What do you like most about Rustic Pathways?
My favorite aspect of Rustic Pathways is the overall business model of the organization. We take students to remote villages in developing countries to work on community service projects. The core product/service that we offer creates life changing experiences for our students and positively impacts the communities. We go to great lengths to align with best practices in international development as it relates to the community service projects. Similarly, we’ve carefully curated every program to include intentional student learning outcomes. The #1 thing I hear from students and parents is “that program completely changed my life”.
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
Travel naturally challenges peoples’ assumptions on how the world works. It introduces people to new cultures, religions, music, food and ways of living. Traveling on a program with people you’ve never met gives you the chance to reinvent yourself, without the baggage of what your friends and family back home think of you. Travel prepares people to be successful in the world. Not only does it make people more resilient, durable and adaptable, but it provides them with the skillsets to perform at a global level. I believe that the next generation of leaders will all have the skills to operate across language barriers, religious differences, sexual orientation, and ways of being.
What makes Rustic Pathways different from other international program providers?
Rustic Pathways has local staff from all of the communities and countries where we operate. We invest long term in those communities and people to create lasting relationships that grow stronger each year. Additionally, running programs with community service projects is hard. There are a lot of unintended consequences of this type of program model. It’s extremely important to develop relationships from the inside out, build multi-year project plans, have a year-round projects, and always rely on the local perspective to drive decisions. It’s taken a long time to thread this needle correctly.
What have your own international travels entailed?
I’ve traveled to 56 countries across the world. More importantly than the countries I’ve traveled to, it’s the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned. There is a whole world of wisdom out there that is available for free. All it takes is a plane ticket, a willingness to ask questions, an open mind, and a giant serving of humility. One of my favorite quotes is “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” THAT is the greatest lesson that I’ve learned.
What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
My favorite project at Rustic Pathways was helping launch a non-profit called Thrival Academies. The vision of Thrival Academies was to create the largest network of charter schools in the USA that was solely dedicated to taking middle and low income public school students abroad for a semester for FREE. The model was to create a brick and mortar-LESS “school” of teachers and students. We then used the standard per student public tax dollar allocation to equip everyone with tablets, travel overseas, and make the world our classroom.
For the first two years of running this program 95% of the students were students of color, from low income backgrounds, who had little to no international travel experience. Their personal and academic growth was profound! So much of the personal learning came back to a confidence that they could do anything in the world. I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand with Board Members of the Indianapolis Public School District and the Oakland Public School District and those board members were mind blown by what they saw. Unfortunately, the project ran into a brick wall of public school politics, a lack of funding, and administrative turnover. That said, the model works. If we could get every state Governor to say YES, we could take 50,000 American public students abroad each year without them paying and without adding any cost to the existing public school system. If you read this and want to engage, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.