Travelling with Rustic Pathways was easily the best experience of my life. I felt the happiest I have ever been and I saw best version of myself come to life! I experienced first hand how much I gain from helping others and the importance of doing good in the world, wherever that may be.
Leading up to the trip of course I was nervous but that was nothing in comparison to the excitement I was feeling! I had spoken to many Rustic staff prior to leaving and their enthusiasm and passion they had made me feel just as excited!
On my trip I travelled through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, all of which were incredible and eye opening in different ways! We learned about each countries history, values and beliefs, which allowed us to form a genuine appreciation for where we were. In Myanmar, we hiked through the beautiful Kalaw State and went to regions only a few thousand people have been! In Thailand we explored breathtaking beaches, became certified mahouts (elephant caretaker) and learned the principals of Buddhism. We zip lined through the jungles of Laos, and gave food to Monks during morning alms. I got to take a tuk-tuk through Angkor Wat and danced in the Mekong River with two little girls I met in a village during a service project. I was so lucky to see it all thanks to Rustic who made everything possible! From sleeping arrangements to transportation, we never had to worry about where we were going or how we were getting there, which ensured everything went smoothly.
Rustic Pathways finds the perfect balance between must see tourist attractions, and off the beaten path destinations not many people get to see. From the Grand Palace and busy tourist markets to remote temples and local food stands, you see it all thanks to the amazing staff! Local staff help you work through language barriers while providing insight and a different perspective that makes the trip truly incomparable! Additionally, your program leaders are expert and enthusiastic travellers and are extremely knowledgeable about the region you are in. From the history, to the food, to the appropriate clothing attire they got you covered! Trip leaders act as role models and offer unconditional support and always make you feel safe.
My favorite memory of the trip was when I was in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. We were staying in a local village painting a newly built school (done by previous Rustic groups!). It was during the Khmer New Year where people across the region celebrate with water fights that lasts three days!
One the second day of the celebration, a few friends and I were leaving the school to walk back to our host family's home when we saw a little girl wave for us to come over! We went to say hello and were greeted by 8 other kids from the village. They had set up a tub of water and handed us buckets and asked us to play with them! We ended up having a water fight for 45 minutes, all of which were spent laughing with our newfound friends! I especially remember when I put down my backpack that I had brought with me that day. I put in on the ground near the entrance to the yard when an elderly woman motioned for me to bring it to her so she could watch it for me and make sure it didn't get wet. I left that day feeling on top of the world. It felt so authentic and genuine and a memory that I will always hold close to my heart.
Something about these types of trips tend to bring out the best in people and you should know that Rustic friends are for life and the bonds you make will last forever! You will do things you never thought you would, but feel safe while doing it! And you will learn to find comfort in leaving your comfort zone! Within 2 months of my trip ending, my group had all already found a way to meet up with each other in Montreal, Canada! Regardless of where you choose to go, you will come home with a whole new perspective on life. You learn to look at life through a more positive lens and appreciate all that you have, and all you are capable of doing!
I cannot recommend Rustic Pathways enough! Happy travelling :)