We are just a few weeks away from the start of our summer programs. As you start to pack your bags and get ready for your own adventures, we asked a few of our alumni about what advice they have for students traveling this summer. Emma and Carolyn have some great tips about immersing yourself in a new country and unplugging from technology while away.
“The second I got to the base, I started really bonding with the locals as well as the students from the States and knew that this was a special place. Even though the trip is 9 days, traveling takes up most of that, making it about a week. After that 11 hour plane ride, I was not ready to do it all over again in a week, especially since I was having the time of my life. The second day I was there, I called my parents to let them know that I already had my mind made up and that I was staying another week. I think for them, by the enthusiasm in my voice on the phone it was an easy sell. Also, hearing about the Highlands really made me want to extend my trip to be able to visit such a “rustic” place. Everyone who has ever been raved about the food, the magical waterfall, and all the amazing people you meet. I knew that I would never get to experience Fiji like this ever again so I had to take advantage of the opportunity I had been offered.”
What would you tell someone who is considering traveling alone on a Rustic Pathways program?
“I would say to really put yourself out there and don’t be intimidated by anyone because everyone there is feeling the same way. I was nervous to go alone because you never know what type of people you will be with and I think everyone has that worry if people will like you or not. As long as you go into it with an open mind you are sure to make some of the best friends you will ever have. People that came with friends as well as people who went alone all meshed the same. I also got very close with all the staff which I recommend doing because they are almost like your family while you are away in this foreign country. It gives you a sense of peace knowing that people are looking out for you and want you to have the best time that you possibly can have. The local staff can also teach you so many new things about their culture that you can take back home with you and apply to your own life.”
“Traveling with Rustic Pathways is the best decision anyone could ever make. If you’re traveling alone – you aren’t really alone, most of the kids didn’t know a single person at the start of my trip, including myself. Right from the start I made fast friends with the people around me. I arrived at JFK International Airport well before the rest of my group arrived and I spent my time getting to know the group headed to the Dominican Republic. Even though I had just met them, I was so sad when they had to go because the types of kids who sign up for Rustic programs are the most open minded, kind, and accepting people I have ever encountered. When I finally met my fellow travelers headed to Thailand the situation was no different. In no time, we were laughing and sharing stories like old companions. The 18 strangers that I had started my journey with quickly became some of my closest friends that I know I will share a lifelong bond with. Every single individual was always there to support and encourage me and they could always put a smile on my face. The leaders were also incredibly helpful and caring. They made sure every person was comfortable and felt safe confiding in them. They were not overbearing which gave me a real sense of independence and confidence which tremendously added to the positive overall experience of the trip. I would recommend traveling with Rustic to everyone because I want them to have the same life-changing experience as I did.
Rustic taught me a great lesson to unplug from technology and plug into my environment. By doing that, I really connected with my surroundings and appreciated them much more than I would have if I was worried about texting my friend. Your friends and family are still going to be there when you get back and it is so much fun to get home and be able to tell them all the incredible things you did while on your trip. By taking myself away from the life I knew, I finally felt alive. I noticed such a big change in my seIf on/after my trip, I was a better listener, I was more observant, and I did not rely on technology as much as I had before. Not having my phone also helped create the feeling of independence which I think all Rustic trips are great at providing. But, if you are really struggling, there are opportunities at the beginning and end of the trip to touch base back home.”
Lauren joined Rustic Pathways in 2008 after graduating from Emory University. She spent her first six years in Costa Rica overseeing our operations and seasonal staff. Lauren then formed our Alumni Association where she developed programs for continuing student involvement. She now uses her extensive skill set to continue to improve the hiring and training of all program leaders across the globe. Lauren lives in Chicago, travels often, and enjoys maintaining her Spanish fluency.