When you name your company Roadmonkey you get plenty of unsolicited comments that start with “What the…?” And when you describe Roadmonkey’s business as “adventure philanthropy,” you get even more confused stares. That’s a good thing. The fact is, at Roadmonkey Adventure Philanthropy Inc., we expect to shake things up and break a few rules on the road to redefining what it means to travel with impact. We did just that twice last month without intending to, during two expeditions to Peru and Tanzania.
We call it adventure philanthropy because we curate expeditions that consist of two parts: a hardcore adventure that tests your mettle in a manageable, fun way; and a sustainable volunteer project that our team members – we call them roadmonkeys – start and finish in 3 or 4 days, working with a local community in need.
When we’re done, we’ve accomplished something amazing, together, for ourselves and for a group of people in demonstrable need. In 12 expeditions since November 2008, we’ve built 2 revenue-generating organic farms, two clean drinking water systems, a school library, a student-run laundry and 4 playgrounds in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Peru and Patagonia. We pay for our projects by asking all our roadmonkeys, once they sign onto an expedition, to raise $1,000 in tax-deductible donations; for our 12 projects we’ve raised more than $88,000, mostly through donations of $50 or less.
Whoever said, “You can make excuses or you can make it happen, but you can’t make both,” was a roadmonkey. Our expeditions involve true adventure because, unlike most so-called “adventure travel” companies, we don’t really know what the outcome will be until we get there.
Traveling in a way that allows the world around you to actually influence how you operate day to day requires a personal recalibration for most of us. But once we get there, from that open mind flows so many benefits that conventional travel doesn’t usually allow. It allows you, for example, to connect to a community that appreciates (usually without grand gestures) your presence and effort on its behalf. It creates a lightness of being that builds, despite a language barrier and numerous cultural barriers, from knowing that you’re inspiring people to help themselves. You’re actually changing the world, in a small, measurable way!
And that realization makes you feel alive like no day job, no payday, no traditional accolade can. It’s a long-term happiness injection. And it’s why so many of our “alums” go back home and figure out ways to continue being positive-change agents.
Clearly, Eagle Creek understands that connection and believes in helping more travel-minded people achieve it, through it’s innovative adventure travel gear. Every volunteer project we do relies, for instance, on two durable Eagle Creek gear bags.
Paul von Zielbauer is an expert on all things voluntourism, though you probably won’t catch him using that term. He was actually a New York Times investigative reporter and Iraq correspondent when he quit his day job in when he quit his day job in 2009 and founded Roadmonkey, the first-ever “adventure philanthropy” expedition curator.