A Train Ride You're Unlikely to Forget: The Millennial Trains Project

By Karl Hughes on May 13, 2013

I’ve spent the last three years of my life working in startups or small businesses. Now, I know that doesn’t make me an expert, but one thing I’ve learned is that in order to fully realize an ambitious dream, you have to be able to devote yourself to it completely. One of the hardest things to do is clear away all your other obligations and immerse yourself in a project, but the Millennial Trains Project might just be the perfect opportunity.

Imagine hopping on board a train in San Francisco and spending 10 days with some of the country’s most innovative, pioneering young thinkers riding across the country together with the goal of making something amazing. Imagine visiting 10 cities along the way with the goal of seeing the vast scale and diversity in American life. Imagine watching the countryside whiz by as you work alongside thought leaders and notable mentors from around America. It’s pretty enticing, right?

That’s the idea behind Patrick Dowd’s Millennial Trains Project, which will leave the station for the first time on August 8th, and give 100 young professionals, entrepreneurs, and student the opportunity of a lifetime. Those who apply will be expected to raise their own initial funding, but expenses on board the train will be covered. With a full schedule of learning events, networking exercises, and showcases, the investment will likely be invaluable.

I got to speak with Dowd this week to ask him about the project, and he told me the story of how it all came together. After working in India as a Fulbright scholar, Dowd went to work a traditional 9-5 at a large bank in New York City. Just as he settled into his job, the Occupy Wall Street movement was heating up, and after watching protestors make a lot of noise without a lot of action, Dowd decided that it was time to come up with something new.

Journeys build leaders – and Millennials are the new pioneers,” says Dowd, “I started MTP to create a platform for people my age to explore their own personal, professional, and creative frontiers on a national scale – and to better understand our country in the process.”

Armed with just a vision, Dowd set out to make it happen. He quit his job and began working full time on the project, quickly finding that people who heard about the idea loved it. Now, he’s enlisted a prestigious team of mentors for the journey from Mike Oreskes, the Senior Managing Editor at the Associated Press to Jonathon Perrelli, Managing Director of Fortify Ventures in Washington DC. “Finding people to get involved has been pretty organic,” Dowd told me, “[this idea] unites people from many different backgrounds.”

And now Dowd’s challenge is finding young people (anyone aged 18-34 is eligible) who are ready to take the plunge. While anyone between 18 and 34 is eligible, Dowd admints that the journey will mostly interest an “enterprising, civic minded, creative young person who’s at a point where they’re open to new opportunities.” For some of us, taking a week off work might not be possible, but since the trip takes place during the summer break, this is a fantastic opportunity for students or recent graduates looking to make a transition into something exciting.

Applications for the project are open now, and entrants have until July 1st to join and raise the initial funding required. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can check out their website or find them on Facebook, and if you have an opportunity like this for young people, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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