Rustic Pathways

Rustic Pathways


Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways.

Choose from culturally-immersive adventure and volunteer programs in 17 countries. Make lifelong friends from around the world, work on sustainable community service projects, and discover new passions during a Rustic Pathways program.

Whether you're looking for summer volunteer programs or searching for the right gap year, Rustic Pathways has the right experience for you.


15345 Chardon-Windsor Rd
Chardon, OH 44046
United States

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Programs depart weekly through August 6th to destinations around the world. Find out which programs still have space for you to enroll today!


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Yes, I recommend this program

This was a very unique Rustic Pathways program because it truly taught you team building because we got to create the camp from scratch and then we got to run it independently so the group of students got super close from working together. It was amazing to learn about another culture in this way because the children would tell us about their lives and Costa Rican culture well we were telling them about life in the United States. In addition, the work was super rewarding because the kids were so happy when they were at the camp. It was an amazing two weeks from white water rafting the first few days and ending the trip with a relaxing beach day. This was an amazing two weeks that was the start of my love of these service trips and have inspired me to do more in the future.

What was your funniest moment?
Working with kids it's always a laugh a minute but something that always makes me laugh when I think about it is playing soccer with all the kids that attended the camp played a huge soccer match and I would go to kick the ball and the kids that whereon my team would push in front of me because they all wanted to kick the ball.
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Yes, I recommend this program

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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Yes, I recommend this program

I was really on the fence about doing this service trip because I would have to go alone, but it ended up being the best experience of my life. The Intro to Community Service program in Costa Rica was perfect for me because it enabled me to try a lot of new things. With this program, we had three days of community service, a bunch of fun activities (zip lining, white water rafting, swimming in hot springs, and more), and multiple close interactions with the community. Although I originally wanted to travel with a friend, I highly recommend traveling alone because you interact with people in a more meaningful way. The Rustic leaders in my group were amazing (shoutout to Alyssa, Raleigh, Katie, Lyndsay, and Oscar!) and opened up my eyes to a lot about the world. Also, the food served at our base house was always delicious, and our base house was very nice. If you're having doubts about going on a Rustic trip, DEFINITELY do it because it will change your life in so many amazing ways.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
100% do it!!! Also, be sure to bring plenty of bug spray:)
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Yes, I recommend this program

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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Yes, I recommend this program

I took part in this program a couple of years ago, and it still is one of the best memories I have of my time in high school.

The program lasted two weeks, being a perfect combination of travel and hard volunteering work. The traveling part was absolutely stunning: Peru is an amazing country, and its people are amongst the most welcoming people I have ever met, always smiling and trying to make you feel at home. We had the opportunity to visit the city of Cusco, Machu Picchu, the Lake Titicaca and the city of Arequipa.

Our volunteering part of the program took place in locals' houses on the sides of the amazing Lake Titicaca. We were split into small groups (2-3 people), and each of these stayed for a week in the locals' houses, helping the community with their everyday activities, assisting them with the construction of modern-style toilets in the mornings, and teaching them english in the afternoon.
The warmth with which I have been welcomed in these guest houses is something I will never forget. They treated us as if we were part of their families, and I left the community feeling I received a lot more from them than what I gave them with my work.

During this experience I also made incredible friends with whom I'm still in touch, even though we live in the opposite sides of the earth!


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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Lauren Goll

Lauren is a 16-year old who first discovered her love for traveling on family vacations. She loves seeing new places and learning about different cultures.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose The Maji Safi Project because the water crisis is a growing problem in the world today. I wanted to go to Tanzania to help and learn more about it. Also, it is a Critical Issues program so it is based around the service work and the water crisis. Also, I wanted a trip that was more focused on service.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Rustic Pathways assisted me with the packing list and flying to Tanzania. The packing list that they gave us was super helpful and had everything I needed for the trip. They had flight leaders that I met with in the airport, and they flew with us. I only had to organize a ride to the airport and apply for a visa, but if I needed any help with my visa, Rustic would always offer help.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Don't be nervous. I was really nervous going into this trip like I am with all my Rustic trips, but this one was totally different. The people who come on this trip are the most amazing people you will ever meet. The same goes for the leaders. The leaders will also help you if you’re having any trouble adjusting to being in a new country.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

A day when we were doing service would usually start with an 8 AM breakfast before being driven over to Maji Safi where we would check in to see what work we needed to do. Then we would drive over to the service area if needed. Then, we come back to Maji Safi for lunch. In the afternoon, we would play games with school children. After that, we would have dinner and then all hang out before bed.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was meeting new people. However, as soon as I started to meet my group, that fear went away immediately. My group was really genuine and down to earth. We became really close in the first few days of the trip, and I was able to get really comfortable around them. Also, we all got along really well together.

How do I know if this is the right program for me?

This program is for people who really love service and who really want to make a change in the world. It's also for people who love the environment and want to learn more about the water crisis. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to go on this trip. It will be so amazing!

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Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Connor Stowe

Job Title
Global Program Advisor
Connor has worked for Rustic Pathways over the past 8 years having run programs in 15 different countries for the organization. He now helps families find good program fits for students that align with their passions, interests, and desires to explore the world!
Volunteering with elephants

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I think one of the largest benefits of travel is simply just seeing and learning about cultures and backgrounds different from the one that you grew up with at home. It has allowed me to consider different points of view, put myself in other people's shoes, and overall has made me a more compassionate person.

It's really exciting to be a part of that opportunity for growth with other students because having knowledge and empathy for people in different communities other than your own ultimately leads to a stronger global community where we all want the best for one another.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

There was a girl who traveled with us in India and then later went on to win a design contest for Tom's shoes where students could create and submit an idea for the company.

Her inspiration came from the time that she spent on a Rustic Pathways program in Northern India and the colors and patterns she saw in the country. I love this story because there are some really easy ways to see how travel can shape students and expand their world-view, but it reminds me that travel opportunities can inspire and ignite our students in smaller, more subtle ways as well.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I have a personal affinity for our Panda Conservation project in China because I've spent so much time developing educational content for the program.

Students are just able to learn how researchers manage captive species as well as how much work goes into the field of conservation, and we work at a center that has 20% of all pandas in captivity in the world. It's just a very unique opportunity to work on a project that you wouldn't be able to do on your own in personal travels later in life.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think the thing that makes Rustic Pathways stand out is our long-term commitment to sustainable growth in the countries and communities that we work in.

We have full-time staff year-round in the countries where we operate that allow us to more easily control our safety policies as an organization, but also be a part of year-long planning with the communities where we work setting up volunteer projects and continuing to make sure that former projects keep their momentum after our students leave their program.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think one of the biggest factors to being in a successful organization is being able to adapt and make changes when necessary.

Being flexible also allows us to work with a wide variety of students from a wide variety of backgrounds so that our trips on the ground fulfill the goals of individuals that may have different passions. Adaptability also allows us to innovate and create new programs that fulfill program wishes for our future students with new and exciting content!

The world of international development is always changing and it allows us to be able to work with communities in an ever-changing environment of what is most beneficial to those communities.

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