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

15345 Chardon-Windsor Rd
Chardon, OH 44046
United States

Scholarships

Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Rustic Pathways Scholarships and Financial Aid

Rustic Pathways is committed to making life-changing opportunities possible for students worldwide. We know how impactful our programs are, and continually strive to make them more accessible to all students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

Want to travel this summer? Enroll up to 8 days before programs depart!

Programs depart weekly through August 6th to destinations around the world. Find out which programs still have space for you to enroll today!

Reviews

Default avatar
Carmen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What was the most fun on this trip? Perhaps it was running around the community late at night, playing Cops and Robbers with the local kids. Or, falling in the river one afternoon and laughing so much that it made swimming difficult. It could very well have been frolicking at the beach. One of the highlights was our third to last night. We were camping in the mountains, and it began to pour. So we rushed into our tents, mine stuffed with 6 people, and waited for it to end. Only, it didn't. So after half an hour, my friends and I recklessly left our tent to dance in the rain. It was freezing, and maybe a little foolish, but it was tremendous fun.
And what was the most impactful part of the trip? Maybe the long, informative bus ride through Santo Domingo and into the mountains. We experienced a completely different setting, climate, and culture. And the most unexpected impact was the bond our group built over those 9 short days. I cried the night before we left, and again at the airport when we all had to part.
But the definitive answer to both of these questions is service. It was during our service that we interacted with the community, learned about their lives and culture, and got to eat Dominican food!! Service is physically demanding, but insanely fun and a wondrous opportunity to learn.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring work gloves!! They are much needed and very stylish. And although the DR is tropical, the Mountains are chilly, so bring long pants and multiple sweaters!
Default avatar
Kara
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I left for my service trip in late July 2019 and I had no idea what to expect. I had never travel out of the country before let alone by myself! However, as soon as I arrived at the airport I immediately felt the sense of organization and control Rustic has over the situation. During my two week stay I never once felt unsafe. The program leaders were the only negative part of my journey as it was their last trip of the season and they were all a bit worn out. Not to mention our group was a little over enthusiastic at times. The service project it self was life changing! The children are nothing but amazing and kind and working with them was an absolute pleasure! The culture in Costa Rica is worth the trip itself! All of the people were so welcoming and excited to talk to us. The food was the best part!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Meeting the kids for the first time was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Given the nature of the program we didn’t know how many kids we would have, what age they would be, or if they spoke any English. The only thing I could do to help my anxiety was assure myself that what ever happened happened and the kids would have a great time. Which turned out to be entirely true! Once we met the kids I wasn’t sure why I had been as scared as I was!
Default avatar
Maggie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My trip with Rustic to Cambodia was one that I will never forget. It was full of adventure, fun, and learning, not only about this amazing country, but of myself as well. The program was a perfect mix between tourism and service work. We spent one week in the Floating village where we built a house for a woman in need. This experience I am truly grateful for, because it was one of the most memorable! We stayed in a home-stay with a wonderful family who was so generous to us. The rest of the time in the country we spent learning about their history, from the founding to the Khmer Rouge, and exploring all the sites. We rode a bamboo train in the countryside while watching the rice fields zoom by, climbed to the top of a temple on a mountain, and explored the famous Angkor Wat temples at sunrise. I highly suggest this program because there is so much variety in it. I truly feel like I did and saw so many things in Cambodia, from the busy city to the countryside to the city of temples and the floating village. I will never forget the impact this trip had on my outlook and life. Thank you so much Rustic Pathways!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
A tarantula! At one point in the program, we had the chance to eat a tarantula, and I went for it! I was nervous but it tasted like a potato chip.
Default avatar
Kylie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

At 16 years old I wanted to travel, have an impact and experience the culture of other places. I was afraid of leaving the country for the first time by myself and not being safe. I found the rustic programs and was extremely excited to begin my rustic journey. Arriving at the airport I was scared about meeting people. Ten minutes after arriving all my fears disappeared. I met so many amazing people from all around the county and we instantly bounded. As we arrived in Thailand we were all amazed by the beautiful country. During the entire trip we were overwhelmed by the kindness that rustic staff and locals welcomed us with. It was also incredible to do service work in anitehr county. Volunteering within the states is very different. I felt like I was making more of an impact. Rustic pathways fouces on service projects that have lasting effects. Even after leaving the trip I know that the work I did will positively impact the community for years. Rustic pathways is an amazing way for kids to travel and learn. I would recommend rustic programs to everyone.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Everything in Thailand is very different then within the states. I really enjoyed trying so many new foods. By traveling with rustic pathways I felt safe when eating from anywhere. My favorite thing that I tried was all the new fruits.
Default avatar
Baker
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have recently returned home from spending a month in China (I did two Rustic programs back-to-back), and I can safely say that it was the best experience of my life! For the first two weeks, I was on the Silk Road Service program, and I cannot recommend it enough, especially for those who love adventure, or want to get out of their comfort zones! We spent those two weeks traveling around the Yunnan province, learning about China's diverse cultures, and getting to experience a lot of them! From hiking up to Mapingguan (a very remote city) with my group to all of us hanging out on rooftops wherever the trip took us for that night, I will never forget the memories I made on this trip or the people on it! People I met at the airport only two weeks before soon became family, and I now have an incredible amount of love for Yunnan, and all of the people who got to see it with me! After a tear-filled goodbye at the airport, I knew that I had one day of rest, and after that was a completely new adventure. This second adventure was the Panda Conservation and Wild China trip, a completely different look at the country that I had now begun to call home. The panda trip is another that I can't recommend enough, although for other reasons. While there is still some adventure, this trip is a lot more laid back than the Silk Road one. We usually stayed in one place for a while and were not on the move as much as we were on the first trip. This was nice in some aspects, but we got to see a lot less of the Sichuan province than I had hoped. With that being said, the highlight of that trip was obviously the pandas, but also we took a bus ride to stay in a Tibetan Sichuanese village. The immersion of Tibetan culture for those few days made the bus ride 100% worth it! Since I have prior knowledge of the Chinese language, I found myself communicating with the locals, and understanding more about their culture. All in all, I can say without a single doubt, that both of these trips are incredible, and provided me with the best month of my life!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come into this trip with no expectations of what it is going to be like, or of what you are going to do each day. This trip is a lot more fun if you don't look at the itinerary each night before you go to bed, and instead go day-by-day and live in the moments you have in China!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 16

Alumni Interviews

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

Lauren Goll

Lauren is a 16-year old who first discovered her love for traveling on family vacations. She loves seeing new places and learning about different cultures.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose The Maji Safi Project because the water crisis is a growing problem in the world today. I wanted to go to Tanzania to help and learn more about it. Also, it is a Critical Issues program so it is based around the service work and the water crisis. Also, I wanted a trip that was more focused on service.

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

Rustic Pathways assisted me with the packing list and flying to Tanzania. The packing list that they gave us was super helpful and had everything I needed for the trip. They had flight leaders that I met with in the airport, and they flew with us. I only had to organize a ride to the airport and apply for a visa, but if I needed any help with my visa, Rustic would always offer help.

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

Don't be nervous. I was really nervous going into this trip like I am with all my Rustic trips, but this one was totally different. The people who come on this trip are the most amazing people you will ever meet. The same goes for the leaders. The leaders will also help you if you’re having any trouble adjusting to being in a new country.

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

A day when we were doing service would usually start with an 8 AM breakfast before being driven over to Maji Safi where we would check in to see what work we needed to do. Then we would drive over to the service area if needed. Then, we come back to Maji Safi for lunch. In the afternoon, we would play games with school children. After that, we would have dinner and then all hang out before bed.

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 meeting new people. However, as soon as I started to meet my group, that fear went away immediately. My group was really genuine and down to earth. We became really close in the first few days of the trip, and I was able to get really comfortable around them. Also, we all got along really well together.

How do I know if this is the right program for me?

This program is for people who really love service and who really want to make a change in the world. It's also for people who love the environment and want to learn more about the water crisis. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to go on this trip. It will be so amazing!

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews 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!
Volunteering with elephants

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.

More Interviews

Professional Associations

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