20 years with The Intrepid Foundation: A community of travelers who create positive change

When Intrepid Foundation was established 20 years ago, there were very few travel companies that gave back to the local communities. Since then, the foundation has worked with over 62,000 individual donors to raise more than AUD $ 12 million for 136 community partners around the world. And as for Intrepid co-founder Geoff Manchester, they have just begun.

Over the course of 20 years, the Intrepid Foundation has raised more than $ 12 million for 136 community projects around the world, creating a positive impact through the joy of travel, community and connection.

And it all started on a road trip through Africa in 1988.

We had modified a former council truck and the plan was to drive it across the continent with some friends. Darrell [Wade, Intrepid’s co-founder]his wife Anna and I started talking about the concept of Intrepid, what it could become, and we thought: if we are to make a living by taking people to developing countries, we should be gives back to those countries.

Intrepid co-founders Geoff Manchester and Darrell Wade.

Soon Intrepid Travel was born. For the first three years, we started financially supporting some small projects in Southeast Asia. That was before the company had a profit. Darrell and I did not even get paid yet!

In 2002, we set up a separate not-for-profit, Intrepid Foundation, partly to help our travelers donate, but also so that Intrepid could start supporting these projects in a much larger way.

“I think this is one of the real forces of the journey: to connect us with people and communities around the world.”

It may not sound too revolutionary now, but I’m 99 percent sure there was no other travel company that did something similar 20 years ago. It was a completely different model of philanthropy. The intrepid approach was based on travelers, not wealthy benefactors. The income came from ordinary people. It was constant and in theory eternal. A whole new way of giving back.

Measures our effect

For a long time, we measured success solely in dollars and the number of organizations we could support. It’s still a good way to look at things, but over the years we’ve refined our process.

We want to make sure that the organizations we support make a real difference on the ground. In part, this is about finding worthy partners – each organization has been selected and carefully researched by our local destination teams – but we have also become more stringent in terms of reporting. Every single one of our partners provides annual statements so that we can measure not only the fund’s performance but also its impact.

There is an important difference there, between results and effect. It’s not just what your donations are tothat’s what they represent. A good result can be to train 100 disadvantaged women in a new skill, but the impact can be much greater: better job security, a more prosperous society, a living wage, healthier children, more gender equality, higher living standards, and so on.

A new world of travel

The future of travel is changing right now, every single day, and the Foundation is a big part of that. There is still a lot we want to achieve. We want to expand the scope of our partners and engage with the issues that matter most to them, along with our local teams. The foundation has done a great job for 20 years, but we want the next 20 to be even better.

“Our internal surveys show that travelers really appreciate this. They want to make a contribution and feel more connected to the places they visit.”

A group of porters, travelers and guides stand in a circle on the Inca
The Intrepid Foundation works with porters on the Inca Trail.

For that reason, we would very much like to have a partner attached to every single Intrepid journey. That is the ultimate goal. This, of course, means supporting partners whose work covers every region we travel, which is a big task. It takes a lot of time to find these partners, assess them, create the relationships, get the story out and start raising money. To put it in perspective, Intrepid runs over 900 different rides!

We also want to build on the success of the last 20 years by stepping up the fund’s disaster preparedness work. It’s something we’ve been doing since the tsunami on Christmas Day 2004, but we would love to do even more. Over the years, our travelers have raised money for Earthquake in Nepalthat Australian forest fires,, vaccine equityand now Red Cross in Ukraine.

This is one of the real forces of the journey: to connect us with people and communities around the world and enable us to support those communities. Our internal surveys show that travelers really appreciate this. They want to make a contribution and feel more connected to the places they visit. They want their adventure to mean something.

A group of travelers cycling through a community
A community-based tourism project in Myanmar.

We see Intrepid and The Intrepid Foundation as being intertwined. They are separate organizations, but work towards the same mission. When booking an Intrepid trip, you should be able to see, feel and read about its direct impact. You become part of a community of conscious travelers, ready to create change. You meet people and learn about local issues, and part of you stays connected to these destinations, long after you have returned home.

I am proud that the Intrepid Foundation has been able to support so many meaningful partners over the last 20 years. But for the most part, I look forward to ways we can increase that impact in the years to come. And as travelers continue to push for travel experiences that matter, I know the future of travel is in good hands.

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