How did you first go about getting a global perspective?
The travel bug bit hard when I studied abroad during my junior year of college. I lived in rural Kenya and Tanzania studying Wildlife Management and Ecology through the School for Field Studies.
My second semester, I took film classes in Tel Aviv, Israel. I currently live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and have been based overseas since I started working for Rustic Pathways in 2015. My study abroad experiences undoubtedly led me to the job and life I lead today.
What countries have you traveled in?
I regularly visit our partner schools in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, and France.
Thanks to Rustic Pathways training, I’ve been to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Other countries I’ve visited include Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Israel, Jordan, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico.
What is your experience with Rustic Pathways?
In May of 2015, I left my hometown of Portland, Oregon and flew to Southeast Asia to lead programs for what I thought would just be a 3-month summer job and a 6-month backpacking experience. Pretty quickly, I fell in love with both the Rustic Pathways philosophy and this part of the world, and have been based in the region since.
After leading elephant conservation and cultural immersion programs for Summer and Group Travel experiences for a year, I managed our village immersion programs in Fiji, one of Rustic’s oldest community partnerships.
In 2016, I joined the international outreach team and have spent the last four years doing what I do best: traveling constantly, and talking about Rustic. I regularly visit our partner schools throughout Asia in hopes of creating a world where travel is an essential part of every student’s education.
What have been your favorite moments on a Rustic Pathways program?
Playing takraw in Soethan’s village in Burma. Listening to Vili and Jone in front of the kava bowl sing songs passed down for centuries in Fiji. Taking bucket showers in Laos. When Ben ripped his pants planting cassava. Cooking dinner with Supanee in Thailand and laughing about who knows what. The moments where nothing really happens but you’ve never felt so present.
What makes you proud to work for Rustic Pathways?
During my experiences abroad over the last ten years, I’ve learned that there are many different ways to travel. There are the family vacations, the sites to take pictures of, and the tourist trails to follow.
But there are also the homestays, the kindness of strangers, and the long conversations with local people who grew up very differently than you. Rustic encourages young people – and the adults who work for us – to focus their travels on the people they meet, and how wonderfully heartwarming it is to lean into the temporary awkwardness of meeting as many of those people as possible.
To laugh under the stars with the little kids in Fiji making silly noises on the ukulele, to sip Moroccan tea in a riad discussing tolerance and understanding, to sit on the floor together eating som tam and sticky rice in Thailand.
To just spend time with others and come to understand that “normal” is relative. It’s the kind of traveling that focuses on learning and listening, not just consuming and capturing.
Rustic believes that the best way to get to know a culture is to get to know the people, and that leaving the country with stories and jokes and songs will travel with you much farther than the souvenirs and trinkets ever will. What makes me proud to work for Rustic Pathways is that they’ll take you somewhere new, but the people you meet will make you feel like you’re already home.
Best advice for incoming participants?
Always go on the optional sunrise hike.