Taking Action at Home

Taking Action at Home

Nick Makris

You, a Roo’, and Australia Zoo, 2019 | Thailand Virtual Deep Dive 2020

Which Rustic Pathways programs have you participated in?

I participated in the “You, a Roo’, and Australia Zoo” and am participating in the Marine Conservation Global Issues Design Challenge project this December!

I also participated in a Thailand deep dive, which was great because I was able to have a ‘Rustic Pathways’ experience from home, due to it being online.

How has Rustic Pathways impacted your life?

Rustic Pathways helped me to step out of my comfort zone. Before I traveled to Australia, I was used to my routine at the zoo. I knew people, I knew what to do, and I knew what to expect. I did not have that same sense of security when I traveled to Australia, I did not know what to expect when I arrived.

While I was still nervous the first few days, I grew more used to being outside my comfort zone, and carried that with me when I arrived back in the states.

Furthermore, my trip inspired me to take action once I got home. I used what I learned in Australia, teaching other people about Australian wildlife and conservation, I began fundraising for Australian Wildlife rehabilitation centers and I decided to create a joey pouch project.

What are you doing in your local community to make a positive impact?

Currently, I am continuing to volunteer at my local zoo (the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois). I have been a volunteer there since 2017, and love being able to talk to guests about wildlife and nature.

Furthermore, I am working with the Teen Advisory Council (TAC) at the Brookfield Zoo to plan a digital biannual Teen Conservation Leadership Conference, with the goal of introducing teenagers to STEM careers, and inspiring them to take conservational action in their own community.

Additionally, I am also working with TAC to create a joey pouch project, with the hopes of being able to donate them to Australian wildlife rehabilitation centers.

What advice do you have for other travelers?

Your trip is what you make of it. Take every opportunity to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. This can be by trying a new dish, or going surfing for the first time.

For me, Australia was a dream come true, and I had no idea when I would be able to go back, so I made sure to ask questions about the culture, try new foods, and participate in as many activities as I could, even if I was nervous. In the end, the times I stepped out of my comfort zone were some of my best memories I created.

I also want to encourage travelers to ask questions. For many Alumni, where we choose to travel is someplace that sparks passion. For me, it was Australia because of the unique wildlife, but I did not know anything about Australian culture. By asking questions it allows us to learn about and appreciate the world and cultures around us.

Finally, I want to say that you should just try to have fun; for some of you, this might be the first time you are traveling without your parents, or traveling abroad, so just have fun with it. Make friends, make memories, and make a difference with your community service.