In Advance of White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship

HI USA aims high in our pursuits because the need for intercultural understanding is so great; that’s why since 2011 we have been building an organization we unabashedly intend to be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize by 2020.  And it’s why I applauded last week when Airbnb’s head of hospitality joined ranks by suggesting the Nobel Peace Prize as a 10-year company goal, by 2024.  We may be competitors of sorts, but I’m glad to now have some BHAG* company!

Of course we are different.  As a nonprofit, HI USA exists to create a more tolerant world, one that brings people of diverse backgrounds together in friendship through travel.  We do that every day in our hostels.  But on a massive scale, it can only happen in tandem with others.

That’s one reason why the upcoming White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship is so important.  The Summit is bringing the top 100 bloggers and digital influencers to Washington DC on December 9th.  It’s all about harnessing the transformative power of travel.  And our close involvement with the Summit spotlights the spirit of our own commitment.

An influential, travel-enlightened global citizenry is an ideal still to be realized.  True, more and more people are travelling internationally for cultural and educational pursuits.  But to be really transformational, even extraordinary travel experiences need to be fortified –with meaningful experiences before and after – otherwise they lose their impact with time.  And we need to make travel-as-education experiences more accessible to more people.   Of course, that’s what HI-USA does.

Next week’s White House Summit will be a big step towards conveying the transformative power of travel to the public and encouraging young adults to explore other places and cultures and become better global citizens.  At the Summit’s official National Press Club luncheon sponsored by HI USA, I’ll briefly share some of my own thoughts on future steps.  Clearly the opportunity is deserving of some blue sky thinking:

  • How can global citizenship (e.g., through experience like Gap Years, study abroad) be more formally integrated into US college curricula?
  • How can incorporating a travel perspective make high school subjects like history and economics more engaging?
  • And how can the hospitality industry elevate cross-cultural communication as a key training component for new employees?

Pronouncements like the one from Airbnb are valuable because they signal widely the potential for travel to be more than a simple vacation.  And they get people talking.  A Washington Post columnist responded with a reference to intergroup contact, a field of research which shows prejudices between groups decline as interactions increase.  That’s important to the idea of travel-promoting-intercultural-understanding, and I doubt it would otherwise have received mention in popular media.

Travel as a pursuit defies simple categorization.   It’s why two very different organizations like HI USA and Airbnb can stand comfortably together in the same sentence (and who knows, perhaps eventually on the same Norwegian dais along with other travel organizations similarly committed).  And why a single White House event can be a potential game-changer for advancing both educational and tourism priorities.

HI USA is proud of its role in bringing some of the world’s leading travel bloggers and digital influencers to DC next week.  We anticipate they will be poised for commentary.  Who wants to follow the conversation?  You can, on Twitter with #WHTravelBloggers.

 

* “BHAG”, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, as popularized by Jim Collins.

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