How Rustic Pathways Has Changed My Life

How Rustic Pathways Has Changed My Life

Annabelle Bragalone

Fiji | Escape to Fiji 2014

Thailand | Elephant Training and the Hill Tribe Experience 2015

Australia | Awesome Aussie Service Adventure 2016

Cuba, Peru, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica | Ultimate Latin America 2017

Annabelle is a junior at University of Kansas, majoring in Strategic Communications with a minor in Business and Theater. She hopes to pursue her passion as a traveler post graduation and turn it into a career!

All photos have been provided by Annabelle. Read her story below!

Hi!  My name is Annabelle. Throughout my entire life I have loved to travel, and Rustic Pathways gave me incredible opportunities that allowed me to grow as a person and a traveler. I stepped way outside my comfort zone and tried things that I never thought would be possible.

I went on four different Rustic Pathways trips and I can truly say each and every one of them was life changing. I could talk for days and days about how beneficial travel is to everyone. Traveling makes you more open, more humble, more appreciative, more genuine, a better listener, and overall a better human.

So many people are stuck in their ways and never think twice about changing it up a little but traveling allows you to see a whole other life you didn’t even know existed and that is absolutely magical.

Rustic Pathways gave me opportunities, experiences, and incredible friends that I will never forget. The first trip I went on was to Fiji when I was only 14 years old. This trip ignited my passion for adventure, service, and culture.

Before Rustic, I was already pretty involved in community service, but these trips made me realize I have this incredible passion for not just helping others but having fun with them and seeing a smile on their face. Doing service with Rustic showed me that yes, I am “helping others”, but in reality, they are the ones helping me by showing me how happy they are with little to nothing. For example, playing with kids at a school in Fiji. I have never seen kids so genuinely happy and excited. They don’t even think about all of the unnecessary things that we take for granted that they don’t have access to.

The following trips only got better and better as my mind started to open to all the possibilities Rustic has to offer. Every single trip has been so incredible and I have gotten to experience insane things that I would have never had the chance to if it weren’t for Rustic Pathways.

There are WAY too many amazing stories from these trips I can’t pick a favorite. But here are just a few of the unreal things I got to do all thanks to Rustic Pathways…

We went snorkeling with manta rays in Fiji, taught English in schools and spent a week learning how to train elephants in Thailand. We made cement (only with our hands and a shovel!) for a playground in Thailand.

I went skydiving in Australia, rappelled down 40 ft waterfalls in Costa Rica, played with kids in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand. In Costa Rica, we were sleeping in a cave, under a waterfall.

We learned how to make chocolate in Peru. We learned how Peruvians make dye for clothing. We hiked to Machu Picchu.  I met so many special and unforgettable people in every country.  I stayed with a homestay family in Peru, where they taught me Quechuan, one of the official languages of Peru.

I have eaten different and unique foods all across the world, like pig intestines and baby frogs in Thailand, and cow tongue (lengua) in Costa Rica.

The year before my senior year, I did the Ultimate Latin America Trip where we went to Cuba, Peru, The Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. I met one of the most amazing people on the program who I am still friends with to this day! She is from Puerto Rico, so I have gone to visit her, and she’s come to visit me in Texas!  We truly became like family on this trip being together for three weeks straight.  These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Rustic Pathways trips.

Before traveling with Rustic, I wouldn’t say I was shy, but I was definitely cautious. I was scared to even zipline, and then a couple years later I went skydiving!!! I started stepping out of my comfort zone, trying new experiences and things that I never thought I would ever try in my entire life—with the right company and the right support you feel like you’re on top of the world.

There’s a quote that says, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and I full heartedly stood by that on every trip I went on because these were once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I needed to take because if I didn’t, I would regret it.

I am still a huge traveler, traveling every minute that I can. But I constantly wish that I could go back and take another Rustic Pathways trip.

What I am trying to say is that Rustic Pathways opens so many doors that you didn’t even exist. This organization is so connected with the entire world, that I miss the days I was eligible to experience travel with them. None of my trips outside of Rustic are as adventurous, educational, service oriented, or as surreal.

I tell everyone I know this, but I highly encourage anyone thinking about taking a Rustic Pathways trip to DO IT!!  Your life will be forever changed.

You will do things you never thought you would do, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, learning a ton of different languages, meeting new people from all over the world who will be your friends forever, making connections that will last a lifetime, learning about different cultures and lifestyles, which will make you realize how amazing, different, and unique other cultures are.

You will step out of your comfort zone so many times you lose count.  You will never forget the memories that you make on these trips.  I know I definitely haven’t and never will! 🙂

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs, or view more Alumni Stories here