JOIN MISSION on Facebook on Twitter on Instagram on Pinterest on Tumblr on YouTube


Search by Cause

Search by Country


6 Lessons Travel Teaches You That College Never Will

Travel versus college: the eternal debate rages on with no clear-cut winner. Faced with rising tuition costs and a less than satisfying job market, many would-be college students are ditching their knapsacks and textbooks for rucksacks and guidebooks. But is putting your future on hold for a year of travel the best idea?

Although both sides have their merits, there are simply some things you'll never learn from scribbling notes in a stuffy lecture hall. Struggling to choose between travel and college? Consider these six lessons travel teaches you that college never will:


1. You are capable of more than you've ever imagined.

No one can deny it: Travel is transformative. And I'm not talking about tired clichés like "how backpacking through Europe changed my life", but the ability of travel to affect a tangible and lasting impact on your life.

Travel can turn introverts into extroverts, bring confidence to the meek, and create adrenaline junkies out of thin air; it pushes your physical and mental limits, forcing you to quickly adapt to uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations.

Want to see what you're truly made of? Travel.


2. People are fundamentally good.

Whether you live in New York, Dubai or Karachi, human beings are driven by the same basic desires. We care for our family and friends. We seek to protect our loved ones. We strive to improve our lives day after day. Most importantly, we look out for one another.

Without experiencing the world for ourselves we often lose sight of that, relying instead on cheap stereotypes to guide our thinking. Travel reminds us that we are more bound by similarities than separated through differences.

Good is stronger -- and more prevalent -- than evil. Get out there and see for yourself.


3. You are but a tiny blip on a giant radar.

Our whole lives we're told were special. Starting at home, continuing into our school years, and even into college, parents, teachers, friends, and work colleagues all do their best to remind us just how important we are.

It can be painful at first, but travel will knock that right out of you. Travel humbles you; it makes you truly realize just how small you are in this great big world.

You are a mere speck in an infinite universe. Accept it: You'll see it's not so bad.


4. Stereotypes are ridiculous.

Hollywood can really numb your common sense. If we believed everything we'd ever seen in the movies, we'd think all Russians are villains, all American college kids are alcoholics, and that all Australians do is hunt crocodiles and surf.

Fortunately, travel clears your mind of (most of) that rubbish. Wander around a little and you'll discover that not all Germans are serious, not all Canadians are overly polite, and not all Swedish women are supermodels.

Well, maybe that last one's true.


5. The world is not a dangerous place.

Turn on the news at any given moment: Reports about civil wars, armed struggles or terrorist attacks are never too far away. It's no wonder that announcing travel plans for places like Turkey, Israel or Indonesia can send loved ones into a panic. (I speak from experience.)

Negative news sells, and without venturing beyond your backyard, it's easy to assume that chaos reigns as soon as you step out of your country's borders. Never do we hear those feel-good, heart-warming local news stories from around the world. They're out there. You just need to find them.


6. One person can make a difference.

Grand gestures get all the attention. With philanthropists doling out millions of dollars to charities, it's difficult to see how ordinary people like us can affect positive change.

Travel shows you the other side of the coin: how tiny gestures can add up to something truly meaningful. You'll see that don't need to save a whole village or solve all the world's problems to impact lives. Be the difference for one person at a time. Even the small can become mighty.






Ryan O'Rourke is a travel writer, photographer, and founder of Treksplorer. Connect with Ryan on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to join him as he unearths the earth's quirky & sublime two to three weeks at a time.


MEET: Matt Wilson, Adventurer in Residence & Co-Founder of Under30Experiences

Matt WilsonMatt has the ideal job: he spends his days traveling and helps other people do the same with Under30Experiences. He also co-founded Under30CEO, a site dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs live life to the fullest.

Why did you start Under30Experiences? Was there a specific experience that inspired you?

After spending my first several years of my career sitting in front of a computer working on an internet startup, I decided it was time to get out and see the world.  I took a random trip to Iceland and standing on top of a glacier my perspective on life completely changed.  I simply asked myself, "Why were all of my peers stuck at their desks during the prime of their lives?"

Just two months later, we ran our first Under30Experiences trip to Iceland with huge success.  People had the time of their lives seeing such a unique part of the world and connecting with like minded people.  From there I took off and have been traveling around the world for the last 2.5 years.  Bonjour from Paris today!

Can you explain the difference between a travel company and an experience company?

Travel companies usually specialize in tours, bringing you to see the major landmarks, or stay in westernized resorts where you never actually leave the premises to see the country.

We describe U30X as "an experience company" because we curate itineraries that allow for people to share some of the most meaningful experiences of their lives together. It might sound corny, but when you are standing on a retreating glacier, learning about the effects of climate change in one of the most naturally beautiful areas of the world, you'll remember that setting and the new friends you were standing next to for the rest of your life. 

What do you think youth brings to the travel experience? Why is it important?

Travel to the Green Lifestyle in Costa Rica with U30X

One of the most unique parts about Under30Experiences is that our travelers age 21-35 are usually at a very similar point in their lives.  Their youthful exuberance leads to active trips like zip-lining in Costa Rica, skiing in Alaska, or hiking a volcano at 3am in Bali.  It's not that old people aren't capable of these things, it just makes the experience that much better when the people you spend 5-7 days are like-minded and can easily relate to each other.

Simply put, we have a ton of fun. 

What’s special about having 12-20 people in a group? What does a group of that size add to the experience?

Under30Experiences creates boutique experiences in a way that our groups always end up coming together and getting really close knit.  Sure, you'll have free-time to explore by yourself, but when it's dinner time, we all sit at one big table and recap the day.  

A group of that size means there is always someone there that you will be able to connect with, yet it's not so big so the group can stay inclusive of everyone.  If the group is planning on having a bonfire at the beach in Nicaragua nobody will get left behind in their bungalow that night. 

Explore the Land of Fire and Ice with U30XWhat is your single favorite travel destination and why?

Nicaragua is my favorite destination because of our special relationship with the locals.  Cesar Romero our Community Manager grew up in Nicaragua and puts us in touch with the culture first hand.  We work with a local organization called Communidad Connect to meet with local women entrepreneurs and hear how micro-loans and cooperatives have given resources for them to start businesses and support their families in some of the most impoverished regions of the country.

My favorite part of the trip is playing soccer with the local school kids.  It's very important that these children develop a healthy relationship with foreigners and these types of cultural exchanges allow our groups to understand what life is really like in Nicaragua.

How has Under30Experiences changed you personally?

Travel has allowed me to seek new perspectives and understand the bigger picture when it comes to culture, economics, international affairs, inter-personal relationships, and becoming more in touch with myself.

Humans face challenges across the globe and travel has allowed me to gain a healthy, first hand understanding of many of them, which has opened up my awareness to what we face at home...

In other words, yes, sometimes it does take being welcomed with a smile inside a home with dirt floors in Central America, to realize that these global challenges are happening just a few miles from wherever you call home.

What advice would you offer to people starting their own businesses?

If you want to "take over the world" you should first try to understand it.

Obviously I don't mean actually taking over the world, but if you want to be successful, you should first consider what success means to you.  Budding business owners must assume their responsibility as future world leaders and be conscious of the affects that their decisions make on all of our futures. 


Connect with Matt on Twitter at @mattwilsontv or Under30Experiences at @U30Experiences, or check out some of their trips:

Travel to the Green Lifestyle (Costa Rica)

Microfinance Surf Camp (Nicaragua)

Explore an Undiscovered Tropical Paradise (Belize)

A Skiing Adventure in Whistler (Canada)

Explore the Land of Fire and Ice (Iceland)





Samantha is an Art History and Visual Arts major at Columbia University. She is currently the Content Intern for and is also interning at Matthew Studios. She has a passion for travel and helping communities.


CONSCIOUS CAPITALISTS: A Talk with Soraya Darabi, Co-Founder of Zady

Soraya DarabiSoraya, who has about 400,000 followers on Twitter, is a pioneer of social media. She started her career as the Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media for the New York Times, where created a presence on multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, and taught her coworkers how to leverage social media. She is now a speaker for APB Speakers and World Economic Forum. Soraya created Zady, a clothing company with a conscience, in 2012 with childhood friend Maxine Bédat.

Did you travel a lot when you were younger? How do you think you think your travels impacted your perspective?

I come from a global family.  My father lives in the Middle East and my mother and sister both travel(ed) internationally for work.  Even though my parents didn't have gobs of money, growing up travel was prioritized and we found crafty ways to see the world.  I've gone to the Great Wall of China with my mother, on safari with my sister and to Morocco with my father -- and these memories of exploration are the greatest memories in the world.  Maxine, my fellow co-founder, had a very similar upbringing and our shared passion for understanding the world at large, and an inherent fascination with how great craft came to be is why we began Zady.

Zady's Green Palm Art Jacket

How do you define fast-fashion? What do you think is so appealing about it?

Fast-fashion is fad based fashion, products made quickly and cheaply based on popular runway trends.  To me, fast-fashion has another connotation - it represents garment workers treated poorly, paid almost nothing to produce items sold inexpensively at big box retailers.

Why do you think it’s so important to fight fast-fashion?

Beyond protecting the rights of workers around-the globe, to me fast-fashion also represents water waste and water toxicity, as a third of the world's water pollution derives from the apparel and textile business.  Basically, this means the rate at which we are producing products is far too rushed, and not at all good for the only planet we've got.  The time is now to return to the ways of slow fashion, to focus on process and craftsmanship. To own stylish, timeless pieces made to last -- and to buy fewer but better made items.   This is how we will fight back.

Can you talk about how social media can be leveraged to help causes like Zady’s?

Zady's Josephina WeekenderThe era of brands telling consumers what they should like because a sexy model is wearing or holding up said item is over.  Plain and simple.  Social media has radicalized the world and the brands that will succeed will leverage it to build community and most importantly, to truly listen to their community.  When our community speaks to us and asks us to carry, for instance, dog products made in the USA because they'd like their pets to live the Zady lifestyle, we listen. To some that could seem like a silly request.  At Zady it kicked off a conversation with our buying team about how to pay close attention to instagram for cues as to what we should look at for seasons to come.

How do you think the fast-paced, like social media, and the slow-paced, like slow-fashion, come together to find harmony?

The world is actually slowing down.  Attention is shifting, I think, from the fastest social networks (twitter) to creative networks (like instagram).  Fast-fashion is an addiction like any other. I came off of it.  Today I have a closet full of only the essentials items I need to live and work, a small loft apartment with few products but a fridge full of photograph of truly enjoyed experiences.  My friends have the same. It feels like the beginning of an exciting movement - a bold new era of consciousness.

Follow Soraya on Twitter at @sorayadarabi or reach out to Zady at @Zady.

Join Zady's movement and take a stand here.





Samantha is an Art History and Visual Arts major at Columbia University. She is currently the Content Intern for and is also interning at Matthew Studios. She has a passion for travel and helping communities.


MALAYSIA: Destruction of Paradise

No two seconds hold the same scene. I stand high above the virgin rainforests of Borneo and watch it slowly emerge from under a shifting blanket of mist. The whooping laughter of gibbons drifts up as sunbeams pick out tree after chosen tree. Cicadas start up a chorus. The boom of an argus—the world’s largest pheasant—is faint, but unmistakable. The forest is waking.

It was not difficult waking at 4:15 this morning and getting dressed in darkness blacker than a hood. I am in Danum valley which is one of the last remaining truly virgin stands of gorgeous tropical rainforests. And the promise of a “watchtower” overlooking this paradise evaporated any vestiges of sleep.

I leave this valley later today and head to the riparian zones around Kinabatangan river.

As it turned out, nothing could have prepared me for the dichotomous day that was to follow.

Walking deep in the rainforests is nothing if not highly interesting. Leeches collect me everyday and I find myself donating blood to them and sweat to the ultra-humid morass called equatorial air in equal measure. Furrowed and fluted buttresses of massive strangler figs slither into snaking roots that lie thick in my path, waiting to trip me up, should I dare look up.

But look up I did, for there were primates there. Red leaf monkeys of all sizes swung and leap among the canopies by the dozens; old orangutans laze on thick boughs, chewing on canary-yellow dillenia flowers. And there are gibbons: masters of throwing whoops. I can not spot them, no matter how fast I whirl around trying to trace the origin of each deceptive whoop.

Yes, I look up, but I look down too. I kneel among the leaf litter and peer. The forest lives at various levels, you see. There, among the humus, I find hints of fairies. I see their pink tutus balanced on tiny toadstool stalks.

It drips here all day. It rains. And rains. It comes down in impermeable grey sheets from low, bulbous clouds. It comes down in pitter-patter remainders from several layers of canopy. It drips all day. This thick dense green rainforest is a rainmaker. A lung. An unimaginably diverse ecosystem that breathes moisture, exhales oxygen, sucks away carbon dioxide. It is, I realize with each buttress I see, an invaluable carbon sink. A paradise that works bloody hard so we may live.

But as these things go, there is trouble bubbling thickly in paradise.

A week prior, from high above, I’d seen neat forkscrapes separating thick clusters of trees. Dark dense green bartered for neat rows of money-plantations. Orangutan and gibbon, argus and trogon all traded to sate the world’s hunger for snack foods and cosmetics.

Borneo was the world’s department store for the cheapest edible oil—palm oil.

Then I see the destruction closer at hand. As I drive out of Danum that morning, reality whacks me in the face. Bright red JCBs roll on clear-felled rainforest land. Fires burn away any remnants of a rich biodiverse ecosystem. Orangutans, rendered homeless, are likely dead.

Dark green forests hundreds of years old have been incinerated for a different shade of green.

Conflict Palm Oil* is everywhere. It’s in my shampoo. In my cookie. In our lip-sticks. In sweet-smelling soaps, face creams, biscuits, snack foods, chocolates, it lives large in our shopping carts. As the cheapest edible oil, it’s what is bubbling in woks all over the world. It’s what’s funneled out to ration-shops and grocers in rich and poor countries.

And where it comes from, chiefly, is here. Borneo. Over the cremated remains of old, last rainforests. A cremation, a destruction, that releases copious amounts of CO2 into the air.

Something reaches down my throat and grabs my stomach: the realization that, as a consumer, I am party to this waste.

For more information on Conflict Palm Oil, see the Rainforest Action Network's site.





Arati is a freelance photographer and journalist working in and around India. Her work focuses on the environment and people, interconnected as they are. She is currently working on a commissioned project to document the changes in the lives of communities and the ecology around our Rivers, the River Diaries.


10 Delicious Drinks You’ll Find Overseas

Some drinks--think bubble tea, Guinness, acai--have made their way around the world, but there’s still a vast assortment of beverages that you probably can’t find at home.  Here are 10 great excuses to plan your next trip abroad:


1. Pisco Sour (Peru, Chile)

The liquor pisco is the base for this refreshing cocktail.  Though Peru and Chile both claim the pisco sour as their national beverage, both country’s versions are equally tasty.  The Peruvian pisco sour includes pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white and bitters, while the Chilean version excludes the last two ingredients.  Either option is a great choice!


2. Masala Chai (India)

While you may find Chai tea in your home country, it likely differs from the ubiquitous drink sold by chai-wallahs at Indian roadside stands and hole-in-the-wall delis.  Authentic masala chai is made from whole-leaf tea and spices, which are added to a boiling mixture of water and milk.  It’s frothy, rich, flavorful, and utterly delicious.


3. Einspänner (Austria)

Austria is known for its historic coffee houses or cafes, which serve decadent variations of traditional coffee beverages.  The Einspänner consists of strong black coffee or a shot of espresso, which is served in a tall glass cup piled high with whipped cream.  Not only is the whipped cream a tasty addition, but it also adds insulation, keeping the coffee warm for longer.


4. Springbokkie (South Africa)

This cocktail gets its name from the South African national rugby union team, the Springboks.  Their jersey is green and gold, just like this drink which consists of creme de menthe and the cream liqueur Amarula.  Just a shot of this combo and you’ll feel patriotic too!


5. Apfelschorle (Germany)

The Germans, who dislike the artificial sweetness of most store-bought juices, commonly mix them with mineral water for a refreshing dose of fizz. Apfelschorle (apple juice and mineral water) is by far the most common type, and it may be purchased like any other soft drink or prepared at home.  


6. Raki (Turkey, Greece)

If you like licorice, you’ll love this unsweetened anise-flavored apéritif.  But watch out, it’s strong!  That’s why it’s often diluted with water, giving it a milky white appearance and the appropriate title “Lion’s Milk.”  The most common accompaniment to Raki is another Turkish classic, melon and feta cheese!


7. Sujeonggwa (Korea)

This robustly flavored fruit punch is a popular dessert beverage, particularly during the holidays.  The dried persimmons, cinnamon, and ginger that go into this drink give it a beautiful reddish brown color.  Though it is boiled during preparation, Koreans prefer Sujeonggwa served chilled--but it’s great either way.


8. Air Mata Kucing (Malaysia)

This unique drink is composed of some unique ingredients including the fruits luohanguo (aka Monk Fruit) and longan.  These are boiled with winter melon and sugar to make a naturally sweet fruity beverage that may be served hot or cold.  The most famous place to get Air Mata Kucing is Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur, where it is sold by numerous street-side vendors.


9. Atol de Elote (El Salvador)

This thick, creamy beverage is derived from the Maya culture, and perhaps as a result there are lot of superstitious traditions surrounding it.  For example, only a single person is allowed to stir the brew or else it will taste bad.  But fear not, this combo of milk, sweet corn and cinnamon won’t disappoint, and it makes a sweet ending to any meal!   

10. Palm Wine (Central and West Africa, Southeast Asia)

This beverage is just what sounds like--wine made from the sap of palm trees (of which there are numerous varieties).  While it seems ubiquitous around most of the globe, it hasn’t come to prominence in the Western world.  Depending on the type of palm tree and the time of fermentation, the alcohol content and sweetness may vary.  Taste around and you’re sure to find your fave!





Clara is a Politics major at Princeton University focusing on international relations and global health.  She is originally from Ashland, Oregon but loves traveling whenever she can.  Clara is currently the FIND YOUR MISSION intern for


7 Places Featured in TV Shows that You Need to Visit ASAP

Are you wondering whether some of the jaw-dropping places you see on your favorite TV shows even exist?  Well chances are they do!  Plan your vacation to one of these 7 scenic spots around the globe and get ready to recognize and reminisce about the dramatic scenes filmed there.


1. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

 This breathtaking mansion, located near the county of Hampshire in southern England, was first conceived in the mid-1800s.  However, the land around the castle has a long history and was once home to the medieval castle of the Bishops of Winchester.  The current owners still live in Highclere for part of the year, but during the summer it opens up to crowds of excited Downton Abbey fans!


2. London’s Chinatown (Sherlock)

 Located in the City of Westminster, part of London’s West End, this Chinatown was the filming site for various Sherlock episodes including “The Blind Banker” (1x2).  Since the 1970s, Gerrard Street has been the heart of Chinatown, and you’ll have fun spotting the familiar buildings and shops.


3. To’hajiilee Reservation, New Mexico (Breaking Bad)

 Fewer than 2,000 permanent residents occupy this small section of the Navajo Nation located West of Albaquerque.  The first cook site in Season 1 was filmed in the To’hajiilee Reservation, along with sections of Season 5.  You’ll be struck by the unique beauty of this isolated terrain.


4. Dubrovnik, Croatia (Game of Thrones)

 This picturesque medieval town on the Mediterranean Coast was used as King’s Landing, and you’ll recognize Dubrovnik’s Fort Lovrjenac as the Red Keep.  Other areas of Dubrovnik were used for the port city of Qarth in Season 2.  You might also want to visit Split, Croatia, where other scenes were shot.  


5. Buntzen Lake, Canada (Supernatural)

 This 3 mile long lake near Anmore, British Columbia offers visitors many outdoor recreational activities including hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.  You’ll recognize Buntzen Lake from Supernatural’s episode “Dead in the Water” (1x3)  The lake and nearby town have also been used in many other TV shows and movies including The X-Files (episode 3x22 “Quagmire”), Smallville (episode 1x3 “Aqua”), and Roxanne (1987).


6. Caerphilly Castle (Dr. Who)

 Located near Cardiff, Wales, Caerphilly Castle occupies 30 acres of land, making it the second largest castle in Britain.   It was built in the 13th century, but was more recently the filming location for Dr. Who episodes like “End of Time” (special broadcast) and “Vampires of Venice” (5x6)  Make sure you visit the many other Dr. Who sites within the city of Cardiff!


7. Iceland (Game of Thrones)

 Visit the land of the “White Walkers” and the “Wildings” as you experience the icy beauty of this unique island. You’ll recognize sites like the Hverfjall volcano, the Godafoss waterfall, and Lake Myvatn--all of which are featured in scenes “Beyond the Wall.”




Clara is a Politics major at Princeton University focusing on international relations and global health.  She is originally from Ashland, Oregon but loves traveling whenever she can.  Clara is currently the FIND YOUR MISSION intern for



NIGERIA: Women on the Edge

An hour outside of Kaduna, Nigeria, we arrived in a small village to document the Bixby Girls’ Education project. It was raining, and as we waited outside a small mud structure, a few women came to sweep out the water that had accumulated on the floor and then proceeded to lay down a dry carpet. About fifteen girls appeared, and they all sat down in a big circle in the room and took turns reading from a single, soft covered book.

The girls are taught once a week in the afternoon from 3 PM to 5 PM. Every group of fifteen girls has one mentor. The books consist of some folklore stories that teach the girls cultural values, and the basics of child-raising and simple ways of combating deadly diseases through vaccines, including practical details of when to get them and where they are available. Other books discuss health-related issues like oral rehydration therapy, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality.

During the Children’s Day Celebration, the girls are normally taken out for excursions to various places with Program Officers and their mentors. The girls started this program completely illiterate, but now they can read and write without much difficulty.

Some girls were removed from the program by their parents, who had arranged marriages for their daughters. Nevertheless, some of these girls later came back to continue with their studies.

I was very moved by the intensity of these girls as a single, very worn book was passed around so each girl could take a turn reading a single passage. Their attention was complete and unwavering as they were soaking up each and every word that was read aloud.

When everyone had had a turn reading, the mentor brought out a laptop computer and all the girls surrounded her, jostling with each other to be able to get a view of the computer screen. The mentor showed an image on the screen of a building in Europe (or the U.S.), and their hunger to get a glimpse of the outside world was palpable.

I have to admit that from my Western eyes, I felt very sad that these girls were unlikely to ever have a chance to achieve their potential, to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, artists; their choice was limited to getting married and to having frequent pregnancies.

I think it is wonderful that they learned how to read and write, but I could sense from photographing them that there was so much more they could achieve. Nigeria has the wealth to educate these young girls and it is very unfortunate that the government can’t provide a full education that would give them the choice and the opportunity to attend a university.

These girls’ situation is not unique; unfortunately, it is all too common. Their tragic loss of potential belongs not only to these young students who have such a desire to learn, but also to the nation of Nigeria and to the wider world.

I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign where you can join me in publishing “Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge”; a beautiful photo book compiled from a decade of my work documenting women and girls from all over the world.

Support the project today and become part of the growing movement of our time to take a stand for women’s rights.





Mark is a photographer with 35 years experience. He works in international healthcare and development and has special interest in women and girl's human rights.