Passports: One Child at A Time

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



  1. Pam
    San Francisco
    May 20, 2012, 6:16 pm

    You are an Angel. You are doing a fantastic job with today’s young ladies. I’m glad to help.

  2. Judy
    Los Angeles, California
    May 16, 2012, 2:12 pm

    I have followed Tracey’s accomplishments for a long time and can only say “WOW” to this one. Her intelligence, creativity and dedication to what she loves is clearly evident with the Passport Party Project and it’s such a delight to see the recognition that goes along with it. This article has motivated a friend of mine to get her 12 year old a passport. WOW again, Tracey, and keep those brain cells working.

  3. Aqueelah Muhammad
    Greensboro, NC
    May 15, 2012, 10:01 pm

    I am always so thrilled to read of Tracey’s accomplishments. Like Shautel I wish someone had encouraged me to get my passport as a young woman. I support her, applaud her, and am proud of her. Go Tracey, go.

  4. Oneika the Traveller
    May 15, 2012, 12:42 pm

    Great mission, even greater leader!

  5. Marika
    Oakland, CA
    May 15, 2012, 12:05 pm

    I didn’t get my passport until I was in my mid-20’s… in fact, I didn’t even think the world was my oyster until I got out there and started exploring it. Having a global perspective & feeling the world as my home rather than a big, “other” place has completely transformed me. What a great blessing that the girls Tracey comes into contact with get to start this transformation early in their lives. Here’s to cultivating a spirit of independence and adventure in young girls! May their lives be rich, their eyes and hearts full.

  6. Julia
    Washington, DC
    May 14, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Tracey, the Passport Party Project is great for creating girls who are open, engaging, and adventurous. That is what a passport does. Kudos to you for creating something so outstanding.

  7. KD
    New York, NY
    May 14, 2012, 10:50 am

    It’s amazing how many people do NOT have a passport or even thought about traveling. Hopefully, the whole family will follow suit and travel together. It’s much better seeing the world in person than on television. Carry on.

  8. Gina
    Bay Area, CA
    May 13, 2012, 11:38 pm

    What I love about the Passport Party Project is that Tracey is opening the girls’ eyes to the world. Once they have their passport in hand, they’ll have that really cool feeling of I can go anywhere… literally! And once they do… they’ll share their experience and inspire someone else to go. And so on and so on!

  9. Labeebah
    May 13, 2012, 11:01 pm

    The Passport Party Rocks!! Getting a passport and becoming a world traveler changed my life and opened my eyes. All girls should have the opportunity. It is vital that our girls are introduced to a global perspective and shown how they CAN participate in the world. Brava, Tracey Friley!

  10. Jennifer Poe
    New York, NY
    May 13, 2012, 11:00 pm

    What a beautiful mission! Love it!

  11. brian
    May 13, 2012, 10:00 pm

    The Passport Party is a fantastic idea that I have supported in the past. With the world becoming “smaller” and globalization a word that all future workers will need to know, getting young girls to travel is going to open so many doors for them later in life. The personal growth from travel will make these girls not only better citizens of the United States, but of the world.

  12. Cristy Clavjio-Kish
    May 13, 2012, 9:58 pm

    I support Tracey’s vision as I work with Tweens from diverse backgrounds and we teach them all about travel. I’ve seen first hand the difference in a child’s global view when exposed to travel early. Wooo- go Tracey- we’ll help you keep up the great work!

  13. Shautel
    Nashville, TN
    May 13, 2012, 9:58 pm

    I wish Tracey and her vision were around when I was younger! This is an awesome idea and a great way to create Global citizens, how else can we understand those who are not like us if we don’t visit them and learn how we are alike and different..So way to go Tracey..

  14. Angela Petitt
    Houston, Texas
    May 13, 2012, 2:59 pm

    It has been said that nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. Tracey is indeed a visionary! As a Passport Party Project volunteer, the Austin party was a huge success for the girls and me personally. It was such a joy to see the smiles & excitement in the room.

    Definitely a worth while and needed venture! Way to go Tracey!!

  15. CiCi Wryter
    May 13, 2012, 1:55 pm

    I love the work Tracey Friley does wit the Passport Party Project and the OBG Adventure Camps, broadening the lives and experiences of girls. Her travel blog is awesome too!!

  16. Edie
    Mercer, PA
    May 13, 2012, 10:56 am

    I sooooo believe in Tracey Friley and her good workS!!!! Awesome to see this recognition!

  17. Abeni
    Washington, DC
    May 12, 2012, 8:13 pm

    Rainer, how insightful to bring the Passport Project to our attention. This innovative idea has the power to plant the life-changing seed of adventure in young girls. Hopefully one day, our girls will view getting ones passport as essential as getting one’s driver license. The Passport Project is a great equalizer – sending the a message of expectation and facilitating what no, tv show or classroom discussion can that travel is accessible and a requisite for the global citizen.

  18. DNLee
    Oklahoma, USA
    May 12, 2012, 5:23 pm

    This is such an aspiring idea. I first got wind of Tracey’s creative philanthropy with her OBG Adventure Camps. I love the idea of taking girls on an adventure that is educational – I’m a scientist, so I travel for science a lot – but also introduces them to the local culture. It’s my favorite part of my science travels. And having a passport is just a necessary part of that travel. Having a (current) passport means you have NO barriers. What better message to send to young people than to ‘always be ready for the next adventure’, than to help them secure a passport.
    Go on, Tracey!

  19. Desiree R.
    May 12, 2012, 4:26 pm

    I fortunately had a passport before i was 5 because my family is from Panamá and we traveled there often. I cant imagine what my life would be without that freedom and privilege to travel. The Passport Project gives that opportunity and that exposure to young girls who may not know that possibility is available to them.

  20. Nicole
    Lake Tahoe, CA
    May 12, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I love this project. The US is so big that it’s easy to travel a lot and never cross a border, but that act gives each traveler an experience and understanding of how small a portion of humanity lee Americans really are.

  21. Jeri Stone of Sweet Honey Child
    Oakland, CA
    May 12, 2012, 2:36 pm

    I truly see the passport as a gift of endless possibilities. Thank you Tracey Friley and The Passport Party Project for being devoted to giving and for providing the tools to obtain these priceless presents!

  22. Pattie
    Southern California
    May 12, 2012, 2:33 pm

    I head about The Passport Party Project and I was really impressed by the thoughtfulness and how well organized the project is. I would love to read more about the girls that are getting the passports and what they’re doing/plan on doing with them. Tracey is so inspiring!

  23. Sandy Seale
    May 12, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Tracey is such an awesome person. I can’t think of anything that opens up the possibilities of our world to young girls more than making sure they have a passport. A passport broadens their imagination, their belief that all things are possible, not to mention the fact that it shows them that somebody cared about them enough to see that they had one. Continue the good work Tracey!! Enjoy your passports ladies :)

  24. Elizabeth
    May 12, 2012, 1:32 pm

    Tracey is giving young girls the world by giving them their first passport. Her vision is fantastic just like her spirit.

  25. Kloyde
    May 11, 2012, 8:08 am

    Keep up writing good stuffs!

    I am also a writer, and I specialize in writing regarding Orlando travels. Here is my post: If you are interested, I hope that you will share this post among your readers, or use my post as a springboard to your blog. I will be delighted to read it. Please keep me updated!

    Ps, I followed you online, and retweeted your article!

  26. The Passport Party Project
    May 10, 2012, 6:41 pm

    Thanks Lily (and Ranier)! It feels great to be a part of giving girls a world view! =)

  27. Lily Girma of Sunshine and Stilettos
    Currently in Washington DC
    May 10, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Congratulations to you Tracey & The Passport Party Project!! Well-deserved and as this wonderful review said, visionary. Keep up the great work and thank you for helping put ‘minority’ travel bloggers on the map! ;-)

  28. The Passport Party Project
    May 10, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Oh Rainer. Thank you, thank you, thank you. XOX