Rustic Pathways

Rustic Pathways

About

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways.

Choose from culturally-immersive adventure and volunteer programs in 17 countries. Make lifelong friends from around the world, work on sustainable community service projects, and discover new passions during a Rustic Pathways program.

Whether you're looking for summer volunteer programs or searching for the right gap year, Rustic Pathways has the right experience for you.

Founded
1983
Headquarters

34900 Chardon Road Building 1, Suite #205
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
United States

Reviews

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Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Rustic Pathways trip showed me a new way to look at the world. As the trip progressed, each day I started to put more and more into the tasks at hand. I realized how satisfying my hard work can be. Through the trip, I learned that even a little work on a project is a start in making a large difference. Although my trip was only 10 days, my perspective of volunteering changed. I was pleasantly surprised by the other teens’ commitment to our work helping the environment. My Rustic Pathways experience changed the way I view my carbon footprint and it has pushed me to make myself a better person and citizen of the world.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
As you head into this trip keep an open mind. You are going to see another culture and many new parts of nature. If you are open to trying new things, you will come out with so much more from your experience. So use this chance to meet new people while learning about yourself and what you are capable of. If an opportunity on the trip is offered, say “yes”. You might be nervous, but quickly your perspective will change and you’ll have the best time. With a willing, excited and open mindset, you can come out of the trip with so much more than you started with.
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Maddie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My rustic experience was life-changing. I spent 18 in rural thailand, the first half of my trip I spent in a small village in Mae Sariang and then we went to an elephant sanctuary for the second half. It was so incredible to see different ways of life and be able to help out in places of need. When I came home from this trip, I immediately felt like a different person. I have become so much more aware of the world and how important it is to be thankful for everything you are given. It is an incredible opportunity to be able to visit and help out people in different countries in need. My perspective on life has developed substantially and Rustic Pathways can take full responsibility for that. I would most definitely recommend this program or any rustic program.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Definitely bugs! One night our leaders put a bunch of plates in front of us and offered us a taste of normal foods in that region
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Rachel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My trip to Fiji with Rustic Pathways was absolutely amazing! I couldn't have asked for a better experience in my life. When I first thought about going overseas to Fiji, I was very nervous about flying and going to a country where I knew no one. However, when I met my Rustic staff at the airport, I felt like I was in the best hands. I always felt safe and never worried about not being safe. When I arrived, it was the most welcoming experience I could have ever imagined. Being far away from home made me feel nervous, but the Rustic staff made me feel at home. One thing I take away from my trip to Fiji is that I never had a bad memory or experience. I made life-long memories with life-long friends. I am so proud of myself for taking this huge step and will never regret it!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Personally, I HAD a terrifying fear of the ocean, but that changed due to the confidence and courage that I had built up in Fiji because of the people I was surrounded by.
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Bill
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was by far the most unique experience I've ever had when traveling.

Traveling abroad with Rustic Pathways taught me that coming out of my comfort zone to trying new things and learning more about myself can really develop who I am. I learned about traditional Thailand culture and values all while being able to help the community.

One of the most rewarding parts of the travel was being able to assist those in Thailand. My personal highlight was being able to teach English to grade-schoolers on one of our last days there and it was a memory I'll cherish forever. Another lesson that they really emphasize is the importance and power of self-reflection. The team at Rustic gives you a couple of opportunities to reflect with each other and it helps build character development and also a stronger bond between everyone.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When I was at the elementary school, I was shocked. I did not realize how much privilege I come from when I saw kids play with holes in their socks and either broken balls or half-filled water balloons. Seeing this really motivated me to want to give back to this community.
Read my full story
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Riley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Peru was amazing. I spent a total of four weeks there on the Andes to Amazon and Sacred Valley programs. Between the two programs, I got to see the diversity of different parts of the country as we travelled throughout the Andes, Lima, the Sacred Valley, and the Amazon. One of, if not the largest factors in having such a wonderful experience, was the people on my programs. I met some of the most interesting, unique, fun people that I made such strong connections within in the first day or two of each program. Not to mention, the group leaders were fantastic; they were extremely interesting people, who did so much more than just lead our group and make sure that we were safe. Through my experiences in Peru, I learned so much about this world as well as myself. We did so many incredible things between the two programs, and while not everything was not what I quite expected, I had an incredible time last summer.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Goodbyes are always hard on rustic trips. For me, transitioning into my second group from my first group was hard. I was really missing my friends from my first program at the start of the second program; but I kept an open mind for the kids on my new program, and in the end, made another group of really great friends.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Bill Yen

Bill is always pushing himself outside the comfort zone; whether that be learning a new language or traveling across the globe, there is always something that he ambitiously pursues.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because one of my closest friends went through the same program and told me about her experience. It sounded amazing and thoughtful and it interested me to learn more about opportunities to provide service abroad.

I love giving back to the community whenever I can and I love traveling. Being able to experience this program was a dream come true for me and I learned a lot about myself. It is something I still look back on to this day and reflect on.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My provider assisted me with planning and organizing the trip from start to finish. We were made sure that there would be someone to accompany us every leg of the journey; every airport, every city, every car ride. The program also provided the agenda for what we would be doing every day. I had to organize my own luggage and passport but not too much to worry about.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice I'd love to give someone is to go in with an open mind. Know that it will not be like anything you've ever experienced before but in a good way. You will learn a lot about yourself, your surroundings, and your community. It taught me not just the value of service, but also the value of quality time and quality people.

Ever since the program, I actively reflect and still keep in touch with people I met on the program because it gave me such a strong comradery between the others in the program.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day looks like waking up, eating breakfast with everyone and talking about the agenda for the rest of the day. This may include eating breakfast, and then discussing what happened yesterday, what you learned yesterday, and then we will discuss what service project we will be doing today and what else to look forward to.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was probably the language barrier.

I did not know any Thai and I still don't know a lot, but rest assured: the program leaders made sure we had a pocket of useful phrases kept on our body at all times and even helped us translate when needed. It ended up not being a big deal because most of the time they would communicate for us and we can focus on providing service and enjoying ourselves.

What's your favorite memory from the program?

I think my favorite memory would be the day of arrival.

My group just spent over 16 hours flying, layovers and flying again nonstop. When we finally arrived at the base house, it was already late into the evening in Thailand and not only that, we were pretty jetlagged. It was a long and exhausting journey, but nothing will compare to the joy of arriving there, suddenly curing all fatigue and exhaustion due to the adrenaline of pure excitement for what was to come.

That night, I still remember getting settled into my room and bed, lying down, and just looking outside the window. I saw the moon amongst the skies, and the stars just seemed to glisten with grace. It was a beautiful night and I remember looking outside and thinking about how exciting a journey this next week was going to be.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Connor Stowe

Job Title
Global Program Advisor
Connor has worked for Rustic Pathways over the past 8 years having run programs in 15 different countries for the organization. He now helps families find good program fits for students that align with their passions, interests, and desires to explore the world!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I think one of the largest benefits of travel is simply just seeing and learning about cultures and backgrounds different from the one that you grew up with at home. It has allowed me to consider different points of view, put myself in other people's shoes, and overall has made me a more compassionate person.

It's really exciting to be a part of that opportunity for growth with other students because having knowledge and empathy for people in different communities other than your own ultimately leads to a stronger global community where we all want the best for one another.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

There was a girl who traveled with us in India and then later went on to win a design contest for Tom's shoes where students could create and submit an idea for the company.

Her inspiration came from the time that she spent on a Rustic Pathways program in Northern India and the colors and patterns she saw in the country. I love this story because there are some really easy ways to see how travel can shape students and expand their world-view, but it reminds me that travel opportunities can inspire and ignite our students in smaller, more subtle ways as well.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I have a personal affinity for our Panda Conservation project in China because I've spent so much time developing educational content for the program.

Students are just able to learn how researchers manage captive species as well as how much work goes into the field of conservation, and we work at a center that has 20% of all pandas in captivity in the world. It's just a very unique opportunity to work on a project that you wouldn't be able to do on your own in personal travels later in life.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think the thing that makes Rustic Pathways stand out is our long-term commitment to sustainable growth in the countries and communities that we work in.

We have full-time staff year-round in the countries where we operate that allow us to more easily control our safety policies as an organization, but also be a part of year-long planning with the communities where we work setting up volunteer projects and continuing to make sure that former projects keep their momentum after our students leave their program.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think one of the biggest factors to being in a successful organization is being able to adapt and make changes when necessary.

Being flexible also allows us to work with a wide variety of students from a wide variety of backgrounds so that our trips on the ground fulfill the goals of individuals that may have different passions. Adaptability also allows us to innovate and create new programs that fulfill program wishes for our future students with new and exciting content!

The world of international development is always changing and it allows us to be able to work with communities in an ever-changing environment of what is most beneficial to those communities.

US visitors, meet us in person!

  1. Friday 24 January
    Oak Park, IL Gap Year Fair
    Oak Park & River Forest High School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  2. Tuesday 28 January
    Houston, TX Gap Year Fair
    Strake Jesuit College Prepatory
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  3. Wednesday 29 January
    Dallas, TX Gap Year Fair
    Shelton School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM

Professional Associations

Gap Year Association Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo
World Youth and Student Travel Conference Logo