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Thursday, January 15, 2015

10 Years of Journeys Within

To celebrate 10 years of Journeys Within Tour Company, Andrea Ross talks about an incredible journey. A journey that not only changed her life but has changed the lives of thousands of members of our community.  


The truth is that our 10 year anniversary was last year…but we were busy and I just couldn’t quite get around to celebrating it, I think it was because deep down I wanted to wait and really complete 10 years! It wasn’t okay to say we’d gotten to the 10th year, in typical Journeys Within fashion we had to go above and beyond and excel in that 10th year too!! To highlight just that, in the last week I’ve received emails from guests describing their recent trips as “epic”, “once-in-a-lifetime” and “life-changing”. Our tenth year was truly the icing on our anniversary cake!

When Brandon and I started Journeys Within Tour Company 10/11 years ago in Cambodia neither of us realized where it would go and the lives it would change. When I talk about exceptional experiences I’m not just talking about our guests…I’m talking about the Journeys Within team as well. I feel so lucky to have a team that truly loves what they do and I think we are able to really appreciate how exceptional Southeast Asia is. Because we truly value it we’re able to create these experiences for guests that just go above the norm and create unforgettable trips. On a personal level, the last 10 years has been an exceptional experience for me!

When I realized that I shouldn’t just let our anniversary fade into the Angkor Wat sunset I looked online to see what people did for their 10-year-anniversary. Turns out, people have parties…they throw big events and they have a very good time. I thought about doing this, as I do like a good party, but my team is spread across 6 countries and getting them all together seemed unlikely. I will be taking the kids to Southeast Asia in February and in each country I’ll celebrate with my Journeys Within Family, but I needed something bigger, something that defined Journeys Within. I didn’t have to look far.

Shortly after founding Journeys Within Tour Company we founded Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), a non-profit that has a mission of empowering local communities through health and education and inspiring change. When we founded JWOC we again had no idea of the impact it would have. Today JWOC has given access to clean water to thousands of villagers, we’ve provided education for hundreds of students at our school in Siem Reap, we’ve given out microloans to those living below the poverty line and we’ve sent over 200 students to university. And when I say JWOC has done this, I mean WE have done this — it turns out that the most exceptional experiences are not necessarily helicopter rides and private pampering (though those are great too!), but actually the experiences you take home with you are the ones where you make a difference in someone else’s life. When our guests saw the needs in the countries they were visiting they wanted to make a difference and they have! Our donors are the travelers — people that not only want to see and understand these countries, but also make a positive impact on the people living here. The idea of Active Philanthropy through travel has made measurable impacts in the communities that we work in. Our teams both at Journeys Within Tour Company and at JWOC have made these contributions count, every penny of them! In return our guests have not only seen the highlights of Southeast Asia, but they’ve made a difference in the lives of the local people that inspire us to travel. The experience has gone beyond Angkor Wat and Wat Phou and the Grand Palace, and into the villages and communities.

This to me is what the last 10 years has been about. Making travel bigger than just going somewhere new. So to celebrate 10 years of exceptional experiences Journeys Within is donating $10,000 dollars to JWOC. This donation will go towards the projects we founded and believe in and will help JWOC continue to change lives. This donation adds onto the thousands of dollars given throughout the course of the year by our guests who visit our schools and see our projects, as well as the donations that come in from our amazing travelers after they come home and want to continue making a difference!

I am so proud that what we founded 10 years ago has become something so powerful. I am so thankful to have a team that strives to give our guests the best experience possible every single day and I’m so excited to see what will happen in the next 10 years. On the phone today, I was speaking with a guest about his trip and he couldn’t say enough nice things, finally he said, “for a small company with so much heart, you really have the service to back it up.” And that, well that was all I needed.

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