You know that feeling when you’re excited and kind of terrified at the same time? That was me before my first Rustic Pathways program.
When I was 15, I got on a plane by myself for the first time and flew to LAX from Ft. Myers, Florida, to meet up with a group of Rustic students. I couldn’t have been more excited! I knew the experience would be life-changing. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the world, other cultures, other ways of life, and about myself.
But I was also pretty nervous. Actually, really nervous. I wanted to make new friends and didn’t want to worry about being homesick or missing out on what was happening at home. What I didn’t know at the time though was that everyone else was nervous about these things too!
Looking back after several Rustic trips, here’s my list of 5 things you’re probably worried about, and everyone else is too.
1. Not making friends
Meeting new people for the first time is always a bit nerve-wracking and scary, especially if you’re an introvert like me. I knew talking to people right away would be hard, so I made it a personal challenge to initiate conversations. Rustic Pathways Program Leaders are experts at facilitating activities and conversations that will get everyone talking, and once everyone in your group starts to open up, you’ll quickly find out how much you have in common. It’s been more than a decade since I traveled with Rustic Pathways and I’m still friends with several people I met on my programs!
2. Feeling homesick
Whether you’re traveling for one week or six, you probably will feel homesick at some point during your trip. Even the most experienced travelers miss home sometimes. During these times, reach out to your Program Leaders, your new friends (who are likely feeling the same way), take a few minutes to write down your thoughts in your Rustic Travel Log, or give your family back home a call. You’ll feel better once you acknowledge that you’re missing home. Then, challenge yourself to throw everything you’ve got into being in the moment and soaking up everything around you. I promise that when it’s time to head back home, you won’t’ want to say goodbye!
Knowing that your friends back home are hanging out without you isn’t the best feeling in the world, but remember that being away for a couple of weeks isn’t going to change the strength of your friendships. Your friends back home will still be your friends when you get back from your Rustic trip. Plus, you’re going to come home with incredible memories and stories (plus friends from all around the world)––your friends back home are going to be the ones feeling like they missed out!
4. That you’ll be forced to do something during your program
Rappelling La Fortuna. Hiking the Himalayas. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. There are going to be some activities on your Rustic trip that push you outside your comfort zone. For me, it was white water rafting. I wanted to go, and friends had told me how much fun it was, but even so, I was still nervous. If you’re uncomfortable about something, talk to your Program Leaders. It’s their job to support you. While they’ll encourage you to participate (because they don’t want you to miss out, and because they know that you’ll grow from challenging yourself) they will never force you to do something that you’re uncomfortable with.
5. Not being able to access wifi + messaging + social
OK, so maybe this wasn’t a problem for me because wifi and social media were just starting out. But after five years with Rustic, including leading programs in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, I know it can be a challenge not to have wifi or cell phone service. I go through the same adjustment period when I’m traveling to places where the wifi is spotty. But disconnecting allows me to fully embrace and appreciate what I’m experiencing during the trip. Don’t believe me? Hear from a Rustic alum who wrote about what it was like for her to give up her phone for two weeks.
What did I miss? If you’re worried about something else, or have a question, let us know in the comments section, send us a message on social or reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.