The Backpacker Intern



TheBackpackerInternHi world, my name is Mark van der Heijden. I’m a creative entrepreneur from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. From January 2014 until January 2016 I’ve traveled the world as ‘The Backpacker Intern’. Helping out agencies, brands and charities. But I didn’t want to get paid. I just wanted to trade: a day of my work for food and a place to sleep. My mission was to gain experience on 7 continents (which I did :)) and I hope to inspire people with my story along the way and on the web.


It started with this short video.

The Backpacker Intern from Mark van der Heijden on Vimeo.

After putting it on this website and my social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), my idea got picked up by a lot of international media, TV and blogs, such as Adweek, Campaign and MTV. In just one week I’ve received more than 750 job-offers from all over the world.

The Backpacker Intern + Dog Shelter + Nile Rodgers + Soup Kitchen

Cardboard at companies - The Backpacker Intern

Antarctica, Malaysia, Liverpool, Rio, The Backpacker Intern

In two years I’ve been on 7 continents, in 27 countries and worked at 32 companies like Amnesty International Thailand, DDB Vietnam, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, JWT Buenos Aires, Red Bull Austria, UNICEF New Zealand, and Ogilvy Cape Town. I worked with the legendary hitmaker Nile Rodgers in New York, ex-drugtraffickers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, helped out a dog shelter in San Francisco, served food to homeless people at a Soup Kitchen in Malaysia and helped out One Ocean Expeditions during a polar expedition to the coldest continent in the world; Antarctica.

The Backpacker Intern presenting at TEDxTeen New York City

I gave presentations about my project at TEDxTeen New York City, Cannes Lions Festival, PechKucha, Creative Mornings, SXSW Festival, United Nations HQ and many more. As a public speaker, I want to help and inspire people to create an awesome life. I believe that we can change the world if we start by changing ourselves.

The Backpacker Intern White House card

I was invited by The White House as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Travel Bloggers in the World and featured by Mashable as Inspiring Travel Instagrammer to follow.

With all the learnings, experience and network I built over the past two years I now want to make work-life experiences accessible for a whole generation. That’s why I launched  ‘The Backpacker Intern Academy‘, an online course to help you build your personal brand and stand out to land dream jobs abroad.

If you’re interested in collaborating please send me an email at or use my contact page. Thanks for your support!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Oprah

21 thoughts on “#About

  1. Olivia Dennison

    Was browsing TEDx Teen on Youtube and came across your talk…..this is very inspiring work that you are doing. Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors.

  2. Pingback: Bulgaria is not a joke

  3. Minko Geiorgiev

    Hello Mark,

    I read the article about you in Bulgarian Capital. I want to congratulate you for this wonderful idea, and also to wish you good health and strength faith! I will eagerly follow your new adventure in the world in your blog.

    Minko Georgiev
    Sofia, Bulgaria

  4. Anneke

    Wow Mark! That sounds amazing! Travelling the world, seeing different places and help out where you can! If you ever need your own intern because you cant catch up anymore give me a shout 😉

    1. Mark van der Heijden Post author

      The fact that you ‘want it’ means you already started. Just follow your heart, find out what makes you happy. Not what makes you happy in the future, but NOW, today. What if this is your last day on earth, what would you do? Life is short so better make the best out of it. Good luck and let me know if you need more tips!

  5. Emine

    hey! great idea! can u inform me more about the thing you have done? I also did 2 times internship in 2 different countries but I would love to do it more and find other oppurtunities again!

  6. Dewi

    Hey Mark,

    Via, via, via, via kwam ik hier.
    Ik word altijd heel erg blij van mensen die lekker doen wat ze zelf willen en niet bang zijn om een waanzinnig (idioot misschien) idee gewoon uit te voeren. Creatief zijn kan je gelukkig over de hele wereld!
    Lekker blijven genieten en je hart volgen en wie weet komen we elkaar een keer tegen (als ik ook een keer afstudeer en de knoop doorhak).

    Groetjes Dewi

  7. Shivin Varghese Unitholi

    Greetings, Mark

    Read about your initiative and The Backpacker Intern adventures recently.
    The whole method of trading one’s skill with availing basic necessities like food and shelter in different parts of the world is truly inspiring I must say!

    I’m Shivin, 30, from Bombay, India. Being an easterner, and moreover being someone who was educated in an english Convent school, I’ve been fascinated with subjects like Literature, Renaissance Art, Architecture and above all the vast Socio and Geo political history of the European continent.

    I’m a hotel management grad, also worked with world’s leading localization company as Project Coordinator for translation projects, with one of the best Background verifications company as a process specialist helping many leading companies based in the US, Canada and Europe in their pre-hiring process. I’ve moved to another vertical and currently employed with one of the leading Insurance broking company headquartered in the UK.

    I can speak 4 languages (including English) fluently. completed A2 level from Goethe Institut in German language this year.

    What I intend – To travel to Europe, mainly Germany, pursue short courses in International studies/Developmental studies and contribute in whatever possible way to the institutions like Red Cross, Amnesty, UN sub departments and be a part of those teams who help rehabilitate (just like the teams that are currently involved with helping the Syrian refugees). I can also teach English, also Hindi to those who would like to learn 🙂 and in the next few months perhaps teach German too. Having had a profound interest in English Literature, I would be able to contribute in journals, magazines if there are relevant jobs.

    The hurdles I face – I could arrange myself only a ticket as of now and nothing more…

    The Question – Will it be possible for any institution to get my stay, food arranged (extremely moderate is what I seek) and the aforementioned short term courses. Its fine if this comes with a bond to serve them without a salary. How do I go about it, if possible?

  8. Lynn Monteiro

    Hi! I was wondering if you could come to Mumbai too…it’d be great.As of now I’m studying Mass Media here in Mumbai and I wanted to know if I could join Wanderbrief as a photographer and what would the whole process be like.
    Thank you and have a nice day .

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