Rustic Pathways | India

Video and Photos

One of the kids I got to know while doing service
One of the kids I got to know while doing service
Local kids being goofy
Local kids being goofy
A Tibetan temple
A Tibetan temple
This was the view from the yoga room in McLeod.
This was the view from the yoga room in McLeod.
The boys digging the hole for the toilet in Bala.
The boys digging the hole for the toilet in Bala.
The view from our hike in McLeod.
The view from our hike in McLeod.
Walking with the elephants at Wildlife SOS
Walking with the elephants at Wildlife SOS
The rolling mountains of the mighty himalayas
The rolling mountains of the mighty himalayas

About

Rustic Pathways operates programs in India focusing on education, community health and social services, and the stunning environment. Besides being home to the Himalayas, there is beauty hidden in every corner of India. Traveling with Rustic Pathways, you will have the opportunity to teach local children English and math, explore the famous backwaters of Kerala, or work with the world’s largest sloth bear rehabilitation center. Rustic Pathways’ India programs are perfect for those who are looking to learn about the culture and aid in the conservation of some of this world’s most precious wildlife.

“With 1.2 billion people and 5,000 years of history, India is anything and everything all at once. It’s a kaleidoscope of people, religion, language, culture, food, and adventure. From the Himalayan peaks of the north all the way down to the backwaters of Kerala in the south, India has everything. It can take a whole lifetime to discover what it has to offer!”
--Kai Johnson, India Country

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.6 Rating
based on 20 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 8 of 20
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Ben
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience

In the summer of 2019 I went with Rustic Pathways to India and Nepal as a part of their mystery trip program. It's exactly as it sounds--you don't know where you're going until you check your bag at the airport and receive your boarding pass. I knew I had to spring for this opportunity when I saw it in the Rustic catalog, since when else in my life would I be able to go overseas and not know my destination?
I'm so incredibly glad that I chose this trip, and that India was my destination. The culture was incredible, the people were kind and nicely talkative, and the food was absolutely fantastic. These held true for all of the locations we stayed at: New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. My personal favorite was Jaipur. Even though the heat was pretty similar to living inside a pizza oven (and I'm from south Texas, so no stranger to heat here), it was just a minor inconvenience. Jaipur had such an interesting feel to it--smaller than New Delhi but still plenty big. The food was an absolute highlight, doesn't matter what restaurant. Everything was great.
Basically, the only way you could go wrong with India (and Rustic Pathways) is if you hate good food, rich history, and having genuine conversations with people who want to learn about your culture (and vice versa). But, if you are like that, I bet you aren't browsing travel websites in the first place.

What would you improve about this program?
There isn't much at all I'd change about this program. I had a fantastic experience.
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Martina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Mystery Trip to India!

Two summers ago, I went to Thailand with Rustic Pathways. Shortly after I returned, I decided to go on the Mystery Trip. This program did not provide us beforehand with an itinerary or any clue of what we would be doing, but this was the beauty of the program. Although knowing the plan ahead of time can be calming, not knowing proved to be better! It allowed us to open ourselves up to new opportunities and enabled us to appreciate every day and every experience. Each morning, we would get clues and try to figure out where we would be heading that day. On my previous trip, I spent a lot of time looking forward to certain parts of the program that didn’t happen until later in the trip. While this excitement of the future made me eager for the rest of the program, it also made me forget about other aspects of the trip along the way.
I discovered that India was the mystery destination when I arrived at the airport. I could not believe I was finally getting to travel to India because it is on the list of places I wanted to visit. On this trip, I got to see so many fascinating parts of India, the famous as well as small pockets. Of course, we saw the Taj Mahal, but we also went to unique and lesser-known places that showed an entirely new part of India that I didn’t even know existed. After my trip to India, I genuinely feel like I can say that I experienced as much of India as possible in the short week that we were there.
The Rustic Pathway Staff made me feel safe in an unknown country while still pushing me to leave my comfort zone. The staff encouraged us to try new things, especially food, while understanding if we did not want to.
If India is on the list of places you are looking to travel, I highly recommend traveling with Rustic Pathways. I have been on many trips with and without Rustic Pathways, and I genuinely believe that Rustic Pathways is the way to go. There is nothing like a Rustic Trip, and I promise that you will not regret traveling with them!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To those who are thinking or planning on going with Rustic Pathways to India, my advice would be to keep an open mind. The way of life and food in India is likely far different than what you are accustomed to, but do not let this cloud your judgement about this amazing country. I would advise you to not let anything you have previously heard about this country stop you from embracing their culture. I have a very sensitive stomach, and I heard that the food was very spicy, so I was nervous to say the least. I am so thankful that I did, because I tried some of the best food I have ever had.
Being open minded also means a willingness to try new things. Try everything, our Rustic Pathways leaders encouraged us to do so, and this is key to getting the most out of the trip. Throughout my time in India, I found myself saying “you’re only in India once” on multiple occasions. This mindset gave me the confidence to try the new food, join in on the traditional dance, go on the zip line, and countless other irreplaceable memories.
Lastly, I would advise future travelers on the Rustic Pathways India trip to cherish every moment of this experience. The two weeks I was on this program flew by, and in the blink of an eye I was home again. The trip will go faster than you think so, try new things, be willing to learn, and have the best time because these memories are the ones that will last a lifetime.
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Payton
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways Mystery Trip 2019!

Upon arriving at the airport, we had no idea where we were going until they printed our boarding passes which left the trip as a true mystery. Every day we would wake up to a new activity or a new town and would have no idea what future days would be like. Every day was different and exciting in its own way. This also led to a super cool group of kids that were up for anything. Every night we would bond over where we thought we were going next, or what the next activities would be. The mystery trip truly took me out of my comfort zone and for two weeks I truly lived in the moment without worrying about what was going to happen in the future. I got to enjoy every day to the fullest. I think on other trips, you have one memory or something you are looking forward to the most, but on the mystery trip, I got to enjoy every moment. The staff is also super unique on this trip. Overall, I loved the on-the-go and living in the moment that I experienced on this trip. Also, because it was new to the staff, Rustic Pathways, and all of us, we were all learning and experiencing things together. I'm so glad I picked this trip, I had the best time. The Rustic Pathways Mystery Trip is so unique and one of the best things I have ever gotten to do.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I think a lot of the food in India and Nepal is super different from the food in the United States, and not a food that I particularly loved. But I think there are two good things about this. One, Rustic Pathways staff knew that Indian food was very out there, and that not all of us may like it. So every day, there were also other options of foods we were more familiar with, so going hungry was never a concern. They were happy to get us food that we wanted to eat. Second, in Nepal, we had these AMAZING dumplings called Momos. We all loved them within the first few days, so the final night of the trip, they took us to a Momo specific restaurant for a 'momo' party which was so much fun and definitely a great memory of the trip. Our group has a snapchat group chat now, and we all send photos back and forth when we see something that reminds us of the trip which is just the long-lasting bond that I have from the trip.
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Griffin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways is the BEST!!!!!!

I have been on 6 Rustic trips, and they keep getting better every year. The way the trips mix community, fun activities, and the culture of the country is amazing. I went on the Mystery Trip this summer and getting to go to both India and Nepal opened my eyes to how different the world truly is. The way Rustic allows you to meet new people and become life long friends is my favorite thing about Rustic. As amazing as it is to travel, the trip is made by the people and the leaders who are on the trip. And because Rustic does such a good job with getting great people to lead, it makes it all the better. I would HIGHLY recommend Rustic Pathways to anyone who would like to try something new, grow as a person, and meet new people. It is truly magical.

What would you improve about this program?
There is nothing that I would change about Rustic.
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socia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Inspirational India

The summer of 2017 I went on the Service in the clouds trip in India. And it was an experience that I think 100% altered my path for the better. After getting to experience things from cooking with host families, to playing in the dirt with little kids and digging 10ft deep squatty-potty pits, this trip is so far my most valued memory. It also helped me discover my love for service. I have gotten so passionate about it, that when I am old enough I hope to join the peace corps and even work for Rustic one day. I think Rustic is such an amazing amazing program and that if more kids did it, or trips like what they offer in general, than maybe one day our future generations would become much more open minded and knowledgeable about the rest of the world. One of my favorite memories from this trip, was learning handshakes and teaching card games to the local kids and playing soccer with them only to (of course) get beaten!! I just loved getting to know all of them individually and laughing with all of them.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly 100% would not improve anything other than making it longer!!
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Hasie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

4 Key Lessons I learned

For the last seven years I have been counting down the years until it was my turn to finally experience the transformative trips that Rustic Pathways provided both of my older sisters. They are seven years older than me and both went on two Rustic trips, and I grew up hearing story after story of how each and every encounter on their trips shaped them into improved versions of themselves upon their return. I could only hope that my Service in the Clouds trip would have the same effect on me that it had on my sister, Hattie, when she was my age seven years ago. Like my older sisters, my sister and I are twins, and these trips provided us with an opportunity to be apart for the first time in our lives and to create our own identities and lives apart from one another.
When telling people of my summer endeavor to India, I often received a reaction of envy and jealousy because of the lack of people who have the opportunity to travel to India. That is exactly what Rustic Pathways provides its travelers: opportunities to experience people and places that most only dream of seeing. I returned to countless people asking me how my trip was, and each and every time, I started off with the word, “life-changing,” because that pretty much sums up my entire trip. I was tested beyond my limits, and therefore, grew and continue to grow into a stronger and tougher person because of four specific lessons I learned during my sixteen days in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Importance of Independence
Growing up an identical twin, it was always hard to find my voice and a unique identity, and my trip through Rustic Pathways allowed me to do just that. I needed this trip to show me that I am an individual, I am not my twin, and I can live my own life. When speaking of the gratitude I have towards Rustic for this opportunity, I was driven to tears because the effect is truly immense. Before this trip, I was beyond anxious because I kept telling myself that without Clara, my twin, I was incapable of making friends. I told myself she was the talkative one, that everyone liked her, and that people only hung out with me because they had to. When writing this I see how self conscious I really was, and this trip gave me the confidence I was lacking. Although anxious about the decision, I chose to do this trip without knowing anybody because I saw the effects these trips had on my older sisters when they were our exact age. I was put in a group of people without the comfort of my sister, forced to make friends, have experiences, and simply live without my other half for the first time in my life. This solitary experience allowed me to understand that, yes, I am a twin, but I am also an individual. I am not my sister. My life is not her life, and I am capable of living and thriving on my own. I love her, but I am capable of being alone. There I was just Hasie, not Hasie and Clara, not the Shermans, and not the twins, just Hasie.

Change is Always Acceptable and Possible
One of our guest speakers was the Dalai Lama’s translator of many years as well as practicing monk, Thupten Jinpa, and the words he said that most impacted me were, “If you can change it, don’t worry because you can change it. If you can’t change it, don’t worry because worrying won’t change it.” Worrying has always been one of my major flaws, and most of my anxiety is rooted by my unhealthy hope to be liked by everyone. I have spent years shaping and forming into what I think others want me to be, and through that, I seem to have lost who I want to be. However, lucky for me, this trip made me understand that change is always possible, and that anxiety about change is unnecessary because as long as one has a positive mindset, change can and will happen. As I said in my first lesson, I chose to have an experience all on my own for the first time in my life. I did not dip my toe in the water, but rather, I went all the way to India not knowing anyone, and I could not have made a better decision. I could be whomever I wanted to be. I got to be the person I wanted to be, and I became someone I hope I still am back home. Before the trip I deemed myself as more of an introvert rather than an extrovert, and on this trip, I became an “extreme extrovert,” as my friends called me. Prior to this experience I really do not think I was truly happy, and I think it can all be rooted down to this simple self evaluation of introvert or extrovert. I used to overthink everything resulting in my silencing and isolating myself because I thought that if I did not say anything I could not be judged for it. That could not be farther from what I needed to do. This trip and these people allowed me to express myself as I truly am because they had no predispositions of me, and throughout the changes I made on this trip, I became happier and more aware of my love of people and talking. Now being home, I need to maintain the mindset that change is always possible so that I can continue shaping myself into the kindest, happiest, and most confident version of myself.

Yoga and Mindfulness
Whether surrounded by windows of glass overlooking the endless sky and mountains of the Himalayas in McLeod or outside in Bala listening to the river flowing and the feeling the chill of the early morning breeze, our group started nearly everyday with both yoga and meditation, and throughout this process, I learned to yearn for the quiet time to be with my thoughts. Forced to be silent for longer then I am normally capable, our daily yoga and meditation sessions allowed me to connect with my feelings and thoughts in ways I could not without that allotted time. I became more aware of how I was feeling in that present moment, and it gave me a chance to set a goal for the day. Through meditation and I learned the importance of living in the present moment rather than focusing on the past and future. This concept was best described in our discussion with Thupten Jinpa when he said, “Don’t put your present life in hostage by thinking of the past and future.” Having always been future oriented, this quote made me realize that if I focus each day on things that may or may not come like my happiness, I will forget to focus on my happiness in the present moment. Anxiety is caused by over thinking of things like actions and words that we often cannot change whether that be the permanence of the past or the unpredictability of the future. This moment is the only predictable factor in our lives, so why not become who we want to be, how we want to feel, and what we want to do right now, not tomorrow, not yesterday because we only have right now to make that decision. Whether I was building toilets in Bala, practicing yoga, talking to my Tibetan partner, or just walking around the town, I practiced mindfulness. I embraced the sounds and sights of my surroundings every moment not distracted by my phone, my thoughts, the past, or the future.

Positivity is the Key to a Happy Life
Spending a week in McLeod Ganj, I began to finally understand the importance of a positive mindset throughout even the toughest of situations. Full of Tibetan refugees, McLeod Ganj is a town that exudes happiness, and I believe it is because of its people’s positive attitudes and outlooks on life. Our service in Mcleod was practicing English with Tibetan refugees, and I was touched by the numerous smiles, laughs, and positive energy of the Tibetans living in a country under a government from which they can only dream of escaping. My Tibetan partner is only four years older than me and has many of the same interests as me, but our lives could not be any more different. She and her family moved to India when she was three for a better education, but, her family moved back to Tibet when she was seven. However, she does not linger on the fact that she is apart from her family but is grateful for her education, her friends, the family she does have in McLeod, and most importantly, has faith that she will receive a visa to soon return to Tibet. Many of the friends I met in McLeod have similar stories and the same positive outlook on their living situations. Rather than think of the negativity and not ideal situations in their lives, they learn to have faith, hope, and find enjoyment in their present lives. These friends made me understand that positivity is happiness. It is faith. It is hope. It is a choice. There is always good in life, but it is just whether or not we choose to acknowledge it.

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Jenna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Northern India 2017: "Service In The Clouds" & "Indian Wildlife Conservation"

I had grown up in the same small town in Northern Phoenix, Arizona my entire life. Ever since I was very young I was infatuated with the idea of travelling the world, but never got the opportunity until Rustic Pathways visited my school. I was absolutely in love with the whole idea of this company and everything they stood for. I then made the decision to leave the United States for the first time in my 16 years on earth to experience the beautifully, ever-changing country of India as a first generation traveller. Little did I know how how life-changing these next three weeks would be in Delhi, Mcleodganj, Balla, and Agra.

As we made our way up to the Himalayan mountain range is was absolutely breathtaking to watch the landscape change from bustling city to rolling hills and then grand mountains. There was one time when we were in Mcleodganj in the city center and everything turned completely white and I had no idea what was going on. You could not see anything at all and it turns out we were actually in a cloud! I don't know if that was just me but that was so amazing. I think the best part was the actual service though. Working with elephants and sloth bears on "Indian Wildlife Conservation" was incredible. We work so closely with the elephants and they are incredibly gentle creatures and amazing to observe. And on "Service In The Clouds" one of the service projects we did was working at a school named LHA. We held english conversations with Tibetan Refugees who were all adults over 18 years of age. My partner and I developed a unique bond by the end of the program that I still have not taken the necklace that she gave me off. There was one day where we got to leave the school to explore a unique part of the city with our partners. My partner actually took me to the Dalai Lama's Temple. She was so so excited to bring me here and had so much to say about the temple. I could definitely tell the place was special to her and it was so amazing to share that unique experience with the locals.

While there are so many fun experiences on Rustic Pathways programs, safety is also a huge thing to consider when coming to any country. As a student who had never left the United States or travelled much, I felt completely safe the entire trip while under the care of the Rustic Pathways staff. While India is not a country for the faint of heart, it certainly is possible for first time travellers with the will! There were actually many times in the beginning when I felt out of place or like I wasn't making friends, but the leaders always make you feel included. One of my leaders actually noticed that I was having trouble getting included so he made sure to bring me into conversations subtly to where by the end of the week I was talking so much more and felt way more comfortable around everyone. All of my leaders were also really good in emergency situations. While in Balla, 12 out of 15 of the students on my trip got super sick. I think it was the stomach flu, but for 24 hours straight 12 people were vomiting and 3 ended up going to the hospital. Sickness is just a part of travelling that sometimes you just can't avoid, but luckily I never got sick personally during my stay in India. And even while the leaders were taking amazing care of everyone who was sick, they still took the time to check in on those few of us who were still doing well. And I would love to give my leaders a huge shout out because they were absolutely amazing and deserve all the recognition in the world.

The Rustic Pathways staff is amazing. Thank you so much for everything Beth, Michael, and Coco. So here I leave India with long-lasting friends and memories I'll never forget. So with that I encourage others who have the chance to take a Rustic Pathways trip because it's an amazing educational experience you'll never forget and I swear you won't regret it.

Namaste,
Jenna

Cayli
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Namaste India 2016

This past July, I went on the Namaste India trip through Rustic Pathways. This trip was absolutely phenomenal. Charles and Sunita, our two trip leaders, are such supportive and wonderful people. The itinerary was very well put together, and Sunita and Charles made it all even more exciting by choosing to surprise us with certain activities, and leave us guessing until we arrived to the location. Because of these many surprises on the trip, I don't want to get into too much detail, but I can promise that my only complaint is how I wish I could have stayed even longer!
Although, on my trip, there were very few students. And oftentimes on trips like these, there tends to be a specific student who doesn't quite fit the dynamic of the rest of the group. On my trip, there was one such student; but because there were so few of us, it was challenging to escape or ignore this student's behavior. I can be completely honest and say that this one student did make many parts of the trip highly unpleasant. However, the staff and administration at Rustic Pathways, including our trip leaders, the country leaders, and RP administration handled the situation exceptionally well. Despite the fact that those two weeks were a bit shaky, thanks to the RP staff, I knew that I would still love to travel with Rustic again.

What would you improve about this program?
In the future, perhaps consider extending the itinerary for one day per city.