Rustic Pathways

PO Box 429 Chardon, Ohio, 44024 United States


About Rustic Pathways

Year Founded: 1983

Rustic Pathways offers superior quality travel and service programs for students and families in some of the world's most welcoming countries. We strive to empower students through innovative and responsible travel experiences to positively impact lives and communities around the world. We enrich the lives of our students and our staff, benefit the parts of the world we serve, and build cultural bridges that lead to greater global understanding and cooperation.

Discover Programs

Climbing Kili

Tanzania : Arusha, Kilimanjaro

Join us for one week of pure adventure climbing Africa's tallest peak and the world's tallest freestanding volcano. Feel the awe and accomplishment rush over you as you finally...

Irrawaddy Village Service

Myanmar : Bagan

Form connections with Burmese students as you lead English-language activities and run a day camp in a village along the Irrawaddy River. Admire the splendor of Bagan's ancient...

Island Living and Eco-Service (Spring Break)

Dominican Republic : Jarabacoa, Santo Domingo

Explore mangroves, reef formations, and marine wildlife at Los Haitises National Park and Samaná peninsula. Get your hands dirty as you work on ecological restoration projects...

Surf and Service (Spring Break)

Costa Rica : San Jose, Uvita

Learn to surf or take your skills to the next level during this one-week, spring break program. Live at our base house and soak in the laid-back culture of beach town life....

Traveling Soccer and Service Team

Costa Rica : Cartago, Nicoya Peninsula and 2 other cities , San Jose, Turrialba Show less

Get ready to travel, work, and play your heart out on this intensive two-week soccer and service project through the heart of Costa Rica. Using the game you love as a medium,...

Island Survival

Australia : Brisbane, Gladstone and 2 other cities , Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Show less

This is Survivor Rustic style! Undergo mental and physical challenges after you’re marooned on a deserted island. Carrying only three items of your choice, you will learn...

The Minke Whale Research Expedition

Australia : Brisbane, Cairns and 1 other city , Great Barrier Reef Show less

Join a four-day live-aboard dive expedition and partner with marine biologists to research Dwarf Minke Whales. During this exclusive expedition, you’ll venture to the far...

Innovation in Action: Cuba

Cuba : Havana, Trinidad

Turn your ideas into solutions! Sharpen your critical-thinking and design skills with this 2-week crash course on design-thinking where you’ll help solve real world problems....

Silk Road Service

China : Kunming, Shanghai

Step outside the big cities and into the lesser-known countryside of the Yunnan province where you'll interact with ethnic minority groups and volunteer with the Heart 2

The Ultimate African Adventure

Tanzania : Arusha

For our Rustic Alumni, this trip begins in South Africa and takes you through 4 African countries for the ultimate adventure! Safari through wildlife sanctuaries, scale Mt....

Beyond Capitol Hill: Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment

United States : Baltimore, Washington D.C.

Become a teacher and mentor to the refugee youth of Baltimore, Maryland and get a chance to explore our nation's capital and its gorgeous monuments. Learn about humanitarian...

California Dreaming

United States : San Francisco, Santa Cruz

Join us in our road trip through the gorgeous Golden State! From San Francisco to Monterey, we’ll hike and camp through the state’s best national parks and enjoy the

The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve Project (College Program)

Australia : Brisbane, Cairns and 1 other city , Great Barrier Reef Show less

Designed for our college students, this program partners Rustic Pathways with the Australia Zoo to give students a chance to explore the rare plants and animals in the wild...

Elephants and Amazing Thailand (College Program)

Thailand : Bangkok, Chiang Mai

Created specifically for college students, this program is the ultimate experience for animal lovers and those interested in conservation. Learn how to guide, communicate,...

Southeast Asian Adventurer

Thailand : Chiang Mai

Discover the lush landscape of Thailand and Laos by climbing the Wat Phou, hiking the Phousi Mountain, and exploring the untouched wonders of the Thailand's hidden beaches.

Life in the Bateyes (Spring Break)

Dominican Republic : Rural Areas, Santo Domingo

Make it a meaningful spring break by working on building and renovating homes in marginalized Haitian-Dominican communities called Bateyes.

Peru by Backpack

Peru : Cusco, Huancayo and 3 other cities , Lima, Machu Picchu, Pisco Show less

For our super adventurous students who want to sharpen their backpacking skills, get ready for one of our most independent student programs! Create, plan, and embark on your...

Elephant Training and the Hill Tribe Experience

Thailand : Chiang Mai, Rural Areas

Join us for a two-week program that begins with a week of educational service at the Rustic Pathways Children's Home on the Thai-Burma border, and then transitions into a...

Wilderness First Responder

Thailand : Rural Areas, Udon Thani

Join us for a two-week adventure service program at our Ricefields Service Base in Northern Thailand. Work with local Thai and Lao professionals as you work together to get...

The Rustic Pathways Children's Home

Thailand : Bangkok, Chiang Mai and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

Join us for a week-long stay at the serene Rustic Pathways Children's Home in Northern Thailand. Teach English local Karen schoolchildren from the nearby mountain villages...

Souqs and Service

Morocco : Casablanca, Marrakech and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

This is a two-week adventure service program in the villages of the Atlas Mountains. Provide any combination of educational, environmental, infrastructural, or economic service...

Indian Wildlife Conservation

India : Agra, New Delhi and 1 other city , Rajasthan Show less

This is a week-long adventure service program in Agra where you work with Wildlife SOS to learn about conservation, human-wildlife conflict, and the Indian environment while...

Highlands and Islands Service Immersion

Fiji : Rural Areas, Yasawa Islands

Come to know the real culture of the native Fijians who have inhabited these islands for thousands of years and whose cultural traditions and knowledge of the natural world...

Mountain Air and Village Service

Dominican Republic : Jarabacoa, Rural Areas and 2 other cities , Santo Domingo, Sosua Show less

This is a week-long adventure service trip based in the mountainous villages of the remote DR. Provide educational and infrastructural service while immersing yourself in...

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration

Dominican Republic : Rural Areas, Santo Domingo

This is a two-week adventure service program focused on enironmental conservation and research. Spend your free time relaxing on the beautiful sandy beaches of Bayahibe or...

Ramp Up Your Spanish

Costa Rica : San Jose, Turrialba

This program is a one-week homestay in the mountain town of Turrialba that features half-days of language classes with rainforest adventure activities in the afternoons.

Marvels of China

China : Beijing, Shanghai and 1 other city , Xi'an Show less

This is a week-long cross country adventure through ancient China. Walk the Great Wall, explore Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing, visit the Terracotta Army...

Snapshots of Southeast Asia

Cambodia : Phnom Penh, Rural Areas

Experience a homestay in a floating village while learning about Cambodian history and exploring the majestic Angkor Wat. Take one excursion into Laos and experience Luang...

Off the Map: Mongolia

Mongolia : Ulaanbaatar

This is a three-week adventure service program with extra emphasis on the adventure. When you're not providing valuable community health and educational service to local

Off the Map: Burma

Myanmar : Bagan, Mandalay and 2 other cities , Rural Areas, Yangon Show less

A two-week backroads tour of Burma's essential attractions from unseen vantage points with a perspective unavailable to normal tourists. Explore truly undiscovered areas

Sticky Rice Service Adventure

Laos : Luang Prabang, Rural Areas and 1 other city , Vientiane Show less

This experience is designed for those with an adventurous heart who want to have a variety of experiences in Laos. To be eligible for this trip, students must be between

Lao Elephant Retreat and Luang Prabang

Laos : Luang Prabang

This is a week-long adventure service program focusing on elephant care and conservation in the mountains on northern Laos. Ride and care for your elephant pals, explore

From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development

Cambodia : Phnom Penh, Rural Areas and 1 other city , Siem Reap Show less

For students interested in learning about international development and non-profit work, this program is an ideal, hands-on introduction. Meet with various NGOs in Phnom

Andes to Amazon

Peru : Huaraz, Lima and 2 other cities , Puerto Maldonado, Rural Areas Show less

Students looking to experience the Amazon Rainforest, but also wanting to work side-by-side with locals on community service projects are ideal for the Amazon and Lunahuana...

Sacred Valley Service

Peru : Cusco, Machu Picchu and 1 other city , Sacred Valley of the Incas Show less

Sacred Valley Service is great for students who want to visit Machu Picchu, participate in adventure activities, and work on construction based service projects. The accommodations...

Lake Titicaca Service Adventure

Peru : Arequipa, Machu Picchu and 2 other cities , Rural Areas, Sacred Valley of the Incas Show less

This is a two-week adventure service program through southern Peru and the areas surrounding beautiful Lake Titicaca. Trek through Colca Canyon to bubblingn hotsprings, visit...

Escape to the Fiji Islands

Fiji : Nadi, Suva and 1 other city , Yasawa Islands Show less

Have you ever dreamed of living on a beautiful remote island and experiencing the thrill of tropical adventures? Escape to The Fiji Islands is a brilliant combination of

Big Fiji Explorer

Fiji : Nadi, Suva and 1 other city , Yasawa Islands Show less

Big Fiji Explorer is one of our most popular adventures. It has enough action to keep seasoned explorers' adrenaline flowing, and it is also a great introduction to travel...

Pacific Adrenaline

Fiji : Nadi, Suva and 1 other city , Yasawa Islands Show less

Pacific Adrenaline is an exciting three-week exploratory trip through Fiji and New Zealand, designed for seasoned student travelers and created with a small group of adventurers...

Intro to Community Service in Fiji

Fiji : Momi, Nadi and 2 other cities , Natandola Beach, Sigatoka Sand Dunes Show less

A Real Introduction to Community Service Wake up to the morning sun rising over the Pacific Ocean and get ready for an exciting day in a South Seas paradise. Introduction...

The Turtle Conservation Project

Costa Rica : Esterillos, Jaco and 2 other cities , Playa Hermosa, San Jose Show less

Live for a week in an actual park ranger station on a private, protected beach in a wildlife refuge as you work to save endangered sea turtles. Be sure to surf and zip line...

Young Explorers

Costa Rica : Arenal, Samara and 1 other city , San Jose Show less

This is a two-week adventure service program exclusively for middle schoolers across the entire country. This program combines educational and infrastructural service with...

Nicoya Turtle Expedition

Costa Rica : Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Carrillo and 2 other cities , Samara, San Jose Show less

Join an expedition to help save the endangered sea turtle! Spend one week working in a stunning landscape, living amidst exotic wildlife, enjoying beautiful sunsets, and

Summer Camp Leadership in Costa Rica

Costa Rica : Arenal, La Fortuna and 3 other cities , Puntarenas, San Jose, Turrialba Show less

This is the only exclusively children-based community service program in CR. Earn 70 community service hours over the course of two weeks working as a summer camp counselor...

Heart of the Jungle

Costa Rica : Dominical, Osa Peninsula and 1 other city , San Jose Show less

This is a two-week backroads adventure service program that ventures into the incredible biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula. Combine camping, adrenaline pumping activities,...

Caribbean Adrenaline

Costa Rica : Limon, Puerto Viejo and 3 other cities , San Jose, Tortuguero, Turrialba Show less

This is a week-long program jam-packed full of pure adventure and adrenaline along the Carribean coast. Thrill inducing activities include: whitewater rafting, kayacking,...

Costa Rican Adventurer

Costa Rica : Arenal, Dominical and 6 other cities , La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Nicoya Peninsula, San Jose, Tamarindo, Turrialba Show less

This is a two-week version of our Carribean Adrenaline program that covers the entirety of this breathtaking country. Covers all the Carribean Adrenaline activities and adds...

Surf and Service

Costa Rica : San Jose, Uvita

Relax and immerse yourself in the tranquil flow of life in the friendly Tico beach town of Bahia Ballena. Stunning sunsets, palm-fringed beaches, and clear blue water will...

Spanish Language Immersion

Costa Rica : San Jose, Turrialba

This program is perfect for students of every level, from those who have never studied the language to those who have finished four years of high school Spanish. After a

Volta Village Life and Service

Ghana : Accra, Elmina and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

Picture yourself walking along a dirt path lined with flowers under a canopy of banana trees to a small village preschool where smiling children await you each morning. Now,...

Off the Map: Ghana

Ghana : Accra, Cape Coast and 3 other cities , Kumasi, Rural Areas, Tamale Show less

Akwabaa and welcome to a grand adventure across West Africa's most welcoming country. You will travel by tro-tro from the remote villages in Ghana's north to the castle-studded...

Faces of East Africa

Tanzania : Arusha

Join us for a comfortable one-week stay in a rural Tanzanian village with a service emphasis on educational and infrastrucural projects. Visit a coffee plantation and local...

Service in the Clouds

India : Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh and 2 other cities , McLeod Ganj, Rural Areas Show less

This is a two-week adventure service program that includes homestay with local Indian and Tibetan families in the shadow of the Himalayan Mountains. Complete educational

Himalayan Photo Expedition

India : Ladakh, Leh and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

Join us on a two-week journey through the incredible world of India! Women in vibrant saris fill your camera frames, vendors bargain in the city marketplaces, and a colorful...

Children of India

India : Jaipur, Rajasthan

Known for its brilliant colors, friendly people, and delicious cuisine, Rajasthan is considered the heart of India and will offer the perfect glimpse into traditional culture....

Rebuilding New Orleans

United States : New Orleans

Join us to help rebuild homes and community gardens damaged by Hurricane Katrina for two weeks while exploring eccentric New Orleans on the side. Explorations include an

Rebuilding New Orleans: Spring Break

United States : New Orleans

Join us to help rebuild homes and community gardens damaged by Hurricane Katrina for two weeks while exploring eccentric New Orleans on the side. Explorations include an

The Wonders and Riches of Southeast Asia

-Multi-Country Locations : Cambodia, Laos and 2 other locations , Thailand, Vietnam Show less

Join us for a two-week luxury adventure program through Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Stay in the region's best hotels, dine in celebrated restaurants,...

Community Health and Wilderness First Aid

Thailand : Rural Areas, Udon Thani

Join us to spend one week living at our Ricefields Service Base while you obtain WFA (Wilderness First Aid) and CPR certifications, and then put those skills to use by providing...

Tribal Issues: Youth in Remote Areas of Southeast Asia

Thailand : Rural Areas

Join us for a two-week adventure service program in tribal areas along the Thai-Burma border. Travel from village to village as you learn about the challenges faced by villagers,...

Come with Nothing, Go Home Rich

Thailand : Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

Join us for a challenging three-week service program in three rural villages along Western Thailand. Arrive with just one pair of clothes as you bargain for the rest of your...

The Thai Elephant Conservation Project

Thailand : Chiang Mai, Lampang

Join us for a one-week service experience at the Royal Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Northern Thailand. Work daily with your elephant friends under the supervision...

The Amazing Thailand Adventure

Thailand : Bangkok, Chiang Mai and 1 other city , Mae Hong Son Show less

Join us for a week-long, action-packed adventure across Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Trek through remote hill tribe villages in the northern mountains, relax on sandy...

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children

Thailand : Udon Thani

Join us for a two-week service-heavy adventure trip at our Ricefields Service Base in Northeastern Thailand. Choose between nine week-long service projects for each week

Intro to Community Service in Thailand

Thailand : Udon Thani

Join us for a week-long version of our Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children community service program at our Ricefields Service Base. Choose between nine valuable community...

You, A 'Roo, and Australia Zoo

Australia : Cairns, Great Barrier Reef and 1 other city , Port Douglas Show less

A week-long, service-heavy program that emphasizes environmental and wildlife conservation and places students as volunteers alongside rare, exotic animals at Steve Irwin's...

Epic Outback

Australia : Brisbane, Darwin

A two-week long, authentic backroads service expedition through the remote regions of Northern Australia, this trip from Rustic Pathways heavily emphasizes community service...

Chinese Language Immersion

China : Dali, Hangzhou and 2 other cities , Shanghai, Suzhou Show less

This is a two-week comprehensive private, or group-based language immersion experience in Shanghai. Stay on campus for the feeling of a real university-like experience and...

Panda Conservation and Wild China

China : Ya'an

This is a two-week adventure service trip through wild China. Care for Giant Panda friends at the Panda Conservation Center in Ya'an and interact with other exotic animals...

Seven Wonders of Australia

Australia : Alice Springs, Ayers Rock and 7 other cities , Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton, Port Douglas, Sydney Show less

A two-week journey through the heart of the Land Down Under to witness the absolute best that Australia has to offer. This program combines adventure in the Outback, Glasshouse...

Awesome Aussie Service Adventure

Australia : Brisbane, Cairns and 3 other cities , Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Sunshine Coast Show less

A two-week service exploration into the Outback and along the Sunshine Coast. Make a difference with local schoolchildren while also surfing, hiking, ogling at wildlife and...

Elephants and the Amazing Thailand Adventure

Thailand : Bangkok, Chiang Mai and 2 other cities , Lampang, Mae Hong Son Show less

Join us for a two-week long combination of our Thai Elephant Conservation Project and Amazing Thailand Adventure programs! Work daily with your elephant friends under the...

The Hill Tribe Support and Refugee Camp Experience

Thailand : Chiang Mai, Rural Areas

Join us for a two-week stay at our beautiful base in Mae Sariang while working at the Rustic Pathways Children's Home. Help educate 25 local hill tribe students and visit...

Island Hopping and Diving

Thailand : Koh Samui, Phuket and 2 other cities , Rural Areas, Surat Thani Show less

Join us for a two-week adventure program in Southern Thailand. Snorkel and scuba dive while you observe stunning marine life in these tropical waters, explore lush island...

Culture in the Crater

Tanzania : Arusha, Karatu

Join us for a two-week, service-heavy adventure program in rural villages along the edge of the immense Ngorongoro Crater. Provide valuable educational service with local...

Safari and a Splash of Paradise

Tanzania : Arusha, Serengeti and 1 other city , Zanzibar Show less

Join us for one week of pure adventure that begins with safaris through two incredible national parks and ends with relaxation, sailing, and snorkeling off the white-sand...

Moroccan Wanderer

Morocco : Casablanca, Marrakech and 1 other city , Rural Areas Show less

Spend two-weeks of adventuring across Morocco while providing valuable service on the side. Ride camels in the Sahara, homestay in a local village, visit the Todra Gorge,...

Advanced Photography Workshop

Morocco : Casablanca, Marrakech

Known for its golden sand dunes, desolate mountains, and colorful spice markets, Morocco is home to stunning landscapes and striking imagery - offering limitless opportunities...

Bribri Villages Service Experience

Costa Rica : Bribri, Puerto Viejo and 1 other city , San Jose Show less

Live and provide valuable service for one week to local villages in the Talamanca Mountain Range while immersing yourself in Bri Bri culture. Includes an overnight river

Sarapiqui: A Tropical Service Adventure

Costa Rica : San Jose, Sarapiqui

This a week-long adventure service program in the remote Sarapiqui region. Live in luxurious tent suites in the rainforest while providing valuable educational and infrastructural...

Introduction to Community Service in Costa Rica

Costa Rica : Arenal, La Fortuna and 1 other city , San Jose Show less

This is one week of service and adventure at our Volcano & Rainforest base. Complete various educational and infrastructural service projects in the surrounding communities...

Sun, Sand, and International Service

Fiji : , Nadi

Join us for two weeks, four weeks or the entire summer on Sun, Sand and Service at the Rustic Pathways Eco-Lodge. Spend your days contributing to a variety of meaningful

Fiji Diver's Dream

Fiji : Momi Bay, Nadi

Grab Your Gear! Fiji is comprised of 330 islands that are spread across the glistening waters of the South Pacific. The nation is renowned for its crystal-clear water,

Marine Service and Adventure

Fiji : Nadi, Rural Areas and 1 other city , Yasawa Islands Show less

Fiji is home to the third-largest reef system in the world and thousands of exotic marine species. Most tourists who come to this island nation dive in its warm waters and...

Life in the Bateyes

Dominican Republic : Punta Cana, Santiago and 1 other city , Santo Domingo Show less

This is a two-week service-heavy adventure trip through the Dominican Republic that combines educational and infrastructural service in the Batey communities with both rural...

Island Living and Eco Service

Dominican Republic : Jarabacoa, Santo Domingo

This is a week-long adventure service trip in the tropical Samana Peninsula. Community service focuses on environmental conservation and improvement of local infrastructure.

Summer Camp Leadership in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic : Dajabon, Jarabacoa and 1 other city , Santiago Show less

Develop leadership skills on this program over the course of two weeks and 70 community service hours in the Dominican Republic. Camping, rafting, hiking the Dominican Alps,...

Off the Map: Peru

Peru : Cusco, Lima and 3 other cities , Machu Picchu, Puno, Rural Areas Show less

This is a two-week long backroads adventure through rural Peru. Travel the Amazon, hike through the Andes, visit Machu Picchu, and provide valuable infrastuctural service...

Floating Village Service Expedition

Cambodia : Battambang, Phnom Penh and 1 other city , Siem Reap Show less

Take a ride on our Rustic Pathways boat down Cambodia's Tonle Sap River as you stop into floating villages to meet locals, teach English, and learn about floating village...

Off the Map: Cambodia

Cambodia : Kep, Phnom Penh and 3 other cities , Rabbit Island, Rural Areas, Siem Reap Show less

Take an adventurous road trip across the country of Cambodia as our fun-loving local staff show you the best sights, hidden gems, and rural villages of their country. This...

Come With Nothing: The Mekong Expedition

Laos : Luang Prabang, Rural Areas and 1 other city , Vientiane Show less

This is a three-week adventure service expedition down the Mekong River through Laos and Thailand. Immerse yourself in local village life and culture during homestay experiences...

Golden Sands and Helping Hands

Australia : Brisbane, Noosa

This program is a great combination of adventure across the Outback coupled with environmental and educational service in local communities along the Sunshine Coast.

Introduction to Public Health in the Caribbean

Dominican Republic : Rural Areas, Santo Domingo

This is a two-week adventure service program on the eastern coast of the DR. Spend time learning about local public health issues while practicing your Spanish in a medical...

Namaste India

India : Agra, Cochin and 3 other cities , Delhi, Jaipur, Kerala Show less

This is a two-week adventure program that covers breathtaking monuments and cultural sites throughout Northern and Southern India, including the Taj Mahal.

The Cambodia Children's Project

Cambodia : Rural Areas, Siem Reap

Spend the week enriching the lives of Cambodian children by teaching English and work on other community improvement projects with a local organization, the BSDA (Buddhism...

Off the Map: Alaska

United States : Anchorage

Venture into America'’s last frontier to explore the gorgeous glacier view that Denali National Park has to offer while sharpening your camping and survival skills!

African Wildlife Conservation

Tanzania : Arusha, Dar Es Salaam and 1 other city , Kilimanjaro Show less

Work with the famous Jane Goodall Institute and gain hands-on experience in wildlife research. You'’ll become the ultimate safari biologist when spotting chimpanzees in...

Save the Rain: Water Conservation Project

Tanzania : Arusha

Come join Save the Rain, a nonprofit devoted to alleviating the global water crisis, in their conservation tactics and learn about sustainable water practices.

Viva Cuba! Culture and Conservation

Cuba : Havana, Trinidad

Experience Cuba from a local perspective. Work alongside conservationists and farmers, hike through beautiful waterfalls, and, of course, explore historic Havana.


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Alumni Interviews

Staff Interviews

  • Brent Watkins - Vice President of Program Operations

    Brent Watkins - Vice President of Program Operations

    Brent holds a Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins University, where he is also an adjunct faculty member. Prior to joining Rustic Pathways, Brent worked for Teach For America where he managed a team that trained and prepared new classroom teachers. Brent brings his experience in learning development and teacher training to Rustic Pathways where he is in charge of program operations and new program design around the world.

    You have been with Rustic Pathways for several years and worked in different roles and locations. How did you first become involved with the organization?

    Prior to joining Rustic Pathways, I spent time as a classroom teacher in a struggling school in east Baltimore and later went on to manage a team of people who trained new teachers at Teach For America, a national education reform non-profit. In this work, I saw how powerful learning that happened outside of the classroom could be. I spent several summers leading programs for Rustic Pathways  and was sold on how these experiences could change students’ enduring mindsets -- I was hooked!


Study abroad students at the airport in Bagan, Myanmar

    Traveling with a group of students in Myanmar. Bagan, Myanmar.

    You’re an avid traveler, but much of your professional experience seems based in Southeast Asia. What is it about the region that appeals to you most?

    People around the world are basically the same, they want the best for their communities and families, they want to have meaningful relationships with others, and they strive to leave a mark on the world. The differences that set us apart are subtle, things like the food we eat, religion, or cultural practices. I love meeting new people and building relationships across these subtle differences. Southeast Asia is one of the warmest and most welcoming regions  I’ve traveled in; it instantly feels like a second home.

    Part of of the “ethos” of Rustic Pathways is to start meaningful dialogues and create real interactions with the local communities. As Vice President of Program Operations, how do you ensure your programs abroad include these immersive aspects?

    This is actually the magic of what we do. Better than any other organization, we ensure that our team on programs is comprised of a dynamic group of staff who live and work in the communities in which we operate. This ends up creating the most enduring part of our experience, great connections with interesting and exciting people from around the world.

    You were the Country Director of Myanmar for a few years and still work closely with projects there. As a country that has only recently opened to much of the world, how does your Off the Map: Burma program standout from other programs you offer?

    As I mentioned earlier, part of our ethos is ensuring students have a genuinely local experience in places with an interesting or meaningful story. Our programs in Myanmar are unique because we take students to places that have only recently opened to the outside world, and particularly to places where many tourists still don’t have the knowledge or connections to access. Our local team in Myanmar is comprised of staff that represent the country’s many ethnic minorities and these staff provide us with unprecedented access to unseen corners of this beautiful country. I’ve spent years traveling in Southeast Asia and Myanmar still takes my breath away.


At Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

    At the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda with our incredible local staff. Check out the traditional Burmese longyi. Yangon, Myanmar.

    What makes you think you would like to develop a program in a new area or country? What attracts you to the new site or community?

    When we approach new program design, we spend a lot of time thinking about two areas of impact: our students and the communities we’re operating in. To create a powerful experience for students, we think a lot about the narrative a location tells and how our students will connect with this story while they’re traveling. As we think through the possible community impact, we look for opportunities to design programs around existing community initiatives so that we’re supporting goals and priorities that matter to each community. The magic of our programs is in the uniqueness of the experience, and a great deal of thoughtfulness goes into creating these unique experiences.

    What is your favorite aspect of your job as Vice President of Program Operations for Rustic Pathways?

    Since my primary responsibilities are to design and manage our programs around the world, I get the privilege of meeting lots of people from the communities in which we operate. Spending time with these people is one of the greatest parts of my job. Introducing students to these incredible people and communities makes it even more amazing.

    Volunteer abroad experiences often change a participant’s view of the world. How do you make sure students who apply to Rustic Pathways are ready for these life-changing experiences?

    We believe that travel provides a unique environment for learning. To take advantage of this unique environment, we focus on three core learning values that we encourage all of our students to embrace during travel: Respect, Engage, and Grow. By adopting these values during travel, we believe that students learn meaningful lessons through their experience. Engaging in new experiences, paired with thoughtful reflection, leads to growth. Throughout our programs, our leaders facilitate reflections that help students understand and absorb their experiences.

    What is the best advice you can give a first time volunteer in Asia?

    I’d encourage students to approach their time in Asia with an open mind and a sense of wonderment.


Fishing on Inle Lake in Shan State, Myanmar

    Traditional fishing on Inle Lake. Shan State, Myanmar. 

    How does your background with Teach for America affect decisions you make for educational program development today? 

    During my time with Teach for America, I was both a teacher and a teacher trainer. I still stay very closely connected with teachers through my work on the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. This work has taught me that the most successful students frame their learning differently; rather than focusing on building knowledge, these students focus on applying knowledge. This principle forms the foundation of our programs -- leveraging the unique learning environment of travel to encourage students to apply knowledge.

    How do you ensure the security of your students?

    As a company, we understand that risk is an inherent part of our programs. We visit remote destinations, expose our groups to unfamiliar surroundings, and encourage personal growth and development through new experiences. We also understand that each traveler is an individual with his or her own distinctive perspective and limitations. Whether trying new foods, summiting a mountain peak, or exploring undeveloped areas, we believe risk management is a fundamental component for positive transformations. Our passion and commitment to safeguarding our students and staff is driven by strong leadership, and is executed successfully throughout our ground teams and partners.

    Risk management is a process that involves an ongoing commitment to identifying and assessing risks, developing actions to reduce their occurrence or severity, and implementing adjustments as situations change. Rustic Pathways adheres to this life cycle throughout all aspects of our business and formulates management plans to mitigate risk through prevention and to guide our critical response team when needed.

    Where will your next trip abroad be and what do you hope to do there?

    I’m leaving for Singapore and Myanmar to lead a program for a group of students from Singapore. The summer of 2015 I’m looking forward to spending some time in one of our most enduring and successful community partnerships in the Fijian village of Nasivikoso. Nasivikoso is tucked away in the remote highlands of Fiji and is home to Rustic Pathways’ Nasivikoso Village School project.