Photo: Claudia K/Shutterstock

Why Travel Is the Most Important Gift

Miscellaneous Matador Youth Scholarship Essays
by Jason Wire Dec 14, 2011
The gift of travel is so much more than a plane ticket.

THERE ARE CURRENTLY 109,780,364 active U.S. passports around the world. That’s thirty-five percent of all Americans.

I was part of the passportless sixty-five percent of Americans until one year ago. I was the first person in my family to get a passport. Having chosen to re-route my life from law school to living internationally, nothing threw me for a culture shock more than the day I saw my own face on a brand new passport.

Eventually, I’d encounter those undefinable experiences best described through the untranslatable French word, dépaysement, that feeling of not being in one’s home country, the existential displacement of being a foreigner for the first time. I would convince my family to get their own passports, and saw my 53 year-old mother, further from home than she could have ever imagined, taking on the bewildered curiosity of a child.

This is the real power of travel: the ability to see the world as you never have. And this is precisely what the Matador Youth Scholarship Fund sets out to give to six students every year. We provide low-income, underprivileged high school students with the opportunity to travel abroad each summer.

Every travel experience adds something different to yourself, but you can never get back that feeling you had when, for the first time, you saw yourself in a place that you’d always seen on maps but never through your own eyes.

Click here to read essays from previous Brave New Travelers

You can, however, pay that experience forward by donating anything from $1.00 to, well, as much as you’d like to the Matador Youth Scholarship Fund. One great thing about choosing to donate is that you know exactly what your contribution accomplishes: you are making possible the complete transformation of a young person’s understanding of the world by allowing them to see the world that they know exists but have never seen with their own eyes.

In years past, we have sent Brave New Travelers as far as New Zealand, Nicaragua, and Cambodia. They’re led by global immersion tour companies such as Where There Be Dragons, Global Glimpse, and AFS. This is not a monument sightseeing tour–this is six weeks of true, ground-level travel in a foreign place. The firsthand experience is evident in this passage from a past participant:

Back in the States, I always hated my home, the food, and my family. I never appreciated the house over my head, and the people who will always be here for me. Having a firsthand experience of poverty in the world, hit me in the heart. What I have is so much compared to those who are a part of the kind of poverty we witnessed on our trip.

-Christina Craner, Age 16, Oakland High School

Perhaps the participants’ most cited reason for wanting to travel abroad is to see how people live in a different culture. That simple curiosity, that acknowledgement that life is simply not the same around the world is one of those true precious attributes of young people that must be fostered and nurtured or it will be fated to dissolve into the sheltered, isolated worldview that comes from never leaving home. To give the gift of travel is to reveal someone to a part of themselves which they did not know they possessed.

Our world is faced with a great many problems today, but one figure you haven’t been told about is this: the number of passports issued per year has slipped by over 30% in the past four years–over 18 million were issued in 2007, compared to just 12 million in 2011. Truly, in order to face the problems of the future, we must work together across cultures and in different languages. But we can never work together without leaving home.

How to donate to the Matador Youth Travel Scholarship Fund

Donations can be made in two ways:

1. Write a check to Global Glimpse and mail it to “The Youth Travel Scholarship Fund”, 605 Scott St. Apt. 1, San Francisco, CA 94117.

2. Simply use the widget to the right to make a contribution online.

All donations tax-deductible, as Global Glimpse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Discover Matador