A Big Change for the Heasley Family

We almost moved to Maryland.

My connection to the company was solid and the job was right up my alley. Well, my old alley. It was an in-house Art Director position; the kind of work I’d left behind about three years ago. I submitted my application. I interviewed for it. I got a second interview and my friend already working at the company was enthusiastic. We started shopping for houses and my kids started imagining living in a place with actual snow on the ground (we told them it wouldn’t be that fun, but Violet refused to believe us). It was time to move across the country, a thing we’d never done before.

After Erin got her Master’s Degree, we were faced with the reality of what a part-time professor at a Community College can make (you honestly wouldn’t believe it) and the fact that the well paying, full-time professor positions are in short supply. We needed to explore options, and not just mine. Erin applied for other opportunities, too. One very close to home was looking really, really good. Until it didn’t and disappeared like a puff of smoke from the cigar of one of those derby-hatted cartoon bankers who is evil and you know that because… cigar.

So, yes, I put myself on the job market. After three years of working in film/video and doing freelance jobs, it was time to introduce a little more stability into our lives. Stability has always been the watchword around our house. As long as we could pay the mortgage and the bills and feed our kids and clothe them, it didn’t really matter to either me or Erin how much money we made. Never, not once, has getting rich been a goal (or even, just like, buying a boat). The goal is to do what we are supposed to do: care well for our family, be where Heavenly Father wants us to be, and do what He wants us to do. That’s how we’ve always conducted our life together, through good times and bad. It has served us well.

So, needless to say, we were stressing. A bit. And while all of this was going on, our friend Chris kept promising we’d have that lunch together that kept getting put off.

Waaaaay back in July, Erin and I were reminiscing about all the traveling we used to do back when travel was a thing we could afford, and we thought about Chris and his business of putting luxury vacation packages together and we hit upon an idea that was both ridiculous and too good to not at least pitch to Chris. Maybe he’d laugh at us, but it couldn’t hurt to at least propose it to him. Finally, in December, when we were trying to figure out what to do about Maryland, the lunch happened.

We told Chris our idea: send us on your vacations. Put us up in your five-star hotels, schedule our safaris and zip-lining adventures through jungles, make reservations for us in the best restaurants–do that and we’ll film it all and give you promotional travel vlogs you can use for marketing. And then Erin said, “And we’ll do it for free!”

And I said, “No, wait–wait a minute. It’s a lot of work for me after we get home to edit and put it all together and–”

And that’s when Chris cut me off and said, “I think it’s a great idea. Yes, I need that!”

And I said, “Y-you do? We really thought you were gonna laugh at us for trying to get a free vacation.”

“No,” Chris said. “And I’d like to take it even further. I’d like you to become my partners in Travel is SWELL, and I’d like Erin to train and become a Travel Designer with me and help me sell custom travel packages to people.”

We were floored. We went into the meeting expecting nothing and came out of the meeting with a spring in our step and promised ownership in a business. (And the chance to go to Machu Picchu. I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu. I was pretty sure I’d now found the means to go to Machu Picchu.) We went home, shell-shocked, and immediately set to praying. And talking. And praying some more. Pros and cons were discussed, friends and relatives were consulted, options weighed.

This wasn’t quite the stability we were looking for. Travel is nice–travel is AWESOME (one might even say SWELL)–and we’d certainly be experiencing a lot of it as we went out to get firsthand knowledge of the places we’d be sending people to and filming our videos, but awesome travel is not a good enough reason to not take care of your family properly. Erin would be working on commission and I’d garner some payments for the video work, but nothing was guaranteed. It was another leap for a family that, evidence to the contrary during the previous three years, was more than a little risk-averse. And then we ran the numbers. And then we made a decision.

Three weeks later, we signed papers making us officially partners in Travel is SWELL.

This week, Erin completed her training.

And that, really, is why we’re finally telling you about it. Things have changed for us in a dramatic way and we’re excited to tell people, but we didn’t want to do it until we were ready. Erin is looking for clients. We hope you’ll contact her if you or anyone you know is looking to dream about their next vacation. She can help you in a big, big way.

Pretty sweet logo, huh? Designed by yours truly.

Now, if you know us and I were you, I’d have some questions. So, let’s switch formats. Here we go:

What the heck is a Travel Designer?

Great question. I didn’t know either. A Travel Designer is a lot more than a Travel Agent. Erin’s approach is to talk to the client about the experiences they’ve already had that they enjoyed, what kind of experiences they’d like to have, and where they might like to go. Want to go somewhere where the water is crystal clear blue and you’ll be treated like a queen as you laze about on the sand? Then Barbados might be for you. Want to eat like a king and take a deep dive into history? Hello, Rome and all these cool excursions and sites you might not even know exist. Simply put, a Travel Agent will get you to where you want to go, but a Travel Designer will not only get you there but make sure you have the time of your life. There’s even a questionnaire you get to fill out so Erin can best help you. It’s fun!

What about filmmaking? Writing? Comics? Is all that over with now?

Nope! I’m still in post-production on my newest short (in fact, we just shot some new scenes this past weekend), and I’m exploring other film opportunities that I can’t talk about just yet. I’m also actively shopping around a YA novel, Paper Bag Mask, and The SuperFogeys continues at superfogeys.com. That’s the beauty of working with Travel is SWELL: we get to stay here and, though our time is even more at a premium, things largely get to continue as they were.

For Erin, too?

Yep! For Erin, too. She’s staying on as a professor at Clovis Community, even taking on an additional class this semester for a total of three sections. She’ll teach and then, in her off hours, create travel packages for clients.

Sounds like you’re gonna be pretty busy. Wait… you guys still have kids, right?

Yeah. Three of them. They’re cool with not moving to Maryland, so it’s all good. We also create packages for families and groups, so they’re gonna get the opportunity to explore this world of ours as well. After a decade of never going farther than Los Angeles, that’s pretty exciting. Plus, I like to think we do a pretty good job carving out family time. There’s not a whole lot more important than that.

How much does Erin and Travel is SWELL charge for services?

In most cases, nothing! Some packages will require a small service charge, but that’s not common. Travel Designers are paid commissions by the vendors you book with, not by you. I know! I had no idea either until we got into this.

Why should I use a Travel Designer at all? Expedia exists.

Hey, Expedia is great! If all you want to do is get to and from somewhere, I say go for it. But if you want to explore hotels, food, rentals, excursions, and some really cool places to visit that you might not otherwise know about, then working with a Travel Designer is not only a great idea, it’s really the best idea. You know what I hate about vacations? Figuring out how to get from place-to-place. A Travel Designer takes care of all of that for you. Plus, we have access to online portals and vendors mere mortals can only dream of. We can hook you up.

Is Travel is SWELL only for luxury travelers? 

Not exclusively, but we’re definitely all about the package. We’re for people who really want to explore and experience something amazing, not so much for those who just want the cheapest flight to Florida and a rental car. But hey, if you want to know if we can help you with what you have in mind, all you gotta do is ask.

Sounds pretty cool. I’m going on vacation in the next year. How can I check out what you have to offer? 

That’s easy, just go to travelisswell.com, or email Erin directly at eheasley@travelisswell.com and tell her what you’re thinking. She’ll help you explore.

Eh. I’m not really into travel.

That’s more of a statement than a question, but I’ll address it. Over the past few years, a lot of people have asked how they could help us out. A referral would be great! If you’re not much a traveler, tell your friends.

This gonna be a thing now? You gonna sell me this hard on this blog in the future? Because if so then I’m ou–

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what I’m about. Just trying to share and take this one–ONE–opportunity to try to drum up a little business. This is a big, important change for my family and we’re just trying to get a leg up in the world. The blog will go back to normal after this.

Okay, cool.

We’re cool?

Yeah.

You know I think the world of you.

Yeah… I know…

Be sure and check out travelisswell.com ASAP!

There you go again!

Sorry.

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The Crucifixion Gets All the Attention, But the Resurrection Gets the Holiday.

My latest blog over on Empty Tomb Designs, where I share my more overtly religious thoughts (though it’s not like I shy away from them in any significant way over here!).

Empty Tomb Designs

The crucifixion is climactic, tragic, ugly, and the culmination of Christ’s Earthly mission. It deserves a prominent place in our thoughts and is rightfully and masterfully recreated in various types of media over and over again. When I was kid, it was Max Von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told. Today, it’s the excellent (if somewhat overly violent) miniseries The Bible. I don’t think my oldest daughter really connected with the story of Christ until she watched The Bible. It was a transformative experience for her.

You don’t get the crucifixion without the resurrection, but, at least as depicted in popular media, it tends to be the less memorable event. Images of the crucifixion–the spear piercing, the crowning with thorns, the nails driven into the hands and feet–easily come to mind. The resurrection with its empty tomb, rolled away stone, and confused guards and apostles (really…

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What It’s Like to Make Your First Short Film

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The biggest, most important scene in the script took place in a diner and I had found the perfect location. It was quirkily retro and dressed with colors you don’t see in modern buildings anymore. This–this diner–popped. In a big way. Every angle was a good one, enough so I knew my DP would be in heaven every minute we shot there.  And the space–oh man, was it spacious! Not a small thing given how many crew and actors and extras would be assembled for the marathon twelve hour shoot.

I approached the management at the diner four weeks out. They were enthusiastic about us taking over the building after hours and the approval came quickly. All smiles. Four days before we started shooting–after weeks of prep and the aligning of schedules and last minute castings and, and, and–the diner pulled out.

We lost our primary location with four days to go… and I didn’t have a backup. I called Tremendum Pictures head honchos Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff in a panic. First thing they said?

“Welcome to Indie filmmaking.”

Read the rest at Tremendum.com…

Doubting Thomas and the Empty Tomb

I’ve been rewatching the TV show LOST lately with my oldest daughter. (She actually kind of loves it.) Last night, we were treated to a one minute lesson on faith. It was actually pretty good! Good job, LOST.

Empty Tomb Designs

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_ThomasI’m always impressed and astonished when elements of the Gospel pop up in pop culture. Sometimes, it can seem as though Hollywood has an overt goal to subvert everything Christ taught. Other times–rare times, admittedly–you get the opposite. You get a bit of spiritual insight you weren’t expecting from the most unlikely source.*

Now that my daughter Elora is old enough, I’ve been having great fun lately rewatching one of my favorite TV shows with her, LOST. Actually, now that we’re near the end of this rewatch, I think I’m ready to call LOST my very favorite show. The depth of the characters and the complexity and scope of the plot hits my entertainment and creative sweet spot. I’m inspired when I watch LOST. I’m enthralled. So is Elora.

So imagine my delight when, while watching the Season 5 episode “316” last night, the show took a one minute break…

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Getting the Empty Tomb Right: Pendants for Everyone

I’m still alive! Hoping to have a blog on some other aspects of my life up on here soon (including directing my first short film!), but for now here’s an update on the thing taking up a big chunk of my day lately.

Empty Tomb Designs

IMG_2867 Great photo of the silver pendant with an 18″ chain from happy customer Jenny Powers!

From the very beginning I wanted wearing the Empty Tomb to be an affordable proposition. The symbol is about Christ and his love for us, and that’s something that is accessible to all who seek after it. Anything having to do with Christ or attempting to remind others of him should have that same accessibility, as much as is possible. Were I a very rich man, I would probably manufacture all sorts of Empty Tomb jewelry and bookmarks and window clings and whatnot and just give them away. I think it’s a symbol that deserves spreading. Or, rather, I think the message behind the symbol is worth spreading. Would that I could be so bold in my expenditures.

Bringing things down to my actual means meant manufacturing silver and bronze pendants at a price point that…

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Empty Tomb Pendants Reservation Form

On the third day, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was found empty. The elegant design of the Empty Tomb symbol is a subtle, powerful way to express belief in the Living Christ. On the front is the stone and the tomb, on the back the simple, powerful truth at the heart of Christianity: HE LIVES.

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It’s finally here! After first designing the Empty Tomb symbol this past Easter and then making it real with the first and second prototypes (follow-up blog coming soon), I’m pleased to announce that Empty Tomb Designs is now taking reservations for the Empty Tomb Pendants in Sterling Silver and Yellow Bronze.

Our second prototype and a great look at both the front and the back.

Our second prototype and a great look at both the front and the back.

 

BronzeandSilverGroup

Fresh out of the box and ready for chains!

These are hand-crafted, Made-in-the-USA pieces of the highest possible quality in these metals. We worked for months to get just the right design and find just the right manufacturer. No easy task, but it was worth it. Pre-order now and we guarantee you’ll have your pendant(s) in time for Christmas.

Our website is not quite up and running, but this pre-order form guarantees your spot in line. No need to submit payment information at this time. Reserve your pendant(s) today and we’ll contact you with further instructions later. See details in the form below:

UPDATE! The pendants can now be ordered directly at www.emptytombdesigns.com