How did you first go about getting a global perspective?
In my junior year of high school, I participated in a study abroad program in Beijing, China. For a year, I lived with a host family, attending both Chinese and core curriculum classes at a local high school. This was long before the Beijing Olympics, before international groceries stores had opened in the city, before schools in the United States added Mandarin to language offerings.
I left my rural New England town for a city full of people, a thriving culture, that was utterly “other.” What I found waiting for me on the other side of the world was the same welcome and nurturing and care I knew from home. People on the streets from all walks of life. Illegal migrant workers, government officials, small business owners, professors, international manufacturing tycoons, and everything in between. All who shared my same inquisitiveness. My same interest in understanding, in defining a common language, common values. In finding similarities in our differences. It was intoxicating – this was the definitive end of my small town upbringing, and the launch of my dedication to our global village.
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
So many people travel to see the world. To “see.” But when you think of travel as education, be that on your own, with friends, with your family, or on a school sponsored trip, you are traveling for experience. For engagement. For growth. To ask questions of the world around you, to understand a different reality. To touch and feel and smell and taste all the things that make a place, a community, a people, a culture, unique. All the things that connect places, communities, people, and cultures. It creates a space of introspection, of understanding yourself, your role in the world, what your role could become. It changes you in the moment. With recognition, with intention, it can change you for a lifetime. Every student should be a student of the world. Every class should spend some time outside of four walls. The world will be a better place for it, you will be a better version of yourself for it.
What have your own international travels entailed?
I’ve traveled with my family from a young age. This includes camping journeys as close as our back yard, and far as an island in the Caribbean. We drove from Norway to Italy one summer on an academic pursuit (the perks of educator parents!), staying in small towns and village. We visited family in England and in Israel.
As a teenager and young adult, I continued to take advantage of independent and educational travel experiences. I lived in China for a year in high school, returning multiple times in my college years before once again moving there as a country director for Rustic Pathways. I drove the spine of the Rockies in a college field study course, from Banff to Las Vegas. I visited Mexico over spring break, where my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I tried ceviche for the first time, bought tacos from the guy on the street corner, and shopped at open air markets, and in our delight at learning this new culture, completely missed the “college club” scene.
Working at Rustic Pathways has fully solidified my commitment to travel, and significantly broadened my travel opportunities. As a program leader, retreat facilitator, observer, or personal traveler, in the 10 years I’ve worked at Rustic, I’ve traveled to China, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Fiji, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and our programs across the states.
Taking advantage of a unique moment in which my husband and I both worked remotely, we also spent the 2018/2019 academic year traveling and living abroad, in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Israel, the Czech Republic, Austria, England, and Iceland.
How did you get involved with Rustic Pathways?
In many ways, Rustic Pathways found me. Graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in earth science, I was working in a paleoclimatology lab and trying to figure out how to take an academic pursuit sparked by the joy of engaging in physical surroundings and a passion for improving the world with data-based answers into a career that did not glue me to a lab bench. While perusing classic “liberal arts education, career pivot” jobs (law office, consulting, marketing, etc.), I came across a posting for a management training rotational program at Rustic Pathways. I started two months later, and never looked back.