Rustic Pathways | Cambodia

Video and Photos

Early Enrollment - Save 20%!

Enroll in any of our 100+ spring break or summer programs by Oct. 14 and you'll save 20%.

About

Cambodia is a country with a painful past and a hopeful future. Rustic Pathways has partnered with social enterprises and local community development organizations since 1999 to help students gain a deep understanding of the beautiful, complex realities of Cambodia. Our staff members are skilled at teaching while keeping it fun, and students often leave with a changed perspective on their own lives.

The ancient temples of Angkor Wat are jaw-dropping, the rural countryside shimmers with brilliant green rice fields, and the incredibly friendly locals are eager to show you around. Amongst the beauty, you’ll also be exposed to the pressing social and economic issues facing the country. The contrast can be shocking, but it can also be positively transformational.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 22 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 22
Default avatar
Tenny
10/10

Cambodia Children's Project

This was the best thing that I have ever done. I have traveled before, but this was completely unique and absolutely amazing. We had the perfect combination of sightseeing in the cities and also doing meaningful service in the village. The leaders of this group were absolutely incredible and took care of each and every one of us. That being said, they were also fun and we had an incredible time. I am the type of person that tries to learn everything possible about a place when I visit, and the leaders answered all of our questions and taught us so much. One thing that I really value is service that is actually needed. I think too often, westerners will go to a place and enforce their values on a community and do what they think the community needs, and then leave. This isn't sustainable. This program felt completely different, because we were doing activities that the local village had asked us to do, and everything that we did felt respectful of the lives of the people we were helping. I learned so much on this trip, about Khmer culture and about the daily life. This program has had a huge impact on me. I just finished a very hectic junior year of high school, and this trip really made me reevaluate what the world has to offer and how I can impact other communities. The friends I made on this trip taught me so much about myself, and as I go in to my senior year and then on to college, I think that I will take many of these lessons with me. My advice would be to ask as many questions as you possibly can. Ask about the food, the culture, the history, the language. Ask your local guides about their own personal experiences. Ask as many questions as you can and try to learn as much as you can and immerse yourself as much as possible because that is how you will come home feeling the most impacted.

How can this program be improved?
We did have quite a bit of down time in between service and while in Siem Reap, and I wish we could have gotten out a bit more. To be fair, we were often very tired after a day of service, however I would have liked to have had more organized activities in the down time. I also wish we would have taken the temples a bit more slowly, and even gone to more temples in Siem Reap. But other than that, amazing amazing amazing!!!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Clara
10/10

Cambodia Floating Villages

My trip to Cambodia was probably one of the best times I have had in the short 17 years I have been alive. Since day one, I have been attached at the hip to my identical twin sister. We look exactly the same to new people, make the same grades, have the same friends, share clothes, and are never alone. It is never one or the other but “Hasie and Clara did this” or “Hasie and Clara, let’s do that!” We simply did not know how to be an individual before we went our separate way for the first time ever. With Rustic pathways, I left for the floating villages in Cambodia, and she left for India. It was the first time I would be on my own and discovering who I was without my twin sister. As I traveled around Cambodia, I learned how to make friends on my own and how to be okay with having my own experiences. I found my individual voice and formed more of an idea of who I was as I tapped into a deeper side of myself.
After our work was done and dinner was finished, my group spent every night in the village sitting on the top of our boat reflecting on our day and life and everything it has to offer. We talked about the immensity and wonders of space, social pressures and how they have shaped us, differences and similarities of religion, and almost anything else you can think of. We told funny and sad stories and spent every moment getting know one another that much better. No time was wasted on our phones scrolling through social media and dwelling on the lives of the people who were not with us, and instead, we spent every moment present and engaged in thoughtful and unforgettable conversation.
If I am going to be specific, the most life-changing experience I had was talking to the woman who we built a house for from start to finish. For four or five days, my friends and I spent almost all day hammering wood, tying on bamboo for walls, and sweating as we prepared this house for her. To be completely honest, at first, it seemed a little unfulfilling. We were building a house for one person when we could be out in the community doing anything else that could help multiple people at a time. However, that mindset changed after the conversation we had with her. Our local leader translated, and she told us of her struggles due to the Khmer Rouge. She was taken to a working camp where she worked from sunrise to sunset picking rice and cutting wood with only single bowl of rice to fill her stomach each day. She said she went to bed hungry every night but had to wake up ready to work every day because that was the only way to survive. During the genocide, she lost her husband who was taken to a killing field and two of her four sons. After the Khmer were defeated, she and her two sons went back to their village but could not find their home. As everyone else, they were displaced and had no way of finding their way back to it. As a result, her small family was forced to survive in the woods lining the river. During the dry season, her sons swam through the river grabbing anything that could float in order to make a raft to sleep on when the rain came. They tied it to a tree using its branches as a roof and floated up and down with the rise and fall of the river. For food, they had little and managed to find leaves and a rice substitute which they buried and cooked beneath a fire. Her sons eventually moved away, and she acquired a boat which she then lived in for some time. She has been a guest of her friend’s house but has not had a house of her own since the beginning of the genocide, some 40 years ago. We, however, were able to give her that. She is eighty-four and living far past the Cambodian life expectancy rate, and in her last years, we were given the privilege of providing her a house. After her story was over, she looked each one of us in the eyes and said, “Thank you. I was drowning, and together you all saved me.” We saved one woman and with a few days of hard work were able to restore her independence. The Khmer Rouge took so much from her, but because of us, they could not keep that. I could ask for nothing more. Saving one woman was enough for me, and I no longer desired any other service. We changed her life, and in return, she changed ours by showing us how capable we are of making a difference in the world. Because of this, Cambodia will not be my last trip, and I plan to live a life of service devoted to doing what I can to make even just a single person’s life that much better.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Veronica
9/10

Snapshots of Southeast Asia

People always discuss culture shock as a noticeable part of their experience when traveling to foreign countries. However, the more impactful experience that I felt was the reverse culture shock that unexpectedly hit me when I returned to Los Angeles. I began to see the people I know, my regular hangout spots, and my life in a new light after the most transformative adventure in Southeast Asia. The journey I underwent with Rustic Pathways is something I will never forget and has changed me forever due to the skills I learned, the exotic cultures I was introduced to, the life-changing people I met, and the perspectives I gained as a result. This trip is focused on photography and, as an extension, photojournalism. Not only did I learn how to properly use a camera but I was taught the meaning of the difference between a "tourist" and a "traveler" and how to be a respectful photographer when you want to capture the sincerity of another culture and make connections with locals, but you don't speak their language. Along with those tangible skills, the edification I received as I talked to locals of each village we went to and heard their stories, improved me as a person because I gained perspective as they taught me (whether intentionally or not) the importance of life and appreciating all people. That's why, when I returned to Los Angeles and I saw the lifestyle of the world around me, I began to think about Eng, a 59 year old woman who has been making clay pots all day everyday since she was 13 who we met when visiting her village. She accepted us with excitement and guided me as she attempted to teach me her trade of clay pot-making (which is quite difficult). I still think about her and the other encounters I had with strangers who are always going to be in my memory, the skills I learned from the talented and genuine program leaders, and the beauty of Southeast Asia. For these reasons I implore you to take this journey with Rustic Pathways.

How can this program be improved?
Never underestimate the toll that traveling can take on your body and mind. This program was jam-packed with incredible activities in each moment of every day, coupled with constant traveling by boat, van, and plane. The two other girls and I were utterly exhausted by the end of the day, so although every moment of our journey was quite fulfilling, sometimes it was hard to appreciate because we were so tired. This issue could be aided by more frequent rest moments and perhaps less traveling each day. Overall, this is a minute issue and gives you a good excuse to drink lots of their delicious coffee.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Sarah
10/10

Floating Village Service

Going to Cambodia with Rustic Pathways has been one of the most eye-opening and valuable experiences of my life. I, along with the amazing program leaders and friends that I made on this trip, got to experience many sides of Cambodia. We began our trip by learning about the unique culture that the country has, and then we got to see it first-hand in the various cities we visited and during the homestay. Our homestay took place on a floating village on the Tonle Sap River, and it was an experience that I will never forget. This part of the trip felt the most "rustic" as we slept in mosquito nets in small floating houses with limited electricity and no running water. Despite this contrast from the lifestyle that I am used to, there was never a time that I felt uncomfortable during the homestay. We got used to bucket showers and holes in the ground for toilets. When we weren't at the floating village, our group enjoyed hotels with AC and visited various important sites such as Angkor Wat and the S-21 museum. Overall, this trip was an enduring adventure filled with amazing people and experiences that I will not forget.

How can this program be improved?
Although this trip was nearly perfect, being able to spend more time with the locals during the homestay would be an improvement.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Isabelle
10/10

Off the map cambodia

Off the map was an exciting lively program, there was never a dull moment of the trip and all the leaders that work for rustic are absolutely amazing, this was my 7th trip with rustic (hopefully that says a lot about how I feel about rustic) and everytime I expect the best and I get it. Rustic pathways puts so much time and effort into every program not one is lacking. Off the map concludes in the floating villages which is a beautiful village that Is literally floating on tonle sap lake, I've been there twice now and it just keeps getting better.

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

Floating Village Service

This trip is one of the most underrated trips Rustic offers. Cambodia is a country just people overlook, and do not really care about. This trip opened my eyes to a country I never really knew about. Everything about their history is facinating, and the things you do, and the sights you see are things everyperson should see. Completing this trip, you get to stay in hotels with AC which is nice, but you also get Rustic and live like a local and use a squattie pottie. It is the perfect combination. All of the food you eat is amazing, and all of the people who sign up for the trip want to be their, not just because their parents forced them to come. I 100% recommed this trip to everyperson in the whole wide world because it has changed me as a person, in every way shape and form, and has opened up my eyes to a country that will always be in my heart.

How can this program be improved?
More time with children
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Catherine
10/10

Review: Off the Map Cambodia

After doing five Rustic programs, I can confidently say that Off the Map Cambodia, which I did this summer, was my favorite. This trip is a three week service oriented trip that does a fantastic job of providing students with a full view of Cambodia. We got the opportunity to do two village homestays, one of which was in a rural village on land and the other of which was in a floating village. These two portions of the trip were my favorites because we not only got to form a complete picture of what life in Cambodia is like, but we also got to partake in extremely meaningful, intense service projects. Another aspect of the trip was the time in the more developed cities of Cambodia, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. These were also great legs of the trip because they satisfied our interests as tourists to see the major landmarks of the country. Personally, I felt that this trip gave the perfect balance between travel/sight seeing and service/cultural immersion. I got to experience everything from swimming under monstrous waterfalls and touring magnificent temples to eating tarantulas and using a bucket shower each day. By the end of the three weeks, I had made lifelong friends of my peer students as well as my local and international leaders. Not only did I have the best three weeks of my life, but I grew tremendously as a person. I learned so much about myself physically, mentally, and socially by pushing my boundaries and challenging myself in ways that I could never get at home. Not to mention, I made lifetime memories and learned so many things that I never would have known had Rustic Pathways not given me this opportunity to travel.

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

Floating Village Service

The Floating Village Service in Cambodia was the most unique and interesting experience. While there we got to experience a range of activities, from visiting world-renowned sites to interacting with the locals. Some of my favorite things that we got to do was visiting and swimming in a waterfall in Siem Reap, building a house for an 83-year old woman, and just bonding with all the people on my trip. From the leaders, to the people, to the amazing place, I cannot recommend this program more.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing that I would recommend is that there was a bit more interaction with the children in the villages. All the locals we met were absolutely amazing and so welcoming and it would be so fun if we could see them more.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Jaden
10/10

Incredible experience in the Floating Villages!

I spent five weeks with Rustic in SE Asia this summer (Floating Village Service was my last program of the season), and the experience has tremendously impacted my life in the most positive way imaginable. Rustic Pathways has an incomparable amount of unique connections throughout the region, and staying in a floating village along the Tonle Sap River is definitely one of them.

From learning about the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge to building a floating house for a family in need, I was lucky enough to have experienced the unparalleled culture of Cambodia. This program was a great, balanced mix of city life and village life. My group and I spent a few days exploring Phnom Penh and Battambang before heading to two floating villages (primarily Prek Toal) for about a week. We slept on thin mattresses with mosquito nets, and we went to sleep sweating because it was so hot! And I loved every second of it! The final few days were spent in a really nice hotel in Siem Reap. We explored Angkor Wat, markets, and museums there.

Completing service and living in a floating village really opened my eyes, and made me even more grateful for the privileges I have. All three of my leaders were caring, kind, hilarious, and fun. At one point during my trip, I got sick with tonsillitis, but my leaders took me to the clinic and encouraged me to stay positive so I could continue to have the time of my life (and I did, many thanks to them!). There was a total of seven students on the trip (five girls and two boys), and we all bonded really quickly. Everyone on the trip was so interesting and fun, and even after arriving home from the trip, we've kept in touch.

By the end of your program, two weeks will have felt like one day! Prepare for an unforgettable experience.

How can this program be improved?
Nothing, it was incredible!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Kylie
10/10

Rustic is more than Travel (Off the map: Cambodia)

Rustic Pathways is Truly amazing. I traveled with a different program to South Africa last year and it was not nearly this life changing. This year i traveled to Cambodia with Rustic pathways on the Off the Map: Cambodia program. On our trip there was 17 students(sold out) 13 girls and 4 boys. From the very beginning our leaders were amazing, they both knew so much about the world and had so many experiences and lessons that i learned so much from. I could not say any more wonderful things about my one leader she literally changed my perspective so much i cant even explain it and I've only been home for 2 days. During the program we went to a lot of the country where we stayed in nice hotels for a day or two to see the temples and museums then for most of the trip we were out in the villages in home stays. That was the most trans-formative part of the trip. I already knew that people didn't have a lot there but i learned so much more that is just indescribable through my peers, our leaders, and the community. Then we went to a few more schools to do some service work and fix up their grounds. Then we went to the elephant valley project which get elephants from their abusive environment either from riding them in tourism, or working in an industry like logging. Then they are brought to the valley of Mondulkuri in the mountains of Cambodia. It was absolutely beautiful and lush but full of a lot of bugs which is just part of the experience. We also went to a lot of waterfalls in between this. Now the drives to these places are long but so worth it. This is because you get to know your peers and leaders so much better and you got to go to so many different places in Cambodia in 25 days. I learned so much from my peers and that was part of the wonderful experience. The food was always great no matter if it was traditional Khmer food or a western or Indian restaurant. Usually by the end of the day everyone was so full we couldn't even eat dinner. Also during the home stays we had our own cooks so the food was always good and safe. At the end of the program we went to the floating villages and built a house there, that was floating! That was my favorite service project and home stay. This was because it was so unique. Then we went to Angkor Wat which was just as great as the pictures. We went to 3 different temples and it was very interesting to learn about it and we got to see many wild monkeys. I don't have enough words to describe my wonderful experience and how much it has changed me. I encourage you to go on this trip or any trip with Rustic because we do so many things that help other people and ultimately help ourselves in the process. Thank you Rustic!

How can this program be improved?
Nothing could have been better it was all amazing!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Michelle
8/10

Interesting, and safe, but missed opportunities

I'm writing as a parent. My daughter just completed the Floating Villages trip to Cambodia. This was her second trip with Rustic Pathways. She enjoyed it, though not quite as much as the trip to Tanzania. It wasn't as "rustic", with a lot more hotel stays and general tourism. She knew that would be the case before going. In the event, she was disappointed that the group didn't take more advantage of the opportunities to visit museums and sights. She says they spent just 1.5 hours at Angkor Wat because the majority of the group wanted to go back to the hotel "to rest" (aka play with their phones), and this happened several times. The group leaders needed to be more forceful about saying "you have this amazing opportunity, you can rest any time" and actually leading them. Her impression is that most of the kids had been sent by their parents - whereas she had actually selected the trip - and that made them less enthusiastic travelers. She doesn't plan to take another trip with Rustic, though she thinks our middle school daughter would get something out of it.

How can this program be improved?
Make sure the participants actually want to be there. Don't be so wimpy about the activity timetable. Less time in hotels. Fewer connecting flights on the trip out so the travel doesn't take two days!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Izzy
10/10

Best experiance of my life

I went on this trip thinking i was going to help others but when i got there i realized i was also helping myself, I helped out in schools and built a home for a struggling family while at the same time i made friends that will last a life time, i clicked with the people on my trip faster than my friends at home because the people on my trip where more like me. This program is definatley something everyone should do, i came home wiser and more aware of my surroundings while knowing i helped Cambodian people. Im definalty going on another rustic trip next year -Izzy

How can this program be improved?
When you fly home the LAX kids and JFK kids are seperated in singapore, we only had 3 minutes to say goodbye, it wasnt long enough.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Julia
10/10

Floating Village Project

Cambodia is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I've ever been to. Siem Reap is a great city and Angkor Wat was amazing. But the best part about my trip was getting to stay in the floating villages and stay on a boat. The people are so welcoming and the kids are so friendly. The way of life in this village is drastically different than anything I've ever seen before. All of the houses are completely floating and move in location year round due to water levels. They keep crocodiles in farms, and go out on their boats every morning to fish. This experience was unforgettable, because I never expected to see anything like that in my life. I made good friends from America and across the world on this crazy adventure that i will never forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
qwerty
7/10

Off The Map: Cambodia

I thought that the trip overall was amazing. I got to experience completely new and unexpected things, ranging from riding an elephant through the jungle, to getting a fish massage in Siem Riep. The only issue I had was the social aspect of it. The group was larger than usual, so there were lots of kids... meaning 2 giant groups with subcliques. But if you're reading this and thinking, 'ooh i better not do this program then', then please consider the fact that every group is different and I may have just gotten a bad combination of kids. Plus, the staff definitely tried their hardest to bond us with games in the first few days. But the trip itself was an experience that I am so grateful to have had, and I did meet a lot of wonderful staff members and friends that will last a lifetime!! Thank you Rustic!!!

How can this program be improved?
Not as many people!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Zia
10/10

Great Time

This is a trip to always remember. I have always been intrigued by Cambodian history, and actually visiting all the places (S-21, Angkor Wat) was amazing. Not only that, but we got to do a home stay in a village which was incredible; we got to have a traditional Cambodian meal with the locals, while walking around their village. It was absolutely wonderful! The staff was extremely nice and friendly and definitely contributed to the wonderful experience.

How can this program be improved?
The length I stayed-- I wish I had gone for longer.
Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

Meet the Alumni

Meet the Staff

About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on...