What have your own international travels entailed?
I grew up in Colombia and was very lucky to be raised in a family that saw traveling as an essential part of life, so much so that the first time I traveled overseas was when I was only one year old. As I grew older our family trips mostly consisted of visiting the U.S., which we did on multiple occasions, and some of our neighboring countries such as Ecuador and Argentina. My luck didn’t stop there. In 2005, I spent six months living in Germany since this was a requirement from my high school. That was the first time I was traveling on my own and I felt at the top of the world! I got to travel extensively through the south of Germany and visited other countries such as France, Spain and Switzerland. I was hooked. After coming back home from that experience, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to continue traveling.
Fast forward six years to 2011 when I finished my degree in tourism and found the dream job that changed my life forever. That’s right, I was offered a position as a Rustic Pathways Program Leader in Costa Rica. I couldn’t believe it! Not only was I going to be able to travel, I was going to get paid for it! Now, after my first summer with Rustic, I realized that what made this experience so powerful and life changing, wasn’t necessarily the places we visited, but the people who I got to share them with and how much we all learned from each other. It was a huge revelation and changed the way I viewed traveling from that moment onwards. All the sudden traveling wasn’t about “collecting places” – which I have to admit was kind of how I felt pre-Rustic Pathways – but it was about sharing experiences, challenging your views and therefore expanding your understanding and tolerance.
I continued working with Rustic, which in 2012 landed me in Australia and opened opportunities to experience places I never thought I would see in my life. For the next three years, my life could be summed up as follows:
Feb to April: leading the South Pacific Gap
May: personal travels
June to August: leading student travel programs in Australia
September: personal travels
October to December: leading the South Pacific Gap
As you can see, I owe most of my international travels to Rustic, which apart from making me feel at home in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia also took me to Mongolia in 2017 and most recently to China. As for my personal travels, they took me through over twenty countries, mostly in South East Asia, Europe and North America. It was the best time of my life! I lived out of a 60Lt back pack and between Oct. 2013 and Jan. 2016, the longest time I spent in one location (slept in the same bed) was three weeks!
Words can’t describe the impact traveling has had in my life. The best way I could describe it is as my “University of Life”. It has taught me – and continues to do so – the most valuable lessons, connected me to the most incredible people – including my future wife – and most importantly it has taught me to be grateful, because it has shown me that I am no different than any other person out there, just luckier than most.
How has your international experience evolved to make you an even more valuable addition to the Rustic Pathways team?
I think the answer to the previous question sums it up well. If I had to add anything else, I would confidently say that I have experienced first-hand Rustic’s mission, vision and values, making me a true believer of what we stand for.
How did you get involved with Rustic Pathways?
A friend of mine knew Caroline Villamizar, who at that time worked with Rustic in Costa Rica. After hearing from Carolina about her role and the company, my friend thought it could be a good job for me and put me in contact with Carolina. This was in 2010 and by that time I was still in University which meant I had to wait for an extra year before I could apply. I still remember my interviews with Ricardo and Alex. I was so excited when I was told I had been selected for the job!
How long have you been working with Rustic Pathways?
I started as a program leader in 2011 and continued in that role until 2016, when I was offered a full-time position as the Australia Country Manager.
Have you traveled with other Rustic Pathways employees? What was your experience like?
From road trips in Asia and visiting fellow local program leaders at their homes in various countries, to hosting a breakfast for Chris Stakich at my place when he came to Australia, I’ve had the privilege to travel and share all kinds of experiences with multiple Rustic Pathways employees.
It’s hard to describe the relationships formed with your fellow colleagues at Rustic Pathways. It is a professional bond that ties us together, but you can’t help but feel like you are working with your family members. I consider some of them to be part of my closest friends and have become an essential part of my daily life.