A story of Sadness & Inspiration

By Martin Green, Founder of Generation Go

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I was sitting in the last meeting of the day wrapping up final arrangements before heading for a three-week trip to Italy. Part of me had already left on this incredible vacation when my cell phone started vibrating. I looked down and didn’t recognize the number, so I ignored it. A few minutes later my phone was vibrating again, once again I ignored it. The third time the number popped on my phone, I excused myself from the meeting and swiped to answer the call. My life would never be the same.  

The voice on the other end informed me that my son had been in terrible traffic accident and me and my wife needed to come to Raleigh as soon as possible. I stepped back into the meeting, told them I had an emergency and raced home to get my wife. As I rushed into the house screaming her name she came rushing around the corner and within minutes we were racing down the highway for the hour-long drive, praying and calling everyone I thought could help me.   

I remember rushing into the emergency room and looking at all the people waiting. When we told them who we were they dropped what they were doing and escorted us immediately back into the hospital. For the first time in my life I wanted them to tell me to wait with the others. I knew this was a terrible sign.   

Dustin was on life support and the prognosis was fatal. Within a few short hours we had to make the decision to disconnect our son from life support and watch him drift away. The worst day you can ever imagine.  

Lou and I had to decide how to react to our tragedy, the first impulse was to quit. Give up on life. After a couple of days of pure grief, we remembered eight months earlier, before when Dustin graduated from high school we had offered him a trip anywhere in the world for his graduation present. He responded by saying, “I don’t want a trip, I want a car.” We went back and forth for weeks with him asking for a car and me telling him over and over that a trip would be his gift and if he didn’t choose a place to go, I would. Finally I did the choosing and set up a trip to the Galapagos Islands.  

I remember as we said farewell at the airport Dustin looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Dad why are you making me do this?” I was crushed, my son felt like his graduation present was a punishment. 

Fast forward two weeks as we anticipated his return waiting at the gate and wondering if he would curse me when he arrived. We saw this smiling boy coming up the ramp and he stepped forward with a huge hug. He told us he had the best time of his life. We couldn’t get him to stop talking about the amazing adventure he had been on. The trip had transformed my son from an entitled brat to an insightful young man. He was never the same, now he truly appreciated what we had done for him. Eight months later he was dead.  

We decided to start Dustin’s Greenhouse (www.dustinsgreenhouse.org), an international leadership program for underserved high school students. For the next 15 years we have transformed kids who thought they had a tough life. Shark cage diving in South Africa, scuba diving in the Galapagos, hiking 44 miles along the Inca trail we have tested kid’s endurance, made them face their fears and introduced them to experiences they never imagined.  

I have seen first hand the impact transformational travel can have on young people so now we have started a travel advisory, Generation Go Travel (www.generationgotravel.com) so that we can transform other lives through travel.  

God gave us this incredible gift, called Earth. He filled it with amazing sights, incredible wildlife and a kaleidoscope of cultures. What a terrible use of his gift we only see a couple pages of this gift. Transform yourself through travel! 

kelsey bumsted