Almost a year ago, I joined 600+ other travel bloggers in Vancouver, BC for the annual TBEX Conference to network and get inspired by their stories. During a Q&A with one of the many presenters, a woman named Tracey Friley stood up and introduced the entire assembly to an idea she called The Passport Party Project.
After briefly describing her vision, she received, hands-down, the biggest ovation of the conference. Many of those in attendance have gone on to spread the word while others have gotten more personally involved. Now that National Geographic Traveler is seeking nominations for Traveler of Year, I thought I’d share Tracey’s visionary work with people who share my appreciation for how traveling can change lives, and maybe even the world.
Simply put, the Passport Party Project is a philanthropic initiative that aims to provide girls ages 11-16 from diverse backgrounds with the tools they need to obtain their first passports. To make it fun, Friley, an award-winning travel blogger herself and founder of OBG Adventure Camps, is inviting ten girls in ten different American cities to participate in culturally and environmentally focused celebrations, or “Passport Parties.” At a recent event in Austin, the girls spent a day dressing up in travel attire from around the world, creating their own “travel vision boards,” and filling out passport applications.
It’s pretty amazing when you consider that about 30% of Americans have a passport (compared with ~ 75% of Canadians who do). In urban areas, where these Passport Parties are being held, the percentages are much lower than the national average. That’s exactly what Friley’s trying to change. “I hope that by getting girls their first passports, they view themselves and their place in the world in a whole new way. I hope they continue to learn and teach tolerance of other cultures both at home and abroad. I hope they see the change that is needed in the world and then consider how they might help.”
Like Tracey Friley, I believe strongly that having a passport is as important as a driver’s license or a birth certificate. It gives you permission to see the world and experience things you never thought possible. For children in particular, it opens up a world of new possibilities – which in today’s global economy is more valuable than ever.
Follow Rainer’s travels on Twitter at @JenssTravel