When Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt contacted me to share about this special project—FLYTE—I checked it out and invited him to write a post about it to share with our readers. I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor and would love to see it be successful.
When I was a kid, I didn’t travel much. My dad, despite being a hippie backpacker in the 70s, didn’t often take my sister and me outside the East Coast. There were a few long road trips to Florida to visit my grandmother, a cruise the Caribbean, and one trip to Bermuda when I was about seven, but other than that, we rarely left our small suburb of Boston. To this day, my father still doesn’t go much of anywhere.
My friends didn’t travel much either and our schools never took field trips to different states, let alone different countries. To me, travel was something rich people did. It just wasn’t a part of my life.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-three, on my first trip to Costa Rica, that I really understand the power of travel. I caught the travel bug while I was on a group tour through the country — I loved the freedom travel gave you. Everyday had endless possibility. You could do whatever you wanted and go wherever your heart desired.
Suddenly, the world really did seem like my oyster.
While I was in Costa Rica, I saw a school group who was there for two weeks to learn about the environment and supplement their Spanish. Over ten years later, I can’t remember where they were from, but I do remember wistfully thinking “I wish I had done that when I was a kid.”
Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about the power of travel and its ability to change lives. That trip to Costa Rica changed my life. The following year after a trip to Thailand, I quit my job and went on a round the world trip in 2006. I never stopped traveling and now work in the industry helping others travel more.
During that trip around the world, I met a family of travelers while abroad. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and the two kids still talk about how powerful their experiences on that trip were in teaching them about the world. It broadened their perspective. Now, college-aged, both of them regularly travel as well as study and volunteer abroad.
Travel is a powerful agent of change, but not everyone is going to be lucky enough to have parents who take them on round the world trips or the opportunity to study abroad. Not everyone is going to attend a school with the resources to send them overseas to give them context about what they are learning in school.
Think about that first trip you took, the one that got you hooked. Remember that feeling of freedom, possibility, and excitement. Think about how wonderful it felt.
I want to share that feeling with kids who might never get a chance.
That’s why I’ve started a new foundation called The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education, or FLYTE.
FLYTE’s mission is to provide the resources and funds to help high schools in underserved communities in the United States send their students overseas. One day, if we get enough funding, I would love to provide grants for college kids so they can study abroad… but let’s take one step at a time.
I want to share the power of travel with those who might never otherwise have the chance.
And I need your help to do it.
Our goal is to raise $250,000 in the next few weeks to launch the foundation and organize five trips in our first year (a lofty goal, but you have to shoot for the moon, right?). I’ve assembled an executive director who used to work at a mentoring non-profit, a board of directors, and a high school in NYC that’s interested in participating. We’re going to provide logistical support, funding, and advice for teachers who are looking to provide cultural context to what they are teaching – the history teacher who wants to show his students the D-Day beaches or the Spanish teacher who wants her students to experience Spanish culture.
Today, I am asking you to help us change the lives of students all around the U.S. We are lucky enough to be able to travel. We know the power of exploring the world and how important can be in shaping people’s lives. After all, we’ve seen it in our own lives.
This is an exciting new endeavor and a great way for the travel community to give back and make a positive impact on the world. I know this is a big thing to ask and I’ll be honest – I’ve never run a charity before (luckily, my executive director has) but I’m asking you to trust me on this investment.
Experiencing travel at that impressionable age can change a child’s life. It will help show them the vast opportunity and possibility in the world. It will expose them to people, places, and ideas they won’t see at home. FLYTE’s goal is to broaden kids’ minds…and with your help, we can make that happen.
To learn more about the organization, and how you can get involved, donate, visit the FLYTE website.
—Matthew Kepnes is the founder of the budget website Nomadic Matt and author of the New York Times best-selling book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. He started FLYTE to give students the chance to travel and explore the world. You can read more about his story here.