Lands & Livelihoods

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.

In the shadow of Bolivia’s majestic peaks, we’ll discover diverse neighbourhoods, hike to remote communities, and immerse ourselves in Bolivian culture! We’ll try to understand how livelihoods are impacted by globalization’s push for rapid change and how long-held traditions can continue to thrive. Get ready for conversations with our local partners and friends about realities you didn’t know existed!

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40-DAY ↑

Fees + Community Contribution

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Program Dates

July 14 – August 22, 2018

  • In the shadow of Bolivia’s snowy peaks, explore La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. Discover diverse neighbourhoods, navigate the continent’s largest black market and get your hands dirty with Fundacion Alternativas – all while admiring the view.
  • Hike to a remote community in the altiplano around Sucre to collaborate on a local development project while camping under the stars!
  • Immerse yourself in Bolivian culture and unpack the effects of climate change with local organizers and ecological producers in Central Bolivia.
  • Stand in awe at the unique and unreal Uyuni Salt Flat – at 3,656 m./11,995 ft. it’s the world’s largest and most photo-friendly lithium reserve. And get a glimpse of some Andean flamingos while you’re at it!
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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 Cochabamba

Our program starts in Bolivia’s city of eternal spring, Cochabamba. Following pickups from the Jorge Wilstermann International Airport, we’ll get acclimatized to the sights, sounds, smells, and altitude of the region. At 2560 m./8,400 ft., we’ll settle in to our adventure by exploring Cochabamba’s vibrant neighborhoods. We’ll learn the lingo and get a crash course in Bolivian culture, politics, and, of course, cuisine!

We’ll start with some Spanish lessons allowing us to better connect with local changemakers like Fundacion Abril to begin unpacking Bolivia’s colonial history, the effects of climate change, and how land and livelihoods intersect in this landlocked country. Then, we’ll learn to bargain hard in the local markets and savour the sheer delight of saltenas, humitas and silpancho!

Sustainable Technologies for a Sustainable Bolivia

We’ll dig our heels into our learning as we collaborate with our partners at CECAM Bolivia. CECAM’s mission is to create and implement environmentally sustainable technologies that contribute to improving the quality of life of the communities they work with. During our time with CECAM, we’ll have the chance to work on one of their many important projects. Whether it’s through their solar ovens or ecological toilets, we’ll get an intimate and immersive look at what it takes to create sustainable systems that improve the conditions of Bolivian families, as well as the wider environment.

La Paz

At 3640 m./11,900 ft., we’ll explore the diverse neighbourhoods of the world’s highest capital. From the presidential palace to the witch market, our team will discover the hidden gems of this bustling city.

Plus, we’ll go farm to table and get our hands dirty working with Fundacion Alternativas, an urban food sustainability project!

Community Approaches to Climate Change

After our foray into the big city, we will get to dig even deeper into sustainable living with our partner and friends at Agua Sustentable. This non-profit organization’s purpose is to contribute to water sustainability and environment management at both national and international levels.

Working in and alongside a rural community, we’ll learn how community-based initiatives are being used to confront climate change and improve livelihoods in central Bolivia.

Enterprising Change in Sucre

Next, we’ll travel to Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital. We’ll wander the streets, soaking in the beauty of the White City. We’ll then set-off by foot with Condor Trekkers, a non-profit tour outfit dedicated to improving local livelihoods through social enterprise. Together with Rojelio, Jhonny and others, we’ll explore the Cordillera de los Frailes, or crater of Maragua. Our trek will be a hands-on learning experience on local flora and fauna!

We’ll then trek to a remote community where we’ll stay with local families, share stories, and collaborate on a local development project. Be prepared to eat traditional Andean food, play a football game or two, and sleep under the stars!

Digging for Development in Potosi

Once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Potosi is now one of South America’s poorest. For the next three days, our team will chip away at the mystery of Cerro Rico, or “the mountain that eats men”. We’ll connect with local NGOs like Cepromin, which works with mining communities across Bolivia. We will meet with miners, whose livelihoods continue to come from the deep, and then tour an active mine to learn about the culture, traditions, and folklore of this iconic community. Our team will examine how one of the largest silver mines in history has produced little more than dust for the local people. But we’ll also see how inspiring local initiatives are building a more sustainable future!

Dreamscapes at Uyuni

You’ll think you’ve landed on another planet when you arrive at the Salt Flat of Uyuni! Containing about half of the earth’s lithium reserves, these flats were created by the drying up of several prehistoric lakes. Visit the train cemetery, watch flocks of Andean flamingoes, and take some wild photos on this alien landscape. Then we’ll zig-zag across the Chilean border, to the town of San Pedro de Atacama where we’ll kickback, sand board, and star gaze before breaking for Independent Travel Time.

Independent Travel Time 

Our crew will also have Independent Travel Time (ITT) – a staple of all Operation Groundswell programs. You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests, whether it’s heading north to the famed ruins of Machu Picchu, relaxing on the Chilean coast, or exploring the stunning Colca Canyon around Arequipa in Peru.

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation, Isla del Sol, Copacabana

After ITT, we’ll reconvene in Isla del Sol for disorientation. A staple of every OG program, this is an opportunity to relax and reflect. On the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, we’ll try to unpack our incredible adventure. We’ll share our wild and wonderful memories, tell tall tales from ITT, discuss what we’ve learned and talk about how to apply it to life at home. Then it’s back to La Paz for some tearful goodbyes!

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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


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Head north to hike the glaciers outside of Huaraz or south into the deepest canyon in the world in the Colca Canyon.
  • Kick back on the beaches or catch a wave along the Chilean coast.
  • Hike up to the famous ancient ruins of Machu Picchu!


With OG, you live like the locals.

Traveling as much as we do on the Bolivia program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. In cities, we’ll usually be sleeping at clean, safe, and secure guesthouses that will feel like a second home in no time. When we’re trekking or in rural communities, we’ll generally be sleeping under the stars or in the community centre of the town we are staying in. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Though Western comforts should not be assumed, you can expect to better connect with locals and their culture. 

Meet Our 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 South America!

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