Passport Party Project: Countdown to Toronto

In less than 30 days they’ll be here.


15 girls aged 11- 16 (and three adult chaperones) will take flights from their hometowns across the United States to Toronto (my hometown) to witness first hand how travel can broaden your perspective through the Passport Party Project.

The very thought of it makes me smile.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, either here on the blog or for media outlets across North America, you know that I’m a big believer in travel as education.

kids in Yangshuo

I’ve watched my own two boys benefit from travel and have been advocating with parents and teachers to offer similar benefits to other children for years.

The Passport Party Project captured my attention from the first instant I heard about it because it goes one step further. Through its tireless founder Tracey Friley, it makes travel a reality for girls who might not otherwise get the opportunity.

The official Passport Party Project T-shirt modeled by founder Tracey Friley

The official Passport Party Project T-shirt modeled by founder Tracey Friley

Passport Party Project: A National Geographic award-winning grassroots global awareness initiative for underrepresented American girls 11-16

The lives of these girls are going to be forever impacted not only by the trip itself (first international flight, first time travelling without their parents, first time with a new group of people…) but by the education and insights they’re getting ahead of the trip as well.

This is no free ride.

From the moment they applied, the girls who were chosen to participate have had to put in an effort all their own both financially and intellectually. My mentee, Raven – a 12-year old from Texas – organized a sale that helped her raise some of the funds she needed to contribute to the costs of her participation.


And, for the last six weeks she and the other participants have been working hard at “Global Citizenship University” –  a virtually self-directed learning plan that has exposed them to everything from Canada’s First Nations’ community to  ways they can volunteer and help when they’re on the ground  in Toronto next month (their trip will include a visit to the Daily Bread Food Bank in the city).

The Passport Party Project’s genius is that it doesn’t just have an effect on the tween and teen participants; it affects every one of us who comes into contact with them.

Over the course of the last few months I’ve been in touch with Raven regularly. During our email chats I’m able to share some of the destinations I’m visiting and get a better sense of her interests, dreams and goals.

And while I won’t betray her confidence by sharing those here, I will tell you this: She’s excited. I mean REALLY excited.


And it’s contagious.

I’ve watched with pride over the last few months as this project has touched the hearts of people throughout the travel community. Among the project’s contributors and supporters:

Tourism Toronto, Niagara Parks, Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Holiday Inn, National Geographic Maps , Heys Luggage , Francesco’s Limousine, Niagara Parks, Porter Airlines and  CityPASS

And that is just the list of people who have agreed to share their names. So many others have come forward to make donations through GoFundMe , bought t-shirts in support  or simply sent letters asking how they can help with their time or connections.

This project aimed at helping 15 girls has had a ripple effect of positivity.

Isn’t this exactly what we want for all kids?

So many kids are going through life on auto pilot. Get up, go to school, dinner, homework, bed. Parents aren’t to blame: We’re busy too.

How, between work and school demands and putting food on the table are we supposed to find the time to inspire?

It’s why a project like the Passport Party Project is so important.

In a few short weeks the girls will be packing their bags and taking big steps towards one of their dreams.

They think that the trip to Toronto is the reason for the trip but it’s only the celebration. When they board that plane, they’ll have already benefited from months of discussion and learning.

Toronto is going to be better for having them here.

There is still time to donate to help these girls have a trip of a lifetime.  From groceries to transportation costs, there are still many items that could use a boost. Whatever you can spare, however you can help, do it.

It’s the kind of investment that pays you back.

Trust me, I know.