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The Pitfalls of Pursuing Your Purpose

Living with purpose is a noble ambition, but it's not something that can be sought. A purposeful life is created within.

The trajectory of my 20s reads like a dilettante’s handbook, or a drunk pirate’s treasure map; winding, dabbling, non-linear. Like most children of the 80s, I was raised in the height of the self-esteem movement, with its encouraging maxim that I could do anything I wanted to do, and be anything I wanted to be. Thankfully I’ve also had the privilege of parents who supported this view. When I proudly announced in 4th grade that I would be the first woman president, no one batted an eye. When I decided to move to Manhattan after high school, I was given a hug, two cans of mace, and a membership to Bally’s Sport’s Club; just in case I wound up homeless and needed a place to shower.

I had faith in my own resourcefulness and in the benevolence of mankind. I didn’t have a plan, per se, but I was on a mission to find my purpose. Oh, sweet purpose. The final frontier.

The importance of purpose is not a new concept, but one that seems to be on our minds quite a bit these days. According to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 60% of the millennial generation listed a “sense of purpose” within the organization when asked why they chose their current employers. Purpose-driven books topped the New York Times bestsellers list in 2014, with titles like Your Life Calling by Jane Pauley, and The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun. And ranking third in the Top 10 most watched TED Talks of all time, Simon Sinek asks us what “our purpose, our cause, our belief” is; urging 21 million viewers worldwide to connect with our “WHY.” I’m responsible for at least 30 of those views, I’ve shared this gem so often.

On one hand, I find this turn toward purpose incredibly heartening. In a culture that traditionally values metrics of success, it suggests that we’re asking ourselves how to live by our own standards, collectively elevating meaning over measurement. When I was a Girl Scout our motto was: “Always leave things better than you found them,” which is an idea reflected in the popularity of purpose. We’re consciously contemplating what we’re built for, and how best to contribute to the world.

On the other hand, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that all of this “find your purpose” business is somehow missing the mark. There’s something lacking from the conversation; and it’s the small but mighty distinction between having a purpose and living a purposeful life.

It may seem like a matter of syntax, but syntax is important. The way that we talk about things reveals our relationship to them, and ultimately, how we approach them. In the case of purpose, it’s the difference between seeking the keys to redemption and revealing what’s already there.

During my decade as a dilettante, I would lay awake, fixed on the water stain above my bed wishing for some sort of map. I had tried my hand at acting and spent a year in film school. I wrote sketch comedy on the side, worked in food advocacy, studied design in undergrad, and worked enough crappy waitressing jobs to redefine my notion of humility. I had a passion for travel and yoga, but could that truly be my purpose? I’d always had a knack for organizing, but was this my soul’s North Star?

When given too much gravitas, finding “our purpose” can be frustrating, and at worst, a trap of paralysis. If we truly have a calling, a single purpose in this world, what if we never find it? Are we destined to go through the motions, a half-lived vessel of unrealized potential?

Defining our purpose as a destination or a single pointed direction bears resemblance to searching for “The One”. Even if we do find our forever person, or the mission statement we can live by that fills our days with meaning, there might always the lingering question of whether we’ve made the right decision, if we’re missing out. Even if we feel a sense of certainty, it’s easy to attach the expectation that it will always remain the same; which pits our hopes against the laws of ever-changing nature.

Purpose was just another way of chasing that magical “someday” that precluded my self-acceptance.

If you had asked me about my purpose when I was 7, I would have given you a cock-eyed stare, most likely because I was busy discovering the world through first-time experiences. Everything had purpose; from crickets to kickball to Paula Abdul.

It all clicked into place during one of those crappy waitressing shifts. This wasn’t, by any stretch, my forever career. I smelled like fried calamari and had ketchup in my hair. However I decided to try an experiment. What if I tried treating all of this like it mattered? What might happen if rather than approaching this like a sidebar to my life’s purpose, I brought purpose into my approach? What if I am purposeful instead of waiting for one to redeem me? The answer is that I stopped looking for my purpose—the one I claimed ownership to—and allowed purpose to flavor my moments.

I can’t help but think that rather than having a purpose, we simply have purpose. It’s something akin to dignity or meaning, an inheritance of being alive. We can direct our purposefulness through clearly chosen intentions, but ultimately, it’s a quality we possess, not a statement, a job title, or a place that we find.

My friend Marisa once told me a story of an MTA employee who worked in a Brooklyn subway booth. Each morning she would emerge from the train, and he would lock eyes with her, and greet her warmly. They became familiar through their daily exchange; a wave, a smile, a connection. She talks about how this always made her mornings, they joy he brought to his booth, his generosity of spirit. After some weeks she noticed that she wasn’t alone. This tollbooth employee had a relationship with every regular commuter, exiting the train and waving. Some mornings there would be dozens of people who would wave, and stop to say hello on their way to the subway stairs.

This man’s purpose wasn’t raised on a banner for the rest of the world to see, but rather he connected to the world through the act of purposeful living.

If you’ve decided that this is the year to find your purpose, the good news is you can relax. It’s already there and best lived through you. The way to find purpose is to apply it generously; to the crappy jobs, and the sleepless nights, and the hours stuck in traffic. If our lives are purposeful, then nothing gets excluded.

Our moments, after all, only have the meaning we give them.


More from Sonima:

9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset  

Opening Yourself to the Serendipity of Chance

Harnessing the Potential of Beginner’s Mind





Adreanna is a sufficiency-centered coach + meditation instructor that teaches women how to rally their resources so that they can expand their freedom in business and life. Connect with Adreanna at


Happiness is a place. Some call it Bhutan.


Ultimate untourist and founder of Alternative Escapes, Ian OSullivan talks about his transformative travel experience in Bhutan

Ian OSullivan is the Founder & Senior Travel Coach at Alternative Escapes, a travel education and adventure planning company for self-identified ‘untourists’ seeking deeper, more authentic, and more culturally transformative travel experiences. Ian believes the greatest value travel can deliver is when it’s used consciously as a tool for learning, self-development and personal growth. 

Just back from a 30 day government-sponsored scouting assignment across Bhutan, Ian has returned to New York determined to bring the first commercial travelers into the deepest pockets of Bhutan’s still unexplored cultural and natural landscapes – places no other travel company has yet to explore.  As the “least-urbanized” country in the world, and the only independent Buddhist Kingdom, MISSION brings you the story of what’s really happening inside the mysterious Himalayan mountain land knows as Bhutan.

Tell us about Transformative Travel – what is it and how is it different from other travel?

I define Transformative Travel as purposeful vacationing for people who want to use their journey as a catalyst to learn, develop, and grow.  I see it as the fusion of leisure travel with performance coaching, whereby the travelers use their adventure as an opportunity to define and achieve significant personal and life goals.

It’s a systematic and teachable approach to travel that leads to personal growth, lifestyle change, and profound transformations in the traveler’s view of themselves and their world.  So we don’t really sell vacation packages - we sell life-changing adventures, along with the coaching, training and education to make it happen. 

What personal experiences led you launch Alternative Escapes?

After 7 years as a marketing director in a large Wall Street finance company I decided it was time to change my life and my career. I had just completed my first Ironman triathlon – a life goal I held since I was a child – and with my 40th birthday fast approaching I decided it was time to make the move.  So 48 hours before my birthday I resigned from my job and took a one-way ticket to Stockholm, Sweden in order to celebrate in style - with my father, some friends from around the world, and 12 bottles of Moet!

That party was the beginning of a 2-month tour across Europe where I revisited the most influential travel destinations of my youth – specifically Barcelona, where I worked as an Assistant Interpreter for NBC at the 1992 Olympics.  And then Granada, a city I fell in love with, and found love in, while studying as an Ambassadorial Scholar for Rotary International in 1995. 

Along the way I re-discovered my passion and talent for travel - and in a moment of delirium and the optimistic insight that sometimes happens while travelling – I had this vision to create a new kind of travel company — one that would educate, equip and inspire people to have transformative, life-changing adventures.

It was the moment I finally discovered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life:  teach people creative ways to accomplish their travel dreams - while helping them make a positive impact on the world.   

How and why did you choose Bhutan as your top 2014 travel destination?

After returning from my 2-month tour of Europe 2014, I founded Alternative Escapes Inc. in New York, and then set out to build a new career for myself in the world of travel.  Shortly thereafter I stumbled upon the April 2014 issue of AFAR magazine lying on my friends coffee table.

The moment I saw the Tiger’s Nest Monastery cover shot I knew I was destined to someday find the exact spot where the picture was taken. Prior to that I had never knew Bhutan existed, so this one picture ended up re-shaping and re-directing my entire life.

Less than 6 months after setting my intention, I was formally invited to explore Bhutan on a government-sponsored scouting trip for an unprecedented 30 days – where I would be given access to locations no other journalists or foreigners have visited before.  

For me, this scouting assignment was a dream come true – and it gave me a chance to really test and prove my capabilities as a world-class traveler, field scout, and adventure planning expert.   

Bhutan is unique as a country where the Gross National Happiness is valued by the government and people as much as economic prosperity. Can you tell us about this, and how this affects the people that you meet there and the experience?

Gross National Happiness is a concept conceived by Bhutan’s 4th King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk,  which proposes that a nation’s health, progress and prosperity can not be fully measured by it’s economic output alone.  So the King, with his team of Buddhist scholars and advisors, developed a pioneering method to assess their Kingdom's holistic progress and wellbeing. The concept came to be known as the Gross National Happiness Index – which calculates other quality-of-life indicators such as: 1- Preservation of cultural heritage, 2- Conservation of the environment and 3- Good governance without corruption or abuse.

Bhutan still cares about it’s economic output, or GDP as we would call it – but that represents only one of the “four pillars” that comprise Gross Happiness.  Furthermore, Bhutan specifies that all economic gains must only be achieved through “Sustainable & Equitable Socio-Economic Development.” Gross Happiness is truly a revolutionary concept in the world of economics and geo-politics, and my understanding is that other countries and the United Nations have begun adopting the model for measuring national prosperity.

Personally, I think His Majesty the 4th King, and his 35 year old Oxford-educated son, known to the people as Dasho Khesar, who currently rules as Bhutan’s 5th King, are both brilliant thinkers and pioneering visionaries in leadership. They are highly revered and fiercely loved by their people, yet largely unknown to the rest of the world.   

So how does all this effect the travelling experience in Bhutan?  The most common question I got asked by strangers is “How do you feel in Bhutan?”  The answer they are hoping for is “happy.”  They want to make sure you “feel happy” in Bhutan.  Or, as one beautiful girl said with a gentle nod and bow, after hauling my massively over-packed suitcases up 3 flights of stairs on her head… “It is only my pleasure to please you sir.”  As strange as that sounded to my western ears, I knew exactly what she meant – because I just watched her prove it. 

So expect the people of Bhutan to treat you like royalty.  You may find it difficult to carry your own bags, open a car door, or lift anything for yourself while in Bhutan - it seems someone will always be there first offering to do it for you. People will hurry and shuffle about and make a fuss to ensure their ‘honorable foreign guest’ is comfortable. The Bhutanese sense of hospitality is so genuine and respectful and deeply spiritual that it can reshape the way you see yourself by the end of the trip.

Bhutan was the last country in the world to introduce Internet and TV to it’s people back in 1999, so many villagers you meet will know almost nothing about the world beyond their valley.  In the rarely visited Eastern reaches of Bhutan, New York is a place many have not heard of – because it simply doesn’t matter.  In a country with no elevators, not a single traffic light, and most roads are unpaved and yet everyone seems to be healthy and happy - it’s hard to explain why New York should matter.

But what every villager in Bhutan does seem to know is that 1974 His Majesty the King declared that foreign travelers, for the first time, would be invited in to visit their country – and that tourism would be the best way grow the country while preserving Bhutan’s cultural and natural heritage.  So through some abstracted association over the years, the villagers in Bhutan have come to view foreigners as special guests of the King – and so they may treat you as such.  It’s an experience that’s hard to explain and I think impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.

Did you feel an overwhelming sense of happiness on your journey?

That’s a really smart question, and a hard one to answer. Because it was a professional scouting assignment I was shooting every day, trying to document the journey for my clients, while learning the ins and outs of the experience and all the people needed to make it happen.   So every day was intense and demanding – waking up at 6am for yoga, followed by hours of driving, shooting and meeting new people. It was very exhilarating but also exhausting.  But in the difficult moments I realized this was in fact my ultimate dream trip, because now I was tired, exhausted and uncomfortable as a result of pushing the limits of where anyone has traveled before.  So this realization transformed every mishap and inconvenience along the way into sense of daily happiness.  How could I not be overflowing with happiness to realize I was actually living out my childhood dream to explore ‘the ends of the earth’ in search of fun, beauty and adventure?

But more importantly, Bhutan fundamentally shifted the way I see happiness.  The Bhutanese don’t really express the word “happiness” in their lives the same ways we do.  They tend to be calm, respectful, self-controlled — not at all like the boisterous Italians and Brazilians.  What impressed me the most wasn’t some magical happy dust in Bhutan’s water, but rather the sense of connectedness, inner peace and genuine gratitude that exudes from its people. 

It’s powerful, palpable and nearly impossible to explain – but if you immerse yourself in their world long enough, this Bhutanese “happiness” state mind will begin to seep in and change you.  While people often refer to Bhutan as the Himalayan “land of happiness” – I like to describe it as a culture where the vast majority of people live contently and at peace – with themselves, their neighbors, and the world.  And that’s hard to find anywhere in the world these days.  

How is Alternative Escapes different from the other travel companies out there and why would travelers seek out experiences with you?

Alternative Escapes is the world’s first travel education and adventure planning company that coaches clients in the art and skills of travel. We serve the curious and adventurous traveler seeking a more authentic and less commercial travel experience.  We describe it as “Travel for the Untourist.”

Our ultra-inclusive Untourist Private Adventures are unique in the industry – and very different from any commercial group travel experience.  Starting at $199/day, an Alternative Escapes certified Travel Coach designs and plans our clients a one-of-a-kind, all-inclusive private adventure tailored to their specific interests and abilities.

Our trips typically include full-time personal guide, chauffer, and 24/7 private transportation which allows clients the freedom to travel at their own pace - focusing only on the activities they care most about - and with flexibility to change plans or make up new ones along the way!  It’s a very different experience from travelling with a group of strangers and being forced to follow some tour company’s schedule.  

Your trips seek to welcome “the untourist,” who would be right for your journeys?

Our style of travel is for people who want to venture off the beaten tourist path, explore the unexplored and access deeper levels of culture that remain untouched by other travelers.

We define Untourist is the adventurous, open-minded, curious traveler who is always fascinated to learn and try new things – not necessarily fearless, but willing to try and conquer a new fear along the way.

Although Untourists can be of any age or background, they are driven by a different mindset and motivation for travel than most leisure travelers.

Untourists prefer the cost of adventure over the cost of luxury. They prefer taking ‘the road less traveled’ but don’t always know where to find it.  Untourists want to venture deeper, explore further, and get more up-close-and-personal with the people and nature that makes each place so special. 

But most importantly, the Untourist understands that adventure can never be perfect. It can only be interesting.  And in the game of adventure - that’s what matters most.

+1 917 518 3535


Want to Ditch the Traditional Travel Experience? MEET: Marcela Fernandez, Co-Founder of ON BOARD

Marcela FernandezThis January, I had the opportunity to talk with Marcela. What a way to start the New Year! Marcela is full of passion and has had experiences most of us have only dreamed of.

Marcela hails from Medellín, Colombia but has lived in Canada, Spain, France, Italy, and the United States. Her favorite place to live? Obviously, Italy! She lived in Palermo, Sicily for a year. Part of what inspired her to start ON BOARD was the work she did there.

“I was doing a volunteer year with a catholic movement called Regnum Christi and my role was to develop a program called ‘Angelo per un Giorno’ (angel for a day). The way locals engaged with the program was a mind blowing experience and a beautiful reward. The people I met are still my family today. They teach me how to discover who I really am and going back to visit them is always a reminder of the person I want to be.”

ON BOARD, just four months old, is a “mobile outdoor classroom." Basically, the philosophy behind ON BOARD is that you can’t learn by staying put; the world is a classroom, and travel is the most authentic way of learning.

Marcela emphasizes that ON BOARD is not a travel agency: “We are a community of travelers, of people wanting to become life-long learners, willing to cross the threshold of their respective comfort zones to become their best selves. We don't sell packages; we create unforgettable experiences. We are not guides; we are facilitators of an inner journey that will be translated into an incredible life changing experience.”

Camilo Russi, Co-Founder of ON BOARDMarcela and her co-founder, Camilo Russi, created ON BOARD because they couldn’t find a program like it. Marcela left her conventional educational path and “wanted to learn while traveling and at the same time be able to create a sustainable impact.” When she discovered that the experience she was looking for wasn’t out there, she didn’t give up. Instead, ON BOARD was born!

Marcela has learned a lot from starting ON BOARD, but most importantly, she’s discovered the importance of collaboration. “We have received lots of support from the traveling and education world that could be seen as ‘competitors.’ However, many of them have become mentors, always giving us a thumbs up, supporting us the way they can, spreading the word or giving advice.”

Marcela and Camilo have high hopes for the future of ON BOARD. They hope to expand to other countries. “Ideally,” Marcela says, “they [will] invite us to create the ON BOARD experience in and around their countries.”

Interested in joining the ON BOARD community in Colombia? You will need to answer a set of questions, go through a Skype interview, and pay an initial deposit of 500 USD. Apply here!


Read about MovingWorlds, another travel company with a purpose!




Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is the Content Editor at



Lake Baikal, the Pearl of Siberia, In Trouble

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake, stretches nearly 650 kilometres through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border.

The lake lies in a cleft where Asia is literally splitting apart, the beginnings of a future ocean. More than a kilometre and a half deep at its most profound, and with layer of sediment reaching over six kilometres, the lake’s cold, oxygen-rich waters are filled with bizarre life-forms.

Completely surrounded by mile-high mountains, which are snow-capped for most of the year, Lake Baikal is a place of beauty.

The mountains remain a haven for wild animals, and many of the small villages on the shores of the lake are still outposts of tranquillity and self-reliance in the remote Siberian ‘taiga’ or forest. It is also home to Buryat tribes who live on the eastern side of the lake, where they rear goats, camels, cattle, and sheep.

The isolated settlement of Severobaykalsk, from which the photograph above was taken, is located on a plateau at the northern end of Lake Baikal at the mouth of the Tyya River.

To the west Severobaykalsk is surrounded by the Baikal Mountains, and to the northeast by the Stanovoy Range. The closest town to is Ust-Kut, more than 260 kilometers away.

ALASTAIR HUMPREYS: Mountain Microadventure

Often known as “the Pearl of Siberia,” Lake Baikal drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an economic boom.

The lake is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, more than two-thirds of which cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

Above you see the Vega Gull or East Siberian Gull, Larus vegae, a large gull which breeds in North-east Asia, on the lake shore.

In recent months, Russian ecologists have raised environmental concerns and warned that Lake Baikal is starting to turn into a swamp.

Tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and transport boats is being unwillingly dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake, resulting in the growth of alien water plants, which are now starting to fill the lake, water-logging it and threatening its unique ecology.

MEET: Leo Rising, Yoga Teacher Who Traveled to Kenya with Africa Yoga Project

Often the camps do pass on their waste to special organizations, but the disposal vehicles often don’t reach the facilities and instead end up dumping the waste into rivers that flow into the lake, or into the lake itself. Meanwhile, ships, boats, yachts, and other vessels produce 25,000 tons of liquid waste annually, but only 1,600 of them end up at the proper disposal facilities, according to the head of a local NGO, Baikal Environmental Wave.

These new troubles come after an almost two-decade battle to close a major polluter of the lake: Baikal Pulp and Paper mill. In December 2013, it was finally shut down after 47 years of dumping effluent into the lake.

This region of Siberia experiences more sunshine than anywhere else in Russia. However, even in summer, the waters of the lake are quite cold, normally between 8 and 9°C, though it can reach 15°C in the bays.

In historical Chinese texts, Lake Baikal was known simply as the “North Sea,” and little was known to Europeans about the lake until Russia expanded into the area in the 17th century. The first Russian explorer to reach Lake Baikal was Kurbat Ivanov in 1643.

Today, many centuries on, this bio-diverse lake is of exceptional value to evolutionary science, and many communities live on its shores. I hope that Lake Baikal’s beautiful environment is protected for generations to come.

Learn more about what is being done for Lake Baikal.

Marina Rikhvanova's Quest to Save Lake Bakal

Manta Trust's Conservation in Yap






Petr is a professional photographer and a PhD student of limnology and microphotography. Since a young age, he has been in love with nature.




MEET: Mark Horoszowski, Co-Founder of MovingWorlds

Mark has a Master's in Accounting, but his true call is with MovingWorlds, a social impact organization addressing the global talent gap. Their online platform and community connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise directly, or "experteer," with social impact organizations around the world.

What motivated you to quit everything to travel and volunteer?

I was looking to grow my career into a role that made an impact. I knew that global exposure would be beneficial regardless of direction, and figured the only way to really learn how my skills could be used to create an impact was to get real experience. I looked at the Peace Corps, fellowships, and more, but nothing had the right combination of time and skills... so I decided to created my own "fellowship" by traveling and volunteering for a year.

What inspired you to start MovingWorlds? Was there a specific moment that motivated its creation? 

It's interesting... it actually took me a long time recognize the market here. In fact, I can't even take credit for it. I was keeping a simple blog documenting my experience and people started asking me for tips how to find free, skills-based volunteering opportunities. But the idea of trying to support a movement came at a serendipitous meeting with my now co-founder, Derk Norde. We connected over our passion to help address the "talent gap", one of the leading barriers to progress, and both saw first-hand how the application of the right skills at the right time could really catalyze the growth of smaller organizations. And that, at any given moments, thousands of people were volunteering their skills overseas, but primarily in manual projects that they were paying to engage in.

How do you define “experteering,” and why is it important to social impact?

Experteering = Volunteering your skills. The "talent gap" has been identified as one of the leading barriers to progress. By Experteering, you can help the right organization access the right skills at the right time to scale, create an impact, and create jobs. As it turns out, lots of people are going abroad to volunteer, but they're working on manual projects and many times even doing more harm than good. By educating people to only engage in locally-driven, skills-based projects we can truly make a difference.

How is the MovingWorlds experience different from the experience at other social impact organizations?

We're a curated marketplace. We find, verify, and prepare organizations from around the world that are looking to host skilled volunteers. We then work like a matching site connecting people that want to go Experteering with these organizations. Since we measure long-term impact of engagements, we also provide Experteering resources, training, and personal support to increase the quality of every match. Different than a set program, you decide what project you want to support, how much time you can give, and when you go... It's like a "choose your own adventure", but backed by a global support team.

What has been the greatest challenge in creating MovingWorlds?

Creating a sustainable impact is what we measure against, and supporting that while we scale is our biggest challenge. Going Experteering is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for a lot of people and we want to ensure that people have a great experience AND create a sustainable impact. So far, everyone that has followed our matching and planning process has become a huge champion, so we're becoming more and more confident in our model. But as we go from 100's of matches to 1,000 's, we're looking to keep innovating to support high-impact matches.

How has starting MovingWorlds changed you personally? 

Every week, we here incredible stories of people that are putting their greatest asset - their mind - to work for common good. It's an endless source of inspiration, and powerful reminder that, as Harvey Firestone puts it "You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself". 

What advice can you offer to others trying to start their own company? 

Realize that your initial idea is probably wrong, but the passion fueling it is your biggest asset. Use a human-centered design and/or Lean Startup approach to validate your ideas and build your business, but keep your mission front and center when encountering difficult decisions. For us, every time we've taken the time to better connect and understand our users, and used that information to make decisions that are in the benefit of our Experteers and Hosting Organizations, not our bottom-line, we've been rewarded. 




Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is currently interning at and Tribeca Film Center.


Give the Gift of Giving This Holiday

Looking for the perfect gift for a friend or family member? Want it to also promote social good? That's a tough combination, but look no more! Our holiday gift guide is finally here!


1. Charcoal Alpaca Beanie from Zady ~ $95

This winter is going to be cold, so why not get your loved one something practical? This beanie is naturally and indulgently soft and warm, and Zady is committed to products with solid construction, the best materials, the lowest environmental footprint, and the highest labor standards.


2. Holiday 4-Bar Collection by Theo Chocolate ~ $16

This delicious chocolate, known more affectionately as the "snowman" bar, comes in a pack of four and has a unique coconut mint flavor. Theo Chocolate brings out the best in the cocoa bean by celebrating and strengthening connections with Congo.


3. Off-the-shoulder Sweater by Le Dessein ~ $75

After a long day at work, your friends are ready to curl up in something like this. This cozy sweater helps girls attend school in Liberia. Le Dessein believes that women have an irrevocable right to be educated.


4. Food Life Hope Men's Baseball Tee from Sevenly ~ $32

This poly blend tee is handdrawn and a reminder that food is a blessing that nurtures life. At Sevenly, $7 from each purchases goes to a charity. This tee helps restore the lives of sex trafficking survivors. 


5. Find Your Mission Trip ~ prices vary

This is the gift that keeps giving. Fund a volunteer trip for a loved one and have a permanent impact his or her or her life! From surfing with kids in Cape Town to working on an alpaca ranch, there's a trip for everyone. Help your friend or family member make a lasting impact on the world.




Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is currently interning at and Tribeca Film Center.



On the Socially Minded Industry...

Le Dessein's primary objective is to provide their customers with stunning pieces of clothing, which reflect power, confidence, and compassion. Consistent with their fashion values and vision, it is their company’s social objective to empower girls in developing countries by supporting their access to education. They donate 20% of their profits to girls’ school tuition in Liberia. The following was written by Eric Coly, the founder of Le Dessein.

This essay pertains to the type of life that our girls had and its amelioration once we instituted our program. The second part discusses the current overall state of the Socially Responsible industry and its future growth.

The meaning of our existence in this socially minded industry, vis a vis our company’s ethos comes to fruition when we have succeeded in providing the opportunity of an education for the girls we are working with. The girls who previously were subject to a patriarchally led environment, where their value was discussed, determined and assigned by socially accepted constructs entirely established by men, had developed little notion of self esteem. Domestic violence, female genital cutting and an acute sense of discrimination represented only a fraction of all the ills young girls were exposed to…What our effort is meant to do is not only shield these young girls from those socially, culturally and economically debilitating acts, but also and more importantly plant the seeds of a future empowered life – where the notion of “self-ownership” starts becoming ubiquitous.

The investment into these underprivileged girls’ education through their own artistic participation starts causing a rift in the highly and long held belief that their lives would be subject to the same predictable patterns of an early school dropout, followed by marriage and the bearing of a number of children at still quite a young age. This “unfulfilled” life is an all too common picture that has pervaded the developing world for very long. And our effort is just meant to hand the reins back to them. 

CUBA: Havana's Smile

We are fortunate to live in an era characterized by the birth and recent growth of the Socially Responsible Industry – although some would probably argue for a longer tenure. Nevertheless, Toms Shoes, ubiquitously known for the 1 for 1 program where a shoe is given to a person in need for every one bought, helped cement the nascent growth of this movement. Indeed with yearly revenues north of $225M, Toms recently ceded with half of its whole equity to a Private Equity Fund out of Connecticut for over $300 million - after a bidding war that included a number of other financial institutions… Seldom have we seen a shoe company or even retail company achieve this much success in less than 10 years – even less in this type of totally unchartered market space…This type of appetite, along with the emergence of hundreds of companies over the last couple of years (ours included), fortifies the belief that we are heading towards an era where the Socially Minded industry will no longer be the exception in the marketplace but eventually the norm.

One of the main anchors and pillar of this movement will consist of this new millennial generation – by virtue of large numbers, conviction, and purchasing power. This situation will be even more compounded by a similar or even greater growth rate, some would argue, internationally. As with any new industry though, growing pains can be long lasting and sometimes even debilitating.

Fortunately, we have the benefit of having witnessed a number of successes and failed attempts in both the traditional Corporate and Non-Profit worlds. Even though we principally all abide by a number of similar rules and agendas meant to ascertain our existence and survival, I would wish that ”we” did not forget the essential premise of our mission – which in a large sense theoretically has a purpose bigger than ourselves – and let that sentiment fuel and drive our efforts, and integrity.




Eric is the founder and CEO of Le Dessien. Eric grew up in Dakar, Senegal, where he was influenced by his mother's passion, drive, and fashion sense at a young age. His mother would eventually inspire him to start Le Dessein. He attended UCLA Business School and began his career in investment banking.