We’re all about collaboration. It’s in our DNA. That’s why we’ve sat down with over fifty people close to OG to ask them which values best represent the organization. Together we built what is now called the Backpacktivist Manifesto: a working document that we use to inform everything we do.
These values epitomize a true backpacktivist – travelers who are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the places that they travel to and live in. Beyond that, these values inform how we make our day-to-day decisions at OGHQ.
The most important quality in a backpacktivist is the ability to reflect and adapt. You need to be prepared to change yourself, prepared to change your perspective of a new place, and prepared to change the lives of others. A backpacktivist isn’t just keeping an open mind. They are actively changing who they are and how they interact with the world around them.
The world has infinite opportunities for wonder and enjoyment. Every tree can be a playground, every street can be your dance floor. A backpacktivist squeezes the sweet nectar out of every opportunity the world throws at them. “Gee, that mountain seems impossibly high,” to which a backpacktivist would respond, “That must mean that the top is impossibly beautiful!”
A backpacktivist is a guest in a place others call home. Adhering to local traditions and customs allows us to understand the value of cultures different from our own. It opens the door for a greater understanding of our similarities, not just our differences.
People clash. That’s natural. Being a part of a cohesive group has less to do with how much everyone likes each other and more to do with the level of respect between those who like each other least. This respect extends to the people we meet all around the world. Make an effort to understand the people we don’t get along with. Why are our perspectives different? What can we learn from them?
Travelling is a humbling experience so long as you let it be. Humility allows us to connect to anyone – be it a doctor, teacher, farmer or street performer. A backpacktivist may look silly searching for words in a new language, but the very attempt connects them to locals on a different level.
A backpacktivist stands in solidarity with those who are confronted by oppressive powers. A backpacktivist stands in solidarity with all peoples, regardless of race, gender or class. Solidarity promotes greater understanding and inspires the oppressed and those who stand beside them to shape a more just world.
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Groups make us confront ourselves in a way that can’t be mimicked by individual experience. Groups challenge the way we think, the way we empathize, and the way we relate to the world. An OG backpacktivist leverages the power of a group to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them and a deeper understanding of themselves.
The road is the best classroom. At the heart of OG is the quest for knowledge of a world none of us can fully comprehend. A backpacktivist is looking for truth.
We are training the next generation of positive leaders. There are enough leaders in the world that tell people how to think. We believe the greatest leaders are the ones that teach people how to think for themselves.
“Something unforgettable happened to me this past summer. This authentic, amazing, unique thing was my trip with OG to Ghana where I spent 6 wonderful weeks taking in the sights, smells, and most importantly, the people. The beautiful residents of Ghana welcomed us with open arms. They invited us into their lives without hesitation and became our teachers. Teachers whom I can wholeheartedly say allowed me to learn more in 6 weeks than I have in my first 24 years. I can truly say that I lived and breathed the culture and through OG was introduced to the luminosity that resides in the charming country of Ghana. This is the kind of experience you get with Operation Groundswell… an experience that is real, enriching, and inspiring.”
– Agatha, 2012 West Africa: Discovery