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
Buddhist Temple: Mae Sariang
Buddhist Temple: Mae Sariang

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 31 - 45 of 103
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Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rice Fields, Monks, Smiling children program review

This was a unique experience because we stayed at a base house but I also had the opportunity to travel to Laos. This service-oriented trip was a truly culturally immersive experience. Throughout the two weeks we did service in the morning and the afternoon but in the night we went and explored all different parts of Udon Thani, for example, the night markets. The service for this trip was amazing! My personal favorite was teaching English and teaching swimming lessons because I truly love working with children. We also built a playground and a home. All of these experiences are incredibly rewarding and sparked a passion for service but also having some of the comforts of home like showers and electricity. But this service impression was amazing from activities that are not service and the food, and of course the service it was a trip that left me itching to do more traveling.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
One night we tried different Thai delicacies and my favorite food that I had the opportunity to try was boiled bamboo with a spicy sauce to dip it into. It was a super fun food to try.
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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hill Tribe Service and Elephant Conservation Rustic Trip Review

This past summer I went to Thailand with Rustic Pathways. I had no idea what to expect before I arrived. Rustic did a really good job introducing us to the culture of Thailand and showing us how to act respectfully in this foreign place. My job was to teach children English for the first week that I was there. The experience I had in the school was one of the best things I have ever felt. I had made a connection with the students I taught, and their teachers trusted me to teach their students. We learned to communicate through the language barrier. After the first week, we went to Sappraiwan Elephant Sanctuary. I had the pleasure to feed, walk and bathe an elephant that I was paired with. I learned so much about a very unique species. The local staff at the Sanctuary did an amazing job at explaining how they rescued the animals, and how they had to care for them based on where they came from. I learned so much about elephants, it was crazy! It was a surreal feeling, to find myself caring for these magnificent creatures. Not to mention, the friendships I made while in Thailand for two weeks were so special. I still talk to the people I met, whether that be from the US or Thailand.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Usually we ate normal Thai food, there was one night we were surprised with crickets, meal worms, and durian. Durian is the smelliest food in the world, and it's not an understatement. The feeling of putting all of these foreign things in my mouth scared me, but it was something I'll never forget. My friends and I really had fun giving our thoughts on the foods after we ate them.
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Linn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

my travels to thailand (udon thani)

My trip with rustic pathways to the ricefields base was absolutely incredible. It was an adventure of a lifetime and a trip that will forever stay with me. The base house was such a luxury place to stay, with good showers/bathrooms, beds and even air conditioning! The people who work at the base house were so incredibly kind and I grew very connected with much of the Thai staff who came on many of our adventures together. The service programs were oh so fun but also rewarding. We did lots of manual labor, which was a big workout and many of the service programs revolved around kids! My personal favorites were teaching kids how to swim at the basehouse and teaching them English during a class at their school. These kids were so bright and lively and brought lots of happiness to my heart. We had many hours of service but also many hours of fun! We really got to explore Udon Thani with a tour of the amazing city and we also did lots of fun activities such as going bowling, to the mall, waterpark and the night markets. The food was also so tasty here, probably some of the best I have had. They always provided us with delicious meals and tropical fruit, and I loved any meal time since I got to enjoy the food with my friends. One of my favorite parts of this trip was the people I met here. These teens from all over the globe and states were so kind hearted and adventurous and I grew so close to all of them. This program let us have free time and I felt like I really got to know all of my fellow group members. It was the hardest thing to say goodbye to them, but I know that we will all forever cherish our time together in the most incredible place. I cannot reccomend this program enough! Please come to the land of smiles with rustic pathways to experience this adventure of a lifetime for yourself! Here more about my experience on my personal blog: https://littlelinnbigworld.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/travels-to-thailand/

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Aidan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Thailand Adventure

My trip to Thailand is something that I will never forget. The Land of Smiles is truly that. The smiling Thai people are the most amazing, kind hearted and fun people I have ever met.

I have had the pleasure of traveling to many places in the world with my family but Rustic Pathways gave me the ability to see places and experience things my parents wouldn't have been able to find. It is a different kind of trip when you travel with Rustic. During my trip we traveled around to different cities. Some of my favorite experiences from this trip were riding on an elephant, swimming in a beautiful waterfall, seeing Muay Thai fighting, and staying in a treehouse. These experiences were unique to Rustic Pathways trips and helped to learn about the culture of Thailand.

The group leaders consisted of people native to Thailand and other leaders from around the world. The leaders were connecting with the kids like they were one of us. During car rides everyone would we talking, laughing, singing, and telling jokes and riddles.

My group and I became a super tight knit group and cried when we had to part ways at the end. I still talk to my group of kids and even making plans to hang out with them! I was lucky to have such an amazing experience with Rustic Pathways and can't wait for my next trip!

Read my full story
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Molly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways Childrens Home

I had the most amazing time on my trip to Thailand this summer. We stayed at the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home, where students can stay if they don’t live close to good education. In Thailand, we spent time teaching English at local schools and workingg to build new classrooms. I think one of my favorite parts of the program was meeting my Thai buddy. Upon arrival, I got paired with a Thai student staying at the children’s home to talk to and show me around. We became friends quickly and still talk today. My experience in Thailand was incredible and I couldn’t recommend it more.

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Bella
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thailand Childrens Home

My trip to Thailand was extremely meaningful, and despite how corny this seems- it truly was life changing. In two short weeks in Thailand, the relationships I made were with people I would call my best friends, and even family. We disconnected from technology, and that combined with how fun and beneficial the trip was, and the study of Buddhism- I returned home a truly different person. Service anywhere can be very gratifying, but to work with children and have the instant satisfaction is a feeling unlike no other. Except working for elephants- this was truly magical to work with these majestic animals. To learn about our impact on the earth to and how we can help conserve and protect is truly something I couldn’t learn anywhere else. The service, fun, friends and learning all combined could not have taken place in anywhere better than Thailand and have as rewarding of an impact.

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

Thailand Childrens Home

My trip to Thailand was extremely meaningful, and despite how corny this seems- it truly was life changing. In two short weeks in Thailand, the relationships I made were with people I would call my best friends, and even family. We disconnected from technology, and that combined with how fun and beneficial the trip was, and the study of Buddhism- I returned home a truly different person. Service anywhere can be very gratifying, but to work with children and have the instant satisfaction is a feeling unlike no other. Except working for elephants- this was truly magical to work with these majestic animals. To learn about our impact on the earth to and how we can help conserve and protect is truly something I couldn’t learn anywhere else. The service, fun, friends and learning all combined could not have taken place in anywhere better than Thailand and have as rewarding of an impact.

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Katherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience travelling to Thailand

This past summer I went on the trip of a lifetime to Northern Thailand. I had been eyeing this trip for 2 years, but my parents wouldn't let me go because of their concerns about safety. They weren't comfortable with me going alone to the other side of the world, with a group of people I had never met before. Although this intimidated me, I'd been eager to travel somewhere farther and more unique than anywhere I'd ever been. My parents eventually decided to let me go on this trip with my older sister, and tears of joy came when they surprised me with the trip! We began our travel journey of 35 hours and halfway through I began to wonder if I had picked the right trip or if I was stepping way too far outside of my comfort zone. I didn't know any of the people in the airport and everyone was very anxious about their next 3 weeks traveling. After a very very long day of traveling, we arrived late at night at the base house where I would be staying for the next week. Everyone was very apprehensive and nervous when we arrived, but after a good night sleep, we began "orientation" the next morning. By learning everyone's names and walking around to meet the staff, I knew my next couple of weeks would be incredible! The friendlyness of the staff made the homesick feelings go away almost immediately. Over the next 2 weeks in Thailand, I had the best time of my life. I met people that I would've never thought I'd be friends with and made friends that I am still very close with 3 months later, and I know they will be life long friends. The service experience we did there was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it gave me a new look into how other people live outside of the bubble that I live in at home. This brought me new and important experiences, and teaching english was so humbling to do to children who need to learn it in order to get a job to feed their families in Thailand. Everything we did over the weeks I was in Thailand made a huge impact on how I view the world and how I see different situations. I would not trade this experience for the world, it made such an impact in my life. The friendships, people, and experiences I had on this trip will continue to shine through my actions in my daily life and I will never forget them. If you are apprehensive of going on a trip through Rustic PAthways, don't be! I felt completely safe the entire time and the whole trip was wonderfully put together. If you get the chance, definately go through Rustic Pathways, as they made my experience in Thailand absolutely unforgettable.

What would you improve about this program?
It's hard for me to think of ways to improve it, but encourage even less cellphone time. The days that I wasn't on my phone at all were the days that I was most in the moment and enjoyed the experience that was going on right in front of me.
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Grace
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways Thailand: Ricefields, monks and smiling children

I went on this trip because I received a magazine in the mail about a similar travel organization, I looked more into student travel and I came across Rustic Pathways, everything about Rustic Pathways was so great, the website was so easy to use, the people who work there were so beyond helpful and sweet, and the programs all look so incredible. I finally chose the program that stuck out to me the most! I was so excited and I couldn't wait for the trip, I was also extremely nervous as well. I had no prior experience with being away from my family for that long so I was not sure how it would go. When time came to get ready for the trip, the packing lists were so helpful, everything you need is on it and when they say don't over pack, I wish I listened to that more because I re-wore clothes and we were constantly buying souvenirs and elephant pants so I had so many clothes at the end of the program. I would recomend bringing an extra bag though for souvenirs and other things because it will be very helpful at the end when your packing. Anyway when I first arrived at the airport it was very organized and it was really easy to meet new people, especially when we were waiting for our bags to get checked, it was so easy to start conversations with people! This boosted my confidence and it made the long travel, layovers and flights much better. When we arrived, I was nervous at first about being away from home, and started questioning myself asking if i had chosen the right program, shortly after we arrived at the base house though I had the opportunity to meet some of the local staff, program leaders and other students who were so sweet and really great in making others feel comfortable. Whenever I felt anxious the program leaders were there for me and really helpful in making me feel better. Once the service trips had started, all of my worries had washed away, I had so much fun in the markets buying food, teaching the kids English and swimming lessons, and helping to build the house and playground! The service trips are split into smaller groups so I was able to meet some really awesome people and get close to them fast, I honestly had such a blast on the service projects and it was so rewarding to know that you were helping to make someones life better! Each and everyday after that I had so much fun, learned so much, and meet such amazing people who I got so close with. Every activity we did I learned something new about the Thai culture and we got to see such beautiful parts of Thailand wherever we went. Words can not describe how incredible this trip was, it truly was life changing! Going to the "land of smiles" made me smile every second I was there. We had so many opportunities and I was grateful for every second. I loved how the program also ensured that we had rest time, side trips, and other fun excursions alongside the incredible service projects. The side trip to Laos was so much fun and such a great opportunity to get closer to the other students on the program. Each second was such a fun adventure filled with breathtaking sights! The hard work that we did whenever we went on a service project was so amazing and rewarding, I had never sweated so much and loved every second of it before! I learned how to build a house, teach kids to swim, make thai curry, and so much more with those projects, I also got to learn Muay Thai boxing, meet monks, go to a thai waterpark, save and release turtles into the pond at Ricefields, get massages, visit a cave and China Town. There were so many activities, places we saw and things we did that there are too many to mention! When it was time to leave I was actually heartbroken, I could not believe how much fun I had and how close I had gotten with people I did not know at all in 2 and half weeks. It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone especially the incredible staff! I got so close to the local staff, program leaders and other students and I still talk to them everyday even after leaving the trip! To sum this experience up, it was truly life changing, I came back with a sense of how other people in this world live, I thought it was so incredible how people with so little can be so grateful and happy with what they have, which made me happier and grateful for everything that I have! I truly am so grateful i faced my fears and decided to travel with Rustic Pathways because it has open the doors up to new possibilities in my life and I now know that I want to travel the world and work for Rustic Pathways when I am older. If you are questioning whether or not you should go on this trip for any reason, the advice I give you is DO IT! Considering I only went on one trip with rustic as of now, and I loved every second of it, imagine how amazing it would be for someone to start when they're even younger than I am and travel to even more places and see the incredible world we live in! I wish I discovered Rustic sooner because I only have one more summer left before I graduate and I hope that next summer will be as amazing as this summer was and I already Know it will be!! I hope you decide to change your life and do a rustic pathways program because if you don't I'm telling you, you'll regret that decision for the rest of your life!

What would you improve about this program?
If the program was longer it would be so amazing because even though it was only 3 weeks it still didn't seem long enough because time flew by!!
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Maddie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thailand with rustic pathways

My first summer with rustic was definitely one for the books. Thailand itself was fantastic and the elephants there were amazing but the true memories were made with the people I met through the organization. I owe rustic everything and I am so thankfully that they exposed me to an experience that allowed me to see the world and discover other people and how they live. It was truly and amazing experience and I have already booked my rustic trip to Australia for next summer!

What would you improve about this program?
Make it longer!
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Maggie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rice fields, Monks , and Smiling Childern Program

This was my first trip with Rustic and the overall experience was amazing. The people ofThailand are some of the most genuine people I have ever met. They always have smiles on their faces! The friends that I made on this trip are amazing and we still keep in touch. We are planning to do another trip next summer and are excited to explore another country and culture together. My experience in Thailand is one that I will remember for a long time. From building homes, to teaching children English, to walking on the beaches of Phuket. This program has a wide variety of activities and is a great way to do community service.

What would you improve about this program?
D
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Casey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways Children's Home and Elephant Sanuaury

I had an amazing time! I could tell safety was a top priority which I appreciated. At no point did I ever feel unsafe and if that was the case our leaders always checked in on us and made sure we were feeling our bus. Whether it be something a simple as a headache or the stomach bug, rustic staff was very aware and caring to all my needs. The service was hard but very rewarding. It was so much fun and all the girls on my trip were awesome and made the service so much more fun. The elephants and the thai school kids were so adorable.

What would you improve about this program?
The food was good but often the meals were repeated which was okay but got tiring after 3 weeks. We had Thai Food but rarely had times to try varieties of food, every meal was just rice and occasionally pad thai and that's it. Not much authentic cuisine, only the basics. Which is okay, I was just expecting to try more things since Thailand is known for their awesome food.
Also don't follow the itinerary too closely, I found it was very off and it is often not updated, so don't rely on the specifics.
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Bonnie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children Trip

The Rustic staff is incredible: from the flight leaders, to the group leaders, and down to the local staff, everyone is so enthusiastic to learn about you and to share a bit about themselves and their culture! The trip was very organized and although it may seem daunting to travel to a new place alone, it was the best decision I ever made; I met so many wonderful people and made so many friends. Through activities and service I was able to truly become a part of the community in Udon Thani and learn more about the culture firsthand.

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ainsley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

rice fields, monks, and smiling children

I have been on a program similar to the programs that rustic pathways offer prior to my trip to Thailand. I went to Costa Rica, which was basically all fun with very little service. I was not sure if I would enjoy going on such a service-centric trip like the rice fields program. Little did I know that this trip would be the most life-changing experience of my life. I grew to know people on this trip that I will never forget. I have closer bonds with people on this trip than I have ever had with my best friends at school. I must admit, I was very nervous to travel across the world knowing no one. Even on the plane rides there, I thought that I would never make friends with these strangers. My advice to anyone that is considering going on one of these programs, is to not go with anyone, no matter how scary it seems. The friendships that you will form will WAY outlast your rustic trip!! With these friends, I participated in 9 equally impacting service projects. Each project had such a good purpose and I truly felt like I was helping the community with these projects. My favorite service project by far was "Hands in the Dirt", where we started building an organic farm for a local school. Many Thai farmers get severely sick because of the pesticides they spray on the food because they do not wash their food well after it is grown. Organic gardens eliminate the need for pesticides. The garden we are building at the school will also be a source of income for the students of the school. This is the third organic farm that rustic pathways has built in the small community of Udon Thani. Another service project that really impacted me was the hospital meals project. For this project, we cooked food and brought it to a local hospital. In Thai culture, when a member of your family is sick, you drop everything that is going on in your life to go stay with them in your hospital. This includes your job, which means the family is not receiving money while the person is in the hospital. This service project provides a source of food for the family members. The day I went there was at least 430 people in the line, and all of them were so grateful to us. That was one of the most empowering things about Thailand: everyone was just so grateful. Even though some of these people have no running water, not enough clothes, and not enough food for their family, they were still so grateful for everything. This trip to Thailand is by far the best experience of my life, and I will be taking another Rustic Trip next year!!! My favorite memory is when 4 other people and I went on a side trip to Chang Khan. I became such close friends with these 4 people in this short time period and I know that our friendships would not be the same without this trip! I recommend this trip to anyone who wants a unique experience!

What would you improve about this program?
I would like more group bonding experiences. Like someone else has said in these reviews, I think that our group could have gotten a lot closer if there had been more group activities.
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Gabriel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children

I feel that people seem to like the phrase “life-changing” a lot, and use it to describe just about any experience that they really enjoyed. Sure, I have had many amazing experiences that I will never forget, but none that I would label truly “life-changing”. This mindset of mine completely changed with my first Rustic trip in the beautiful country of Thailand. First off, the people you get to meet are amazing. Whether it be your fellow students, the staff, or the locals, everybody is so open and friendly. I think it’s safe to say that nobody really felt alone on the trip and that everybody was able to form some great relationships. Also, this trip really allows for so many fun activities, all while immersing us in the local culture. One awesome thing that we did was try a bunch of unique local Thai cuisine, and it was really great to be able to try new and different things together with an equally inexperienced bunch of people. We even got to eat crickets, which were surprisingly tasty! Lastly, the service on this trip was great and so meaningful. I’ve volunteered at my local library shelving books before, but that can’t compare at all with what we got to do on this trip (of course, working at the library was/is still a good thing). We got to do inspiring things such as building a house for a struggling mother with epilepsy, teaching Thai schoolchildren English and how to swim, preparing meals for hospital patients, and starting an organic farm at a local school. It was motivating to know the backgrounds of all the service projects and it provided us with some insight on what the situation is like over there, regarding various aspects of life. One of the best things about the service for me was that I got to do a lot of physical exercise and help out the community at the same time. Back to the “life-changing” aspect of this whole experience: After I’ve returned home, I’ve been exercising a lot more, and I actually owe that to all the outside work we did on this trip. Also, I feel like a more open person, more open to new things and to meeting new people. I am honestly looking forward to starting school again and trying to make some new friends. All in all, my first Rustic trip was such an awesome experience, and today I will be signing up for another one for next summer!!! Thank you so much Rustic Pathways!

What would you improve about this program?
It would have been nice to have had some more group activities, especially during free time. As individuals, we made a lot of personal friendships, but I felt that our whole group could have been more connected if we had done some more stuff with all of us together.