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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

11 (Really Good) Reasons Teens Should Travel Abroad and Embrace The ‪#‎PowerOfThePassport‬

^^^ Teen Trip to Paris, July 2014 ^^^

It probably goes without saying, but I believe in the #powerofthepassport and the growth that travel brings about. 

I believe that when a young person who dreams of travel gets a passport with no specific destination or travel plan in mind, that it is a rite of passage akin to getting a global permission slip. 

I believe that getting a passport should happen early, and that it's never too late.

I believe that getting that first international passport stamp sets the stage for that teen's future if s/he wants it to.

I also believe that a lack of disposable income isn't a good enough reason not to travel when youth travel scholarships, grants and study abroad opportunities abound.

And I believe in giving back to the local community in some small way while being a responsible traveler. #travelwithheart

The bottom line?

I believe that teens should travel abroad.
I believe in the #powerofthepassport.

And while nothing takes the place of family travel, tw/eens should travel without their parents as well. Yep. Without. Their. Parents. And their parents should let them go, too. To volunteer, to study, or to simply soak in what international travel has to offer. Because -- believe it or not -- travel changes everything.

But don't just take my word for it. Here is what some of my travel colleagues think about teen travel abroad and why it is so important.  

Teens should travel abroad because the world becomes a less scary place. The longer we isolate ourselves in a vacuum, the more we begin to fear the unknown. I moved from Nigeria when I was 15 years old to start college in the US. I was scared and didn't know what to expect. But gratefully, I come from a family which appreciates and values travel, so I was exposed to various countries while growing up. Yes, the world will never be 100% safe, but traveling and seeing more of it starting at a younger age will help teenagers develop an open mind with respect to other cultures, and start seeing themselves as part of the solution to a safer, more inclusive world.

Teens should travel abroad because tomorrow's leaders need a global perspective and traveling outside of insular, self-centered America is the only way to do it. Come to Holland and see how thousands of kilometers of bike lanes make a difference in the obesity rate of the population, or how a system of dikes and levies keeps a country that is mostly below sea level above water. Go to Scandinavia and see how family leave—the practice that allows both the mother and the father several months leave from work when a child is born—benefits the society as a whole. These are just a few of the many examples that one will see when they travel the world.

Teens should travel abroad because travel is one of the best ways to extend learning outside the classroom. Travel creates opportunities to better understand people around the world and their cultures through history, traditions, customs, and foods. The world is our classroom and travel is our opportunity to raise a new generation of kids who will better understand global issues.

St. John, US Virgin Islands #teentravel

4. Ana Serafin

Teens should travel abroad because it allows them to break barriers and helps them grow spiritually and mentally. Traveling at a young age challenged me to be open about other cultures and religions and to appreciate the little that I have. This challenge helped me grow and accept change and differences from myself and others, which not many can easily do. Now, as an adult, travel has taught me to explore new frontiers in my personal and professional life that I would have never imagined if I hadn't traveled when I was young. The experience of travel is one that no one can take away from you and these memories will last a lifetime.

Teens should travel abroad because it makes for a "well-rounded" student in the eyes of College Admissions Directors. It shows that the teen has a thirst for learning and is comfortable in unfamiliar settings. The fact that an applicant has traveled abroad shows that the student is independent and forward-thinking. They may also be willing to take advantage of the Study Abroad programs that many colleges offer.

Teens should travel abroad because the time to start opening your mind to new people, cultures, lands, experiences, friends, foods and adventures is when you are still young enough to go, but old enough to appreciate it. As a teen, you're not a child anymore and you know the world is bigger than just the corner you live on. You KNOW that in your mind, but you haven't tasted it, smelled it, felt it or seen it first hand. If you travel abroad, you may occasionally feel a little lonely or vulnerable or frustrated, but the next thing you know, you'll be laughing with someone whose language you barely understand, or tasting the most delicious food that you can't pronounce, or dancing to a rhythm of music you've never heard on your iPod before...and you'll forget those brief uncomfortable moments ever existed.

Belize, Central America
#PassportPartyProject #Phase1

Teens should travel abroad because it changes everything. I was in high school and loved math and science, but my history and geography classes were like ancient torture chambers, with boring facts coupled with dry accounts of long-past events. But at 19, when I visited Europe for the first time, I was mesmerized by the past. How could I stand in front of centuries-old ruins and not see ancient history more deeply? How could I stand in Shakespeare's birth home and not wonder about the motivation behind his plays? In the years that have passed since that trip, I've visited dozens of countries on five continents but I still feel the same sense of awe and wonder about the world that I did at 19.

Walking the streets where significant historical events once took place brings new life to geography, politics, and religion. Art and architecture seem more beautiful when experienced in the environment for which they were designed. And languages seem to make more sense when spoken in a real way to real people. But more important than deepening our understanding of cultural customs and historical events, travel proves that we are global citizens, different from—yet so similar to—the 6 billion others with whom we share this earth.

Teens should travel abroad because to provide a teenager the gift of travel is to give them an opportunity to form their own opinions not only about the world and others, but also about themselves as individuals, before anyone tries to shape it for them. It arms them with a sense of responsibility and accountability, something which helps shape them to become not only better adults, but also better citizens of the world. The impact that travel has had on my own teenager has helped to open up his mind and ground him in ways I could have never done by staying home. 

Teens should travel abroad because it opens their eyes to the human experience outside of what they see on a daily basis. So many Americans take things for granted that others have to struggle for abroad. In my first assignment with Doctors Without Borders, I was taken aback to learn that when people are admitted to the hospital in Kenya, they need a caregiver to stay with them. The hospital does not provide food, laundry services or bedside services. That's just one of the thousands of things I've learned while traveling abroad and the sooner one gets out there and experiences that, the more well rounded and globally aware they are! The #powerofthepassport is vital in today's burgeoning generation.

Photo Credit @CarolACain

Teens should travel abroad because doing so will open their eyes to the possibilities for their lives. They'll likely discover that their home countries don't necessarily offer the paradigm of what life should be like. They'll also hopefully discover that their lives are not meant to be lived in a box and that the possibilities for every facet of their lives are limitless. Ultimately, traveling abroad has the potential to help teens discover or at least start thinking about their life's purpose, why they are here, and how they can use the newfound perspective that traveling abroad brings and their unique talents and gifts to make a difference in this world.

Teens should travel abroad because travel helps foster independence and exposes us to other ways of life in a more three-dimensional sense. It's a way to not only discover and learn about new destinations, people, languages, religions, cuisines, history, and more, but it also allows us to discover something new about ourselves. As a teenager, you begin that journey of coming into your own and, as you allow yourself to be exposed to a range of different inputs, you gain a broader sense of your place in the world.


So there you have it.  Close to a dozen good reasons you should Let. Them. Go. 

Can you think of any others? Please -- share your views and personal experiences on why teens should travel abroad in the comments section below along with your Twitter handle and be on the look-out for a RT as we continue to ramp up with Phase 2!

"Thank you for including my daughter in this travel adventure, Tracey. It was truly worth the sacrifice of income to make it happen. It is so important that our children have an opportunity to see areas, cultures, and environments other than what is right in their own neighborhoods. My daughter truly enjoyed herself. Words can't even begin to describe the excitement." -- Angela, Maryland

HomeAway is providing housing accommodations for the girls of Phase 2. Want to help?

You can help the 10 girls of Phase 2 get their first passport stamps by giving the gift of travel here. Big or small. It doesn't really matter. But the truth is that we could use your help. Thank you for giving it some thought.

Teen Travel Abroad Tips from Andrew Gordon of Diversity Abroad:
  • Teens have a variety of opportunities to travel abroad to study, volunteer and learn foreign languages.
  • Starting in middle school (7th or 8th grade) parents should be researching opportunities for their children to go abroad.
  • Most high school programs are during the summer, and knowledge of the language of the host country is rarely a requirement.
  • Many graduating high school students are choosing to pursue a GAP Year abroad in lieu of college right after high school. This has been a norm for Australian teens for years and it's beginning to catch on with American students, too.
  • Regardless of the program, teen programs abroad can help students stand out among their peers as they prepare to apply for college.
  • Parents need to be informed about the benefits of their children pursing teen abroad programs. Then parents need to research and learn about the different program types and work with their kids to determine which program and location works best.
  • Start saving and get family and friends involved in supporting, financially or otherwise.

A version of this blog post was originally published on
American Airlines on November 27, 2012