Rustic Pathways | India

Video and Photos

A Tibetan temple
A Tibetan temple
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
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.
This was the view from the yoga room in McLeod.
This was the view from the yoga room 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

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

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 20 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 16 - 20 of 20
Default avatar
ks48
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing Trip

This trip was like nothing I had ever done before. It was truley amazing to stay with a homestay family and learn how they live their lifes and I feel changed because of it. One thing I would say to anyone thinking about going on a Rustic Pathways trip to India is that it will push you to your limits, you will be dirty and tired and maybe sick but it is those challenges that you face that make this trip so rewarding in the end.

What would you improve about this program?
I would make this trip a few days longer and less long car rides. I would also add more service opportunitys so we could meet the hours we thought we would.
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Izzy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Want a great program?

I had some of the best, eye-opening experience in my life. Since I've been on Rustic Pathways trips to Australia, Thailand, Laos and now India, I can honestly say that the community service was by far the most rewarding for both the students and the kids. The staff was great and were clearly just as excited as us about being there. This program really changed my life in a positive way and I would recommend it to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
I would make the program longer because right when everyone started to feel comfortable and really get to know the kids at the orphanage, it was time to leave.
Default avatar
Christina
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Favorite Life Changing Experience Ever

My dream since I was a little kid was to go to India, and I found out about Rustic Pathways when I was about 12. So I had two years of long waiting till I could go. And it was so worth it. The first day there was overwhelming, we got to India around 10 and I had to wake up a 2 30 am to fly to Kerala (where the great houseboat adventure is). I was stunned at the beauty of Kerala. Initially, I was not expecting the program to be much (I was originally only going to do The Lost Children of India, but I added Kerala just to get extra time in the country). God, I was wrong. Every morning, I would wake up around five and watch the sunrise from the upper deck of our houseboat. After breakfast, we trekked down to the school we were working at. Just standing there, you were already sweating ...so the working part was intense. But then the local boys started helping out and we ended up on the news and it was just so great. The kids were adorable, and even though they didn't understand most of our English, they got so happy whenever the got things right. My favorite part was working at the girl's home though. I brought a camera with me, and all the girls were obsessed! They were constantly dragging me around to take pictures and teach me dances and I genuinely felt like the wanted me there. Everywhere we went, people were smiling. I got to experience so much of the culture, as well as getting to help. Later, in Jaipur, we ended up on the news again! At a fertility festival!! My last day at the orphanage, I felt like crying. I didn't want to leave. The one thing I would say is, these trips require a certain level of maturity. I was the youngest on both trips at 14, most were 16 or 17. The leaders on the trips don't constantly check in on you and baby you, they treat you like adults (or at least mature teenagers) and expect you to be able to take of yourselves. They even set us free alone in the marketplace with just a meeting place and a time. Personally, I loved the independence, but some may not feel comfortable with that. Overall though, I would not trade this experience for anything and I'm soo excited to be doing Rustic again this year!!

What would you improve about this program?
The biggest change I would make would be to make the trips longer. We all felt like we had just really gotten attached to the kids when we had to leave.
Default avatar
Cass
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways India

I traveled with Rustic Pathways in India during my GAP year. I had been traveling with Rustic since I was 15 years old, so I was experienced and in for a wild ride in India.
I was up in Mcloed Ganj, the current home of the Dalia Lama. It was a breathtaking city filled with people from all corners of the globe. I was set up with a local family that was kind and warm.
The country managers of Rustic Pathways in India are saints. They are knowledgeable, incredibly kind, and will instantly make you feel welcomed.
India is a place unlike any other and Rustic Pathways knows how to give you the best of this cultural hub.

What would you improve about this program?
It comes with the territory, as I became very sick in India. This was on the part of the country itself and it is common that people become ill in this region of the world. As awful as the sickness was, the staff and country directors were life savers. They made me feel comfortable, safe, and took every step of the process professionally.
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GraceLillian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Service on the Roof of the World

I couldn't figure out how I ended up running through the streets of Dharamsala, drenched, during a heavy rainstorm, or spending quiet mornings meditating in Tashi Jong, but I knew I never wanted to leave. This program took me to McLeod Ganj, a center of political and social energy for Tibetan refugees, Buddhist monks, and Western travelers alike, as well as to Tashi Jong, a removed village in the shadows of the Himalayan foothills where shared meals, morning meditations, and vibrant locals make the fabric of the thriving community.

City life was starkly different from country life, and each offered its own plentiful benefits. The air in McLeod buzzed with a tangible sense of social commitment as my fellow attendees and I worked alongside Tibetan refugees, teaching English and working on physical labor projects for urban renewal purposes. An average day in McLeod Ganj promised breakfast cooked by my welcoming Tibetan home stay mother, a morning of labor projects (including painting a meditation room in a home for the elderly, picking up garbage, and planting trees), followed by lunch at one of McLeod's many local, affordable restaurants, and an afternoon spent in meetings with high lamas, important Tibetan activists, and influential community members. Rustic Pathways also allowed for plenty of free time, during which we explored the city, shopped at the market stalls along the two main roads, or ventured to temple to watch monks debating philosophy before dinner.

Tashi Jong provided a more relaxed, rural environment where the temperature, along with the intensity of our labor projects, increased. My group spent the mornings breaking ground on an ecological park space by the village's river, which involved leveling hills, weeding, moving large rocks, mixing cement, and picking up garbage. Lunch was always a highlight; the village women cooked a community meal for us every day that we enjoyed with all the members of Tashi Jong. In the afternoons, we took a short hike to a local monastery where young Buddhist monks attempted to learn English from our clumsy (but sincere) attempts at teaching. Evenings held pick up soccer games, hikes through the countryside, and impromptu English lessons with the locals.

The linchpin of this program was perhaps the home stay aspect. To be dropped in the middle of a family whose members spoke only limited English was a true growing experience; finding ways to surmount language barriers led to the realization that kindness is a universal property, and in both McLeod and Tashi, the generosity of my host families moved me to tears on multiple occasions. I felt like a traveler, not a tourist, when my "mother" draped a silky "khata" around my neck upon my departure, and I sometimes find myself still craving a hearty Tibetan meal of bread, soup, and the ubiquitous chai.

A note on food: Northern India is a vegetarian's paradise. While I personally eat meat,the staple dishes of dal, rice, bread, and steamed vegetables never left me wanting more. Local delicacies are not fancy, but they are filling, delicious, and provide the necessary sustenance for a day spent working in the sun. Enjoy what the families have to offer and supplement your diet with plentiful local options (in McLeod) or light Western fare by way of convenience store (in Tashi).

As a company, Rustic Pathways left little to be desired. Both the American staff and the international staff were phenomenal; they worked ceaselessly to abate the inevitable culture shock we felt on our first couple of days in India. Our leaders were knowledgable, engaging, and filled the roles of friend, parent and teacher simultaneously and seamlessly. Their careful organization kept complications to a minimum and ensured that we remained safe, healthy, and effective travelers throughout the entire trip.

I left India in July, and not a day has passed when the residual feelings attached to my experience have not surfaced. My work, teaching English and building communal spaces, endowed me with a lasting sense of accomplishment that surpassed other service projects in which I have participated; seeing a tangible product that stemmed directly from my efforts felt richly rewarding. In return, I enjoyed experiences unknowable to the average tourist. From circumambulating at the temple during the Dalai Lama's birthday celebration to riding down winding streets on top of a public bus and cycling through sun salutations on a rooftop dwarfed by the soaring Himalayas, my time in India afforded me innumerable opportunities that enriched me both as a student and as a global citizen. I never thought it was possible to be homesick for a place I only visited, but the attachments formed quickly and reached deeply, entwining themselves inexorably with my personal narrative.

Namaste.