Posted: 7/26/22 | July 26th, 2022
What does it mean to have a legacy? This is something that I thought a lot about when I started the Foundation for Learning & Youth Travel Education (FLYTE), our nonprofit, 7 years ago. FLYTE’s mission is to empower students from underserved communities through transformative travel experiences.
I know that my privilege has helped me to travel as much as I have. Many people around the world — and here in the US — do not have the same opportunities I have had. With that in mind, I wanted to use my privilege to create equity in the travel space. I wanted to help show people that there was a world beyond their borders, their town, and their perceived expectations. I wanted to show that they didn’t need to be limited by circumstance.
Over the years, FLYTE has worked with more than 100 students from 7 schools who have collectively traveled nearly half a million miles, visiting unique destinations like Ecuador, Cuba, and Mexico. One powerful element of these programs is that they give young people opportunities not just to travel, but also to create their own legacy within their communities.
This concept of legacy is really embodied in our 2022 partner school. Our FLYTE team has been working behind the scenes for the past six months to create an impactful experience for another group of incredibly resilient and inspiring students who just returned from their FLYTE journey!
I’m honored to introduce you to Kea’au High School from the Big Island of Hawai’i:
Kea’au High School is located south of Hilo in the Puna District on the Island of Hawai’i. Throughout the application process, what became most apparent to us was how the teachers, students, and administrators from this school all embody what it means to overcome adversity.
Last month, they traveled halfway around the world to Iceland to explore a volcanic island similar to their own home, but different in a multitude of ways. Jo’el, one of the teachers leading this trip weaves the theme of environmental science through their journey abroad:
Iceland and Hawai’i are both volcanic islands formed from hot spots on Earth’s crust yet located in very different parts of the world. Learning and comparing the geographical history of the two and the marine features and cultural dependencies would be mind-blowing for my students. They can understand more by being there and can then lobby their legislators for change.
These are the next generation of leaders and this opportunity gave them hands-on knowledge that can guide how they shape the future.
The enthusiasm and respect shared among everyone in this school community is apparent, and we’re excited that these students were chosen for this trip. I know that their time in Iceland was one small piece of education that will inform their larger legacy.
Jo’el told us how her students are very aware of their footprint as tourists. “Being from Hawai’i, a place that is often exploited for its natural resources, they all understand the potentially detrimental effects of tourism.” During their time in Iceland, the idea of ethical tourism remained at the forefront of their journey.
They learned from local guides who hiked with them on Fagradalsfjall, a new volcanic flow, observing the similarities and differences to the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on their home island. The group also had the chance to practice the local style of fishing. Since many of them come from generations of fishermen, this was a truly unique experience for them to form connections between ancestral knowledge across cultures. They also spent some time volunteering with an organization to plant nearly 100 trees, promoting native woodland creation.
All of us are still riding the high from another successful journey, but I also have some sad news to share.
This trip was FLYTE’s last.
Even though the work of increasing equity in the travel space remains paramount, the unfortunate reality is that the costs and resources required to operate FLYTE trips have increased, causing us to consider if the organization’s current model—to serve teachers across the United States and offer trips globally—could be sustained and scaled.
After much reflection, deliberation, and weighing out many other options, FLYTE’s leadership team and I have made the difficult decision to sunset FLYTE’s operations.
We tried to keep it going for as long as possible through the pandemic but we simply couldn’t grow the organization in a way that adjusted for the cost and resources required post-COVID. It was a hard decision but, after turning over every possible stone, we realized it was the only option available to us.
We made a huge impact during the last few years and we’re super proud of that. After all, we’ve sent over a hundred kids overseas, many of whom are now college graduates, have gone traveling, started their own community initiatives, and all of whom have a passport now. The work we have done as a community has changed lives. It has given something out of reach to people who needed it the most.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned from FLYTE’s tenure is the power of the collective to make change happen. This includes our incredibly generous FLYTE donor community, and extends to the sister organizations that we’ve collaborated with over the years.
We invite you to follow, support, and donate to organizations that share a similar mission as FLYTE’s: to create travel opportunities where none currently exist. We have had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the organizations below.
There are also many other teachers, community members, and organizations focused on developing leadership in youth through travel, and we encourage you to seek out locally-led initiatives in your community. Immense gratitude to them for continuing to move this work forward.
- iFly Youth
- Atlantic Impact
- Teens of Color Abroad (TOCA)
- Afrika Outbound
- A Leadership Journey
- Farther Foundation
- Too Culturally Rich
- Travel Sparq
- Caribbean Minds Exposed Through Travel (CMETT)
- B More See More
- Melanin Missions
- Steam Box RI
- Wander Foundation
I’d like to thank our entire team who have made these FLYTE trips possible throughout the past 7 years. From Courtney, FLYTE’s co-founder, to Carmela, our current Executive Director who has almost single-handedly managed all of FLYTE’s operations for the past five years, to our past and current Board of Directors — Azad, Matthew, Dante, Mari, Paul, Marquette, Julia, O’Shannon, and Javier, and all of our volunteers and supporters. Thousands of you have empowered young people to travel. It took a village to change a village.
If you’ve joined NM+, purchased a guide, taken one of our courses, donated outright to one of our FLYTE fundraisers, or simply shared FLYTE’s mission with your own community, you’ve played a critical role in turning our mission into a reality.
I thank you. The team thanks you. The teachers thank you. Parents thank you.
But, more importantly, students from all over the country thank you for giving them the chance to get on a plane and experience the limitless possibilities the world has to offer. Many of them have started their own non-profits, are studying abroad, and have gone on to finish college and live with a more broad perspective.
Thank you for being part of their journey and ours. We’ve created this legacy, together.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.