Social entrepreneur Kenji Summers has a global message. Travel abroad.
“Travel provides an opportunity to recognize opportunities outside your comfort zone, which may be your home. You travel so you can learn more about who you are,” he asserts.
Summers is the founder of Passport Life, a movement created to help people secure passports for international travel and to edify global culture zeitgeists while feeding their creativity.
“Travel helps me refresh my spirit, my creative flow and my pockets because I get new ideas when I’m traveling abroad. It helps me connect with myself more and I think that’s the most important thing. That personal development piece of travel … folks can’t really quantify. I have spoken to so many people and they told me about when Steve Jobs, who fell in love with the study of calligraphy at Reed College, went to Asia and studied religion and the spirituality behind that written form of communication. It explains why you return to the States, you have a company like Apple that’s more like a religion or belief system versus just being a brand. That’s the power of travel man.
In 2008, as Summers approached his 23rd birthday, some of his friends proposed they travel to Barcelona. Around the same time, rapper Lupe Fiasco released the “Paris Tokyo Remix,” featuring Pharrell Williams, Sarah Green & Q-Tip.
The song repeatedly demanded, “Get a passport,” and that’s exactly what Summers did. He and 10 friends traveled to Barcelona for his birthday.
“I went online one day just shifting around and downloaded the song and the first thing I heard was like if you are from the five boroughs, get a passport, so you can see the world. Lupe was spitting these bars and Pharrell was like fly to Paris and end up in Tokyo. Let’s start a coalition so even the broke can go. I was like all these messages and all these signs are coming all at once. The next day I went and applied for my passport. A few weeks later I had my passport. A few months later I was in Las Alhambra in Barcelona with friends celebrating my birthday. And, it came out of being open to what the world was already telling me. I was open to possibilities and opportunities.
“Truth be told … I was 22 and I’d never traveled outside the United States of America,” the Brooklyn native reveals.
Summers realizes passport aren’t inexpensive so he puts the investment in perspective. “I realize there are people out there who don’t have the opportunity to travel and that’s real. Some of those same people will spend $200 on a pair of sneakers. If you can do that, then do it if it feels good. You have earned it. But travel is something that should be a priority in one’s life because it’s the only thing in life that you spend money on that makes you richer.”
If President Obama could appoint him an ambassador, he’d like “Vanuatu. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific that sits three hours between Australia and New Zealand. It was once regarded as the happiest place on earth. I have a special relationship with that place because you get to see the core of these people that are from as far as Africa and even America. If you could witness who we are there, then you’d understand why we should be here. They have such hard conditions but they are so happy. I think there are things we need to learn from them. I would love to be an ambassador to them so that I could bring that back to America specifically to Black Americans,” he explains.
What would Kenji Summers, founder of Passport Life, ask the community if given the opportunity on a world stage?
“If I asked the community one thing, it would be to unite. Bring all your resources together and see how you can change the world and how you see that world. You can protest. You should protest if it’s necessary. You should also look at the central theme around the issues and things you are protesting against and then figure out how you can get the benefits your community needs and seek out opinions other than your own. Challenge assumptions.