At Origin

Applications Closed

Applications Closed!

We’re building a community of “backpacktivists” that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in. We work with our local partners on community-requested projects to uncover the intricacies of each place we go to.

Most of us wake up every day and treat ourselves to a hot cup of coffee. But where does it come from? How is it produced? Who grows it and what is their life like? On this program, we’ll go behind the scenes and follow coffee at its origin. We’ll discover the realities of life for small-scale Guatemalan farmers, talk about fair trade, and see what role we play in the international coffee chain. We’ll ask the hard questions and confront how something as seemingly simple as our morning coffee can create a more equal and just society.

Applications Closed!


Fees + Community Contribution

$1,550 USD + $100 USD
$1,700 CAD + $110 CAD

December 29, 2018 – January 5, 2019Applications Closed!
  • Meet revolutionary guerrillas-turned-reformers who have traded their bullets for coffee beans, building solidarity within and across communities.
  • Deconstruct the myths and discover the realities of fair trade.
  • Cultivate coffee alongside local farmers and learn about the intricacies of what goes into our morning brew.
  • Climb one of Guatemala’s many peaks to revel in a stunning sunrise over the magical waters of a volcanic lake!
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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in Antigua

We begin our journey in Antigua where the group will acclimatize to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the cobblestone streets of Central America’s historical colonial capital as we orient ourselves to the country’s cultural and geographic landscape. Get ready to experience modern Mayan culture and relish in its delectable delights!

Coffee 101 in San Miguel Escobar

We’ll get straight to the source as we head out to nearby San Miguel Escobar to explore Guatemala’s third largest export: coffee! We’ll follow the coffee chain from bean to cup with De La Gente, a sustainable agricultural cooperative focused on direct trade. We will join founding members Filiberto and Timoteo on the slopes of Volcán Agua where we will learn to pick, process, and roast our coffee. We’ll then sit down with our hosts to share a traditional Guatemalan meal!

Market Justice in Xela

In the ladino and indigenous metropolis of Xela, we’ll encounter one of the few cities in Guatemala where coffee shops are popular with locals. We’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer Willy at Café La RED KAT for a delicious meal and an insightful chat about the challenges facing campesinos (small-scale farmers) and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order. In the afternoon, we’ll scavenge around local markets and take some time to explore this unique urban centre on foot.

But don’t forget – it’s New Year’s Eve! We’ll go out on the town to celebrate another year gone by and share our hopes for 2019. At the stroke of midnight, we’ll be back at our hostel rooftop for a special and intimate view of the fireworks going off over the city of Xela!

The Coffee Revolution in Santa Anita

Get ready to kick off 2019 the best way OG knows how – building community and supporting our partners in mobilizing change! Our group will arrive in the community of Santa Anita and home of APCASA, a coffee association founded by former civil war combatants. These soldiers-turned-farmers perceive coffee differently: it is not just an exportable commodity but also a symbol of revolutionary solidarity. Staying in family homes, we’ll have the opportunity to hear their stories and share our own while building friendships and deepening our understanding of the coffee revolution.

Growing Change

The following day, we’ll share a day in the life of a Guatemalan coffee farmer. We’ll take to the fields to harvest ripe, red coffee fruit, and collaborate on other community-requested projects. It’s here that the community’s coffee will be washed, de-pulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market.

Lago Livin’ at the Hub

We will conclude our exploration at Operation Groundswell’s Hub, located on the shores of beautiful Lago Atitlan! The Hub is a physical embodiment of OG’s culture, philosophy, and mission. It is a place where solidarity is cultivated in and between people through conversations and collaborative projects. It is also a site where OG can test and develop new ways to create positive impact alongside our participants and our local partners.


After a whirlwind week, we’ll spend our last full day resting our tired legs, refreshing in the magical waters of this volcanic lake and reflecting on our jam-packed adventure. We’ll have the chance to explore the unique and beautiful town of San Juan and simply stroll along the shores of the volcanic lake. We’ll then meet up as a team to discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.


Finally, with hearts full of memories, we will return to Guatemala City where our group will say adios and adelante!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


With OG, you live like the locals.
Whether it’s a youth hostel in Antigua or a bamboo bungalow on the shores of Lago Atitlan, we will be sleeping and eating as a team in ways that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living as the locals do sometimes means living without some of the comforts we’re accustomed to. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared!

Meet Your Regional Director

Ana was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and has since travelled whenever possible in pursuit of her passion for education, development, and nature! She has worked as an English teacher in public and private schools in Costa Rica, and volunteered in Quijingue, Bahia (Brazil) on community development projects. After completing her Masters in Translation, she worked with Peace Corps, Costa Rica until returning to the world of NGOs as a Program Coordinator in Riobamba, Ecuador. Now, she’s super excited to be part of the OG family and looking forward to establishing new partnerships, working with and training awesome program leaders, and designing more amazing programs in Latin America!

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