Happy Birthday to my Passport! I am celebrating the birth of my passport. I love birthdays, so any chance I get to celebrate them, I will, even if it is for an inanimate object. On October 13, 2011 I was issued my passport and at the moment I didn't understand the power that little booklet had. It has the power to grant life-changing opportunities, bestow knowledge, and birth revelations.
It finally dawned on me at the age of 20, that traveling would be the easiest while I was still in college. I didn’t have to worry about not having enough vacation days or falling behind on assignments at work. I was free! Since it was my first time out of the country and the two languages I learned in school (Spanish & French) were only faint memories of basic words- (not nearly enough to help me navigate in a foreign country), I decided to take the easy route and head to….London! The city is similar to my hometown of New York City and the native language is English. It was the perfect place to feel far from home but not greeted with a complete culture shock. While in London, I explored multiple neighborhoods, ventured to the country side, and even took a weekend trip to Barcelona.
After the study abroad trip, my passport collected dust for a couple of years until I visited Aruba and Toronto in 2014. Each of these trips were influential because they taught me new things about myself, culture, and the area I was visiting. Traveling forces you to recognize the cultural lens you are looking through which helps you gain a greater understanding of the differences around the world. I felt invincible while admiring the mystery of Stonehenge in England, being blown away by the beauty of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, exploring the butterfly farm in Aruba, and touring the Toronto zoo. My passport gave me the power to take the leap from clicking through pretty pictures of these places to breathing and touching them first hand.
I neglected to use the power of my passport because I had a skewed perception of traveling. I looked at it as a luxury instead of a lifestyle. I was held captive by the misconception that I couldn’t travel frequently because of the expense- therefore using my passport was nearly impossible. Too many girls around the world hold this myth to be true as well or don’t even own a passport.
The Passport Party Project, a National Geographic award-winning grassroots initiative aims to debunk this myth for girls ages 11-16. The program provides underrepresented girls nationwide with passports, online global awareness training with Travel Mentors, and an international travel experience that allows them to serve the area they will be visiting, break out of their comfort zones, and increase their global awareness. Over 100+ girls have been a part of this project so far and Tracey Friley, the founder of the program, works hard behind the scenes to expand that number year after year.
I support and am an Ambassador for The Passport Party Project because I was once that girl who didn’t understand the #powerofthepassport, but all of that has changed. I want to be a part of this initiative and be a part of making sure that girls everywhere have access to that power so they can become global citizens and travel advocates too.