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
The beautiful scenery  of Northern Thailand
The beautiful scenery of Northern Thailand
Teaching time!
Teaching time!
One of the many beautiful Buddha statues we admired
One of the many beautiful Buddha statues we admired
Mae Lai: Mountain Village
Mae Lai: Mountain Village

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.

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

Popular Programs

Marine and Rainforest Conservation in Thailand

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.

Southeast Asian Adventurer

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.

Elephants and Amazing Thailand

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

Community Health and Wilderness First Aid

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 16 - 30 of 103
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Ella
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer in Thailand

This past summer I went to Thailand for 18 days. This experience expanded my horizons by making me globally aware. I taught English in Locals schools to elementary school children, helped build a school in an under privileged community, and learned the ways of the mahouts my by taking care of an elephant on the elephant conservation center. The service I did on this trip made me feel accomplished knowing that I made an impact on the local communities. I feel so lucky that I got the opportunity to experience the unique culture of Thailand. One of my favorite things on this besides the unless activities was just talking to the local people. This not only improved my communication skills but helped me create new relationships with people who were different than me. Thailand is truly the land of smiles.

What was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment on this trip was getting to bathe the elephants the river every morning at 6am. Although we were all cold and tired this once and a live time experience was so funny because the entire group was doing it together.
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Harper
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Travel to Thailand, It's Worth It!

One of the most lifechanging experiences a person can have is traveling. Traveling has the ability to open your eyes to the diversity of the world. Traveling gives you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and revel in the beauty of nature. Traveling allows you to meet new people and discover new ways of life. Traveling lets you explore and have adventures, and escape your ordinary day-to-day life.
My trip to Thailand with Rustic Pathways allowed me to do all of those things, and more. I feel as though I am a more well-rounded person having traveled with Rustic. I feel I am a more globally educated and connected citizen, and a more environmentally conscious human being. Not only that, but I had the time of my life and made new friends whom I still talk to every week, even several months later. There's more to tell, but it's best to discover it yourself by traveling, too!
Rustic Pathways has many different fantastic programs to fit all types of travelers. They do a fantastic job with risk management and safety, hire caring, intelligent staff, and give their students the best of the best experiences. I am so, SO glad I traveled with Rustic to Thailand, and hope to take more Rustic trips soon!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you are traveling far, be very intentional with what you pack for the long plane rides....those are exhausting and it's critical that you've got everything you need! :)

Some specific items I'd reccomend: eye mask, comfortable clothing, earplugs, snacks, headphones, a neck pillow, and a book
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Madelyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Importance of travel and learning outside the classroom

My name is Madelyn Jenkins and I am 17 years old. I went on the Rustic Pathways “Ultimate Asia” trip when I was 15 years old. I had been on two other trips to Costa Rica and Hawaii with another company, but I had been dying to see different parts of the world and their cultures. My trip took me to China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It was the best 3 weeks of my life and the best decision I have ever made. I walked the Great Wall of China, taught students English in Thailand, worked with Elephants in Laos, and biked through the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia. Those are just a few examples of the amazing experiences I had on my Rustic trip. There were only 2 other girls on my trip, and 6 guys. We were a smaller group, but that allowed us to bond so much better. I was the youngest on my trip, which was intimidating at first. But instead of my age being a hinderance, the students on my trip made it seem like it was an advantage. I got to learn from my peers who were older than me, and it allowed me to mature in a way I’m not sure would have been possible in a group of peers my own age. The girls became like my older sister and the guys like my brothers, we all became a big family by the end of the 3 weeks. I also got some of the best trip leaders I’ve ever had. Mary and Josh were my main leaders, and they helped us through every tough time, and encouraged us to get out of our comfort zones and try new things. I tried foods I never thought I would, and participated in activities that would have otherwise terrified me. I learned leadership, confidence, and independence. It was such a comfortable and safe space that I could be 100% myself without judgement, which is a huge deal when you are in high school. I urge anyone who is looking for the adventure of a lifetime to seriously consider Rustic Pathways. I will say these trips aren’t for everyone though. I would recommend an open mind, flexibility, and easy going spirit. At the end of the day you are a part of a team and community, so being able to thrive in a group is crucial. If those characteristics fit you, then Rustic Pathways is the place for you.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My only advise to future travelers would be flexibility, an open mind, and living in the moment. It is so important to be flexible because depending on the weather or other elements at play, the schedule can change in an instant. Often times those are some of the best memories of the trip though because it leads you to improvised adventures that create lasting memories. An open mind is key because at times you will be challenged to step outside your comfort zone, wether that pertains to food, activities, or even connecting with people who don’t share your same views or values. That is such an important aspect of the trip though because it pushes you to grow and change as a person. I know I learned more about myself through the tough experiences than anything else. Finally, at the end of the day, these trips are meant for students to have fun an enjoy themselves in a different environment than their everyday lives. It is so important to soak in every moment and opportunity even if it isn’t something you are looking forward to. An activity that you don’t think you really want to do often times opens up a whole new door of passion you never knew you had. So live in the moment and enjoy every second, because before you know it, you will be back at home wishing you could relive those last 3 weeks.
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Camille
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children Rustic Pathways program

This trip was incredibly impactful, not only on the communities we were serving, but on me as well. Going to Thailand has always been on my bucket list, so when I saw that Rustic Pathways, a company I had previously traveled with to Australia, I was so excited. The base house we stayed at was in a rural village outside of the city Udon Thani, so we got to experience village life in our own compound. This trip was extremely rewarding. We completed different service projects every day (except for the weekend when we went to Laos for some fun) alongside of native Thai children and adults. If you go on this trip, be prepared to work, but it will be the most rewarding, impactful, and life changing experience. You play in Thailand as well with a huge pool at the base house, playing soccer with the local kids, mall excursions, and a muy thai lesson. Some of the service projects we did were building concrete walkways for monasteries and schools, cooking meals for families in the village and at a hospital, painting the walls outside a monastery, and teaching kids and teens English. To me, the most eye-opening service we did was bringing food to a hospital for the families of sick people to eat while they take care of their loved ones due to the deficit of doctors. The grateful looks I received from those people is something I will never forget. In the moment on this trip, you may be challenged and tired, but this trip will change your view point and leave you with a newfound gratefulness for the life you live.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The most unfamiliar thing I tried was a kabob with all of the insides of a chicken on it. Our leaders gave us this during a game we played called "No Reservations" where we tried different foods that were staples among the rural Thai people.
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Lily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

THAILAND

This summer I went on a trip to Thailand. I was 14 and incredibly nervous I had never done anything by myself whatsoever. Immediately after leaving my state and meeting up with the traveling group in the airport I made friends, like good friends. Friends who even though we only spent 36 hours together hugged me and asked how my trip was when we were coming home. Never before have I felt so at home and comfortable with people. My trip was honestly the most amazing experience of my life. I fell in love with Thailand and I can’t wait to go back I highly recommended Rustic Pathways. My trip was the Thai elephant conservation and Amazing Thailand which I believe is now one trip. I loved working with the elephants, they’re so human like and you can tell they feel emotions. Amazing Thailand was also incredibly fun focused mostly on traveling g around Northern Thailand visiting temples and site seeing.I think it’s a perfect way to start off your travels.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don’t worry about traveling by yourself there will always be other people traveling alone. Also pack lightly you can always do laundry and you will buy a ton of cute clothes there.
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Carla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My amazing rustic experience

Well my rustic trip « the Mekong expedition » was actually my best experience abroad. I still have contacts with all my rustic group and consider them as true friends. To me, during the trip, the most important thing was that we grew up together. Indeed, we matured a lot and we learned much from Thai and Lao people we met, from our program leaders ( who were awesome by the way loved them !! ) but also from each of us. Moreover, I was really amazed to see the everyday cheerfulness of all the Thai and Lao people. It made me realize our fortune to live in developed countries as USA or France. I know it can appear as a paltry act but now I really try to be happy ( and SMILING :) ) and enjoy every moments of my life.
To you, future young rustic travelers, I have one advice : ENJOY, ENJOY, ENJOY ! If you are open minded, ready to discovering new people ( and culture !) and having fun as never before, the Rustic trips are made for you ;)

What was your funniest moment?
I think that was when my trip’s sister ( she became a real sister to me, when I say that the trip created true friendship, that’s absolutely right ) and I were chilling in our host family’s home after service. Our host family wasn’t home yet so because we were really excited and happy ( and alone ) we decided to put music on my phone. We began to dance and sing on « take on me » of a-ha in front of the fan ( we were so hot you can’t imagine lol ). At one moment, our host mom came home. When she saw us, she started to laugh so hard that she had to sit down lol. It’s one of my best funny memory but I lived a lot of moments like that ( when we imitated a « cow who was jumping over the moon » for example 😂).
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Annie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Annie Schaffler

This trip has changed my life and I will never forget it. The people who I was lucky enough to accompany on this trip truly had the drive to help others in need and to learn about Thai culture, just as I had. The staff was incredible, as we had teamed up with Thai tour guides to make the trip as authentic as we could. I would literally do anything to go back. No complaints whatsoever! Thai food is great, so many different flavors that I would never be able to find in the u.s. The Thai people are on a whole new level of kindness; I felt welcome the whole time and everyone seemed to be willing to make a friend. The base house was such an amazing place to stay and get to know the workers so I’m very sad it will no longer be in use the next year

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Probably just the language in general because it’s so different than English and they have different characters so sometimes the barrier could be a little tough but nonetheless Thai people are so hospitable and could not have made me feel more welcome!
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mazzy
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Impact of the Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

I went to Thailand in 2018 and was exposed to a completely different lifestyle. Not only were these experiences enlightening to what privilege meant, but also that it wasn't necessarily that important. When I visited these rural communities I was greeted with huge grins and helping hands, they were the nicest and most inviting group of people. They helped us build walls for their new school and encouraged us to use their bathrooms, they were welcoming in every aspect. This was something that was so unique for me, especially coming from America where people are hesitant when it comes to helping others. The most important thing to remember while visiting these communities is to be thankful and appreciative of anyone's help because they are not obligated and are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.

What was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment was when we were at the elephant sanctuary and we went river rafting. The group really bonded during the thrilling rapids and the calm water in between. So many good laughs were shared and memories made during that adventure.
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Ashley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Elephants and Amazing Thailand

This trip was amazing. I made friends from all over the country, got to experience a new culture, try new food, and work with Asian elephants hands on. The program leaders were all amazing and so supportive, making the trip a lot more fun.The first part of your trip you are at the elephant conservation center, you start your day by getting your elephants from the jungle and giving them a bath, and the end the day the same. You are able to do many activities that the mahouts (elephant caregiver) do on a daily basis. Being able to work with elephants, in their own environment, is something many people don't get the chance to experience. The second part of your trip you travel around Thailand, trying new food, seeing their beautiful temples, and getting the chance to walk through some of their markets. If you love animals, especially elephants, and want to experience a new culture by traveling around a new country, this trip is perfect for you.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would change about this program would be making the elephant conservation part a little longer.
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Divya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Elephant Adventures in The Land of Smiles

While volunteering at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, I had the opportunity to engage directly with wildlife while learning about local conservation efforts. I felt so connected to the animals. I was so grateful to feel so trusted by the members of the staff, to have such independence, and to feel empowered to take risks. I bathed the elephant I was paired with every morning and afternoon, stepping out of my comfort zone as I plunged deep into the water. I formed such a close relationship with my elephant as well as the mahout—the man who has dedicated his life to taking care of that one elephant. I am so appreciative to Rustic for giving me this experience in high school. I also had the privilege of being with a group of students who have become lifelong friends. We share such meaningful memories and we are always in touch. Every year, we travel on a new Rustic trip together, exploring new horizons.

What would you improve about this program?
Not much! It was incredible! If I had to change one thing, I would love the chance to interact more frequently with local members of the Thai community and learn even more about their culture, although we had quite a few opportunities to do so at local markets and in the conservation center!
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Sully
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hill then support and Elephant conservation

This trip was so amazing!! Spending a week with the elephants was a once and a life time opportunity and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The first week we stayed at the hill tribe base. We met all the children that lived there and got to talk with them about there lives. We also got to see the beautiful Thailand. We went to temples and on a bike ride around the town. We also went to the local school where we finished the side walk around the new classrooms. We got to talk to the principle and speak with him about his life and the school. It was all so amazing! The second week we were at the sappraiwan an elephant sanctuary. It was stunning there. Everyday they had a new activity for use and it was all so fun!! I defined recommend this program!

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Teddy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South East Asian Adventurer Program

The South East Asian Adventurer Program was truly a surreal experience. Spending time in both Thailand and Laos, I zip-lined across waterfalls, went island hopping, got face to face with an elephant, and most importantly met the most incredible people. I didn't imagine the bonds I would form with my group-mates and leaders could be so strong. My group of 9 was extremely close, from singing and dancing on the bus, to telling stories around the fireplace we were always laughing and smiling together. All three leaders were wonderful. One was American, and the other two were local. In addition to just knowing the local language, they introduced us to new foods, taught us about the culture, and told amazing stories. They were always attentive and worried about our well-being. The trip was extremely well organized, and the accommodations were amazing. The one piece of advice I would give students is to not overpack! There are a lot of flights and traveling that take place throughout the program so I recommend packing lightly. I would never get to have the same experiences if I just traveled with my family. I could not recommend Rustic Pathways more highly.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I had to do one thing over again, it would be how I packed for the trip. Since there is a lot of traveling inside the two weeks, I would recommend packing only what you really need to make carrying around your bag as easy as possible.
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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Thai Experience with Rustic.

This past summer I went to Thailand with Rustic Pathways. It was a a little bit more than a two week program which combined teaching children english at Thai schools while helping create a foundation for a new kindergarten, as well as an elephant conservation program. Rustic was really good about making our accommodations nice as possible. The food that our chef, Chris, made for us as well as the students and families who lived at the base house was amazingly good. I was able to try so many new foods, including insanely flavorful fruit such as rambutan and mangosteen. During the first week of the program I was able to create really good friendships with not only the students who came to Thailand with Rustic, but the Thai locals as well. I really liked getting to engage with some of the Thai students who were around me age because I was able to get an insight on how life is in different parts of the world. Getting to hear various stories about little parts of different people's lives and how they got involved with rustic were some of the best stories I've ever heard in my life. Then the second part of the trip began and I got to go spend all of my time with elephants. I absolutely loved getting to learn more about how intelligent they really are. Elephants are so emotionally motivated, and they remember who humans are. Knowing that I could make an impact on these creatures lives was very special to me, and it changed my life forever.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The most unfamiliar thing that I ate was probably silk worms. We were given them as a gift by the local community that we helped build the foundation for a new school building for. I wasn't utterly opposed to trying the worms, and so I ate some. I was told that they were a Thai delicacy. They were not bad, but definitely had a taste and texture that was new and never had I encountered it before.
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Anna Claire
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience for young people wanting to travel alone!!

Being able to travel so far alone made me feel independent and really helped me get ready for college and life away from my family. I was able to make decisions on my own and meet new people that have become lasting friends. Both years that I went on Rustic Trips my life was completely changed in so many different ways. The service I completed on these trips made me feel like I was making a difference even in the smallest of ways. Also, the kids I met warmed my heart and they are people that I still think about each and every single day. I also got to try amazing new experiences that I never would have been able to back home. Riding in songtails which are trucks with canopies in the back is one that I very vividly remember because of it fun

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate a tentacle on a stick from a street market.
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Kylie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

First time traveling alone made safe, fun, easy and impactful

At 16 years old I wanted to travel, have an impact and experience the culture of other places. I was afraid of leaving the country for the first time by myself and not being safe. I found the rustic programs and was extremely excited to begin my rustic journey. Arriving at the airport I was scared about meeting people. Ten minutes after arriving all my fears disappeared. I met so many amazing people from all around the county and we instantly bounded. As we arrived in Thailand we were all amazed by the beautiful country. During the entire trip we were overwhelmed by the kindness that rustic staff and locals welcomed us with. It was also incredible to do service work in anitehr county. Volunteering within the states is very different. I felt like I was making more of an impact. Rustic pathways fouces on service projects that have lasting effects. Even after leaving the trip I know that the work I did will positively impact the community for years. Rustic pathways is an amazing way for kids to travel and learn. I would recommend rustic programs to everyone.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Everything in Thailand is very different then within the states. I really enjoyed trying so many new foods. By traveling with rustic pathways I felt safe when eating from anywhere. My favorite thing that I tried was all the new fruits.