Every day since I learned the outcome of the election, I’ve felt paralyzed. I’ve questioned the relevance of my company, if we can add anything meaningful in an increasingly over-saturated media landscape, and the purpose of travel in general.

The core idea I keep coming back to is that, now more than ever, travel is an essential and incredibly powerful gift. I’ve felt it. Every member of the Passion Passport team has experienced it firsthand and the majority of our community has, too. A powerful exchange of ideas, cultures, and ways of life is possible because travel has a unique ability to bring people together. Travel is the great unifier. In my own life, travel has allowed me to connect and immerse with others half a world away through study and work opportunities, and I’ve built lasting friendships as a result. It also inspired the founding of this company.

In the shocking political climate surrounding us in the United States, fear of the “other” is at an all-time high. That irrational fear has managed to supersede any sense of shared humanity, and rather than building bridges across cultures, there is talk of building walls.

Fear can arise from lack of familiarity. So it only makes sense that its antithesis is exposure. If more people had the chance to interact with other cultures and ideas not from behind a computer screen or cell phone, but through a tangible, sensory experience then maybe we could begin to chip away at that stigma. Perhaps we could even recognize those faults in ourselves.

After a while, I began to ask myself, “How can we, as a company, insert ourselves into this discussion in a productive and meaningful way?”

The answer was to stick with what we do best — showcase the transformative nature of travel through an opportunity or travel grant. 

So we created an application-based opportunity in which members of our community can nominate friends (or mere acquaintances) who have don’t have passports to accompany them on a trip. Together, the winners of this grant will embark on a journey of understanding and compassion, and will share their experiences before, during, and after their trip with the rest of our community.

There is significance behind the fact that we’re launching the program today, on the holiday known as President’s Day in the U.S. It’s a rejection of the rhetoric and ideas made popular in the last months of the campaign and in the first month of the new presidency. It felt necessary to create an initiative establishing that these beliefs are diametrically opposed to ours at Passion Passport.

Our team has committed to seeing this project through 2017 as a yearlong initiative, and we’re excited to continue expanding it over the next few months. We want to demonstrate — on both a large and small scale — that leaving home isn’t scary. There is immense beauty to be found in all corners of the world if you only make an effort to look for it.

I grew up in Montreal, at the intersection of two cultures. Canadian politicians once talked about Canada being a ‘cultural mosaic’ and to celebrate the variety of cultures present. Today, Justin Trudeau has reaffirmed these beliefs, stating that, “Diversity is our strength.” I’ve always been taught to celebrate those differences, not be fearful of them.

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A few weeks ago, I came into the Passion Passport office with the overwhelming feeling that my company needed to do something. We felt so frustrated while watching the events in the United States unfold and knew we needed to make a positive impact, even if at a micro level.

So we started with something simple: Having a passport is powerful. We want more people to have them and the experiences they can bring.

We give you: The Passport Project

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Zach
Zach is the son of a travel-writing father and a wanderlust mother who met on a bus in Guatemala. He wants to inspire you to travel, too. Find him on Instagram or Twitter.

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