Teaching Traveling: Have you been seeking a way to connect your children or students to the world without leaving home?
Read about how Chelsea Rae Schmidt’s Big Earth Explorers can do just that!
Chelsea, first tell us about your background and how you got interested in Global Education.
Chelsea: I’m just your average young, unemployed, college graduate… except that I gave up the job search in order to live my dream and travel.
When I started college in 2006, I hadn’t been anywhere except just over the border into Mexico (back when you didn’t need a passport). In college though, I was determined to study abroad and after a lot of searching I settled on what I feel is the very best study abroad program out there, Semester at Sea.
In the fall of 2008 I sailed literally around the world on a floating campus with some of the greatest people and some awesome professors. We learned about apartheid while exploring South Africa, visited a Brazilian favela and spoke to the people about their struggles, saw the wonders of ancient and modern Japan mix in Tokyo, and experienced all the intensity and wonder of India.
It is an expensive program (obviously) but they offer some incredible scholarships and for me personally the trip of a lifetime around the world only cost $3000. If anyone knows someone in college, suggest the program. They also accept professors from around the U.S. (universities and community colleges) for paid teaching opportunities and also hire a head librarian each semester.
Semester at Sea was more than an amazing trip though; it was the turning point and a vision changer. I graduated college with a degree in Anthropology two years later but instead of getting a job, I took my savings and left the country… and I haven’t been back since.
TT: Tell us about the fascinating Global Education venture you do now.
C: While traveling has become part of my life, it obviously isn’t my career. Oh how I wish I could find someone to pay me just for traveling!
Instead, I decided to seek out a way to support my traveling fund while also doing something worthwhile and meaningful. The idea came more from habit than anything else. Throughout my travels I have always made a point to send postcards home, not only just to my family but also some friends I know who are teachers. They loved the postcards and I always wished I could send more to their classrooms but international shipping can be harsh on a traveler’s budget.
I started to research the options and realized that no one was really providing a service to teachers to allow them to bring the world into their classrooms through physical and technological materials. It is a needed service too. Children in the U.S. score as some of the lowest on international geography tests and exactly $0 of the (failed) No Child Left Behind budget was devoted to geography.
After a bit of surveying, brainstorming, and product testing with teachers I knew… Big Earth Explorers was born!
We offer fun educational postcards, packages, and online materials from countries around the world each month to bring global education into the classroom. You can check out our website to see what we do. Let us know what you think, too! We just launched and really appreciate any and all feedback.
Ideally we would like to apply for non-profit status in the future but before investing in that timely and costly process, we want to be sure we have a service teachers want. Right now we also have a limited number of sponsors so check out our website if you would like to be sponsored. Parents and homeschooling families can also make a purchase.
TT: Fascinating! How have your travels and international connections impacted you as a person?
C: I grew up in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere USA. Everyone in my town was white, Christian, and conservative. “Diversity” was singing a Jewish song at the Christmas concert. My mother though, she realized the value of geography and I still remember summer days sitting with my globe, spinning it, dreaming about all the places I’d go.
My travels have brought me face to face with realities that I could have never dreamed of back in my small hometown. I have met incredible people, make lifelong friends, seen history in person, and history in the making. Traveling opens up the world but it also opens up your mind. I can now understand the passion of a “freedom fighter” and the dreams of a poor Indian child. I seek to travel but I also seek to connect with people so different from me and yet so similar.
Travel has no doubt made me a better person.
TT: What advice do you have for others who are dreaming of travel and connecting with the world?
C: Stop dreaming; just do it! No, really!
Sure, you might not have the money to visit Europe, but set your sights on somewhere else. The cheapest places in the world are often the most exciting. I can personally attest to the fact that you can live comfortably on a beach in Cambodia for $5 a day. Try “travel hacking” for the plane ticket.
Seriously though, if you want to go, buy a plane ticket and don’t back out. Don’t wait for friends who wont ever have the time and don’t wait until you have “enough” money. Use Twitter and Couchsurfing to find new friends before you go or just plan to stay in hostels. You will meet more new friends than you can even believe in a good travel hostel.
But please, if you do get to follow your dream and travel, send a postcard home to a child you know. The travel bug is a disease worth spreading!
TT: Thanks so much for your travel advice and for telling us about Big Earth Explorers! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Chelsea?