Meet the Intrepid leader getting out there and giving back in Vietnam

written by Danielle McDonald May 13, 2024

Vuong Truong has recently marked his 15th year leading Intrepid adventures through his home country of Vietnam. But rather than celebrate his milestone with cake (the obvious choice), he turned to his local community and set a goal to give back in a bigger way than ever before. 

When I sit down with Vuong during his recent visit to Melbourne, right away he tells me in a soft-spoken demeanour to simply call him V. 

He keeps up this gentle tone throughout our 20-minute conversation, wrapped up in an optimistic disposition and a breezy confidence around who he is and how he chooses to live his life.   

I realise he’s somehow captured an ease of existing in the world in a way that I’ve only ever read about in books about gratitude and happiness. And even though he wasn’t trying to be profound, V opened my eyes to what some of those dust-covered paperbacks on my bookshelf had tried really hard to make me believe. That happiness, or at least moments of happiness, are simple to find if you know how to look for them. 

Going after it 

V has been leading Intrepid trips for an impressive 15 years, but his enthusiasm for getting out and about has been around even longer. 

He tells me that before he was born, his father drove a truck along the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. After the war, he bought an old bus and worked as a bus driver while V was young, taking people all over Vietnam. This meant he didn’t see his dad often, but whenever summer holidays rolled around, V would join him on trips across the country. 

I travelled on my father’s bus when I was very little and saw beautiful views along the road, and I said to myself: yeah, I want to see all of them.

‘I travelled on my father’s bus when I was very little and saw beautiful views along the road, and I said to myself: yeah, I want to see all of them,’ he tells me, with a touch of child-like excitement still recognisable in his voice. 

Young V decided the easiest way to do just that would be to work in tourism. He’d get to do what he loved most and get paid for it.  

But, as he grew up, he realised his childhood dream wouldn’t be that easy to attain. 

‘In Vietnam, you need a bachelor’s degree to work in tourism. So, I had to study very hard in high school [to get into university]. It was all about just sleeping and studying,’ he says. 

‘I was successful and I got into university, and when I left I started work as a tour guide straight away. I didn’t waste any time.’   

After about a year leading travellers around northern Vietnam, he saw an opportunity to work with Intrepid and went for it. 

Now, over a decade and a half later he says, ‘I really feel working for Intrepid has helped me to be a better version of myself, to be a better person to society.’ 

‘Intrepid actually care for the local communities and that’s very meaningful to me,’ he continues. 

Doing something more 

Leading Intrepid trips fulfils his desire to get out there and see his home country, but V says he also appreciates Intrepid’s commitment to making a positive mark on the places they go. 

Intrepid trips support community-led experiences around the world. And The Intrepid Foundation gives travellers the opportunity to learn about and give back to impact partners who are championing important causes in more than 35 countries.  

I said to myself: it’s time to do something more; it’s time to give something back.

In Vietnam, a number of trips visit Vun Art, an Intrepid Foundation partner that provides job training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities. It’s estimated that more than 1.4 million people with disabilities are unemployed across Vietnam due to social stigmas and a lack of suitable jobs. Vun Art are on a mission to change that. 

They teach people to make handicrafts and apparel using discarded fragments of local silk. If you find yourself on a Tailor-Made trip in Vietnam, take note of the special Intrepid tote bag you receive, which have all been created by the team at Vun Art. 

V says spending time at Vun Art – whether taking travellers to visit or volunteering with the Intrepid team – paired with his impending work anniversary inspired him to want to do even more. 

‘I said to myself: it’s time to do something more; it’s time to give something back.’ 

So when he heard about The Intrepid Foundation’s 2023 Global Leader Challenge, which encouraged Intrepid leaders around the world to celebrate and share more about the non-profit and their impact partners, he was all in. He set out to ‘do something more’ for his local foundation partners, Vun Art and Wild Act, another impact partner in Vietnam which runs educational programs and works with local communities to encourage bird conservation. 

He passionately shared their messages about equality and conservation with his travellers and raised significant funds for both causes. But V stands by his outlook. ‘It’s not about the money; it’s about the meaning.’ 

V ultimately won the global challenge and was prized with a trip to Intrepid’s headquarters in Melbourne, Australia. He was in town for Intrepid’s Global Summit, a week-long celebration for Intrepid staff that looks back on everything the team achieved in the previous year and where they’re going in the year ahead. 

That’s what life’s about, right? 

I help people to enjoy their trip in my country. I help the local community to get support. That’s what life is about, right?

As we sat together in Melbourne, I asked V what he loved most about his job as an Intrepid leader. He simply responded, ‘I help people to enjoy their trip in my country. I help the local community to get support. That’s what life is about, right?’  

V wasn’t wrong – research published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley shows links between giving back and increased overall health, mental health and wellbeing, along with a greater level of happiness.  

In a classic case of chicken or egg, I don’t know what came first for V – whether his commitment to giving back to the local community charges his optimistic outlook or whether being such a positive person is the reason he likes to help others in his community. But I do know that whatever it is, he could write a book about it.  

Check out The Intrepid Foundation’s recent Impact Report, which dives into how the foundation helps travellers give back and shares insider stories from their impact partners. To hear more from V, explore Intrepid’s list of Vietnam adventures and you might be lucky enough to land yourself on one of his trips.  

Feeling inspired?

You might also like

Back To Top