NEWBURYPORT — A local businesswoman is offering one lucky young woman the adventure of a lifetime with the launch of a new travel scholarship.
Kelsy Stromski, owner and creative directress behind Favor the Brave and The Newburyport Studio, believes travel can be especially transformative for young women in their late teen and early adult years.
The scholarship, which is open to any New England-based woman within the 18-22 age bracket, features roundtrip international airfare up to $1,500 to any part of the world, a $1,000 Airbnb gift card for a place to stay and a $500 Visa gift card for other expenses.
Applicants must also be interested in or actively pursuing higher education in a creative field such as graphic design, fashion design, art, architecture, interior design, videography, photography, illustration, industrial design or animation.
They must also be a U.S. citizen and have both a current passport with at least eight months left before expiration and "an intense desire to travel outside of her comfort zone."
Growing up hours away from any airport on a 1,000-acre potato farm in a small town in northern Maine, Stromski didn't have a lot of opportunities to travel, but she worked odd jobs as a teenager to make her dreams a reality.
"I'm very much a proponent of kind of pausing and trying to find your passion," Stromski said, noting that there is a lot of pressure for young adults to pursue higher education and figure out their career path immediately after graduating high school.
She finds that travel is a way to get out of one's own comfort zone, find an identity and network with people all over the world.
The scholarship is something Stromski has wanted to create for a few years now, saying it is "just my way to give back" to the community where she has established her family and businesses.
She hopes the idea will cause a ripple effect with other studios and businesses taking her idea and offering scholarships.
When asked if she was concerned about travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic being an issue, Stromski said she was mindful of it, but felt that those hurdles could be part of the learning experience.
Pandemic or not, young travelers have to learn how to do their research prior to visiting a new place and ask questions such as, "Do I need a visa? How long am I legally able to be in the country?" she said.
The length of the trip will all depend on where the winner decides to go. If the woman wants to stay in a flat overlooking the Eiffel Tower, the scholarship might only be able to cover a couple of nights due to the cost.
If the winner wants to go somewhere further out of the tourist destination bubble, then she will likely get a longer trip out of it.
Stromski has previously stayed in a bungalow in Thailand for $15 a night, and that included a free yoga class, she said. At that rate, the winner could stay for more than a month.
"I'm hoping people will want to travel further and get creative with the accommodations, but I really do want to keep it open-ended to whatever someone's dreams and wishes are," she said.
Some of Stromski's favorite places include Zermatt, Switzerland; Reykavik, Iceland; Beaune, France; Isla Mujeres, Mexico; Santa Teresa, Costa Rica; Azores, Portugal; and Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Deciding on a place to visit all depends on what a person is interested in and what time of year it is.
"I think you get much more of an authentic experience when you're not inundated with other tourists," she said.
The travel she has most enjoyed has been "where I've really been the outsider — and I say that in the best possible way because that's when I feel that you get a true sense of a place."
To apply for the scholarship, instead of an essay, applicants are asked to create one 4-inch-by-6-inch postcard on heavy grade paper, visually answering the question, "What evoked your passion to travel?"
Postcards should be mailed by Dec. 1 to Favor the Brave, 70 State St., Third Floor, Newburyport, MA 01950. On the back, applicants should list their name, address, email, phone number, age and a sentence caption for their creation.
On Dec. 20, applicants will be narrowed down to 10 finalists. Those people will be notified and asked to submit a one-minute video of themselves explaining why they should be chosen to win.
Preference will be given to applicants with limited financial resources that could be preventing them from traveling.
For more on the scholarship, visit https://thenbptstudio.com/scholarship. Also check out @favorthebrave.co and @thenbptstudio on Instagram for updates and travel inspiration.