JOURNEY for Travel with Purpose
JOURNEY co-founder, Amy Merrill, is driven by three things: Purpose, Adventure, and Community. Learn more about her and how these 3 three come to life with JOURNEY.
You have such a diverse background working in the non-profit sectors, technology, consulting and more. Would you share a bit about yourself and your background and how this culminated in the launch of Journey?
I’m a problem solver, an experience junkie, a camp counselor and lover of nature, and a singer. Each played a part in arriving at Journey!
I grew up in Santa Cruz, California surrounded by music, technology, nature, and activism. We were the first family I knew to get a green-screen computer (but never a video game system). I was an a cappella singer (“choir geek”) and loved the magic of summer camp. I paid close attention to the messages of protesters and petitioners, first in Santa Cruz and then at UC Berkeley.
But things came into sharp focus in my last year of college, when I lost my father to an unusual and sudden illness. I entered the “real world” knowing two things: life was short, and I had to make it count. At that time a spectrum of purpose-driven careers did not exist, so I went to NYU for a Master’s in nonprofit management. I spent the next seven years building, writing, and problem-solving within social justice and women’s rights organizations, first as Associate Director of the Jazz Foundation, with a Jazz in the Schools program and star-studded galas that raised $1.5M+ in a night. I left with a wealth of functional knowledge, and a newly-discovered passion for social justice.
I came on board as head of partnerships for my friend Taylor’s crowdfunding platform, Change Heroes. Here I helped bring on partners like Partners In Health and CARE to help them reach millennials. Taylor and I watched 16,000 users give to campaigns benefiting projects all around the world: homes, schools, water projects, girl’s scholarships… but there was something missing.
In December 2015 we took 20 people to build 20 homes, funded on the platform. The experiment in transformative travel worked: every one of those 20 experienced new levels of empathy toward and from locals and families. For two days we were all the same, working side by side to accomplish our goal. The next two days (a process we now call “The Integration”) were spent at a surf lodge, talking around shared meals about our observations, our pain, our hopes and dreams. We did yoga, journaled, went to the docks and local restaurants, and dove into ourselves and how we want to show up in the world.
In 2016 we took 200 Journeyers and funded 100 homes, contributing $375k to impact projects. And I found the best and highest use of myself: not inside of a single issue or nonprofit, but helping those around me to find an entry point to conscious action, to help my generation to not just understand but own our social and environmental challenges and feel empowered to act, to raise funds and innovate toward solutions—and to create the most epic “give-back summer camp” in the process.
Would you mind sharing more about the unique experiences Journey offers?
Journeys are 6-day group travel experiences with two days of impact work, two days of The Integration: time to process the impact work, reflect and reconnect through surf, yoga, meditation, workshops and shared meals. It’s about offering a perspective shift on the world and your place in it.
In 2017 we’re headed to Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Colombia, plus expanding to Greece (refugee work) and South Dakota (to work with the Sioux tribe). Each one will be a bit different, but follow the same core model and personal process.
We’re also releasing a few dozen spots on Fall 2017 trips to ‘fund a home, then go build it : meaning when you fund a home for $3K on our platform, your on-the-ground costs are covered. More information can be found on Journey website site.
What words of wisdom do you have for someone considering a volunteer travel experience?
Do your research online, read reviews and ask for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions to the group or partner. Look for projects led or co-led by local organizations. Ensure the projects you’re helping with actually require additional hands, and that they’re executed with a longer-term strategy for sustainability and self-sufficiency in mind. If you’re traveling on your own, try to choose your venues and operators carefully too. There are tons of “green” tour operators these days who can guide you toward eco- and locals-friendly establishments.
Where can readers find more information about Journey experiences, partners and opportunities to get involved?
Visit wejourney.co for all this and more.