Tanzania 2015 | Dominican Republic 2017
World Traveler, Photographer, and Author | Secondary English Education major with a Global Studies Minor at Champlain College
All photos have been provided by Charlotte. Read her story below!
Growing up, my entire world was the small farm town I lived in, and places like Europe and Africa were talked about with the same reverence as fantasy lands. In 2016 though, a friend had invited me to join a service program run through our school that was heading to Tanzania.
I’m going to be honest, if you’d handed 15 year old me a map of Africa, it would have taken way too long to find this country on it. I knew so little about the world, but within months I was committed and jumping on a plane to head thousands of miles away.
In the 11 days I was there, we saw incredible animals, indescribably beautiful landscapes, and met people with the most wonderful stories to tell. The thing with travel stories is that most people only share the ‘social media worthy’ moments, and neglect to tell you how heartbreaking travel sometimes can be.
Across both of my trips with Rustic Pathways, we saw one of the last black rhinos in Ngorongoro, Tanzania, and dove in a destroyed coral reef in the Dominican Republic.
In the village of King’ori, we met a Tanzanian man whose wealthy life was shattered by a brain tumor, and was forced to send his children away while he lived in a handmade shack. My group all sobbed together a few months after our return to the United States when we heard about his death.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the most joyous times I have ever had were abroad, but the thing about visiting places is you always have to leave. The people I traveled with years ago are still some of my best friends. Travel has activated something vital in me: the unending empathy and desire to help everyone you can.
The inspiration didn’t leave as soon as our plane touched down in the States, we began to ask each other: what comes next? What do we do with everything we learned, both morbid and inspirational? We realized the answer was simple: we must teach others what we have learned.
An advisor of mine describes travel as having a ripple effect. When my friends and I traveled abroad, we were introduced to all sorts of new food, language, culture, biodiversity, and friendship. We were the stone being thrown in the pond, and our return telling stories about our adventure, and those people then tell their friends and so on.
This is more than just posting photos on our social media feeds, we are educating people about global issues and hopefully inspiring them to learn more, and perhaps even get on a plane and experience the world for themselves. The programming Rustic Pathways does on trips touches people who never travel with Rustic, because the students who do experience it will never forget.
The friends I traveled with in high school went on to study a whole variety of things, but the work I did with my global service club in high school lit a fire in me. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to teach, and use everything I have seen abroad to do so.
The modern school requires adapting learning to be able to go outside of the four walls of the classroom, and travel is the perfect way for students to learn about the world. But since I can’t travel with every group of students I have, I must learn to bring the world to them.
Rustic Pathways built my confidence, and prepared me for college. Without Rustic, I never would have signed up for a course on Islam that took me to the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. Their programming encouraged me when I was younger, allowing me to gain incredible leadership ability.
I know that I will be able to encourage other young people, and giving them space to share their stories will help develop their voice to advocate for others. Rustic Pathways will continue to positively affect youths for generations, and the influence these programs had on me will have a ripple effect on my future students.