What prevents us from participating in life to the fullest extent possible? For college students and travel “wanna-bees,” the answer is more often than not, money. Money, or lack thereof, can be quite a game changer.
In the years that I advised students about opportunities abroad, they repeatedly told me about their perpetual lack of funds. Yet, there were so many that were eager to hear about the countries and courses that were on offer, nearing tears as they imagined the impossibility of attending due to money problems. I’ve had so many conversations with “wanna-bee” travelers, but money always seem to be the biggest barriers.
Travel transforms us and it does matter to our world. Recently, while talking with our two past Melibee team members who now work at GoAbroad.com about how closely I hold this belief, they shared a fabulous resource l that I could have used back in the day as an adviser and that I can use today as a personal traveler (and informal travel advisor) – FundMyTravel. Instead of asking friends and family to participate in an old school fundraising effort (we all remember the knock on the door: “Will you buy a candle or chocolate bar to fund my child’s school orchestra trip to Australia?”, we can support experiences abroad by easily jumping online to read about a sojourner’s intended journey and then decide whether to make a donation to a goal oriented travel experience – whether it is study abroad, pursuing an internship abroad, missionary work, conducting your own independent research overseas, or even traveling overseas for an adoption experience.
What’s much more enjoyable about the process now is that we can also watch a video about the intended experience, read a heart centered statement about why the decision was made to travel and share feedback/comments in an interactive way. What I appreciate about this crowdsourcing site is that it is dedicated to travel and education abroad opportunities. I’ve found it fascinating (and inspiring) to browse the site to learn about the types of adventures that folks have ahead of them. Quite possibly the biggest differentiator between this tool and others is that you don’t have to reach your ideal dollar goal (or even a certain percentage of it) to be able to access your funds, unlike required by many other crowdsourcing sites – a nice perk in my estimation!
FundMyTravel is a very clean site to use. Its simple design facilitates an easy breezy user experience (and I say this with some authority, after listening to my digital strategist husband’s influence over the years) that allows for not only fundraising, but creativity through a fundraising toolkit that is chock full of suggestions for how to reward those who help to fund your travels. By including playful incentives like receiving postcards, video shout outs, and t-shirts, those who donate can feel like part of the experience too.
Participants create a budget to illustrate how funds are going to be used. For many, the need may be as simple as funding a flight. Having the capital to be able to put a deposit on a competitive airfare, without having to pay in full to secure it, is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of dedicated fund raising efforts. (STA Travel offers a $300 deposit program to secure a flight reservation early, making it easier to really commit to meaningful travel and save on cost.)
The site also includes a more detailed budget feature, where items such as travel insurance, program fees, medical costs related to vaccinations, supplies and more can be itemized with potential funders to share what they’d be funding. This provides an opportunity to educate those considering funding meaningful travel about the real costs of international experiences these days.
I did ask the folks at GoAbroad.com about how this tool affects financial aid, for those who are receiving credits for their time abroad. The great news is that the money raised through the site is a gift and it does not impact financial aid packages (although students should always be sure to double check with their schools’ interpretation of federal regulations regarding financial aid to be absolutely sure.) But, assuming this is how your school understands the federal guidelines too – wow – what an advantage!
While those are just some of the benefits of this online tool, perhaps what I appreciate most about FundMyTravel is that the approach is rooted in GoAbroad’s bi-national team’s commitment to creating meaningful travel resources for educators and travelers. Much like the philosophy of Melibee, GoAbroad’s team imagines what is possible and meaningful for this community, and they build it. Their company’s culture is very much about “beeing” the change that they want to see in this world, and I can support that all day long.
“Bee” sure to check out this site for your upcoming meaningful travel – and share your impressions in the comment section below.