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Traveling with Purpose. Sustaining the Maldives.

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The Maldives are commonly misunderstood and the truth of the beautiful island nation is calling out to be heard. You can help.

The Maldives, a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, are known most for its gorgeous beaches, nature, and luxury resorts. While the resorts are certainly real and important parts of the country, the richness of the culture - in both traditions and creative drive for progress - of local Maldivian islanders often goes unnoticed.

The people and their islands face significant challenges being on the front lines of climate change and in the aftershock of recent developments like 24 hour electricity, (late 1980s, early 1990s,) and the industrial plastic and trash epidemic. ⁣⁣⁣

The Maldives is the lowest lying nation in the world and as a result, its inhabitants are at the forefront of Earth’s climate change. This makes the Maldivians a group of people who are most affected by other people’s daily actions and yet have no voice regarding their consequences.

Ahmed Shaffan, a local artist in the Maldives, worded it best.

"That's the hopeless part about being Maldivian. You know in 20 or 50 years your home could be gone. And when you look at the news, it's like no one else notices that future maps don't show us existing."

In April 2020 a group of expertly diverse and passionate humans travel with purpose for a return visit to connect deeply with people and nature.

We're hiring a local Maldivian documentary crew to travel with us for 7 days as we meet with locals, learn about the local islands versus resort islands, and open ourselves to the magic that comes when curiosity is the guide. 

And we'd love your help. 

Your Donation
We'll accept any amount, of course. Here are a few money levels we think are really useful and so we're giving you some valuable stuff in return:

$25 - Heritage Ancestral Grain Bread by Dr. Sam Keith or Recipe (depending on location).
$50 - Limited Edition  Art Photo  from the trip, by photo journalist and artist Victoria Kaempfe
$100 - The Elements & You 4 part Yoga Series, videos and PDF guide for connecting to the planet.
$250 - Junior Producer. (Name listed on website and in group credits in the film.)
$500 - Senior Producer. (Featured name in credits of the film, name and link on website (coming soon).
More than $500 - talk to us! Ideas include, logo credit on film, social media, blogs, and public events.


Sustainability visionary and impact entrepreneur, Heather McDougall, (pictured above) came upon this project working with a Maldivian hotel’s efforts to become a sustainable hotel located on a zero-waste island. What she found was a rich culture beyond the picture-perfect, over-water villas that newly-wed honeymooners dream of. Having visited a neighboring local island and meeting with a number of locals, she felt spiritually called to invite a group of friends and colleagues dedicated to sustainability efforts across a diverse set of backgrounds, including food, health, design, and spirituality, to travel with her and experience what these islands have to share with us.


Hi everyone! 
I'm Sam, a general dentist in California and otherwise known as TheDebtist after I published a blog that started off about finance but went into minimalism, slow living, and sustainability - all of which are lifestyles that I've implemented to pay back a ludicrous student debt. I went on multiple podcasts about my finance journey, and use the blog to connect with founders of eco-conscious brands. Last year, I opened a zero-plastic waste bakery that produces sourdough bread fermented with a live starter for healthier digestion. I work with a local farm preserving ancient heritage grain and bought a mill to turn grain into flour right before mixing, to gain all the benefits that grain has to offer. I provide sourdough to coffee shops, restaurants and to locals at a market, all within a 0.5 mile radius to my house. I walk the bread over to all these places, thereby using selectivity to reduce my carbon footprint. On top of the blog, the bakery and practicing dentistry 6 days a week, I dog sit for fun.

Namaste all!
My name is Christopher, a senior architectural designer located in downtown Detroit.  Christopher has been practicing architecture for nine years with experience in Sustainable Urban Planning & Design, Expo Exhibit & Set Design Fabrication, and Retail / Mixed-use Design.  During his Masters program at Lawrence Technological University, Christopher won the Earl W. Pellerin Traveling Fellowship research grant which lead him to India to research "Vernacular Architecture".  In an attempt to better understand "Place", how architecture can be utilized as a tool to reflect cultures, climates and social needs, Christopher has also participated in several design workshops across the world including Shanghai, Tirana, and New Delhi.  Outside of architecture, Christopher has a big heart and passion for all things nature, sustainability, community co-op involvements, volunteering with Camp Quality, expanding his practice on the mat, keeping active on the pitch and exploring the city of Detroit through the wheels of his Salsa Journeyman.

Hi! I'm Heather
Heather is a North Dakota-grown international entrepreneur, acclaimed yoga teacher and visionary powerhouse committed to helping create a sustainable planet. After attending law school in Minnesota, Heather moved to Abu Dhabi, Detroit and now Amsterdam. She travels the world learning from communities and sharing her 8 limbed approach to Sustainability. She’s co-created Bogobrush - a beautiful, sustainable oral care company with her brother, - and organized collaborations including reforestation in Spain, community center with Engineers Without Borders in Guatemala, and a health fair in Detroit. Through it all, she’s connecting projects across cultures and cities, large and small, to share knowledge on a global scale of the inspiring work being done on local levels. It’s the local work where change truly begins.

Hunter Moore grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. The son of a pastor, he was exposed to food inequality at an early age. In his teen years, his family set up a food distribution network that grew to feed 400 families a week in the city of Detroit. After high school, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Through his time in the service, he was exposed to stories that indicated the global scale of food injustice and the consequences of what happens when food systems disappear. After getting out of the military, he doubled down on creating better food systems, including helping launch a vertical hydroponic farm in Detroit. His main mission is to work towards an equitable and sustainable food system and to work with those that are at the forefront of this global issue.


A willingness to connect with others in empathy and understanding, with the belief that when we connect deeply, solutions will naturally rise to the top.

Two Rules for Traveling with Purpose
1. Assumptions are not allowed. (This is a virtually impossible task, but when an assumption becomes apparent, we turn it into a question.)

2. We do not bring any ideas or solutions to the table until relationships are built and we are expressly invited to brainstorm. (If an idea starts to reveal itself, we turn it into a question.)

Everything is about connection, an exchange of energy between our group of Travelers and our Maldivian Friends. The trip is first of all the purpose to connect ourselves, individually to the experience so we expand our own selves. The collaborations are a natural by-product of trust and alignment. 


Documentary Storytelling

Hire a local Maldivian crew (3 people) for 7 days
2-4 short videos
1 long video (30-60 min). A documentary experience to connect and help heal the world.

The documentary is one of the first projects Traveling with Purpose will contribute to. The local Maldivians are doing everything they can to get their story to the international community, but often feel the world has written them off. The story is meant to raise awareness and to connect Maldivians to an audience who has the potential to do so much more. Here is an amazing opportunity to help.

Why Storytelling?

The World NEEDS connection - to each other, to the planet. 

Connection allows us to
- Expand our ideas of what is possible
- Feel solutions bubble intuitively
- Learn with the innate wisdom that grows when we open ourselves to it

The Maldivians want to be Seen and Heard.

The world's systems of governments and the lottery of life aren't fair, but we're all in this together and we need each other to survive as people, humanity, and a planet. International awareness is something that rang loud and clear as something Maldivians are asking for from Heather's first trip to the Maldives. 


From Riya. Co-founder Toddy @weartoddy 

Riya and his brother, Faya, started Toddy with the ultimate vision for it to become the international Story of the Maldives. Heather talked with him about the importance of telling this story, and here is some of what he said,

"We need to talk about how vulnerable Maldives is to climate change, and that governments should try to implement plans to use the natural resources so that small nations would survive in the future. If the developed countries change their laws and regulations focusing on the impacts to small nations then it will be the ultimate solution to this global disaster, right? Because we [the Maldives] are at the front line of climate change, by taking steps to save the Maldives, and other small island nations, the whole world changes and is saved. #savethemaldives #savetheworld"

From Shaffoceans, artist from Male, Maldives, founder Maldivian Artist Community

"Maldivian artists need international customers. We have to connect with galleries all over the world and sell art to tourists to gain international exposure. It will be huge for the Maldives and for creative freedom for Maldivian artists."

The photo above is a partial of the painting Shaffan describes as the feeling of being a Maldivian Artist without an international community.

Shaff uses his art to express experiences from living in the Maldives. His latest works use plastic garbage collected from the islands. Above is a photo of his portrait of the President of the Maldives done in the plastic garbage medium, with Shaff and the President. 

From Alibe, Thoddoo Island Chief, 1980s-90s. 
"It's so nice that people from outside the Maldives want to help our islands."

We didn't take any photos during this meeting. It was late, nearly 11pm, and we met Alibe in the back of a dimly lit juice bar. It was like a movie scene. 

From Ikram, founder Thoddoo Life

"I want to start a guest house that focuses on nature and sustainability. A place where I can host people and groups who come to the island [from around the world] to spread awareness and inspire locals to create impact.... Plus, with the money I earn from the guest house, I can invest in other projects on the island - like garbage and farming - things that will support the nature and make the island more enjoyable than it already is for everyone who visits and lives there."


Community and Relationships

The exact activities will likely shift when we are actually on the islands because that's how things are, especially in the local culture. Some examples of ideas from talking with the locals are

- Island Clean-Up Event + Community Dinner Buffet and Friendship
- Ice Bath challenge with local free-divers. Expanding mindsets and physical limitations
- Visiting local health clinic
- Gathering and coffee with women entrepreneurs
- Meals with local families
- Farming experiences

(travel and lodging paid for by the Traveling with Purpose team)

3 Days at the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives
Behind the Scenes Exclusive Tours and Meetings
- General Manager Tolga and his Sustainability Vision
- Executive Chef Jonathan and the Food System at Hard Rock
- Engineering Manager Mohamed and the Energy and Waste System of Crossroads Island
- And more

4 Days Local Islands
Thoddoo, Male, Hulhumale
- Ocean Life
- Trash Management (or lack of)
- Local Farming
- Local Fishing
- Entrepreneurs
- Artists
- Food Culture
- Climate Change and Weather Impacts


  • Brandon Jernigan
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs

Fundraising team (6)

Samantha Tillapaugh
Santa Ana, CA
Heather McDougall
Brandon Gugala
Team member
Christoper Davis
Team member
Team member
Hunter Moore
Team member

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