A Passport to a Different World

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” –Mark Twain

It’s literally the ticket to the whole world…but only 30% of Americans have a passport. Of course, many people can’t afford to travel internationally very much (although if you use the methods and tips in our book, you can do so on surprisingly little!).

But a passport is about so much more than travel. And travel is about so much more than sightseeing and vacationing. It’s about witnessing different ways of life than your own, experiencing different cultures and ways of thinking, meeting and interacting with people who have a completely different lifestyle than your own.

Inle Lake, Myanmar - October 2010

It’s about their traditions, beliefs, loves, foods, hardships, dances, songs, history, geography, and passions. It’s about life itself – and there is far, far more to life and the world than what any of us see in our own backyards, in the little corner of this planet that we are born into.

I think Mark Twain is right on. If everyone had the chance to travel, even once, to a place completely unlike their own, I believe it would do much to eradicate the intolerance, hatred and completely false notions that so many of us have about other people.

If only one out of every three people in the United States ever gets the chance to do that, I’m not sure how we can get past the prejudices and erroneous beliefs that keep us suspicious and at war with others, literally and figuratively. No, exposure to real people living their lives in other parts of the world won’t solve everything. But I firmly believe it would go a long, long way.

Sadhu in Kathmandu, Nepal - March 2009

Both Keith and I came from families that didn’t travel much when we were children; family road trips were about it. Part of this was money – which neither of our families had much of growing up – and of course travel was more difficult even 25 years ago. But for both of us, our first passports opened up worlds we had only dreamed about. Those first passports (which ended up being one of many for both of us), and those first forays as very young adults into unknown worlds, acted as the kindling that ignited our passion to see as much of the world as we can. And it’s not just about going to places and looking – it’s about seeing what we can learn from them.

I got my first passport in my senior year of high school, in 1984. Up til that time I had only been to places in Texas and a few surrounding states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana) and to Mexico (you didn’t need a passport back then). My high school’s Spanish teacher, Doctora Rodriguez, was organizing a month-long European trip – and that is what I wanted for my high school graduation present. With all my heart and soul, desperately. Many other people would have perhaps thought that was $2,000 that could have bought a car, something longer lasting.

Sharing Paris with my daughter - May 2000

But the truth is that it is the car, or any other thing that could have been purchased with that money, which would have been gone long ago. Now, more than 25 years later, I still have fond memories of my first glimpses of London, the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa (you could actually climb it then!). I remember looking down from my hotel window in Rome, after Italy had just won a huge soccer match, to see the complete gridlock party in the streets. That trip fueled a lifelong love of travel – and the curiosity and desire for learning that came with it.

Keith was finishing his second year of college, and completely burned out on school, when he got the travel bug. Like me, he hadn’t traveled to more than to surrounding states or Mexican border towns as of yet. He went to work in a box factory – hard, hard work – and gave up virtually everything else he might spend money on, in order to save enough money to travel. When he told his dad his plan, his dad was pretty upset – he thought Keith would drop out of school and never go back.

Keith in India, 2004

Keith did take off, at 20 years old, after getting his first passport. Like me, his first international jaunt was around Europe, and he stayed for three months, traveling cheaply in hostels and couch-surfing. When he returned, he had a whole new outlook on the world and on life. He went back to school with a 3.8 GPA, and thinks that his traveling experience had a lot to do with that.

Today we have been fortunate enough to travel to places so completely foreign and exotic that they made Switzerland seem like the town down the road. And it’s all because of our first passports. Those early travel experiences vastly changed the course and experience of both our lives – in fact in some ways, the very people we are today.

Tracey Friley, aka One Brown Girl

That’s why when Keith and I were at the Travel Bloggers Exchange conference last month, in Vancouver Canada, we were thrilled to hear Tracey Friley stand up in the crowd of hundreds and share her passion and vision. Which is to help gift 100 young girls with their very first passports within the next 18 months, to open up the world to them in the way it has been opened to us.

We are thrilled to support Tracey and the Passport Party Project – and we hope you will too! Would you consider donating $5 or $10 – or even $1 – to help make these dreams a reality for young people today?

And anyone who buys our book from the links on this post, we will donate half the book price to the Passport Party Project! It’s a win-win situation – you can discover how to get so much more out of your money by traveling for free (or pretty damn close!), and at the same time we will all help young girls achieve the dream of world travel. Just think what type of new generation we will be contributing to!

Buy the PDF Download – $9.99

Download for Kindle – $9.99

Order a Softcover Print Book – $14.99

And remember – half of all purchases go to the Passport Party Project

We’d love for you to share below what having a passport has meant to you!

Travel well!

Travel Tips on raveable

About Shelley Seale

Shelley is a wanderer and student of the world, yoga chick, voracious reader and dog lover. She pounds the keyboard as a freelance writer, author and publication designer, based in Austin, Texas when she isn't traipsing around the globe. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, Fodor's, The Telegraph and Texas Monthly, among others. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano, and was once robbed by a monkey in India. But she doesn’t know how to whistle.
This entry was posted in Passport Party Project, Round the World, Travel Resources, Volunteering and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Passport to a Different World

  1. OneBrownGirl says:

    I love your story, Shelley. And I love that you support The Passport Party Project! The $2000 cost for your first European adventure as a teen was well spent and the car that you might have purchased all those years ago would have been long gone by now … unlike the memories of that first international adventure and the adventures that it spawned. Thanks for being a part of the legacy. =)


  2. Pingback: Passport Party Project Hits Austin | Trading Places

  3. Pingback: The Passport Party Project Comes to Austin | How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!)

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