At Origin

2019 Early Bird Pricing Only Available for a Limited Time – Apply Now!

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.

Our At Origin program goes deep inside the original Banana Republic, where a lush fertile land conceals bitter fruit. We’ll travel from the bustling markets of Guatemala’s capital to small-holder farms in the western highlands to examine just how land and livelihoods go together. We’ll see firsthand the effects of colonization and migration and discover the creative ways Guatemalans are reforming and rebuilding. Get ready to delve deep into questions around social justice and learn how you can make an impact!

2019 Early Bird Pricing Now Available!


Fees + Community Contribution

Regular Fees:
$1,550 USD + $100 USD
$1,700 CAD + $110 CAD
Limited time:

$1,400 USD + $100 USD
$1,550 CAD + $110 CAD

December 29, 2018 – January 5, 2019
  • Deconstruct the myths and discover the realities of fair trade while cultivating coffee on the slopes of Volcán Aqua alongside local farmers.
  • Meet revolutionary guerrillas-turned-reformers in Santa Anita La Union who’ve traded bullets for coffee beans to continue a grassroots, non-violent movement towards justice and equality in Guatemala.
  • From hiking along a volcanic ridge line to soaking in mineral hot springs and a volcanic lake, experience Guatemala’s astounding natural beauty up close and personal.
  • Ring in the New Year while watching fireworks along the shoreline of Lake Atitlan.
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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.

Location: Guatemala City, Antigua

We begin our Guatemalan adventure at the front doors of La Aurora International Airport but quickly take our orientation to Antigua, where our group will acclimatize to the sights, smells, sounds, and smiles of the region. We’ll explore the cobblestone streets of Central America’s historic colonial capital and orient ourselves to the country’s cultural and geographic landscape.

Coffee & Culture
Location: Antigua, San Miguel Escobar

On our first full day we’ll dive right into explorations of Guatemala’s third largest export: coffee! We’ll head out to nearby San Miguel Escobar to explore the coffee chain from seed to shelf 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.

Coffee Revolutions
Location: Xela, Santa Anita

After a morning traveling by chicken bus along the Pan-American Highway, we’ll make a pit stop in the indigenous metropolis of Xela for lunch. Here we’ll join revolutionary-turned-reformer, Willy, at Cafe La RED KAT for a delicious meal and an insightful chat about the challenges facing campesinos and their struggle to integrate into the new socio-economic order.

In the afternoon, our group will travel to 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 hear their stories and share our own while building friendships and deepening our understanding of the coffee revolution.

Growing Change
Location Santa Anita

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 the construction of the community’s new beneficio or mill. It’s here that the community’s coffee will be washed, depulped, fermented, dried, and sorted – all in preparation for the international market.

A New Year Above the Clouds
Location: Zunil, Quetzaltenango

Bright and early on New Year’s Eve, we will say farewell to Santa Anita and journey to the town of Zunil to begin an epic trek along the 7 Cruces ridgeline. Pushing ourselves physically over the course of this 22 km trek, we will experience the immense beauty of Guatemala’s highland plateau before hiking down through cloud, pine, and bamboo forests to Fuentes Georginas, a volcanic hot spring. We’ll take some time to enjoy a good soak before traveling to Lake Atitlan where we’ll ring in the new year with a spectacular display of fireworks set off by each of the eleven towns and villages surrounding the lake!

Lago Livin’
Location: Lago Atitlan

On January 1st, 2018, we’ll wake up in a bamboo bungalow at Operation Groundswell’s place-based operations or 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 and local partners 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. We will use our time here to get our hands dirty and dig into alternative agricultural projects on the site.

Location: Lago Atitlan

On our final day, we’ll have the chance to explore the town’s many famous women’s weaving cooperatives or simply stroll along the shore of a volcanic lake, before reflecting on our awesome adventure as a team. We will discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the journey home.

Location: Guatemala City

Finally on day 8, 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.
This is not a vagabond’s adventure nor is it a five-star jetsetter’s cruise. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in hostels, homestays, and guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but living as Guatemalans do sometimes means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Creepy crawlies are common while comfy beds can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Wherever we are, we’ll make it home in no time.

Meet Your Regional Director

After running programs on three continents in as many summers, Bobby returned to his OG roots in Guatemala to manage the Hub as Regional Director. Throughout his travels he has found himself standing on top of an active volcano in Ecuador, watching the sun set across the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and working barefoot in the rice paddies of Cambodia. But nothing tops the smell of the pine forests back home in New England. When he’s not brainstorming new projects and animals to bring to the Hub, you’ll probably find him doing handstands.

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