What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
The most fulfilling part of working with Rustic Pathways is being able to take students from all over the world, to the incredible destinations where we operate our programs. When I was growing up, school field trips and experiential education, though limited compared to what students have access to now, was easily the highlight of my educational career. Traveling with my schoolmates gave all of us an opportunity to learn more about the world around us, our classmates, our teachers and ourselves, then we would ever be able to learn in years sitting in desks in a classroom. Now that experiential education has developed into an important part of schools’ curriculums, the international travel opportunities available to students nowadays is something I could have only dreamed about as a kid. I always learned the most when I was having the most fun, so I feel honored to be able to be a part of these programs, that are life changing and life highlights for the participants.
What has been one of your favorite moments at Rustic Pathways?
I have a background in Biology and always lived near the ocean growing up, so when I started working at Rustic Pathways as a young program leader in SE Asia many years ago, I was looking through the catalog of programs offered around the world, and the Fiji Marine Science program immediately caught my eye, I thought to myself, Rustic Pathways has programs in Fiji? Maybe one day I might be able to finagle a work trip out there.
It all seemed like a distant dream then, but fast forward a few years and sure enough there was a school traveling to Fiji and the Fijian Team needed a biologist to help lead a Marine Conservation program, I got the tap up! I had a lot of program leading in SE Asia, but I had lived there many years prior to working with Rustic, so I knew the landscape already. However, traveling to Fiji for the first time, I had a sense of the wonderment that the students experience when they first land in this tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean populated with some of the world’s friendliest people. It was an incredible trip for me and the students and I will always remember it and am very grateful to Rustic Pathways and Team Fiji for the opportunity.
Why do you view travel as an essential part of every education?
Traveling gives you wisdom about yourself and the world around you that you would never gain by staying at home in a static environment. Travel should be an essential part of every education, it certainly was an essential part of my own education. I traveled a lot as a kid with my family, my parents always felt it was important for my brother, sister and I, and as I got older I noticed a positive impact in two different ways.
First, when I went to some place new I would be confronted with all sorts of new and interesting sensations, smells, tastes and sites. This incredible stimulation of your senses is similar to a baby experiencing the world around them for the first time and creates a sense of wonderment of the amazing world around us, I notice that when I go somewhere new, I have the most incredible dreams at night!
The second positive impact would occur when I returned home, and things in my own culture and environment that I took for granted or that had seemed mundane, all the sudden would suddenly stick out for consideration and I would start thinking about why we behave the way we do , what our life values and goals should be and how that should impact our life choices.
What is the most important thing participants bring home with them?
The most important thing a participant brings home with them is the shared experience they have had with their peers on the program. Students these days spend a lot of time studying and there is a huge emphasis on grades and test scores, however, a lot of what you learn in school is about loading you up with information to pass a test and then you never use the knowledge again as you move on to the next chapter.
However the Rustic Pathways programs are designed to develop you as a participant, and that means something different for each student. Though the general itinerary is the same, each student is encountering countless subtle novelties and micro experiences from the moment they wake up till they go to bed. It is an individual experience, but it is also shaped by the shared experience of the other participants and the program leaders, and even though the trip unfortunately has to end, the memories and life lessons that the student picks up during the course of their travels will stay with them for their whole life.