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Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Ensuring the safety of your teen as they travel with Rustic Pathways is a top priority. For 36 years, we’ve refined our safety and security protocols to become a leader among providers of teen travel programs.

We take students to remote destinations, expose them to unfamiliar surroundings, and encourage personal growth through exploration. When conducted responsibly, these experiences transform students in ways that are impossible to replicate inside the classroom, and for this reason, the health and safety measures we take are a fundamental part of our travel programs.

Rustic Pathways Health and Safety Measures

Food and Water

Rustic chefs and cooks prepare meals and can make necessary adjustments for specific dietary needs and allergies. Some meals will take place at trusted local restaurants. All water is bottled or purified.

Accommodation and Transportation

All participants stay at Rustic-owned base houses or carefully vetted hotels, guesthouses, camps, or with trusted homestay families. In-country vehicle transportation is provided by Rustic drivers or local vendors. Rustic performs annual safety checks on all company-owned vehicles and vendor transportation companies.

Vendors and Partners

Rustic reviews all external service providers, including transportation, accommodation, and activity vendors, annually. Vendor business infrastructure, hiring and training processes, and emergency management systems are assessed to make sure they are reputable and safe.

Preparing for Your Trip

  1. Complete Rustic’s Medical and Emergency form, which includes relevant medical histories, medications, food allergies, and dietary restrictions and our Participant Screening Team relays that information to Country Teams.
  2. Ask your Personal Travel Advisor any additional questions about your upcoming trip. They can also provide pre-trip support before you leave, including instructions for obtaining vaccinations and visas, and offering packing tips.
  3. Attend a pre-trip information session either in person or online to ask any last-minute questions about your trip.

During Your Trip

  1. Connect with an Airport Coordinator when you arrive at one of our hub airports for your flight who will help you check in and check your bags. Meet your Rustic Pathways Flight Leader, who will guide you through security and fly with you to your destination country.
  2. Meet your expert Program Leaders, who will be with you around the clock to deliver your program experience, answer any questions, or provide any medical assistance. Our student to Program Leader ratio never exceeds seven to one.
  3. Students and their parents have 24-7-365 emergency support and access to services from International SOS, the leading provider of international medical, security, and travel assistance.

Additional Safety Information

Q: Who is responsible for health and safety at Rustic Pathways?
A: In addition to our experienced local Country Operations staffs, we employ a Health and Safety Team that includes a consulting physician and psychologist. Meet our team below!

Q: Who leads Rustic Programs?
A: Many Program Leaders have backgrounds in teaching, experiential education, or international development. All full-time leaders are Wilderness First Responders and seasonal staff are First Aid and CPR certified—at a minimum. In addition, all Program Leaders receive 64-80 hours of additional specialized training about medical issues, emergency scenarios, and critical incident protocols annually online and in country before each summer travel season begins.

Our Program Staffing Team also spends four months vetting applicants to identify the most talented and passionate Program Leaders.

Q: How does Rustic monitor international safety and security?
A: Global security is monitored through government agencies in the United States, UK, and Australia, and the Overseas Security and Advisory Council. Health monitoring is conducted through the WHO and CDC.

Q: Does Rustic have an international medical and evacuation provider?
A: Yes! Rustic also monitors safety and security with the help of International SOS, a leader in international medical, security, and travel services. All Rustic Pathways travelers also have access to International SOS services.

Q: Does Rustic sell travel insurance?
A: All participants of Rustic Pathways programs are strongly recommended to consider buying their own comprehensive medical insurance coverage. For students departing from the United States, we’ve partnered with Trip Mate. For students departing from outside the United States, we’ve partnered with Trawick International. Each company offers a travel protection plan designed to protect our participants, their belongings, and their travel investment in those unforeseen circumstances that may arise during travel.

Contact the companies to purchase plans or for more information.

Q: How does Rustic respond to emergencies?
A: Country Operations teams and the Safety Director create risk management plans. They include critical incident protocols and natural disaster plans. However, most incidents Rustic responds to involve minor illnesses common during international travel. Program Leaders manage these situations with the support of Country Operations teams.

If an incident is more serious, Country Operations works with Rustic’s Crisis Response Team to coordinate the appropriate action, which could include engaging International SOS. Rustic’s Safety Director, Medical Director, and Mental Health Director remain available to ensure that students, families, and other essential stakeholders are informed and supported throughout incidents.

Meet our Health and Safety Team

Dave Dennis

Safety and Risk Management Director

With a masters degree in risk management and more than 20 years of relevant experience, Dave is the perfect fit to lead Rustic’s Health and Safety Team. Dave joined us in 2014 after owning a consulting firm specializing in implementing risk management and emergency response programs for domestic and global tour operators. He now works with our global teams to ensure quality and consistency in all Rustic programs. Dave lives in Colorado with his wife and children.

Dr. Will Smith

Medical Director

Dr. Will Smith is a recognized leader in wilderness medicine who joined Rustic Pathways in 2015. He practices emergency medicine in Jackson, Wyoming, and is clinical faculty for the University of Washington School of Medicine, as well as the Medical Director for the National Park Service. Locally, he serves as the Co-Medical Director for Grand Teton National Park, Teton County Search & Rescue, Bridger Teton National Forest, and Jackson Hole Fire / EMS.

Dr. David Baker

Mental Health Director

David Baker, a psychological consultant in Winter Park, Florida, joined Rustic Pathways in 2013. Dr. Baker has taught psychology and theology at Rollins College, the University of Central Florida, and the Seattle School for Theology and Psychology. He currently teaches in the post-graduate certificate program at the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. Dr. Baker holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in theology.

Peter Brown

Global Risk and Safety Manager

Pete is a RIMS Certified Risk Management Professional, Wilderness First Responder and has an OSHA certification. A graduate of St John’s University in Minnesota, Pete developed his first love of travel studying abroad in New Zealand and Australia. That experience has set off a career spanning two decades in the adult and student travel industry. Pete and his wife continue to travel all over the world and currently live in NYC with their two beautiful daughters.

Ann Dunphy

Medical Screening Manager

Ann has been in emergency medicine for 35 years and has been a professional EMT and Wilderness First Responder instructor for decades. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education in addition to having certifications in specialized emergency medicine. When not screening our student’s before their programs, Ann teaches for Wilderness Medical Associates and even picks up ambulance shifts to keep her skills sharp. Based in northern Wisconsin, Ann selflessly dedicates herself to helping others.