Operation Groundswell
95% Rating
(78 Reviews)

Operation Groundswell

Backpacking with a Purpose: Apply by November 22!
If you're into cultural exchange, meaningful community service, and off-the-beaten path adventure, apply by November 22nd to secure an interview for your first-choice program!

Operation Groundswell is all about backpacking with a purpose. With ethical travel at the crux of our philosophy, Operation Groundswell designs financially accessible programs that tell a story, addressing key challenges unique to each region and community we work with, told from diverse local perspectives. Each of our programs has a dynamic blend of solidarity-based community service, meaningful learning experiences, and off the beaten path adventure.

Most Recent Program Reviews

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Katherine
Female
USA
Texas Woman's University

India: Mind and Body

10/10

I enrolled on the India: Mind and body program without really knowing what to expect. I was simply hoping to be thrown out of my comfort zone... and oh boy, was I ever!

OG puts a lot of emphasis on cultural immersion and traveling in a simple and humble way. So, our accommodations were modest and we took sleeper trains and rickshaws to get from place to place. We had a lot of opportunities to learn from the culture and practices of India through structured activities, but I also felt like we had a good amount of free time.
There was a fairly last minute change to the itinerary, which altered the program quite a bit. Rather than staying in the Rishikesh area, we ended up spending a week farther up in the Himalayas on the Ramana's Garden farm. There, we had a lot of time to do service projects and to get to know the many wonderful people there. We also had a lot of time to discuss our impact, and how we could make the experience mutually beneficial for ourselves as well as our hosts. Things didn't go 100% smoothly, but what held the program together was the amount of love and support between all the people in our group, as well as our program leaders. They all became sisters to me, and I wouldn't want to have shared the experience with anyone else.
India was tough for me. The sensory overload, the heat, the lack of toilet paper, etc. was overwhelming at first. However, one I got into the swing of things, I found the whole experience to be both profoundly beautiful and humbling.
If you're thinking about going on an OG program, do it! You won't regret it.

How can this program be improved?

Less time in Delhi, more time in the mountains!

Maddie
Female

Exciting. Thought-provoking. Hilarious

9/10

Exciting: This was my first international experience. I wanted a program that was more than visiting popular tourism sites; I wanted a program that immersed you in a culture and forced you out of your comfort zone. OG did just that in a way that I always felt safe and supported.

Thought-provoking: Through scheduled discussions and impromptu chats on bus rides, OG opened my world to new questions I had never asked. Learning about others experiences and comparing those to my own makes me feel grateful for the opportunities I have had and inspired to give back.

Hilarious: Each memory is filled with laughs. From breaking out in song on bus rides to dancing around with pizza on our last night, my trip was filled with a unique and amazing group of individuals. Stories from this trip are my favorite to tell because I can't tell them without laughing and smiling.

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Natalie
Female
24 years old
Canada
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Peru - Mind & Body

10/10

I traveled with OG in May of 2014 to Peru. It was somewhat a spur of the moment decision and I could not regret it!

Travelling with OG gave my the opportunity to truly experience a new culture and learn from my fellow group members. We saw so much of the countries amazing nature as well as different elements of the culture. This was done through spending time learning Spanish, living with local family, and volunteering with local NGOs. The group leaders organized the trip perfectly for us all. We had lots of time to explore the country, volunteer with locals, and get to know each other. I took so much away from this trip. Additionally, the time following our volunteering to explore on our own time give me the chance to travel on my own for the first time with the help from group leaders who knew the area. I highly recommend Operational Groundswell to everyone looking for truly helping others as well travelling responsibly!

Ryann
Female

Incredible and Profound

10/10

What an incredible 40 days of experiencing new cultures, learning more about myself, and making friendships for life! I'm so very lucky to have gone on this amazing journey with Operation Groundswell throughout Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, with such courageous and like-minded people. I can only hope this is the beginning to a lifetime of adventure. The friendships that I have made on this trip are deep and profound. Even months after being back home, we message back and forth daily and are extremely supportive of each and everyone's endeavors. Truly an experience to make friends for lifetime.
-Ryann Van der Zwiep (Bolivia: Lands & Livelihoods, Summer 2017)

How can this program be improved?

I loved the autonomy that this program allowed us, but I do wish there was time set out with our leaders to help prepare ourselves for the 10 days we traveled alone.

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Sacha
Female
27 years old
Washington, DC
Queen's University

Incredible trip!

10/10

OG is a wonderful organization that engages with tourism in a pretty unique way. This was my first ever time in Southeast Asia so I didn't want to go all by myself. Having studied international development in undergrad, it was very important to me that I travel with an ethical company that respects local cultures and doesn't charge you a fortune to build part of a school for a couple weeks and have you thinking you're changing the world. OG was exactly what I was looking for. We definitely had our share of touristy experiences, but getting off the beaten track is what made this trip special. The value for the price is excellent, considering that everything is planned out for you and how much is packed into these 6 weeks. Despite the fact that it's been a few years, my experience in Cambodia and Thailand is still something I constantly talk about (pretty sure my friends and family are sick of hearing about it). I can't say enough good things about OG and would not hesitate to travel with them again.

How can this program be improved?

More time in Thailand would have been great, but there's only so much you can squeeze into 6 weeks (especially when the Thai military declares a coup a week before you arrive).

Program Listings

Guatemala

Operation Groundswell
Nestled in Central America, Guatemala has one of the most interesting, yet tragic histories. Home to the Mayan civilization,...

Thailand

Operation Groundswell
You might’ve heard of this region’s 30 cent street pad thai, deep-fried tarantulas, and bucket-fuelled dance parties. Sure en...

Ghana

Operation Groundswell
In the hectic tro-tro stations of Accra, Ghana, vans weave through the market and spill onto the streets. Behind the castles...

Peru

Operation Groundswell
Peru isn’t the country you might expect it to be. Everyone has heard of Machu Picchu and the Incan civilization, but very few...

India

Operation Groundswell
Ask any traveler – India is one of the most intense places in the world when you first arrive. It is an enigma of a country t...

Palestine

Operation Groundswell
Control over Palestine has changed hands many times over the centuries, with both Jews and Palestinians claiming true ownersh...

Tanzania

Operation Groundswell
Tanzania is most commonly known for Mount Kilimanjaro, idyllic beaches, and its vast wildlife reserves. It’s home to the Sere...

Bangladesh

Operation Groundswell
The global fashion industry is a complex beast; it’s hard to imagine where to even begin. But at Operation Groundswell, we’re...

Bolivia

Operation Groundswell
Bolivia is a country of contradictions and extremes, boasting one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. Bolivia...

Ecuador

Operation Groundswell
Ecuador may be the smallest country in South America but boy does it pack a punch – majestic Andean mountains, lush Amazon ra...