Alumni Spotlight: Margot Babington

Margot Babington is a nineteen year old from Chicago, Illinois; she graduated from the Latin School Of Chicago. She decided to do a gap year her junior year of high school, and she attended Rustic Pathways South Pacific Service and Ocean Skills semester from September 14th to December 14th, 2013.

What inspired you to join the Rustic Pathways South Pacific Service and Ocean Skills program?

Margot at Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Margot: I worked hard in high school. After four years of honors classes and extracurricular activities, I was ready for a break. I didn’t want to be burned out before I got to college.

I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Rustic Pathways in 2012 and knew they ran gap semester programs. After looking at their website, it was hard to do more research about other programs.

The South Pacific Service and Ocean Skills program had everything I wanted to do—go to three amazing countries, scuba dive the Great Barrier reef, live and volunteer in a Fijian village, and skydive.

Even the activities that I was nervous about—bungy jumping and sailing—ended up a blast because I was with some of my best friends.

It didn’t hurt that everywhere we went was extremely beautiful.

What was your favorite moment of the trip?

Margot: One of my favorite moments on the trip was in Takalana, Fiji.

We spent a couple of nights there, and one night after dinner, most of the group sat and drank kava with Oro and Coco Joe, part of the Rustic Pathways Fijian staff, as well as the staff of the resort in Takalana.

After hours of singing, dancing, story telling, and kava drinking, a lot of the group went to sleep and it was just my friend Brooke and I with our Fijian friends.

In front of Brooke and I was a songbook, with lyrics in English and Fijian. The only English songs we recognized were by The Beatles.

After much prompting, Brooke and I sang a butchered version of Hey Jude. I don’t like singing in front of anyone, but only Brooke and I knew that our version of the song was way off, everyone else was smiling and cheering us on.

What skills were you most excited/proud to acquire?

Two of the leaders for the Rustic Australia month scuba diving

Margot: Other than scuba diving, which has become one of my new favorite things to do, I’m proud that I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to, I just have to be brave enough to try.

While that’s not technically a skill, it changed my mindset on my approach to traveling solo throughout Asia as well as college.

One of my favorite things about Aimee, one of the leaders, was that she was always trying to push us outside of our comfort zones, and while at times it was scary, I’m glad she did.

I faced some of my fears, from reading my own writing in front of people to bungy jumping, and am more confident as a result.

If you could go back and spend a few months in just one place you visited, which would it be? Why?

Rustic Pathway participants plant taro at Jone's Farm in Fiji

Margot: I would go back to Fiji in a heartbeat.

The best part of Fiji is the people; everyone in the village we lived in for the home stay was so friendly, welcoming, and eager to get to know each and every one of us.

Some of the best nights of the three months were spent drinking kava, a Fijian drink made from the ground-up kava root, singing and laughing. I don’t think I have ever gotten to know another culture so well.

After a week in Nasivikoso when describing our experiences, everyone said how they felt like they were part of the family, how after being in Fiji for a couple weeks it was nice to have a home away from home.

I would love to hike back to the waterfall outside of Nasivikoso, lay on the rocks, and spend time with all of the amazing people I got to know.

What advice do you have for someone considering this program?

Margot and fellow Rustic Pathway participants in New Zealand

Margot: I think the most important thing is to come into the trip with an open mind.

There will be difficult moments, especially if you’re not used to living with eighteen people, but there will also be amazing, life changing moments.

If you’re nervous about the group, remember that everyone who comes on the trip is also looking to make friends.

Try to experience as much as possible—snorkel at every opportunity, stay up drinking kava with the locals, and bungy jump!It will be more memorable than reading a book or taking a nap. You never know when you’ll have an opportunity like this again.

Even if it’s not something you normally do, I would write a couple of goals for the trip, I think it adds something more meaningful to the experience.

Ask yourself why you are there, and what you’re trying to accomplish with the trip. And have fun!