Virgin Unite: We Journey Because we Want Change

From Journeyer Jamie Green: 

Lisa and I joined 30 other intrepid travellers on a journey to Guatemala in April, where we assisted people living in slum conditions to build new housing for themselves and their extended families. Whilst this allowed us to be immersed in local culture, it also enabled us to soak up the surrounding landscapes and beautiful vistas Guatemala has to offer.

After a few long days of building housing, I was overwhelmed with the need to sit down with the founders of this amazing new company and find out a little more about the driving forces behind their inspiring and impactful business venture. Introducing cofounder Amy Merrill... 

Read the full interview here.

photo by Jamie Green.

photo by Jamie Green.

361: Interview episode with Change Heroes Founder, Taylor Conroy

Taylor is the founder of the impact travel company Journey, as well as the social enterprise Change Heroes, which has funded over sixty school houses and libraries in nine countries around the world. In this episode, Taylor discusses his personal journey shifting from an entrepreneur driven by monetary success, to becoming a social entrepreneur, and why being of service is the key to happiness.

BREAKOUT: Let the Needle Move You

By Isaac Simpson

How do you tell the difference between genuine charity and virtue signaling? Are those instas of your friend in Guatemala giving piggyback rides to smiling dirt-clad children authentic or posed? Are we actually helping, or are we running in place?

Amy Merrill is co-founder of Journey, a travel company that allows its clients to crowdfund houses for poor South American families, then empowers them to build the houses with their own two hands. As you can imagine, Journey generates many instas of people piggybacking smiling dirt-clad Guatemalan children.

But according to Amy, who would know, the “why” of purpose-based travel doesn’t really matter. Yep. That’s right. It doesn’t matter why we do it. It’s just what we do. “Showing up” is as human as hunger. We can’t help it. We may think we’re moving the needle by doing charity work, but it’s actually the needle that's moving us.

So give yourself a break. People like helping other people. All the doubt, self-flagellation and cynicism over it gets us exactly nowhere. When we started this interview, we didn’t know that. Watch Amy put us in our place.

Read the full interview with cofounder Amy Merrill here.

Huffington Post: Journey To You – An Entrepreneurial Approach to Travel

Article Highlights:

Travel With Purpose

We are the millennial generation. We seek purpose in everything that we do. We form our identity based on our words and actions both offline and online. Even when we share a post on social media, it often means taking a stand for something we believe in.

When traversing the globe, we desire to be a contributor, not an onlooker. We don’t want to read travel stories: we want to be a part of them.

This applies to social impact too. We don’t just want to raise money; we want to see the project in person, help shape it and bring it to life, take our own pictures and video, and tell our friends and families all about it when we get home.

And the technological landscape has never been more primed for this kind of action: we live in a time when an individual can immediately act on their impulse to create an online campaign, raise funds or send a donation, or sign up for an impact trip to the other side of the world, all in a matter of moments.

Along with technology, values have evolved. This versatile, impassioned and diverse generation values both time and money. They would choose control over their time, and a lower income over the long days in a cubical for higher pay. They are intelligent and sharp. They know how to find information online, quickly take decisions that can help be very successful in their daily life. They use social media frequently to interconnect with each other, share knowledge, and make action plans.


THE WINDOW: Building Homes in Nicaragua with Barneys’ Ashley Calandra

Our VP of PR and Events was part of a trip that helped poverty-stricken families by building more than 20 homes in the town of El Panamá, Masaya, Nicaragua.

Our VP of PR and Events was part of a trip that helped poverty-stricken families by building more than 20 homes in the town of El Panamá, Masaya, Nicaragua.

As much as we love finding the perfect holiday gift, this time of year also calls to mind a different kind of giving: working to help those in need. For Barneys as a whole, that means using our #LovePeaceJoyProject campaign to support a few of our favorite organizations through the Barneys New York Foundation, but individual members of our team have also been doing their own part to give back. Today, we take a look at one such effort with our VP of PR & Events, Ashley Calandra, who spent her Thanksgiving in Nicaragua helping one very special family by building them a new home.

Ashley’s journey was the result of a partnership among three organizations coming  together to make a profound difference in the lives of Nicaraguan families in poverty-stricken communities. Members of CRAD, an immersive adults-only “summer camp,” joined together with JOURNEY, an organization whose mission is to create a new generation of travelers that are driven to address the needs of our world through “Conscious Travel.” The last piece of the puzzle came via Techo, a youth led non-profit organization that seeks to overcome poverty by pairing families in Latin America and the Caribbean with youth volunteers. The three group joined together to build more than 20 homes over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Barneys VP of PR and Events, Ashley Calandra, along with the children of the Calero family in their nearly completed new home.

Barneys VP of PR and Events, Ashley Calandra, along with the children of the Calero family in their nearly completed new home.

“I think what made this trip so special was that it afforded us the opportunity to really immerse ourselves in the culture and community that we were there to help,” Calandra tells us of the experience. “It was inspiring to travel with friends, both old and new, that had a shared purpose and were hoping to make a difference.”

After a few days spent at Aqua in Redonda Bay getting to know each other—not to mention having a beachfront Thanksgiving dinner—the CRAD journeyers made their way to El Panamá, Masaya, where they joined forces with Techo and were introduced to the families whose homes they’d be helping to build. For Ashley, it was the Calero family—an extended family consisting of five adults and four children—who had all been sharing a single 4mX8m home with no running water or sewage system.

I don’t think there is anything that could have really prepared me for what I would see or how I would feel during this experience,” she tells us. “At the end of the day, we’re all human beings who are deserving of adequate and safe living environments, so to see these conditions firsthand was saddening and eye opening.



Impact Profile: Glasswing, International

In the context of poverty and violence, in Central America, where significant investment is made with limited outcomes, Glasswing International is transforming the development sector. 

Executive Director Celina de Sola has developed a modern and groundbreaking methodology to overcome systemic barriers of distrust between communities, corporations, and government, enabling sustainable collaboration across all sectors to create a massive and long-lasting impact. To date, Glasswing has positively impacted over 750,000 lives.  

Journey is proud to announce this partnership, beginning in December 2016 with a school revitalization project (see trip details here). 


Together we will revitalize a school in a day and provide a better learning environment for its students by helping with: 

•    Painting 

•    Gardening 

•    Construction

Upgrades are designed to be long-term, sustainable, and earthquake resistant. Makeovers involve several hundred volunteers from the local community. Local contractors finish off the job as needed.

Learn more about the Journey to Mexico here.

Defining Success: An Interview with Journey cofounder Amy Merrill


In July, we brought 68 people to Nicaragua [watch a 1-minute video here]. We built 26 homes in 2 days with partner nonprofit TECHO (success #1: 26 families now have a roof and locking door), then took everyone to Monty’s Surf Lodge on the North coast, for two days of processing the experience together. 

On the final afternoon, Monty took a group to visit the mangroves and float down a tributary that fed into the ocean: like a natural ‘lazy river’ from a water park. One of the participants turned to me and said, ‘How did you find the most 68 wonderful people in the world to bring on this trip?’ I almost laughed—68 is a lot of people! If she feels like every one of them is so aligned, and she can be that positive about her experience so far, then we’ve done a good job.

-excerpt from Read the full post here.



Recently featured in About.Me

See full article HERE


Amy Merrill is connecting the dots for what her generation needs.

As the Chief Everything Officer of Journey, Amy helps foster travel experiences that combine purpose, adventure, and community. Upon realizing that our generation wants to be a part of the story when it comes to social good, Amy knew she had found something good. From that realization, Journey was born.  

We interviewed Amy to learn more about the trials and tribulations of starting a company, what the future holds for Journey, and her advice for any future founders out there. Don’t forget to check out Amy’s page to learn more about Journey.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a problem-solver, a social entrepreneur, a musician, a meditator, and I love to laugh. I grew up in the California Bay Area surrounded by activism, music, and tech; then spent my early career in New York working in communications and fundraising for women’s rights and social justice nonprofits, and singing and playing in indie rock bands on the side. I now live in North Hollywood, Los Angeles with my musician-husband, and my company’s headquarters (the Journey Home) is in Venice.

What inspired you to found Journey?

After 10 years of working on causes, I saw a massive need to connect the dots from online to offline: for our generation, clicking-to-donate isn’t enough. We want to show up, immerse ourselves, and be a part of the story.

I started Journey with my cofounder Taylor to solve for that need, creating travel experiences that have a tangible positive impact on local communities, incorporate the magic and fun of summer camp, and are designed to connect and transform people at a deep level.

What’s your vision for Journey?

The Transcendental Meditation community says that if 1% of the world meditated, it would have a ‘significant and measurable effect’ on the population, with a ripple effect curbing violence, boosting the economy, and ultimately leading to world peace.

Our big vision for Journey is for 1% of our generation to experience what we call moments of Oneness. This would have a profound impact on how we treat other human beings and function as a global community, uniting in our approach to our world’s biggest social and environmental challenges.

What was the most challenging thing about starting Journey?

Choosing the Instagram handle! I’m kidding—but it’s a real challenge when you pick a name like Journey in the year 2016.

How do you see the market for Journey growing in the future?

In previous decades, vacations involved all-inclusive resorts with buffets, programmed entertainment, and a guaranteed sunburn and hangover. Our generation has no interest in traveling this way: we want immersive, unique experiences, to feel good and reconnect with our Selves, meet locals and make connections, and make a positive impact on the destination. We’re pioneering a new kind of hybrid travel: but we’re part of a much larger movement toward conscious consumption, wellness, and tech that connects and engages for social good.

Right now a Journey means building homes and hitting the beach (the “integration”), and our market is early-adopter individuals, influencers, corporations and brands. In the future, a Journey will mean choosing your type of impact, destination country, and dates. We see opportunities across all sectors: wellness and adventure travel, universities and MBA programs, young professional networks, family trips, and much more.    


What do you think is the most valued experience your customers gain after their trip?

The community. We’ve already seen the formations of a beautiful organic support system that’s planning reunion trips to Latin America and dinners in LA, New York and Vancouver. Our Journeyers start the trip as a group of strangers, and leave as a family.

What’s the biggest misconception about venturing into social entrepreneurship?

There’s still a tendency to confuse social entrepreneurship with nonprofit. As a Public Benefit Corporation, we factor in the betterment of humanity alongside of profit. But we don’t have to rely on a donation-based model: we are able to leverage market forces to grow and scale quickly, use revenues to build the business and its reach, and partner with leading organizations who implement projects on the ground.  

What is your favorite thing about the work you do?

Every day is different, and I love it. My self-given title is Chief Everything Officer, and playing to my strengths means keeping many, many balls in the air, planning and strategizing for future Journeys, developing relationships with smart, passionate people and companies, and carving out time for creative solo work and writing.  

What is the best piece of advice you could give to anyone who wishes to be a founder?

Resilience. This is not new advice, but it’s the common thread when I think about raising capital, problem-solving and logistics-hacking to build the business, managing teams, and traveling constantly.

My friends Miki and Radha Agrawal talk about evaluating company ideas along these three parameters:

The first question I always ask myself is “What sucks in my world?” and then “Does it suck for a lot of people?” Then I ask, “Can I be passionate about this issue, cause, or community for a very long time?”

They’re 100% right. It’s a journey—but so worth the ride.

Taylor Conroy’s Full Force Journey to Change the Fundraising World

Taylor Conroy’s energy for life is contagious! Currently, he is the co-founder of Journey, an organization that designs trips for volunteers looking to make a difference by building homes in developing countries.

In his role, Taylor is on a mission to revolutionize the way social change is funded. This is a great interview for travelers looking to make a difference in the world.

Inspired by his passion, we explored his past, where I learned that he has always been driven. Whether it’s high-finance real estate, bodybuilding, firefighting or international volunteer work, Taylor takes on life at full force.

“That’s what made me leave the fire hall, that love for thinking outside the box and creating things that don’t yet exist.” – Taylor Conroy


Travel Topics:

  • Taylor’s bodybuilder beginning [2:00]
  • Life advice… You got to put in the hustle and the heartbreak to get the reward [6:30]
  • The entrepreneurship itch [10:22]
  • How to find a personal guru [14:07]
  • Taylor’s passion for feminist projects [19:15]
  • Yorling’s story: The will of a teenage Nicaraguan woman [21:18]
  • Mr. Rodrigue’s story: A 100-year-old Salvadorian dairy farmer sees his new home [23:51]
  • The power of partnering with an established local non-profit [25:39]
  • What to expect on a Journey trip [26:08]
  • The difference between non-profit and for-profit organizations in thechange industry [33:33]
  • Trip participants realize that ‘we, humans, are not as different as we think’ [39:14]
  • The Masai warrior’s four truths [41:07]
  • How to ensure volunteerism is sustainable for the community [44:26]