Adventure|Life at GoBeyond

Why I Carry 93 Index Cards in my Backpack Every Summer

Community Service Teenager Travel Summer Adventure

Written by Shaun Swartz

We have a lot of traditions at GoBeyond…

bringing a program flag with us everywhere we go and splitting it amongst the group when we leave, taking fun spinning-selfie videos in random locations, “the squeeze,” you get the idea. These traditions are integral to our experience and are a part of what makes an organization “thick,” as New York Times Columnist David Brooks calls it; but there’s one tradition that really sticks out as central to who we are:

Writing each of our travel mates an index card of positive memories from our time together.

This tradition, known simply as “cards,” started in 1986 with our founder, Jim Stoll, incorporating the index card notes into our sailing and scuba diving summer programs at ActionQuest. As is customary, these index card notes are written as part of our closing activities of a program while we divide and distribute our flag evenly and say our good-byes. Since the inception of this tradition, thousands of students and staff have written cards and shared memories, many of whom still have their card collection stored away in travel memory boxes from all those years ago.

Community Service Teen Summer Adventure Travel Service

Enter, Stage Left: Brent Johnson.

This past summer I was privileged to lead two sessions of our Orphans of Beijing volunteer work in China’s orphanages, whereupon I met Brent. As it turns out, Brent was a scuba instructor with ActionQuest in the late 1980s – well before he became the founder of “China Little Flower,” our service partner in China. As our group sat together in the waning hours of our journey, Brent mentioned that he still had his index card notes from his voyage as an instructor at AQ nearly 30 years ago – a testament to the power a journey can have on your life when you open your world to new possibilities.

These little cards are a token of our shared experiences together – their value only increasing with time as the memories of our journeys fade and become obscured by new adventures; and while this process of seeking new experiences and continuing to learn is just part of who we are as humans, these cards connect us to our past. I carry these 93 (and counting) index card notes with me every summer because they represent a part of my story too formative to ever forget.

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