By Laura Hensley
Rob Dyer travelled the world by the wheels of his skateboard to raise money. After losing his mother, two grandmothers and a friend to cancer all within six months, he founded Skate4Cancer.
At this year’s Toronto’s Go Global Expo, Dyer stood on the platform as the opening speaker to inspire others to travel with a purpose. “When something bad happens in life, you have three choices: You can let it define you, destroy you, or strengthen you,” Dyer said.
The expo, which ran Sept. 20 – 21 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), was filled with informational booths to encourage visitors to step outside their comfort zone by volunteering, studying or working abroad.
“There’s always that nervousness inside of you, but it’s overpowered by the excitement of where you’re going,” Dyer said.
Give A Heart To Africa gave their volunteer, Amy Watson, the opportunity to travel to Tanzania. She taught English and helped disadvantaged women learn the key-skills of business.
“One of the main things I’ve taken away from Tanzanian culture is their content — they are happy, and they have next to nothing compared to what we are used to,” said Watson. “Their level of happiness far exceeds ours whereas people here are miserable they don’t have the new phone and it really puts your priorities in perspective,” she said.
University of Toronto student and expo volunteer, Linda Qian, urged attendees to follow in her footsteps by participating in an international exchange or summer abroad program. By studying abroad, students can earn credits while experiencing a foreign culture.
“It’s worthwhile, it’s not something you can get out of just being at school, so when… you’re immersed in the culture, you learn a lot quicker and you meet a lot of people,” Qian said.
Jeff Minthorn, editor-in-chief of travel publication Verge magazine and co-founder of the Go Global Expo, helped create the expo to unveil the international opportunities.
“We launched [the magazine] more than 12 years ago and the Go Global Expo was kind of a natural evolution,” said Minthorn. “It was an opportunity for us to … give people a chance to meet with these organizations in a really direct face-to-face way.”
For the attendees who were still unsure about leaving the comfort of home, Dyer wrapped up his speech by reiterating his belief about the power of traveling with an objective in mind.
“My piece of advice is when you’re looking at the great ways to travel, don’t be afraid to take that great leap of faith,” said Dyer.
The Go Global Expo will be in Montreal on Sept. 27 and in Boston on Sept. 28.