Friday, September 21, 2012

IT'S A PARTY, IT'S A PARTY, IT'S A PAR-TAY!

When I first started my Facebook travel page and blog, there were a few travel bloggers that I was immediately drawn too.  Something about their online “spirit” and passion for travel spoke to me and I knew that one day our paths would cross!  One of those individuals was Tracey Friley, AKA One Brown Girl, and creator of The Passport Party Project.  Tracey inspired me, so when I saw her post about The Passport Party Project coming to Chicago, I immediately volunteered.
I had no idea what to expect.  I anxiously waited for Tracey to contact me regarding the date of the Chicago event and find out what she needed me to do.  I reached out to her a couple of times via email to let her know I was still interested in volunteering and to let me know if there was anything she needed.  Yes, I was excited and didn’t want her to leave me out. 
Let me back up a little and tell you a little about Tracey and her goal to gift 100 girls (ages 11 - 15) with their very first passports.  Frustrated by the statistic that “less than 40% of Americans have a passport”, Tracey decided to make a difference.  Now Tracey was already conducting a successful travel and learning Adventure Camp where small groups of girls traveled to tropical destinations for travel and learning adventures; but that did not stop this award winning entrepreneur from teaming up with Expedia and providing young ladies with the tools necessary to obtain her very first passport.
So let me tell you about that day.  I arrived at the Hilton Chicago bright eyed and ready to work.  I was even more excited because I knew another one of my travel idols – April Thompson of The Absolute Travel Addict – was also volunteering.  We worked hard getting the room ready for the girls.  There were travel magazines, glitter glue sticks, travel themed stickers, funny glasses, boas, and my personal favorite:  blinged out airplane rings and earrings.  OH MY!
The girls arrived and the fun began.  We created travel vision boards in the shape of a suitcase using the items I mentioned above while the girls chatted about the various places they would love to travel.  There was travel trivia with questions such as “Is having a Passport a right or a privilege?” or “Name a travel occupation?”  There was even a test in currency conversion.  We laughed, we ate, we danced and there was a cupcake eating contest (I could have won, but I figured that would be bad etiquette!).  The most moving part of the day came when travel blogger volunteers shared their traveling experiences and spoke about why travel is so important to them.  Tears came to my eyes as I spoke about my Mom and my trip to Paris.  I could see light bulbs going off in the girls’ heads as each volunteer spoke.  By gosh, I think they got it! 
Tracey took passport pictures of each one of the girls and a passport application was given to each, along with a money order to cover the required processing fees.  The girls were beaming and filled with gratefulness as we said goodbye and “safe travels”.  And just as quickly as they came, they were gone.
It had been a long day and I was exhausted, but full of pride.  I was a part of something bigger than me, a movement that cannot and will not be stopped.  I am convinced that these 8 young ladies are the future faces of travel and thanks to the help of Tracey's Travel Angels:  The Absolute Travel, Farsighted Girl, Sky Chi Travels, BlackAtlas, and Empowering Youth Through Travel – they are one step closer.  After all “a passport can give a girl perspective on her place in the world and plant the seeds of global awareness...not to mention how ready she will be for that unexpected invitation to travel for fun, a travel grant or even study abroad!  She might as well be ready!” Tracey Friley

View all of my pictures from The Passport Project Party here.