It was a beautiful summer morning in Brooklyn, but with the butterflies of excitement fluttering around in my stomach you would have thought it was Christmas! “It’s finally here!” I thought to myself as I hopped out of bed and prepared for the first Passport Party in New York City! I first heard about the Passport Party Project after meeting Tracey Friley at Blogging While Brown in July of last year, and was inspired by her vision for the program, which aims to give 100 young girls around the country their very first passport.
The program targets girls from diverse backgrounds, which struck a personal chord with me because I have been privileged to travel the world from an early age, and supported by a family who has pushed me to explore this great Earth for my entire life. However, this is often not the case since traveling requires a financial commitment many parents cannot handle and a shiny new passport is often shuffled to the bottom of the priority list for our young girls. Determined to support this amazing cause, I signed up immediately to help host the NY party, and in December, held The Jetsetters Holiday Fiesta to raise awareness about the program and raise money for programs that support travel for young people.
So once the program finally arrived this month in Brooklyn on its national tour, I was beyond geeked about meeting the girls! Tracey encouraged me and the other bloggers (Teri of Travelista TV, Ann of Water Wine Travel, and Terri of Try Anything Once) to bring items for show and tell, so needless to say I wanted to show them EVERYTHING!! I rushed around my apartment in a frenzy, packing everything i could think of – My headpiece from Trinidad Carnival, pink sand from Barbados, my photo album from a medical missionary trip to Jamaica, money from Ghana..the list goes on. I wanted to inspire the girls with all that I had seen in faraway places, in hopes that they would one day collect their own stamps and memories with their new passports.
However, this isn’t exactly how things turned out at the party. Quite the opposite, in fact. Turns out, the girls were the ones doing most of the inspiring. They arrived at the party with bright eyes and innocent smiles, a little shy, yet eager to talk about the countries they wanted to explore. They translated their travel dreams into vision boards shaped like suitcases with handles and round corners (soooo cute!!) and voted on the boards that were the most creative. From Hawaii to India to Paris, the places they wanted to visit were spread across the globe, and the possibilities for these adventures were endless. Each of them received a passport photo on the spot, and will receive a shiny new passport, courtesy of Expedia and the Passport Party Project upon submission of the proper paperwork to their local offices.
During one of the many games we played with the girls, Tracey asked them to name different modes of travel outside airplanes. Most responses included the expected – trains, cars, boats and the like. However, one answer stuck out to me that I’ll never forget – a jet pack.
*needle scratch rewind* Er, what? A Jet Pack? I looked over at the girl who answered so matter of factly, then waited for Tracey to explain that such a method of travel isn’t real life. However, when she embraced it at the conclusion of the discussion as a “viable” mode of transportation, I realized that the best thing you can do with our young people is to allow their dreams to travel as far as their imaginations will take them. They should feel they can experience anything, from a bumpy camel ride across the Sahara desert, to an adrenaline inducing rush down the Autobahn in Germany. And if their dream trip involves a jet-pack, they’ll still need a passport because who knows where they’ll land when they come down!
I left the New York Passport Party refreshed and rewarded. The girls may have enjoyed my Jamaica photo album, and probably got a kick out of me putting on my carnival head piece, but I was the one who left itching to dream bigger and expand the possibilities of where travel can take me. More of us adults need to have a Jet Pack mentality, and allow our imaginations to venture beyond the traditional boundaries of travel.
When NASA comes out with the first Jet Pack for travelers, I’ll be in line right behind the young girl I sat next to at the Passport Party, leaning on my walker and being rowdy with all my geriatric friends in line with us. I plan to take out my dusty old “smart phone”, snap a picture of us grey haired beauties, and text it to Tracey Friley with the caption “Keep Inspiring us Young Girls”
To find out where the Passport Party Project is headed next, please visit PassportPartyProject.org