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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Thirty Percent Club

It dawned on me recently that since I've been asking travel bloggers to write posts about the value of their passports that I ought to put my money where my keyboard is and do the same thing.  I don't know what has taken me so long to get ta writin', but just the other day at World Travel Market London, I was approved for United States Global Entry access -- not to mention my first passport ever was issued for a memorable trip to Paris which is precisely where I am as I write -  so I figure now is as good a time as any to type.

As a member of the aptly named Thirty Percent Club, a name I concocted to represent the 30% of Americans with US passports, I have used my passport at least 8 times this year to fulfill this insane case of global Wandermania I seem to have been born with.  My little blue membership book, a part of my life since my early 20s (you didn’t need a passport to travel to the Caribbean when I was growing up), is as much a part of me as my eyeglasses are a part of my face and I wouldn’t be any good without either one.

Asia, Cydney & TaMara / CampCaribe 2010
That being said, this quasi-fanatical attachment I have to my passport seems to be a natural segue into spreading the news about global awareness and blue book membership via The Passport Party Project, a nationwide campaign designed to help give girls a world view by gifting them with their very first passports.  The Passport Party Project encourages girls to think globally and act locally by challenging them to – among other things - master the English language, to learn a new language, and to befriend a fellow classmate from a culture other than their own – all in preparation for travel.  Travel is another form of education that cannot be duplicated in a classroom whether that travel takes place on a global or local level.  Learning about new places, new people, new traditions and making new friends outside of a girl’s day-to-day experience and sometimes even without parents is life changing stuff…even if those changes cannot be visibly seen for years later. 

But some changes can be seen immediately.  As the owner and Executive Director of a unique travel camp program for girls, I have experienced first-hand the brand new body language (aka mini-swagger) that independent travel brings about as these impressionable pre-teens/teens that become new members of the Thirty Percent Club learn to travel independently of their parents - often for the first time.  I have experienced first-hand the shift from whining and complaining to vivid curiosity and bold choices.  This is some of the growth and privilege that Club membership and subsequent travel brings about…and I’m proud to be a part of something so meaningful and important.

Having a passport opens doors.  Using a passport opens minds.  If you haven't already, join the Club.  Membership, as you know, has its privileges. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Passport to Self Discovery

Nivedita “Nivi” Raghunath, an Atlanta resident, is an engineer-scientist by day, a dreamer and writer by night and a doting mom for life. Nivi is also the CEO and Founder of Culture Kids, a place where culture lives and grows in the hearts of little bloomers and whose mission is to bring cultural diversity to children through fun and colorful media content and cultural events.  Check out what Nivi has to say about her passport to self-discovery:

Nearly 10 years ago, I left my home country, India, with a passport in hand, to set foot in the United States. A turning point in my life, it has shaped me into the person I am today. Last night I watched a movie that started this way (re-written in my words): “Sometimes you wonder why life is so random. Why you were born to your parents, why you were born in your country and city, and why you traveled many miles away from home to a random place on earth”. Some things have no answer.

....moving out of their nest changed my life forever. It was my passport to freedom, individuality, confidence, people skills and…self-discovery.  You can imagine my apprehension as I set foot in a land where I knew no one, a single suitcase in hand. I could not cook, I had never done my laundry and I hadn’t earned a single penny myself. I didn’t know what I wanted from life, but that hasn’t changed even today! But what did I have with me? The conviction in my strengths, that I was here to discover a new person in myself, to experience the excitement of a new place and culture, and the confidence to take on life’s challenges.

You can read more here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Travel Tip: Try Anything Once

Terri blogs and vlogs at Try Anything Once, exploring food, continents and life.  She has graciously volunteered for the New York Passport Party next year and I'm excited to have her on board!  I think we should all go out and do what she suggests...and try anyeverything (at least) once!  Thanks for the vlog, Terri!