What countries have you traveled to?
I have traveled extensively in the South Pacific from the beautiful islands of Fiji to the outback in Australia. I’ve also traveled to SE Asia multiple times to experience the rich culture and wonderful people. Road trips within the USA are also a favorite of mine as the US has amazing landscapes and is such a diverse country.
How has your international experience evolved to make you an even more valuable addition to the Rustic Pathways team?
Traveling internationally has really opened my eyes to the world and myself. I have had many opportunities to reflect on myself while interacting with other cultures and people with very diverse backgrounds and beliefs. It makes you think about other perspectives and see that there is more out there. It opens you up to thoughts you may never have even knew existed. It has made me a better addition to Rustic Pathways by making me question everything and be a more productive world citizen. I am constantly asking myself questions and trying to better myself and those around me. Do the beliefs I grew up with stand up to what I am seeing while abroad? Can I tell my children I am proud of the values that I believe in? Traveling has made me question everything and adopt new ways of seeing the world. We have beliefs that are a part of our foundation and some beliefs may be a part of our upbringing and culture. Travel has helped me differentiate which is which and gain a more global understanding of what is the world is and how I want to interact within it.
How long have you been working with Rustic Pathways?
I have been working for Rustic Pathways since February 2007. When I first started, we had less than 500 students and worked out of a small office in Willoughby, OH where we had about 15 full time staff. To see Rustic grow and see how many more students we are able to transform has been extremely rewarding.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
Working in the travel department, it can be easy to focus on my daily job which is working with the internal staff and travel vendors. I love researching travel trends and being the first to know updated travel information along with working with people from all over the world.
When I get the chance to flight lead or go to a conference and step out of the office and talk to the students, parents and other people in the travel industry, it brings me back to exactly what Rustic Pathways embodies. Seeing how the students are transformed within just a couple of weeks is amazing. They leave timid not knowing what to expect and come back confident with more of a cohesive world view. I love talking to the parents and hearing these transformational stories. It’s satisfying knowing that I helped in some way with their growth.
Have you traveled with other Rustic Pathways employees? What was your experience like?
I have traveled with many other Rustic Pathways employees. Being experts in the field, many of the employees have connections and opinions on where to travel and what to do. The employees take pride in their hometown or country and are excited to be able to share that with others. It’s always great to see a friendly face and be able to see more than the tourist traps that are out there. When staff come to Cleveland, I try to be available to show my hometown pride as well!
What has been one of your favorite moments at Rustic Pathways?
I have had so many wonderful experiences at Rustic Pathways. From traveling to places that are rarely seen by westerners to seeing the rainforests and deserts of Australia, I have been blessed to have been able to experience things that I have never dreamt about.
One of my favorites though has to involve a student that I traveled with. I was a flight leader and traveled with a small group of students. There was a shy girl that didn’t seem to make friends easily and was staying on the outskirts of the group. I stayed with her and made sure she was comfortable and encouraged her to get more involved. By the end of the trip, she was one of the most outspoken students and had changed so much. The next year, I was working in the New York airport and happened to see her going to a totally different country and she was so excited and confident. What a change! I love seeing this transformation and the way our trips impact young lives.
How did you first go about getting a global perspective?
Before working at Rustic Pathways, I had never left North America. Sure, I’d been to Canada and Mexico on vacation but never fully immersed myself into other cultures. Working for Rustic Pathways has given me a wider view of the world. It has given me empathy and compassion for others that I never knew could exist. Staying in the same place, you get kind of stuck into a certain thinking. You hear of different ways of living but never truly give it any thought. You may live a certain way and never think about what is outside your box.
By traveling, I have learned that I don’t have to do everything the same way. There are multiple solutions to a problem and I can adopt new practices and habits and ways of thinking. This makes me more fulfilled and live a happier life. It helps me not only to understand myself but others around me.
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
I believe that travel is one of the best ways to learn things especially things that will matter as the child grows. Traveling opens you up to other cultures and see where things vary and what common beliefs are shared. Getting other ideas can open the mind to other views and ward off biases and prejudices. One can learn reasons why different societies do certain things without a cultural bias your country may have. Travel also helps students learn different social skills and to try new things. Getting them out of the classroom and into the real world can open students up to experiences they may never have ventured into. I believe travel can help to make the world a better place to live.