Taking A Leap of Faith 

Taking A Leap of Faith 

By Rachel Rowland

Intro to Community Service: Fiji 2017 | Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children: Thailand 2018 | Off the Map: Mongolia 2019  

  • Rachel is 19 years old and lives in Evergreen, Colorado
  • She took a gap year during the 2020-2021 school year and will be attending Texas Christian University in Fall 2021
  • Rachel will be in the nursing program at TCU

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

Throughout three summers, I traveled with Rustic Pathways to Fiji, Thailand, and Mongolia. All three of my trips were once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

In all three countries, I did a variety of different service projects. I helped build a walkway in Fiji, taught children how to swim in Thailand, helped build a house in Mongolia, and many more amazing projects. I felt honored to help with these projects and leave my mark in those countries.

Through my travels, I learned a lot of things about myself. I learned how much I enjoyed doing service projects, interacting with the local people, and learning about new cultures. I discovered how passionate I am about helping others.

Out of all the projects I did in each country, the people were the ones who taught me the most. I learned from the local people as well as from my peers on the trip.

I was shown how a random group of strangers I met in the LAX airport turned out to be relationships I would have for a lifetime. I was able to overcome my fear and sign up for a trip where everyone was a stranger. By overcoming my fear and taking a leap of faith, I met amazing people who taught me a lot.

From the local people, I learned about their cultures and their way of life. They taught me how to take nothing for granted and be more conscious about food waste and running water.

We were embraced into each community we were in. We were invited into homes to share a meal, received prayer bracelets from Buddhist monks, and even witnessed and participated in muay Thai.

Along with learning about myself, I also developed a new skill.

During my travels, I was able to practice and nurture a new skill that would help me in the present as well as my future endeavors. I learned how to communicate with the local people not using language but motions. I was unable to understand them and they were not able to understand me but with sign language, we were able to connect and help each other.

This skill was very helpful when I worked alongside a woman when I was helping build a house in Mongolia. We were working together to hammer nails into the wall. Without sign language one of us would have gotten hurt.

Alongside the service projects, I was also able to see the unimaginable beauty of each country.

Each country had dazzling wonders that were unique in its ways. I will never forget camping under the stars in the Altai Tavan Bogd mountain range national park in Mongolia.

The sandy beaches of Phuket will never fade from my memory. The boat ride to Cloudbreak in Fiji will forever take my breath away.

I was also able to taste some of the most amazing dishes I have ever had. Mango sticky rice will always remain a favorite of mine.

I also tried food that was out of the ordinary for me. Dried horse meat and milk tea were different from my ordinary cuisine and I am glad I was able to have the opportunity to try them. Being open to new foods and new cultures helped me to change my way of thinking.

Without the trips, I would not have gained the new knowledge I have today. I believe in the power of culture and how it can transform a community.

My revelation of how I enjoy helping others has led me to nursing school which I am excited to learn how to help even more people. My newfound skill of using sign language and motions to communicate with others will help me in the nursing field as well as in other areas of life. The three summers I spent with Rustic Pathways were experiences that truly changed my life.

I will never forget my travels with Rustic Pathways. I am grateful for the work they do and I emphasize to anyone who is looking for a memorable program to take a leap of faith and sign up for a Rustic Pathways trip.

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