How did you get involved with Rustic Pathways?
I started working with Rustic Pathways in 2006 as their store manager/office manager. Coming from a small town in Northeast Ohio, walking into this store with teak tables, saa paper umbrellas and spirit houses was intriguing and eye opening, to say the least. Of course, at that time that I had no clue that my post-high school summer job would turn into my full-time job of 14 years! Working with Rustic Pathways, I have had my hand in essentially every aspect of office administration, such as client services, finance, forms, and shipping, before making my way to the Operations team as a Travel Administrator.
How long have you been working with Rustic Pathways?
I started back in April 2006, in a time that Rustic Pathways had only several hundred travelers. Experiencing such a magnificent growth over the years has been amazing, especially in knowing that so many more students are gaining global perspective with the work that we do.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
Working in Travel Administration, it is a great feeling knowing that my position is step one of the Rustic experience. Getting our students where they need to be on departure day, knowing that they are traveling with the best flight leaders, and about to be on one of the greatest experiences of their lives is super fulfilling. International travel can have unexpected challenges, but I enjoy working through these and obtaining outcomes that viable for our travelers.
Have you traveled with other Rustic Pathways employees? What was your experience like?
I have, and it is likely the most authentic travel experience that a person could ever have. Our local employees’ hearts are truly invested in their country. The pride they have when they show you hidden local gems that normal tour operators would never put on the itinerary is significant.
What do you like most about Rustic Pathways?
The amazing people that I have worked with. My heart has been opened to so many people all over the world. These are some of the hardest working, kindest, most caring people you will find on the planet. Something as simple as cooking a local meal in the kitchen with our staff is something that will be engrained in me as long as I live. Learning about so many different cultures and perspectives has been transformative to me. Also, knowing that the work that we do with local communities as a partnership in sustainable development makes me very proud to be a Rustic Pathways employee. I also love to know that I have very close friends in dozens of countries. A sofa in any number of countries is just a message away!
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
Traveling lets you experience things that you will never learn in a classroom. Sure, you can learn about different cultures, people, beliefs, etc, but it is the experience of being immersed in that culture that will really open your heart and mind. In the times that I have worked at our airport hubs, it is very rewarding to see a student leave for a country sort of blasé about the whole ordeal, and then upon their return talking nonstop about their experience, the people that they have met and seeing how much it has opened their eyes and changed their perspective. They talk about the impact that we have had on the local communities and many students end up having a lifelong bond with their homestay families or local staff, and it is an absolute transformation.