you don't want to loose those valuable euros or have them stolen so invest in a money belt.  These can be bought for $10-15 in any travel shop but look for one that is comfortable for you to wear.  Some of the money belts go around your waste but some can hang around your neck.

The most important detail which some tourists forget is that they are worn under your shirt.  You don't want anyone saying "give me all your money" because you have around your neck for everyone to see.

Another important tip is to place everything in a zip lock plastic bag before you put items into the money belt.  At WYD in Rome, everyone got so hot that the sweat made their money belts wet.  The ink on the passport or the money started to run.  Or people wanted to cool off so they poured water over their head and their passport was soaked too.  So put your passport and your spare cash in a zip lock sandwich bag then put it into your money belts and tuck it under your shirt.

Choosing the right daypack for WYD

 In a previous post we looked at the sleeping bag, this post we explore a different type of bag, the day pack.
What type of day pack could you carry all day?

When you think about a day pack it is just something that holds the essential items you need throughout your day.  Yet if you think about carrying this on your back all day this thing which seemed light in the morning can become a dead weight on your shoulders at the end of the day.  Multiply that by 20 days and you can see why the choice of daypack is crucial.

Here are a few things to think about when selecting the right daypack for your World Youth Pilgrimage:

  1. How long is your back?  nothing looks as absurd as a small person with a huge backpack or a huge person with a small packpack.  Find a day pack that is the correct length from your shoulders to your hips.
  2. How many compartments do you need?  Are you the type who needs everything to in its own spot or can you handle everything being in one compartment.  My ideal daypack has a compartment for laptop or ipad, a compartment for keys or cameras, a outside pouch for a drink bottle and one large compartment for a jacket or food for the pilgrim walk.
  3. How secure is the day pack?  when choosing your day pack for WYD remember that you will be pushing through crowds all week long, can you secure your day pack with a travel safe padlock?  The more compartments you have on the outside of the day pack, the harder it is to secure.
  4. Is your drink bottle easy to reach?  Some day packs have straps for your jacket or bike helmet but in the Spanish heat you need your water bottle more than anything.  Can you grab your water bottle without opening your bag?  Perhaps consider a day pack that can take a water bladder so you can drink on the go.
  5. Does it match your outfit?  That is a trick question, you go with function not fashion.
There are many day packs available in camping stores but the right one for you is like a good pair of shoes, the perfect fit will make all the difference. Check out the post on shoes here.

Some people are asking about the WYD pilgrim backpack, remember that you still need a day pack for the pre pilgrimage before you arrive in Madrid.