A Budget Travel Foundation?

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We've gotten some thoughtful replies to Erik Torkells's letter from the editor in the December/January issue, in which he mulled over the idea of a travel foundation. Here's a sampling:

I just read your letter and wanted to say that many others share your idea. I was lucky enough to be a principal in a school district with a large number of Chinese students. One community member thought that all of us, principals and teachers, would benefit from visiting China. 40 of us spent 10 days with all expenses paid by our benefactor, except for $300 for our airfare from LA. It was indeed a fabulous experience. We visited schools of course, and I later returned taking 11 teachers with me to teach English to Chinese high school students for 6 weeks in the summer. One other trip followed as well as several visits by the Chinese to our city. One of the highlights of my career I would say, and yes it does broaden your acceptance and understanding of other cultures. Hopefully all that went not only opened their minds to the Chinese but became more accepting of all cultures. --Sandra Miller, Ed.D, University of La Verne, Calif.

Your letter in the December/January issue spoke to our hearts. It said why we founded the nonprofit all volunteer our developing world. We knew that "our preconceived notions would be the only thing getting blown up" in a perfect world but that won't happen till people cooperate. Such cooperation won't happen till people know something about each other. Therefore we have a free lending resource library for teachers with artifacts, lessons & visuals of "developing countries" and we take small groups of people who want to see for themselves on Reality Ecotours always with a focus on people, health, socio-economic & human rights. We hope some budget travelers will check out our website. Anyone with lots of time could put together these contacts but for those with limited vacations we guarantee to give you the fullest non-Hilton adventure. --Barby & Vic Ulmer, Saratoga, Calif.

In early 2003, while on a trip to Thailand, I met a retired businessman who had recently sold his company. In getting acquainted, he told me he was using part of the money from the sale to finance a "think-tank" of intellectuals and scientists to come up with feasible plans to helpThird World countries by putting money more directly into the hands of the citizens and not having it filtered through corrupt governments or agencies.

Your "The View from Here is Pretty Nice" column of December 06/07 struck a note that reminded me of that encounter. I have been a tour organizer for a teacher's organization from the early 60's until my retirement in early 1990 and I facilitated teacher travel through low-cost charters and group programs.

These two paragraphs are connected in this way. I suggested to the businessman that his "think-tank" look at the idea that, in place of our current foreign aid programs, the U.S. Government should divert a large part of the dollars going to those programs to very low-cost flights to needy foreign countries, e.g., $100 round trip, plus a tax credit of "X" dollars per person. The participants would spend their own money while on the trip, which money would go directly into the local economies and the pockets of citizens of those countries. Safeguards could be imposed such as discontinuing flights to countries that attach government fees to the flights or add hotel taxes, etc. I am sure that many schemes would be developed by the corrupt bureaucracy, but with care this could be circumvented.

I think this would give Americans who currently do not travel abroad something to think about and give a wake-up call to many foreign politicians that their free lunch at our expense can end. --L. Edmond Leipold

I write you this email today only one day back from my weekend trip to Munich, but felt a need to respond to you column in the December/January issue of Budget Travel. You, I and the thousands of others who work in the travel industry have to be some of the luckiest people alive. Why you ask? It does not have to do with our somewhat job security, discounts received, great people with whom we work with, but more of the fact that we can see the world for practically nothing be it for work or pleasure.

So let me begin by telling you why I wrote. My name is John Luttrell and I live in the tiny state of Delaware. I am currently working for US Airways on the ramp in Philadelphia and have been for the last ten years. Though we have been through many pay cuts and job changes since 9/11 knowing I still have the advantage to travel on a whim for free has kept me hanging in. Over the past five years I have seen many colleagues depart for other jobs and I think to myself what a shame it would be if that day were to ever come for me. For ten years now I have been to and have seen so many places that would have never happened if not for me working in the airline industry. Be it Vegas for a day or the Caribbean for a week these things seem so unattainable to many others in this country who don't have the opportunities we do.

As I read your article about how the girl in the coffee shop had wanted to go with you to Iowa because she has never been anywhere it only reminded me of how many of my colleagues don't travel and also of how my friends react when I go away to all these different places. But, the one thing that really got me was to think about the people I know who have never been out of the local Delaware area. This state is in such a great location with driving distance to so much. A day trip to Philly, NYC, DC or ever to Atlantic City, but I have talked to so many who have never been to any of these places and it makes me question why these people have never been far from home. Is it due to laziness, nervousness, scared to try new things, or could it be the fact that these people might not have the means to take these day trips yet alone leave the country for a week.

I too believe that travel brings people closer together and what one might have thought of you because of where you live, what religion you are, whom you voted for I think it gets thrown out the window when you really get to know that person for themselves and see how they live their life. So I question your daydream about the BudgetTravel Foundation and hope you make it a reality as you and I both know that many people out there should have an opportunity to see what or who is outside their own town. These people should have an opportunity to experience new races, cultures, and creeds so they can see for themselves that this world is a beautiful place once you get out of your comfortable surroundings and let others in.

Though I personally don't have the means to start a foundation on my own I would love to help in anyway possible if you were to start anything. It could be using my eight companion passes to help with airfare, coming to NYC to help your staff arrange travel plans, or just doing anything I could do from my home here in Delaware. I know there are numerous foundations helping people who are sick, but I think that a foundation like this would be great for those who have never been outside their hometown and I hope this does become reality. --John Luttrell,Wilmington, Del.

My latest copy of Budget Travel arrived today. I so enjoyed your editorial comment. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a Foundation that helps more folks travel! I have had the good fortune to travel for the past twenty years. As with many travelers, the cost of trips is a big factor in my destination decisions. I learned to shop wisely and travel during off seasons. It was snowing in Florence the February I was there, but I WAS in Florence and the museum and sights were still there.

Each trip I take, I bring home small items for the children in my life. I have brought home soccer team scarves, cricket balls from England, beads from New Orleans, and puka necklaces from Hawaii. My husband volunteers in a fourth grade class, so each child gets a postcard and/or other small items from my travels. I bring home flags of each country to share with the children. None of these things cost much, but they help show that the world is a different place. My constant message is that travel is something that everyone can achieve. Keep up the good work. --Jackie MacNeil

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