It’s a (Passport) Party!

How a unique project launched in Santa Monica offers young girls a new view of the world

 

By April D. Thompson

 

 It’s 8:00 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday in Santa Monica and 10 young girls are picking up trash. They’re not serving a punishment—and they’re not at-risk youths. No, these Los Angeles teens volunteered to take part in International Coastal Cleanup Day, and to trade in a lazy Saturday for a worldview courtesy of a new nationwide campaign called The Passport Party Project.

 

The brainchild of travel and culture enthusiast Tracey Friley, the project is designed to encourage girls ages 11 to 16 to adopt a global mindset. For 18 months, Friley will host cultural and environmentally focused celebrations, or “Passport Parties,” in which 100 lucky girls across the United States will receive their first passport.

 

“The Passport Party Project encourages girls to think globally and act locally by challenging them to, among other things, master the English language, learn a new language, and befriend a fellow classmate from a culture other than their own,” says Friley. “Travel is a form of education that cannot be duplicated in a classroom … Learning about new places, new people, new traditions and making new friends outside of a girl’s day-to-day experience is life-changing stuff.”

 

To be sure, travel has the power to open one’s eyes, to help people learn to accept others and open doors of opportunity for personal and professional growth. But the sad reality is that about 70 percent of Americans do not have a valid passport. Compare that statistic to Canada, where 75 percent of the population does.

 

Tracey Friley is working to change this. The creator and principle blogger at onebrowngirl.com—a site that promotes and celebrates culture, diversity, humanity, and travel—Friley is no stranger to service, or to promoting diversity and cultural awareness. She is also the creator and executive director of OBG Adventure Camps, a unique waterfront travel and learning adventure program for young girls.

 

Like the OBG Adventure Camp experience, the Passport Party combines learning, bonding, and fun. Participation in beach cleanup was a quick lesson in the importance of environmental stewardship. The recent Passport Party continued with passport photos, lunch at Santa Monica’s Spitfire Grill (originally a diner for pilots), and a tour of the adjacent Santa Monica Airport Park. Throughout the day, participants learned important facts about passports and global travel, and heard firsthand stories from travel bloggers and volunteers in attendance. The day closed with each girl making a short video of her experience.

 

“Where do you want to visit and why?” Tracey asked. As she went around the circle of participants, each girl shared her top dream destinations and reasons for wanting to visit. Locations ranged from Spain to South Africa, Jamaica to Japan. And their reasons were just as varied: modeling, sightseeing, language immersion, general curiosity. These young ladies had all the bases covered, and no two had the same answer.

 

“I hope that by girls getting their first passport, they view themselves and their place in the world in a whole new way,” says Friley. “I hope they continue to learn and teach tolerance of other cultures both at home and abroad. I hope they see the change that is needed in the world, and then consider how they might help.”

 

While the Los Angeles Passport Party was a success, there’s more work to be done. With nine cities and 90 more passports to gift, Friley plans to bring her party to “a rainbow of cultural backgrounds” in major markets such as New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.

 

At a cost of about $1,500 per event, the initiative is partially supported by small donations from the travel community; all other funds come out of Tracey’s own pocket. “If I had five dollars for every person who told me how wonderful the program is,” she said jokingly, “I’d meet budget!”

 

 

 

 

For more information about The Passport Party Project, visit# passportpartyproject.org.

 

 

Where to Stay in L.A.

 

ART DECO BY THE SEA  Overlooking the Santa Monica Pier and Palisades Park, Broughton’s Art Deco landmark, The Georgian Hotel, combines original period details and modern amenities. This refurbished California classic was built in 1933. 1415 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA; 310.395.9945, broughtonhotels.com

 

A-LIST COMFORT  A time-honored tradition, The Sportsmen’s Lodge offerscountry comfort in the heart of the city. Centrally located, the property is just 15 minutes from Santa Monica beach, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood.  12825 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA; 800.821.8511, broughtonhotels.com