OG on TalentEgg: Backpacktivism = Adventurous Travel + Volunteerism

TalentEgg is Canada’s career hub for students and new graduates looking for meaningful job and volunteer opportunities, so it just made sense for OG connect with them and talk more about what we like to call the “backpacktivist” lifestyle. Contributing writer for TalentEgg and OG’s Marketing Intern (what a happy coincidence!), Justine, sat down with Programs Director Jo Sorrentino to deconstruct the role of travel and volunteerism in shaping one’s career.

The following is an excerpt from the interview. You can read the full interview transcript on TalentEgg by clicking here.

Why backpacking?

Jo: Backpacking is a way of life. We talk a lot about being a “backpacktivist” and that means a number of things. Socially, being a backpacker means really delving into all the places you’re going. You don’t have a lot of stuff with you so you’re going to have to eat local food and live on a budget while seeing and doing as much as you can.

Environmentally, it means reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible. We see it as a way to see the world and it’s also the most fun! I mean, you can ride around in a tour bus and see things out of the window or you can get down and dirty and walk it, hike it, bike it, motorcycle it, raft it, climb it…

Jo and Taha in West Africa

What are the career benefits of traveling and volunteering?

Jo: Everything! It’s such a huge challenge. Whether you’re negotiating for fruit or a taxi ride, or dealing with other cultures and other languages…there’s just so much you’re going to learn. And depending on what kind of volunteering task you take on, you’re definitely going to learn new skills. For instance, some community projects we’ve worked on have included building water filtration systems, assisting in disaster relief projects, and planning the construction of a community center…all of which build and apply practical skills.

More than that, employers want to see somebody who is able to handle different kinds of environments and traveling will teach you that in a way that nothing else can.

How have OG travelers leveraged their experience to start their own careers?

Jo: There are a million of them! On a very intra-OG level, pretty much everybody who has led our trips was once a participant before. We hire many of our alumni to become trip leaders. But even outside of that…I’ve personally written recommendation letters for participants who participated in our West Africa Global Health program and are now in medical school. Others have taken their career paths in an entirely different direction from what they had originally planned. For instance, I just got an email today from one of our participants who had every intention of becoming a businessman, but after his experience with OG, has spent the last five or so years teaching in China.

Then there are those who have taken their volunteer experience to a whole new level, establishing social enterprises and non-profit organizations of their own. Kelly Hadfield, for instance, started Ghana Medical Help, a non-profit that distributes medical supplies to hospitals in and around Sandema, a town in the Upper East Region of Ghana. She was inspired during her trip with us when her trip leader organized fundraising to bring an ultrasound machine to a hospital in the region. That initiative has just been growing ever since and it’s really helping to change the maternal mortality rate in that region, but Kelly will be the first person to say that it’s really the medical staff in that region who are the real heroes behind getting that equipment to the right place.

To read the full interview on TalentEgg, click here.

Think you’re up for the challenges that volunteering and travel have to offer? Join Operation Groundswell for their six-week Amazon adventure in Peru. Applications are due by August 1st.