Only Regret: Not Going Earlier

Only Regret: Not Going Earlier

Abigail Evangelista

Thailand | Amazing Thailand Adventure 2018

Fiji | Spring to Fiji 2019

Hi! My name is Abigail Evangelista and I am a student at Georgetown University graduating in 2023. I am studying Global Business with a minor in Chinese.

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

Having lived abroad a couple times in my life I thought I knew what it meant to travel. However, traveling as a tourist versus on a trip with Rustic Pathways are two very different experiences. I am still in awe of how much I grew as a person after my first trip to Thailand. I loved it so much and the person that I had become that immediately when I got home, I was already looking at future trips.

While I had an amazing time, my story does not start out that way. I remember being so afraid of the ‘Rustic’ component that it took me a few years to build up the courage and finally go on a trip. Two amazing trips later, I can now say that I wish I had started Rustic Pathways programs as soon as I possibly could have. While there were times I had to step out of my comfort zone, this allowed me to stretch myself and grow.

My first trip to Thailand taught me so many valuable lessons that I still cherish today. From hiking and swimming in waterfalls, to feeding elephants, visiting temples and even to sleeping in a real tree house, I will always cherish my time on my first Rustic trip.

With so many highlights it is hard to pick which ones to share. I think the experience that changed me the most was my time at Wat Tham Pha Plong, which is a mountain-top temple. We were about half-way through our trip when we traveled the Chang-Dao and hiked to Wat Tham Pha Plong. On our way up the 510 steps we were told it was a silent journey and that it was a path to reflect. Along the way up there were several Buddhist teachings (in Thai and English) which led to deeper reflection.

Once we reached the top and were inside the temple, our leader, P KoKo, led us in meditation. I remember I made self-confidence a focal point during my reflection, something I struggled with the year prior. After we finished, and I had time to deeply reflect, I gained greater clarity as to who I am and gained greater self-confidence. While it may sound cliché, my time meditating and being a part of the Thai, Buddhist culture led me to be more confident in who I am.

My trips also taught me to try new things and branch out. I tried new foods and drinks I would never had had the opportunity to try elsewhere. One of the nights we spent in the treehouse in Thailand, our group sat in a circle and passed around different foods that our leaders had bought from the local market.

To this day I still do not completely know what I ate. But I will never forget trying crickets and actually enjoying them! They almost tasted like salted chips. I will also never forget my first authentic Thai street food, roti. Every time my group and I went to a local market we would seek out a roti stand and devour the delicious snack. I have even tried finding local Thai restaurants in the US, but none of them can make roti as good as the ones in the markets of Thailand.

Additionally, on my trip to Fiji as part of the welcoming ceremony everyone gathers and drinks Kava. Which although I am still not used to the taste, it was nice to try something new and be a part of a new culture. Food is definitely one thing that brought me and my group together on both trips, during bus rides we would stop at local shops and gather foreign snacks and pass them around on our journey. By enjoying so many delicious local foods, I learned to try more new things.

In connection to trying more local delicacies, I learned more cultural appreciation. As I mentioned earlier on, I had lived abroad previously and traveled extensively, but I have never felt closer to a culture than on my Rustic trips. Living with locals in Fiji and having native guides allowed me a greater insight into their culture than I could have ever gain by being a tourist.

Finally, my trip to Fiji also taught me to appreciate the little things in life. There were mornings when a few of us would go watch the sunrise and/or the sunset and it would be a simple reminder to enjoy the little things. Additionally, during one of our service projects in Fiji, we were building a pathway from one’s home to their restroom. I took small things in life for granted such as having a bathroom in my home, but this trip served as a reminder for me to be thankful for the small things.

All in all, my Rustic Pathways trip changed who I am and my outlook in life, from being more confident, to having a more of a “why not” attitude. My time with Rustic was unforgettable and will always be close to my heart.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Fiji and Thailand, or view more Alumni Stories here