Traveling Back in Time

Traveling Back in Time

Tal Nagar

Island Living and Eco-Service, Dominican Republic 2017 | Sun, Sand, and International Service, Fiji 2018

Hi everyone! My name is Tal Nagar and I am a first year student at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. I am currently pursuing a degree in kinesiology and hope to one day become a pediatric physical or occupational therapist.

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

I wish I could go back in time to the summer of 2017, when I decided to embark on my first ever Rustic Pathways trip. With slight hesitation of leaving my family and traveling to a new place with unfamiliar faces, I played it safe and chose a one week program in the Dominican Republic.

But it wasn’t long after I started my journey that I realized leaving this beautiful country filled with incredible people, my new friends, and my Rustic leaders would be a lot harder than I had anticipated. I could have never imagined the types of experiences, friendships, and memories that could be formed in such a short amount of time—and trust me, time on a Rustic trip flies way too fast.

Throughout my life, I attended very small schools that lacked the diversity I was craving. When I started high school, I decided it was time to expand my horizons which meant forcing myself out of my comfort zone, in order to learn about others outside of my own community. I knew a couple people who traveled with Rustic previously, and after hearing just some of the stories they shared, I knew I had to sign up.

Growing up, my parents constantly encouraged me to step out of my bubble and try new things in order to expose myself to new experiences. With this, traveling and seeing new places, cultures, religions, and ways of life was always important to them, and later became very important to me as well.

But it wasn’t until my trips with Rustic, that truly immersed me into new cultures and ways of life, that I understood the power of travel. Here my passion for seeing new places and seeking adventure began, but it was nowhere near its end.

After my first summer with Rustic, I immediately knew I had to do it all again. But this time, I decided to go somewhere a little farther away from home for a little bit longer.

I chose the Sun, Sand, and International Service trip in Fiji. And as cheesy as it sounds, there are truly no words to describe how this trip shaped my view on not only travel, but life itself.

During my time there, we had the opportunity to pick a weekend trip of our choice, one of which included going to the highlands of Fiji and living with a host family.

Here I found myself paired with a Fijian family who welcomed me with open arms into their home for the next few days. Until this weekend, I underestimated the potential of human connection even when presented with a major language barrier.

We sat on the floor of their living room and got to know each other better through our own form of language. My host mom also taught me how she makes her own tea and showed me how she prepares some of her special dishes.

While making our way back to our base house, which felt more like home after just a few days, my friends and I were filled with gratitude and appreciation for what we had just experienced. There is something so special about disconnecting from your own life and fully immersing yourself into someone else’s.

Rustic forever inspired me to do what I can in order to make an impact on communities, both near and far. After my first summer with Rustic, I joined the youth board of the MONA Foundation, which supports grassroots initiatives around the world in order to provide stable and quality education for children, as well as empower women and girls to make a difference within their own communities.

That summer, after returning home, I had never felt so inspired to help make a change, and although I couldn’t stay in the Dominican Republic or Fiji forever, I was able to find another way to fulfill my passion of making a difference.

Rustic Pathways taught me to appreciate the small things and gave me a better understanding of the pureness of the simplicity of life, all while creating long lasting memories and forever friends. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have traded my experiences for anything and would do whatever possible to go back in time and do it all over again.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in the Dominican Republic and Fiji, or view more Alumni Stories here