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Around the World: Giving the Gift of Travel with Inspiring Stories and Bank Accounts

Jennifer Merin on

Sitting next to a chatty stranger on a long flight needn’t be a downer -- especially if your seatmate is a good storyteller with a satchel full of entertaining tales about previous travels to exotic places. By the time you land, you may have been inspired to create a whole new list of destinations that you really want to visit.

Lucky for me that the stories my seatmate told on a recent transatlantic flight treated me to a trip around the globe before we landed. She was a frequent traveler, an energetic elder still curious to explore the world and all its wonders. And, the way she talked about her previous trips to places ranging from Alaska to Zanzibar (now Tanzania) would have inspired even a couch potato to sprout wings.

Of all the tales she told, one stands out in my memory. It was the story about what got her into traveling in the first place. And it made me think about how each of us can inspire others to take that first trip away from home and begin their own travel adventures

My seatmate told me she’d been given the travel bug by her mother, a woman who due to unfortunate circumstances of health and other obligations, had never had a chance to see the world much beyond the boundaries of Boise, her home town.  But, she was a woman with a great imagination, a woman who wanted to make sure her daughter would have the opportunity to explore the world’s wonderful places.

So, for every holiday and anniversary celebration -- including birthdays from the day of her birth – a deposit was made – as much as the budget would spare – into a travel fund for her daughter. The fund was a secret bank account that was revealed when my seatmate reached the age of 21. Actually, it was at her graduation from college -- which she’d paid for herself -- that her mother presented her with the travel fund bank book, which by then contained a tidy sum that was sufficient to buy Susan her first airplane ticket -- coach class -- to London. 

“My travel fund bank account was a complete surprise to me,” my seatmate told me. “And, that’s odd -- ‘though in a good way -- because my mom had trouble keeping a secret.  She’d been talking to me about travel as long as I could remember, and reading me books with travel tales or about exotic places since I was a tot.  But we’d never packed out bags and gone anywhere.  Then, suddenly, there was this practical endorsement of the dream.  ‘So,‘ mom

said to me when handing me the bank book, ‘where do you want to go?‘  Receiving this gift, ‘though it wasn’t a huge amount of money,’ was really like being given the keys to the kingdom -- to adulthood, to curiosity, to making all the world’s interesting places and cultures my own. And, I’ve been on the go every since.”

My seatmate told me that she still has that same bank account. And, now that her mother has passed away, she herself makes deposits to it regularly on holidays and anniversaries, including her own birthday, and her mother’s. 

With this year’s holiday gifting season rapidly approaching, my seatmate’s story got me to thinking about giving the gift of travel and how to do that for friends and family. 

Giving the gift of travel is different, I suppose, than giving a travel gift. Both will surely be appreciated by anyone who is keen to get up and go, but that stocking suffer travel gift or gadget may wind up waiting for a long while to be used on a trip.  Let’s face it, budget worries have diminished the getaway possibilities for many an adventurous traveler.

So, why not set up travel funds for friends and family who still have travel dreams, but may be struggling to realize them?

Setting up a fund, by the way, isn’t the same as giving someone cash or a check.  If you specify that the sum is for travel, there’s a chance, at least, that it won’t be tapped to pay for something else, be that an essential or an impulsive splurge. 

You can set up a bank account without a minimum balance, or with a very low one, but you’ll be required to provide detailed information regarding title holder’s social security number and other personal items that you may not have, and may feel awkward about requesting -- even if it’s for a good reason.  One way around this might be to open

the account in your name in trust for your friend or family member.  You’ll still need to provide the personal information for the ’in trust for’ on the account, but you can usually give that at a later date, after you’ve presented the bank account as a gift.

How much is enough for a starter?  It all depends on what you can afford, and how it’s presented.  For example, you might start with a lump sum of $25, $50 or $100, or with as little as $1 to $10, with a note explaining that this is a progressive gift, and that you will add to it on future holidays and anniversaries.  You can also join with siblings or

a circle of friends to give jointly and on an ongoing basis.

Whichever way you approach this, make it fun!  You can put the bank book or certificate in a an envelope with a postcard from Paris or Palm Springs or Patagonia.  Then, and each time you make another donation, you can present it with another postcard to another place.

It may take a while for the travel fund to accrue enough to get your friend or family member on the road, but the mere fact that it’s there should be an inspiration to travel and a clear message that everyone -- even those momentarily strapped for cash -- has the right and is in the right to dream of seeing the world. And, with proper planning, has the possibility of doing so. And, you may be able to organize it so that other friends and family members make deposits, too. That way the recipient can get on the road even sooner.

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Copyright 2017 Jennifer Merin


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