The Into The Blue photo contest banner. Image courtesy of The Points Guy.
Last week I was sent an invitation to the TPG Reader Meet Up in San Francisco, which would be the culmination of the TPG “Into The Blue” photo contest. The venue was the Fort Mason Firehouse. Five contest finalists would participate in a scavenger hunt all across the city. The grand prize? A whopping 1,000,000 JetBlue miles! The Points Guy has been raving lately about JetBlue’s Mint Class, so it was little surprise to me that JetBlue was partially sponsoring the event. The other major sponsor was BarclayCard, who is the issuer of the new JetBlue MasterCard.
I managed to nail down an award stay and reserve a rental car for the trip with barely more than 24 hours until the event started. Talk about a last-minute invite! I even managed to find a friend who could tag along.
The Fort Mason Firehouse as seen from the pier.
We arrived early in San Francisco, mostly to make parking less stressful. As I have told several friends of mine, I don’t mind driving in San Francisco, but parking is where I draw the line. We spent at least twenty minutes looking for a decent parking spot that was near enough to Fort Mason to easily walk. Many of the areas were timed, but we were arriving just late enough that T+2 hours would put us a few minutes after 6:00, and the 2-hour limit would no longer be in effect. Unfortunately, there was never an opportune moment to snag any of the spots we saw; we were either in the wrong lane, or didn’t see it in time to stop. I finally settled on the first decent spot we found….which happened to be metered. I decided $8.55 was easily worth ending our parking headache right then and there.
The view out over the Bay from a path through Fort Mason.
My friend David and I had a nice walk through Fort Mason down to the Firehouse (which was a little hard to find), and had an hour to kill before the event. We could see people hurriedly setting up, and we decided to give them some space until things started. It was a absolutely glorious day in San Francisco. Besides an arm of fog that was beginning to creep over the Golden Gate bridge off to our west, the skies were clear and visibility out across the Bay was fantastic.
One of the tables of small bites. Every different food I tried was absolutely delicious.
Soon enough it was 6:00 and the party started. There was a delicious selection of small bites and an open bar. I must have been offered a cocktail at least a dozen times, but the hardest thing I ordered was a Sprite. Things were slow to really get going; when we walked in just before 6:00, we were two of only about 20 people. By 7:00, however, the place was packed, and we were in the middle of an extended miles and points conversation (of the rather geeky sort that I don’t get to have often) with a guy named Andrew.
Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, is under the left set of balloons in the blue and green plaid.
Finally, at a quarter after seven, Brian Kelly (The Points Guy) and the crew of finalists arrived, fashionably late. After a beeline for the bar, he gave a brief, but great, speech. He thanked his awesome readers in attendance, gave a shout out to members of his staff and the event sponsors, and warmly introduced his dad to all of us. He also informed us that the festivities would be extended to 8:30 because of his tardiness.
The “Into the Blue” winners, with Brian Kelly towering over them. Image courtesy of The Points Guy.
David and I got in line to say hi, shake Brian’s hand, and maybe snap a couple pics. We waited about five minutes as the line barely shortened, and I then realized that I was really quite content to leave anytime. We had seen The Points Guy, and I was satisfied. While it might be cool to shake his hand, he would certainly not remember me. Being able to actually chat uninterrupted for even a few minutes would be really cool, but this venue was not the place. The music was blaring, and I decided that catching the sunset from Coit Tower would be a better option to finish off our evening. It did mean we left before the grand prize of 1,000,000 JetBlue miles was awarded, but I didn’t mind that either.
As David and I were driving back to the hotel that evening, I was reflecting on one statement that stood out to me. In the middle of his speech, Brian mentioned that he was ‘living a fantasy’. That really hit me. I have often had a small measure of envy when I see where he has taken his blog, the success he has had, and his ability to travel literally all the time at the drop of a hat. Yes, it is his ‘job’, but it truly is a dream life. The world is at his fingertips. But the thought that had flooded my mind tonight was different: I wonder if he feels completely empty.
The thought saddened me. Brian has the best of what this life can offer, but that will never be enough. It made me rethink my own priorities. There are times that I find myself getting caught up in my travel ‘hobby’, and in those moments I remind myself what really matters: my wife, my current and future family, being a blessing to others around me, being productive for my boss, and, above all, my Savior Jesus Christ. Without the hope I have in knowing Him and being known by Him, life would truly be meaningless. I would love to see the world ten times over, but not at the cost of the truly important things. Eternity is at stake.
My wife often gently reminds me of this. We have greater goals than just traveling or being financially successful. We hope to adopt. We want to raise a family. We want to have a marriage that gets stronger year after year. We want to share our hope in Christ with others.
My wife once said that we should give back from the travel rewards that we accrue, and I have kept this in the back of my mind ever since. I think it is a great idea. We were able to send a friend of mine to teach at a pastors school for a couple days in Guatemala, and I extended a similar offer to the wife of a Guatemalan pastor who would like to come to a conference in the States. As long as the opportunities present themselves, I pray that God will always open our hearts to give.
This bit of clarity was entirely worth the quick trip to the TPG meetup. Seeing Brian Kelly in person and having a quick getaway were just bonuses. Would I do it over? Absolutely. Would I likely consider it again in the future? Maybe. I would much rather catch Brian in person in some airport, away from a crowd of guests, and have a ten minute chat over a cup of coffee. Could that actually happen in a world of over 7 billion people? Hey, you never know.