In a few days, I’ll be on a flight heading to Europe for the next two weeks to do an intensive study abroad and have some fun. As I pack for this trip, I reflect on conversations that I used to have with my mother where she would encourage me to leave home and see the world. My mother always said, “there’s more to life than Jacksonville, FL and you need to see it.” Whenever I travel, I’m in awe at the thought that this kid from Jacksonville, FL gets the chance to be in another country or state. A sense of gratitude always overcomes me when I think about this blessing/privilege to travel.  I recognize that other family members and friends don’t have the opportunity at times to travel or see the world. Whether it's North Dakota (first and last time ever going) or Santorini, Greece (AMAZING), I'm just happy to have the means to fulfill my childhood dreams (rhyming not intentional).

This is why I appreciate the Black travel movement (a network of travel agents and social networks that celebrate and promote travel by people of color) that has gained a considerable amount of traction in the last few years.  You know, the sites/pages that you take those picturesque photos for such as: TravelNoire, NomadnessTribe, and Tastemakers Africa. I get so excited when I see  travel influencer, @RachelTravels, doing her thing across the world and highlighting the different cultures that she engages with on her many excursions. They’re all doing their thing and I love it! And folks try to say that Black people don’t travel? According to Steve Cohen, VP of Insights at travel and hospitality marketing firm, MMGY Global, African Americans are traveling now more than ever. From 3 percentage points in 2013, intent to travel among African Americans increased to 6 points in 2014, to 19 points in 2015 and up another 18 points in 2016. We are moving! 

Oftentimes, I wonder how different things would’ve been growing up if I learned about traveling earlier in my lifetime. I wish that I would’ve been able to travel abroad just to gain the exposure to bring the material I was learning in the classroom to life, however, I understand how difficult that could be in lower income households.  How awesome would it have been to travel to Egypt and challenge the misconceptions taught in a textbook? Or to discuss meeting the people of another country and explain to the ill informed that not everyone fits a specific stereotype.

Recently, I learned about a Los Angeles-based, nonprofit organization called The Now Boarding Corporation, that is determined to increase annual study abroad rates among minority males across the country. The mission of this organization is to promote local and international travel to inner-city minority males and I believe that organizations like this can change the trajectory of young Black men across our country. What makes this program different from others is that the travel experience includes community service opportunities, provides students the chance to learn about the entrepreneurial process of starting their own business, but most importantly, students have to participate in monthly educational programming linked to STEM education. That’s right, STEM education-where the salaries are higher in comparison to other fields of study, yet Black men only represented just 3 percent of scientists and engineers working in those fields.

The sooner these young men are exposed to these opportunities, the better prepared they can be to further a passion for STEM fields. I learned quickly in life, exposure and experience are some of the best tools for our youth to better not only their lives, but the lives of their families as well. An organization like this is a game-changer and is worth the look. Also, did I mention that it is a Black-owned organization? Let's support our own and teach the babies!

Learn more about this awesome organization and if you’re in the L.A. area,  definitely connect with them because I certainly will.