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8 Reasons Volunteering Makes Your Life Better

We all know that volunteering has a positive impact on those you’re volunteering for, but did you know that it’s also a great way to improve your own life?  Lend a hand without monetary compensation and you’ll be amazed at the social, emotional, and intellectual rewards awaiting you.  Here are just 8 benefits to volunteering:



By focusing on other people, you interrupt the the stress-producing chemical reaction in your brain.


2. You’ll have fun by trying something new.

Take a break from your normal routine and try doing something for others. Thinking about your own life all the time can get motonous, and many volunteer programs are very exciting!


Explore the High Peaks region of Adirondack Park & top it off with a 1-day volunteer project, working with the nonprofit Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK).

3. Learn about yourself.

You’ll get a better understanding of your personality. Are you sympathetic? Patient? A leader or a team-player? Do you like getting your hands dirty?


4. Explore a potential career.

By volunteering, you can try out a field without making a long-term commitment. It's a great way to learn about the day-to-day operations of a potential career without going every day.


5. You can gain professional experience.

The skills you gain as a volunteer can be translated into other areas of your life. You'd be surprised how far that practical experience will go in your next job, and the skills you learn will look great on your resumé!


6. You’ll meet new people.

Volunteering fosters teamwork and camaraderie, so that you’re bound to come away with some great new friends.


Be a part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative7. It supports community goals. 

Many service projects (school tutoring, providing care to the elderly, mentoring youth, cleaning parks, etc.) directly impact and improve your local community. Improve the space you live in!


8. Make a difference.

In the words of Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”


What are you waiting for? Volunteer! Check out these programs:

Volunteer on Blackfeet and Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.

Be a part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative.

Combat homelessness in NYC with Off the Street, On to the Mat.

Summit an Adirondacks Peak + Give Back.




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


9 On-Screen Superheroes Who Are More Super Off-Screen

We're used to seeing these celebrities fighting for good on camera, but what do they do when they're off camera? It turns out that many of the actors who play superheroes do a lot of good in everyday life too! We can definitely learn from them, so check out some of the organizations they work with and see if there's anything you can do to help. You can be a hero too!


1. Christopher Reeve (Superman)

Reeve made us believe a man could fly, and now look what he's doing! He started the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation with his wife. The Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy.



2. Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow)

Johansson served as an Oxfam Ambassador for eight years. Oxfam is a worldwide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty. In 2007, Johansson even skipped the Oscars to tour India and Sri Lanka with Oxfam. She also created some video journals of her trips! Johansson is highly involved in many other organizations, including Soles4Souls and (RED).

 Connect: @oxfam, @Soles4Souls, @RED



3. Andrew Garfield (Spiderman)

Garfield and co-star/girlfriend Emma Stone have been leveraging their fame to promote causes. When confronted with paparazzi, they have been holding up signs with causes. Garfield also recently visited Kid’s City, which provides out of school activities for children, in full costume.



4. Ben Affleck (Batman)

Affleck founded Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), which is the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. They envision an eastern Congo vibrant with abundant opportunities for economic and social development, where a robust civil society can flourish. ECI is partners with Toms and Theo Chocolate.

 Connect: @EasternCongo, @TOMS, @theochocolate, @BenAffleck



5. Halle Berry (Storm)

Berry has spoken against domestic violence on a number of occasions and started her own project, “What a Little Love Can Do,” with the Jenesse Center, which provides victims of domestic violence with a comprehensive, centralized base of support to assist them in addressing their immediate crisis and changing the patterns of their lives. Her projects goal was to completely remodel one of Jenesse Center’s transitional housing shelters to show the women in the shelter through beautiful surroundings that they can have beautiful lives.

Connect: @JenesseCenter



6. Mark Ruffalo (Hulk)

Ruffalo supported Water Defense, whose mission it is to use technology and public engagement to keep our waterways and drinking water sources free from contamination and industrial degradation, by offering the chance to spend a day with him on the set of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in exchange for donations. The campaign raised $182,096.

Connect: @WaterDefense, @MarkRuffalo 



7. Ron Perlman (Hellboy)

Perlman dressed up in full Hellboy costume for a six-year-old Make-A-Wish kid! Although he is not the only superhero to don his costume for children, Perlman set himself apart by enduring hours of makeup to make one child’s dream come true.

 Connect: @MakeAWish, @perlmutations



8. Jessica Alba (Invisible Woman)

Alba started the Honest Company, which guides parents away from toxic baby products and helps the environment. She is actively involved with charities such as Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Soles4Souls, Habitat for Humanity, and Project HOME.

 Connect: @Honest, @SaferChemicals, @Soles4Souls, @habitat_org, @ProjectHOME, @jessicaalba



9. Stephen Amell (Green Arrow)

Amell has announced plans to start his own non-profit organization in conjunction with his vineyard Nocking Point Wines. A portion of every bottle sold at Nocking Point already goes to the charity F*ck Cancer, which tries to spread awareness that 90% of cancer is curable at Stage One. Amell also set up a charity auction to raise money for Prayers for Sophie.

 Connect: @letsfcancer, @amellywood



 BONUS: Check out DC Entertainment's We Can Be Heroes campaign! @DCComics





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 improving communities.


CONSCIOUS CAPITALISTS: Sacred Commerce with Café Gratitude

Matthew & Terces Englehart, photo credit: Michael SegalBefore founding Café Gratitude, a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Venice (CA), Terces and Matthew Englehart were both entrepreneurs and working for Landmark Education. However, they soon started Café Gratitude, which always has food that is vegan, fresh, and organic and often raw. There, they started a practice called Sacred Commerce.

What led you to start Café Gratitude?

Our desire to provide transformation around the kitchen table! Actually, believe it or not, it all started with a board game. In 2003, we first created a board game called The Abounding River, out of being inspired to create a fun way for people to practice keeping their attention on how much we already have to be grateful for. Once this board game was created, there needed to be a place to play it with the community, so we started Cafe Gratitude. Noted for the affirmations on our menu, the fresh organic food and the inviting environment the corner location soon became too crowded to get a seat and the expansion began. Today, we still view our resturants as live versions of the game, where we practice with our staff and guests celebrating the greatness of our lives.

How do you define the principle of sacred commerce?

Using the work environment to practice keeping our hearts open and have love as a guiding light. We view our restaurants as environments to not only serve healthy food, but also training grounds to practice seeing our lives from a perspective of gratitude. We believe that we are the source of our experience in life, not the circumstances. We train our staff to practice putting their attention on the outcome they wish to create for themselves, whether it is work related or personal. We believe in honest and direct communication with our co-workers, and encourage our staff to support one another, make strong and clear requests, and always take 100% responsibility. Above all, we celebrate life and invite our community of guests to join us in creating a world that is sustainable, compassionate and abundant for all.

Is it difficult to integrate sacred commerce into the business structure of Café Gratitude?

People always resist and deal with being resigned and cynical around almost everything, including culturing our hearts. However, that is the work we love!

Can you explain what the clearing process is and why it’s important to your business?

The clearing is an exercise in setting aside any distractions that get in your way of being present and better able to serve others. Each day after our team members arrive at work and have punched in for the day they sit down with another co-worker and engage in a brief clearing process. This entails two questions. The first question is geared toward personal reflection. For example, “What do you say you don’t have enough of?” Each person answers this question and is then asked what they feel like when their attention is there. In other words, what is their emotional experience? After this is answered, they are thanked for sharing and then each person is asked the “question of the day”. The second question is something affirming that supports being present. For example, “What are you grateful for?” To complete the process each person acknowledges one another, and the experience is often one of deeper connection and appreciation.

What is the best thing someone looking to start their own business with a conscience can do to succeed?

Don't get so identified with success or succeeding that you make poor choices. Really develop yourself as a leader in keeping love as a guiding principle.


To see Terces' TEDx Talk on Sacred Commerce, click here.

To buy Matthew and Terces' book on Sacred Commerce, click here.

Connect with Café Gratitude on Twitter at @cafegratitude.




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 improving communities.


10 Ways to Make Your Gap Year Count

 A gap year does not have to be a “gap” in your education, rather it can be the perfect opportunity to learn in a different way, that is, through real-world experiences.  Whether you take a gap year before college or before grad school, there are limitless possibilities as to what you can do with your time.  Here are just 10 ideas:


Flying Kites Global 

1. Learn a new language.

If you’ve been learning the same language since starting high school,  now might be the time for total immersion.  By traveling to a country where the language is spoken by everyone, you will be forced to use it regularly and get a more realistic sense of the culture and context behind the language.


2. Get job experience.

While internships and starting jobs are very competitive during the summer, if you apply during the off-season you’re bound to have amazing opportunities open up for you.


United Planet3. Earn money for college/graduate school.

Taking a gap year is not necessarily cheap, but if you use this time to make some money, your gap year will pay for itself and you can even save up for when you’re back in school.


4. Work on a political campaign.

If you’re considering studying political science or public affairs in college, you may want to see what the real world of politics is like.  To do this, you can contact your local government office or check online to see what’s happening in Washington DC.


The Lineage Project

5. Volunteer for a non-profit.

If you think you may want to work for a non-profit after college, a gap year is a great way to pursue this interest and get a feel for what it would entail.  There are great programs out there like working with at-risk youth, or teaching yoga to the homeless.  You may love it (and be even more motivated once in uni) or you may hate it (so that you can explore other fields once you’re back in school).


6. Backpack around Europe.

Backpacking is one of those things that you can really only do while you’re young, and a gap year is the ideal time to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world.  You’ll come back to school with newfound maturity, enthusiasm, and worldliness.


7.  Work on that project you’ve always wanted to start.

Whether it be writing a novel, building a car, or learning to cook, we all have ideas that we just never get around to.  If you take a year off from school (or even 6-9 months), you can use this time to focus on getting your project off the ground.


WWOOF Trip8. Go on an outdoor adventure.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  Or maybe you want to travel the country….by bike.  Perhaps you want to volunteer on a farm in exchange for room/board.  Consider using your gap year to get outdoors and go find yourself in the wilderness.  


9. Become an Au Pair.

While Au Pair is not as well known in the US as it is in Europe, this program is a great way to earn money while also immersing yourself in a foreign culture.  As an Au Pair, you will live with a host family in a country of your choosing and help with childcare for a weekly salary.  Many Au Pairs stay in touch with their hosts long after returning home.Skateistan


10.  Volunteer with a unique program abroad.

From working with disabled Danish children, to teaching skateboarding in Afghanistan, to flying kites with Kenyan children, there are countless opportunities for you to take part in overseas.





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


MEET: Bruce Poon Tip, CEO / Founder of G Adventures

Bruce Poon TipIn 1990, Bruce founded G Adventures, which offers adventure-craving travellers an alternative to the resorts, cruises and motorcoach tours. Then, it was called G.A.P. Adventures, which stood for Great Adventure People. Bruce is a natural leader and is much respected by those in the business world. He has the job everyone wants: he travels the world for a living. Countless articles have been written trying to explain Bruce's incredible success, and this is just one of them. 

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

In 1990, I went on a backpacking trip to Asia and came up with the idea for G Adventures. At the time, the travel landscape looked much different than it does now. In 1990, the only travel choices were really compound resorts and cruises, coach tours or backpacking on your own. I saw the opportunity to create a company that would provide a more sustainable form of travel that would benefit local communities and provide life changing experiences at the same time. I wanted to give our customers the freedom of independent travel, but with the safety of a small group. 

What was your greatest obstacle to starting G Adventures?

Start up funding! No bank or financial institute saw my vision as a viable business idea at the time. You have to remember it was 1990 and we were in the middle of the Gulf war. I couldn’t get a loan to start my business, so I maxed out my two personal credit cards to fund my first two trips.  Because what we were doing was so different our next challenge was introducing a new way for people to travel without much of a marketing budget.  So it was a lot of gorilla marketing to get our first groups off.  You have to remember there was no internet at the time!

G Adventures Morocco TripDid G Adventures grow the way you expected it to?

Yes and no - I knew that people wanted to see the world in the way that we wanted to help bring it to them, but the rate that we grew and continue to grow at still amazes me. In the twenty-four years that we have been in business, we have posted double-digit growth each and every year and we are on pace for our biggest year ever in 2014. It really is incredibly satisfying for me to see how our amazing customers have embraced our philosophy of seeing travel as a movement and really gotten behind it. People from 160 countries book trips with us every year so I could have never thought that big when I first started.

What is your single favorite travel destination and why?

 With employees in 109 countries, this question could really get me into a lot of trouble! I’ll go with the Galapagos Islands.  It’s a very special place that combines these curious remote islands with the education of Darwin’s research on evolution.  It is peaceful, rugged and starkly beautiful - there is no other place like it in the world.  It’s also very difficult for me to disconnect these days. It does make it easy to disconnect when there is no cell service, wifi or 3G available!

How has G Adventures changed you personally?

Well, it's changed me in a lot of ways. I write about my experiences in great detail in my book Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business ( One way would be changing the way that people think about their work and their time at the office. We’ve embedded freedom, happiness, culture, karma and community into our business model and we encourage creative, innovative thinking and approaches to business at G Adventures. The change for me personally came at seeing how happy people can drive performance and collectively do extraordinary things. It makes me incredibly proud.

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

Take risks and don’t be afraid to rock the boat. If there is any doubt in your mind about your business, then you haven’t gotten it right yet. You need to be absolutely confident and certain about your idea, and the rest will fall into place. Be passionate and have that burning desire to make your idea real to the world. Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. 

 Follow Bruce on Twitter at @brucepoontip or reach out to G Adventures at @gadventures.



Check out some great G Adventures trips:

Volunteer and learn about local NGOs in Cambodia.

Experience West African Culture in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Benin.

Volunteer and Explore Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia.

Trek through Venezuela from Caracas to Santa Elena.

Volunteer in the Amazon.




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 improving communities.


11 Tips for Overcoming Jet-lag

No matter how much we travel, we all know how horrible jet-lag can be. Here are some tips on how to minimize it.

Originally posted on


1. Drink lots of water.

Being hydrated is important to feeling good whether you’re traveling or not. Drinking enough water will help you feel better while you are traveling and you will recover faster. Avoid alcohol because it will dehydrate you and make you feel worse, which will only make your jet-lag worse.


2. Switch your watch as soon as you step on the plane.

Switching your watch will help you get into the right mindset. The sooner your mind adjusts to the time change, the sooner your body can.


3. Try to sleep on the plane for at least a few hours.

Sleeping on the plane for a few hours will help you have more energy, and therefore stay awake, once you land.


4. Walk around the airplane cabin to keep yourself energized.

Walking around the plane before you land will help you regain some energy. Once you land, you’ll probably have to stay awake for longer than is comfortable, so try to walk off your nap.


5. Upon arriving, keep naps to 30 minutes or less.

Even though you’ll be exhausted, you’ll want to avoid long naps. Long naps turn into full nights of sleep too easily and can prevent your body from adjusting to your new time zone.


6. Get some exercise once you land (preferably under the sun).

Exercising the day you land will help you stay awake. If you exercise during the day, the sunlight help your body register that it’s not yet time to go to sleep. However, be careful with exercising right after you land because sometimes you get blood clots on the plane, so you’ll want to take your exercises slowly at first.


7. Stay awake until bedtime.

This will be difficult, but it might be the most important thing you can do to fight jet-lag. If you go to bed too early, you’ll mental clock will not be able to shift to your new location, and your body will never adjust.


8. Consider taking melatonin.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps with sleep. Not only will it help you fall asleep on the plane and gear up for your first day of jet-lag, it will also help adjust your circadian rhythm.


9. Try taking spirulina.

Spirulina is a fresh water blue green algae that was the first plant life on earth almost three billion years ago. Some travelers swear by taking spirulina the morning after they arrive. Try it out! It's healthy and full of protein.


10. Eat according to your destination’s mealtimes.

Like staying awake until bedtime, this is an important way to communicate the change to your body. If you’re used to eating at a certain time, one way to tell your body that there has been a time change is to change your meal times. This will be especially helpful if you’re also used to going to bed a certain amount of time after you eat.


11. For shorter trips (less than 48 hours), don’t even try!

Don’t waste time trying to overcome jet-lag if you’re on a short trip. By the time your body adjusts, you’ll be on your way home.  Instead just focus on doing what you have to do without falling asleep.  Your time is valuable, and you should try to see as much as possible!





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 improving communities.





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



PERU: 4 Volunteer Programs for Broke-Ass Travelers

It ain't easy being Peruvian. Deserts, mountains, and Amazon jungles don't provide cozy living conditions. And with earthquakes shaking things up and that punk El NiÑo pissing all over the place, it can get brutal for the average JosÉ. The last half millennia was filled with Conquistadors, enslavement, military coups, and corrupt democracies, so the resilient Peruvians are used to fending for themselves, but they sure could use a hand. Middle men have set up shop to charge you a pretty penny to get hooked up with volunteer groups. Bypass these charity pimps with our list of volunteer programs in Peru for broke ass travelers.


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In a slum on the outskirts of the already dirt poor city of of Arequipa, Traveller Not Tourist built a school for abused and neglected kids. They are taking volunteers to teach English, expand and improve the school, and assist at an orphanage. Regardless of duration, a one-time $100 fee for long term volunteers (two week minimum) is all they require, so adjust your plans and get comfortable! A communal house ($7 per day) and Spanish lessons ($7 per hour) are options for long termers.

Most serious volunteer groups don't waste their time with short term volunteers, but Traveller Not Tourist has a well run program called "Volunteer for a Day." If you really can't stick around for a while, this is your chance to play "Just the Tip" with the volunteer life. Just for a day. Just to see how it feels. For $15, you'll spend the day doing construction at the school and playing with the kids. Or, you can use this as a trial run before committing to a long term project.

Perfect if you

  • Love kids
  • Are a cunning linguist
  • Have a schedule tighter than your budget



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In northern coastal Peru, the Otra Cosa Network connects volunteers to a wide range of programs for under $200 (up to 3 months). Projects include teaching (from English to music to surfing to skating to photography), organic farming, construction, social work, and abandoned pet care. A night in the communal house costs the same as a beer back home. While technically this is a middle man, the fees are low and transparent, the options are plenty, and they work hard to find projects that'll fit you like a Trojan Magnum.

Perfect if you

  • Are a surfer or skater dude or dudette
  • Are handy with a camera and want to spread photo love
  • Own more than three Chia Pets
  • Are a social worker willing to take a very minor pay cut (to zero)
  • Have ever asked the drive thru window guy for a recommendation



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In Peru, shady owners of animal rehab centers often keep exotic animals around to lure and wallet rape volunteers rather than releasing the animals back to the wild. However, Esperanza Verde is one animal rescue and conservation project that has received the blessing of other credible volunteer groups. Construction is underway of their wildlife rehab and rainforest protection center two knuckles deep in the Amazon jungle.

"Green Hope" is just getting started, so all current work is focused on the center's construction, but they will soon begin to accept animals. They ask for $75 per week (minimum two weeks), which includes lodging and food. There is no electricity or hot water, and you'll be hours from a way to access YouPorn. This is the perfect opportunity to see something come to life from the very beginning stages.

Perfect if you

  • Ever built a treehouse.
  • Tried rehabbing injured birds in that treehouse.
  • Want to get away from it all. Really fucking far away from it all.



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Cusco is infamously known among backpackers as the old Inca capital, launching point for Machu Picchu, and home to the fabulously named SacsayhuamÁn complex (pronounced “Sexy Woman”). Once here though, you'll immediately be greeted by child beggars and see the widespread poverty. Aldea Yanapay is run by Yuri, a Peruvian out to provide opportunities to kids who would otherwise never have them. Currently, Yanapay runs two "after school" schools, a cultural center, and a restaurant. Yuri dreams of expanding the project to a fully self-sustaining eco-village, and to inspire and support local communities to create the same. The village plans to add a clinic, onsite hostel, and "Magic Garden." There is no shortage of good old fashioned hippie love in the air here, and it's all channeled into helping the kids and community.

Volunteering in the village is free (one week minimum), and the Magico hostel provides very cheap lodging to volunteers - Yanapay is determined to not let budget restrictions keep your broke ass from volunteering.

Perfect if you

  • Worship John Lennon
  • Are the next Doogie Howser
  • Have your head on straight - these kids come from rough backgrounds and need some peace and stability




Brian finds his roots in San Francisco but is orignally from Chicago. He writes for Off Track Planet and has a passion for travel.