Travel is a powerful agent for change. It broadens our horizons and helps us find our purpose.
Think about the first time you traveled overseas. Remember those feelings of freedom, possibility, and excitement you had? Remember what got you hooked and made you say “I need to do more of this!”?
Think about how travel has been a positive influence on your life and how it’s connected you to people and communities that you never thought you would get to know.
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to travel — especially young students. Not everyone has parents to take them on round-the-world adventures or send them to study abroad. Most schools don’t have the resources to maintain their art and gym classes, let alone send students on trips outside their community.
For kids, travel can be even more life-changing than for adults, because it exposes them to different ideas, cultures, and people at a crucial developmental time in their life.
Haven’t you ever seen young people while traveling and caught yourself thinking about how lucky they are? I know I have, on multiple occasions. How often do you see families on the road and think about how much that kid is getting out of that trip? How many times do you wish you could help get more kids traveling?
During my travels, I’ve encountered quite a few kids, and I’m astounded at how grounded, positive, culturally sensitive, and open-minded they are. It makes me wonder what the world would look like if more kids traveled.
My thoughts often turn to all the kids who don’t have that chance. They don’t have the opportunity to visit foreign countries, discover who they are in a global context, and bring what they’re learning in school to life.
I’ve dedicated the last eight years of my life to the mission of getting people traveling more.
To further that mission, I’m announcing today the establishment of a new foundation that will help send students overseas. It’s called The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education, or FLYTE.
FLYTE’s mission is to provide the resources and funding to help high schools in underserved U.S. communities send kids overseas. In the beginning, our focus is on students in rural or economically depressed communities. (One day, with enough funding, I would love to provide grants for college students to study abroad… but one step at a time.)
We are doing this to help students become global citizens, bring life to the subjects they learn in school, and expose them to new ideas and cultures.
There are so many negative stereotypes in the world that are perpetuated by a lack of exposure to different cultures and too much exposure to horrific news stories. Travel breaks down those negative stereotypes and alleviates fears. Remember when you visited a “dangerous” or “scary” place that was completely different from what you imagined it to be? Travel forces us to reevaluate stereotypes, and creates a shift in our typical way of thinking.
That’s why I want to do this. That’s why I want to create an organization that promotes education through travel. The two go hand in hand. The more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve learned about the world, myself, and how interconnected we all are.
Growing up, my family didn’t travel much. We went to see my grandmother in Florida, but never went anywhere that required a passport. My suburban high school never took field trips overseas. As a result, I didn’t learn about the power of travel until I was twenty-three, had a job, and planned my first vacation to Costa Rica. That single two-week vacation opened my eyes to the endless possibilities this world has to offer.
Last fall, a woman emailed me to say she was the small-town Southern girl I debated politics with ten years ago on a site called Xanga. She wrote that after finishing her studies, she went traveling and discovered that the world was much more complex and diverse than she had realized. It completely changed her outlook on the world, and now she wants to center her career around volunteer work. The global context she gained while traveling made it easy for her to choose a life that made a difference in communities that need it.
I often think about the kids from an international school in Rome that I met in Greece who were so mature and intelligent that they were recommending operas to me. I couldn’t believe it when they told me they were only 16! Travel makes more well-rounded students!
FLYTE, our new nonprofit, is going to promote student travel in the United States by providing logistical support, funding, and advice for teachers looking to provide cultural context to what they are teaching through educational trips overseas. Most schools don’t have the money or expertise to run and organize these trips. Lots of students and their families don’t have the resources either. That’s the gap FLYTE is going to fill.
FLYTE will provide logistical support, funding, and advice for teachers looking to provide cultural context to what they are teaching. We are looking to help the history teacher who wants to show his students the D-Day beaches of France, the Spanish teacher who wants to immerse her students in Spanish culture, or the biology teacher who wants her students to learn about sustainability in the jungles of Costa Rica.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can help others travel more, this is your chance. You can help create a new generation of travelers.
Our goal is to raise $250,000 over the next few weeks to launch the foundation and coordinate five student trips in our first year (and the more funding we get, the more trips we can run).
Today, I am asking you to help us change the lives of students all around the country. We already know the power of exploring the world and how important it is in shaping people’s lives. We’ve seen it in our own lives.
So let’s share that power with those who don’t have the means to take such a journey on their own. Let’s set them on a path of learning and cultural exploration. If you’ve ever thought about how people don’t travel enough and how kids need to be exposed to more ideas, this is a way for you to make a difference. This is a way for you to create educated, well-traveled individuals, especially here in the U.S. (where international travel is not necessarily a priority or often seen as a possibility).
For donations as little as $10 (less than the cost of a meal at Chipotle), you can help students have a life-changing and educational experience.
Even better, your donation will get you access to updates about the student expeditions, their progress, and foundation events, as well as messages from the teachers and students about their travels. Supporters will have more and exclusive access to the latest details on how they are helping change the lives of the next generation.
Plus, if you want to donate more, I’ve included some goodies as incentives for higher donations:
$25 — My two travel e-books (How to Teach English Overseas, the Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking), and the electronic city guides to NYC, Paris, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Hong Kong. (Value: $91)
$50 — All of the above PLUS a signed copy of my print book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, a FLTYE t-shirt, and one with the saying “Keep Calm and Travel On.”
$100 — All of the above PLUS 30 minutes of travel planning with me, a FLYTE bumper sticker, and a personal thank-you message from the class that your donation helps send overseas.
$500 — All of the above PLUS an hour total of travel planning with me, a souvenir from the students’ trip, and a backpack from REI for your own!
$1,000 — All of the above PLUS a free flight to anywhere in your region of the world and three extra copies of my print book.
$2,000 — All of the above (except the free flight) PLUS I will fly you to NYC for two nights, put you up in an Airbnb, and take you to lunch, and you’ll be listed as a premium donor on FLYTE’s website and be invited to special donor events (U.S. residents only.)
(These higher award packages will be available to those who donate before August 8th! Merchandise and other goodies will be delivered by mid-September!)
This is an exciting new endeavor and a great way for the travel community to give back and make a positive impact on the world. I know this is a big thing to ask, and I’ll be honest — I’ve never run a charity before (luckily, my executive director has), but I’m asking you to trust me on this investment. I already have a board of directors that includes a lawyer, school administrator, and a travel PR professional. Moreover, I already have two partner companies lined up, Context Travel and Walks.org, who have committed to providing tours for the students! (Special thanks to them for believing in this project from the outset!) Travel shows kids the vast opportunities and possibilities in the world. It exposes them to people, places, and ideas they can’t experience at home. With your help, we can help promote travel and education across the country, have a positive impact on the lives of kids, and pass the importance of a global perspective on to the next generation!
P.P.S. – Are you a teacher in a rural or inner-city school that would like to apply to participate in this program? Please email us at [email protected] and let’s talk!
P.P.P.S. – For those looking for more, visit the FAQ page of FLYTE for information about how we’re choosing schools and for more of the nitty-gritty about the program.