Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

Video and Photos

Thailand with Rustic Pathways
Thailand with Rustic Pathways
Bathing my elephant, Red Moon, in the morning
Bathing my elephant, Red Moon, in the morning
me learning how to be a mahout
me learning how to be a mahout
Me with my elephant, Red Moon
Me with my elephant, Red Moon
Teaching time!
Teaching time!
One of the many beautiful Buddha statues we admired
One of the many beautiful Buddha statues we admired
The beautiful scenery  of Northern Thailand
The beautiful scenery of Northern Thailand
"Bleeding Trees: Children's Home
"Bleeding Trees: Children's Home

About

Rustic Pathways first offered Thailand programs in 1999, and the country has since become the hub of our Southeast Asia operations. We have an extensive team of incredible local staff who are experts at ensuring our students have authentic, transformative experiences. Thailand offers the widest range of Rustic programs, from gritty service trips and animal conservation programs to outdoor adventures and immersive cultural experiences.

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand will immediately welcome and captivate you. The local people are incredibly friendly and deeply enjoy sharing their Buddhist culture, spicy food, and love for laughter. There is a peacefulness about the country, and the scenery is always entrancing.

Popular Programs

Southern Thailand is home to idyllic beaches, pristine waters, rainforests and limestone karsts that have made it a world-famous destination. While popularity has brought international renown, this influx of tourism is starting to negatively impact the marine environment in popular places. Learn about the challenging dynamic between the industries that sustain local populations with the conservation of these fragile habitats, home to wondrous creatures that call these waters home.

Prepare for the ultimate adventure of climbing, hiking, and exploring the natural beauty of Thailand and Laos. Discover beautiful waterfalls and keep your eyes out for monkeys and birds as you trek through the dense rainforest outside a hill tribe village. Go on a scavenger hunt by bike to temples, walk across a bamboo bridge, zip line in the forest canopy, and enjoy a swim at the beach, rock climbing, and snorkeling in this jam-packed, adrenaline-filled program.

Work with elephants under the guidance and supervision of professional handlers, skilled Rustic Pathways leaders, and trained mahouts at a world-renowned facility. Learn to feed, red, bathe, and care for elephants and return home with a certificate attesting to your experience and achievements. Explore Thailand from the bustling metropolis of Bangkok to chilled-out Chiang Mai and the northern Hill Tribe regions. Head home having seen the fascinating diversity of Thailand

Enjoy the beauty of Thailand while earning Wilderness First Aid and CPR certifications at our Northern Thailand Service Base. Learn how to triage injuries, manage life-threatening medical emergencies, and recognize early warning signs of critical problems. Practice providing basic life support and airway management, and learn to determine when a patient needs to be evacuated from a wilderness or rural location.

Questions & Answers

This trip is very safe! Base houses are owned by RP, so it's is completely RP-Staffed. Trips that are not in base houses are still very safe and there will always be RP staff with you. I have never felt unsafe on any of my Rustic Trips.

Reviews

98%
based on 103 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.6
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 8
  • Value 10
Showing 1 - 15 of 103
Maddie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Review of the Hill tribe and elephant conservation program

My rustic experience was life-changing. I spent 18 in rural thailand, the first half of my trip I spent in a small village in Mae Sariang and then we went to an elephant sanctuary for the second half. It was so incredible to see different ways of life and be able to help out in places of need. When I came home from this trip, I immediately felt like a different person. I have become so much more aware of the world and how important it is to be thankful for everything you are given. It is an incredible opportunity to be able to visit and help out people in different countries in need. My perspective on life has developed substantially and Rustic Pathways can take full responsibility for that. I would most definitely recommend this program or any rustic program.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Definitely bugs! One night our leaders put a bunch of plates in front of us and offered us a taste of normal foods in that region
Bill
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Introduction to Community Service in Thailand

This was by far the most unique experience I've ever had when traveling.

Traveling abroad with Rustic Pathways taught me that coming out of my comfort zone to trying new things and learning more about myself can really develop who I am. I learned about traditional Thailand culture and values all while being able to help the community.

One of the most rewarding parts of the travel was being able to assist those in Thailand. My personal highlight was being able to teach English to grade-schoolers on one of our last days there and it was a memory I'll cherish forever. Another lesson that they really emphasize is the importance and power of self-reflection. The team at Rustic gives you a couple of opportunities to reflect with each other and it helps build character development and also a stronger bond between everyone.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When I was at the elementary school, I was shocked. I did not realize how much privilege I come from when I saw kids play with holes in their socks and either broken balls or half-filled water balloons. Seeing this really motivated me to want to give back to this community.
Read my full story
Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways SE Asia

Program: Wonders and riches of south east Asia.

Great experience that was full of immersive opportunities. Travelled from Thailand, to Laos, to Cambodia, to Vietnam. Everywhere we went we got to see famous sights, but not only that, we truly got to learn more about different countries cultures whether that was trying individual delicacies or adventuring through the countryside. On one memorable day we took a bike ride through the Cambodian countryside. It was a hot day, but a truly unforgettable experience.
In Chiang Rai, Thailand, we spent one day at an elephant conservation center. We splashed around in the water with baby elephants and got to help make the elephant's food.
Ultimately, Rustic Pathways in south east Asia was an amazing trip that including a diverse offering of activities and experiences.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Getting to see a monument a famous as Angor Wat in real life was incredible and surprising.
Rachel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Traveling to Thailand with Rustic!

Over the summer I went on a 26 day trip to Thailand and Laos with Rustic Pathways. I did the “Come with Nothing” program and it was the best thing i’ve ever experienced. Rustic Pathways made me feel safe and cared for throughout the entire duration of the program. We spent our time in the villages and lived with Thai families. Almost every day we had service. The service was challenging but it was worth every single second. Nothing will ever beat the fulfillment that you get from seeing your hard work truly pay off. The Rustic staff and the other kids in my group became my second family. I never expected to love a group of people so quickly. I would recommend and and all Rustic trips if you want to create amazing and life changing memories!

Ava
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

AMAZING Thailand

I went to Thailand this past summer to work with the Thai Elephant Conservation center and to explore Thailand. I went on the Elephant and amazing Thailand program. On this trip I explored my love for animals and the environment. I loved working with the mahouts helping bathe and feed the elephants. My favorite memory was giving my elephant, Pratita, a bath in the lake while my mahout splashed me with water.and I made incredible bonds with the mahouts and my elephant. Continuing my trip by exploring Thailand I was emerged into a new and exciting culture while making long lasting friends. I loved seeing the temples and trying new foods. I even tried friend bugs! I made amazing friends that I am still close with. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be open to new things! Be open to meeting new and unexpected friends. And be adventurous!
İpek Naz
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Why was my program unique?

My program was unique because it was specifically designed for wilderness first aid education and at first this made me think that it was a better suit for students who are interested in medicine. This was something that made me nervous at first because I don't want to study medicine in future :) However, as I went to Thailand and got to know the project and my friends better, I have understood that not only this program makes you love medicine, it also reminds its participants that WFA is an education that everyone needs to get, regardless of whether they are medicine students or not. Therefore, I advise the future participants to not feel insufficient for this program if they are not interested in medicine, because as a student who has her own WFA certificate right now, I feel really proud for challenging myself to do something that I had considered as boring in past. Also, one of the best things about this program was that we turned a disadvantage into an advantage. Normally, less people prefer these kind of projects that are focused on specific areas, such as WFA. Our program consisted of only 9 people, including me, while other community service programs could go up to 40 people. With expectations to meet a lot of people from all around the world, at first I was disappointed. However, later on, I have seen that not only this was a chance to get to know your friends more closely, it also made our connections much more lasting and intimate. Spending a full week with 8 people was a chance for me to get to know everyone of them closely and build stronger friendships. This taught all of us the importance of friendships and once again reminded us to appreciate how this program brought us together, since we are still in contact :)

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
One of the most surprising things for me was the importance of family in Thai culture. This family is not the one consisting of a mother, father, and children but indeed is a neighborhood. In Thai culture, they never close their doors during daytime or even at night and people are always visiting their neighbors. When I asked my program leader if he knows everyone in the village that I have stayed in and if everyone knows him, he responded "Of course!". I have had the opportunity to observe this because as we were walking in the village, whoever's house we visited or from which street we walked, everyone greeted him and were really hospitable to us. In my country, leave alone greeting everyone, leaving your door open is really risky during daytime. Therefore, the environment in Thailand in which relationships were built on trust and love was something which really surprised and impressed me. Another thing that surprised me a lot was how Thai people in the region that I visited didn't have the opportunity to access some things that we take for granted in our lives; such as electricity or water. In the village that we visited and distributed food, old people were living in houses that didn't have electricity or running water. Also, they had very simple lives compared to ours which I would have never imagined if I was not on this program. Therefore, this taught me the importance to constantly appreciate the opportunities we have and try to share them with those who need it.
Antonette
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Critical Issues Summit

This past summer, I spent 2 amazing weeks in Thailand. In the first week, I learned about the gender equality issues in Thailand through talking to professors, NGOs, and homestay in the country. The second week, we were in the Rustic base house where we met with people from Vietnam and Cambodia and learned about the topic they focused on which we later formed groups and created our own projects.
These 2 weeks have been lifechanging in many ways. I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried things I've never tried before. This trip also made me see the problems that we have more clearly and gave me a better idea of how I can help in my own way. It expanded my horizon and gave me the chance to see things from other people's perspectives as well.
I also loved how the group was really international and I was able to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds and formed some lifelong friendships during this trip.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
A piece of advice to future travelers it to be very openminded about everything and not to be afraid to step out of their comfort zone because that's when you can really have the best experience possible and have tons of fun.
Jacob
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Trip Yet!

I have traveled with Rustic Pathways for two consecutive summers. They have simply been the best summers of my life. First I traveled to Australia where I was able to work in the famous Steve Irwin Zoo. This past summer I traveled to Thailand. While I was there I met some of the most amazing people and creatures. Although I love the luxuries that I take for granted every day such as air conditioning, comfort foods, and wifi, I did not miss them a bit on this trip. Rustic does not lie when they say that they will get the student on the trip fully enveloped into the local culture. Although for some it might sound gruesome, it is something that I honestly am very blessed to have been a part of. I firmly believe that without some of the people I have met and the experiences that I have had through Rustic, I would not be the person I am today.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
The only advice I would give to future travelers (besides to bring plenty of bug spray) is to come into the trip open-minded. The traveler determines how much fun they will have on the trip. If they open themselves up to the group and become friends with people on the trip, then they will have an amazing, immersive experience.
Holliss
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience!

Over the summer I went to Thailand for a month and participated in the Intro to Community Service and Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary programs. Putting together both trips complimented my experience by exposing me to difference kinds of culture and service work. I loved learning how to build homes from the ground up, teach young children how to swim, learn Thai, take care of an elephant (my elephants name was Tongtae and I miss her so much), get to know Thai students my age and share stories, and see part of the world I've never seen before. In the beginning, I was nervous for this trip because I was going without my friends across the world and had never done something so independent. However, once I arrived and got settled I had the best time! Almost everyone on the trip was in the same position as me and we all bonded immediately. Stepping out of my comfort zone was a unique and crucial lesson and has become part of who I am today. My trip is something I wish everyone could have the opportunity to do because it was life changing and something I will remember always.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
One night we had a food taste test and we tried the craziest things from crickets to chicken skin, cow intestine to frog legs, and my favorite food: Pad Thai! All the things we tried were well known foods or snacks in Thailand. Things that seemed gross or weird to me were some of the Thai children and staff members favorite. It was so interesting to experience food I would have never tried at home and it is defiantly a memorable night.
Jill
10/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Back roads of Southeast Asia

This trip is truly the best one rustic has to offer. Not only did I go to 4 different countries in a month, but I experienced unforgettable and life changing experiences. The people and organization of the program allowed it to run seamlessly while still allowing us to have input on what we want to do. The cultural immersion in the home stays and just living in Asia for an entire month gave me the opportunity to change the way I look at a lot of things in life. Not only regarding wealth but also who I am as a person. The people are genuinely happier than the majority of America and yet they live with so little materialistic goods. I have learned to shift my source of happiness from consumer goods to experiences and the people around me. I honestly believe that I have grown as a person since attending this trip.

What would you improve about this program?
I would include Cambodia on the trip itinerary as it is so rich in culture and has a history many Americans have no knowledge of.
Sydney
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marine and Rainforest Conservation

Going to Thailand was the most rewarding experience of my life. I went to the Marine and Rainforest Conservation program. I learned so much and had so many unforgettable experiences that have changed my outlook on life. I got to connect with the locals and discover how they were approaching their conservation efforts and help them. Every day was jam-packed full of exciting and rewarding activities. I got to experience so many different aspects of the culture that was new to me while also learning about the ecosystem there and most importantly having a blast. Being on this trip felt like a personal paradise. The food was incredible. The staff was incredible (shout out to PiNeNe and PiSonia). Every experience was incredible. The people at the homestay were incredible too. At the homestay, I stayed with Bang Doni and his wife and got to spend time with his adorable daughter NaNa. Two kids who lived in the village, Nai and Apun also accompanied us on many of our activities. (They both play a mean game of volleyball too) The time I got to spend with the villagers was my favorite part of the trip which I was not at all expecting. I also loved the jungle hikes, beach clean-ups, river rafting, and the elephant sanctuary. Overall, this program was the best time of my life and I would give anything to go on this trip a second time.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
When the program leaders tell you to drink water, do it! It's very easy to forget to drink water because you are very busy doing activities but it's really important. I got sick from not drinking enough water and had to miss out on some activities that day. Bringing a pocket-fan and soaking your clothes in bug spray is also really helpful.
Chesca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience with Rustic Pathways in Thailand

I have been lucky enough to travel to Thailand twice with Rustic Pathways. I have done both the Rustic Pathways Children's Home and Critical Issues Summit Programs. These were amazing experiences for me because I was able to make great friends with not only the students that I was traveling with, but the local ones as well. One of my good friends that I met during at the Children's Home lives in Thailand and was able to attend the Critical Issues Summit as well. Rustic Pathways does a really good job of ensuring that you are getting a true cultural experience. For example, the first week of the Summit was an immersion week where we did a homestay with the Radical Grandma Collective. We took bucket showers and used squatty potties and had the time of our lives experiencing a new culture. I can also ensure you that you will always feel safe on a Rustic trip. Every location and program is thoroughly vetted and tested and you will never be completely alone. There will always be a program leader nearby that you will be able to find at any point in time. The two Rustic trips that I did were truly life changing for me and they allowed me to fall in love with a new country and culture. I would wholeheartedly recommend a Rustic trip to anyone who asks.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve-wracking moment for me is always saying goodbye to my mom at the airport and facing an entirely new group of people. I am really shy and I tend to shut down and not really talk to anyone when I am in situations like this but it is really important to remember that everyone else is in the exact same position as you. Every person on the two trips that I have done have been incredibly nice and welcoming and there is really nothing to be afraid of. Once I started opening up and seizing the opportunity to make new friends is when I had the most fun.
Read my full story
Camille
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing

This trip was honestly so eye-opening. Not only did I have so much fun, but I was also able to experience a whole different culture. After this trip, I felt like the best way someone could learn about the world was travel. The trip leaders were amazing and really cared about the group and even though at the end of the day we were all so tired they kept giving us their 200%. I would really recommend going to Thailand with Rustic, I believe they offer experiences you cannot get anywhere else. This was my third year with them and I want to be a trip leader when I turn 21 because I find everything this organization does amazing. Travel with Rustic I promise you will have the most life-changing and fun summer ever. You are going to travel to another side of the world with an amazing group of people and create life-lasting memories.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
You are going to have so much fun. I did not take nearly as enough pictures and I regret it. Also, get ready for the heat.
samantha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience in Thailand

I traveled to Thailand over the summer for 3 weeks. First, I did the Community Health Trip. I got my wilderness CPR certification and gained real world medical experience. I was able to volunteer in a small village in Thailand where I screened for diabetes and hypertension. Along with great leaders and friends made, this trip further my desire to work in the medical field. Directly after, I did the Southeast Asian adventurer. I learned about culture in Thailand and got to visit some tourist attractions in Thailand and Laos. Some of the highlights of my trip were, going to an elephant sanctuary, white water rafting, hiking and zip lining, and going to the beach. Although the journey to Thailand is very long, I really enjoyed my trip and would highly recommend it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would advise people to go into the program with an open mind to get the most out of your experience
Isabel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Amazing Trip to Thailand

Ever since my older sister first traveled with Rustic Pathways in 2013 and told me of her fun and rewarding experience, I had been eagerly awaiting my turn to make lasting memories in new countries and with new friends. Flash forward to today, and I am a three-time Rustic alum, having traveled to Costa Rica (2016), the Dominican Republic (2017), and Thailand (2018). While I initially chose to travel with Rustic because of my sister's experience, I continue to dedicate my summers to this program because I learn new things each year and always return home a more thoughtful, empathetic, and curious human being. My specific program in Thailand was called "Introduction to Community Service." I spent 11 amazing days in Udon Thani, where I helped build a house for a woman with epilepsy living in the community, construct a preschool playground, and teach swimming lessons to children. We worked alongside locals to collaborate and create meaningful change, which I think makes Rustic Pathways the unique and exceptional travel and community service organization that it is. My leaders were dedicated to creating a safe, fun, and educational space for all students. To this day, some of my closest mentors and friends were program leaders and fellow peers from my Thailand trip. I love Rustic because I get the opportunity to meet other students from around the world and immerse myself in different cultures and ways of life.

What was your funniest moment?
One of my leaders in Thailand, who was from Myanmar, was playing his favorite songs for us as we drove to a night market. It was all traditional Burmese music until the song "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown came on. It was the only American song he knew! He kept mixing up the lyrics, so we taught them to him. He was so proud of himself when he finally memorized them. For the rest of the week, "Chicken Fried" was our go-to song and we would always sing it at full volume. It was hilarious and remains one of my favorite Rustic memories.