Taking Rustic Home

Taking Rustic Home

Abigail Golden

Thailand |The Rustic Pathways Children’s Home 2016

Cuba | Innovation in Action 2017

Abby is a sophomore majoring in Studio Art with a Concentration in Community Engagement and Social Change at Smith College.

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


My freshman year of high school, I typically kept to myself and seldom raised my hand. Fear of not being liked or not saying the “correct” thing overwhelmed me. I wanted so desperately to break out of my shell, aching to dive into every National Geographic magazine. So I decided to test my emotional limits and sign up for the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home trip in Thailand– the farthest place away from home. I eagerly awaited the day, had a brief moment of panic before the flight, and after forty-eight (very) long hours of travel, I was in a rural part of Thailand.

We were partnered with kids who lived in the Rustic Pathways’ children’s home. In front of me, was a translation paper. As quickly as I was learning the new language, I had to speak it and talk to my new acquaintance. Needless to say I was freaked out but I loved it. I was laughing and stumbling over words, but I was still able to talk with her although having learned basic conversation seconds before. Saying the wrong thing didn’t mean I’d be exiled, (shocking, I know) it meant I was learning something.

The more I tried things that scared me, I got a little rush of excitement. Suddenly, I found myself living the cliche “comfort in the discomfort.” The trip leaders fostered a light heartedness that making mistakes was not a big deal- it wasn’t even a mistake. While traveling if I had questions, I felt comfortable asking the leaders. In high school there is a pressure to know the answers to questions rather than be the one asking questions. Rustic Pathways helped me undo that mentality and let me open up to asking and digging deeper.

When I came home from Thailand, I found myself having greater confidence about all the things I was interested in my sophomore year. I decided to join the swim team and volunteer as much as possible through my school. I became the leader of a school club, and throughout high school took on more leadership roles. I signed up for another trip with Rustic Pathways to go to Cuba. After teaching in front of classrooms full of kids who spoke a different language than myself a few times; raising my hand in class was not as terrifying as before.

It was not so much that my self confidence increased, but I let my curiosity speak rather than my fear of failure. I was curious when I tried speaking in Thai for the first time, both to simply say the beautiful language and connect with someone new. I was curious to see if I could get on a plane and fly around the world for a week. While I carry this curiosity with most things I do, it is most activated in my interest to learn about communities and people’s experiences. It has influenced my college studies as I now pursue community engagement and social change. Traveling with Rustic inspired and gave me the courage to live the life I do today.

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