At Rustic Pathways, our mission is to empower students through innovative and responsible travel experiences to positively impact lives and communities around the world.
Everything we do relates to that mission, including how we make programming and operations decisions. We start with three questions.
1. Does the community have a unique story to tell?
Many of the countries where we travel are considered part of the developing world. And within those countries, the communities we partner with are off the tourist track. This is intentional. We want students to have authentic experiences in safe and welcoming communities, and to have the opportunity to experience a genuine perspective about what life in that country or community really means. Without getting off the beaten path, it’s hard to unearth this in a real and genuine way. By developing long-term relationships with communities, we’re able to share their stories with our students, and our students, in turn, amplify those stories around the world. The batey communities in the Dominican Republic are a perfect example of these partnerships.
2. Are there NGOs or local organizations we can partner with?
This might be the most important question we ask ourselves as we’re establishing a new destination. Our partners help us create and execute long-term service projects identified by the communities. Long-term partnerships in Nasivikoso, Fiji (25 years), Ban Chiang Yuen, Thailand (18 years), and Yorkin, Costa Rica (10 years) allow us to have a greater impact while providing better experiences for students. Working in partnership with communities also ensures our impact in the community is sustainable. Read more about Rustic’s approach to community service.
3. Can we provide the student volume to have a sustained impact in our partner communities?
As I mentioned above, we’re not the type of organization that works in a community for a year and moves on. We believe you can’t truly have an impact by operating that way. If we can’t create the type of annual student demand that allows us to provide sustainable impact in communities, we’re not fulfilling our obligations to our partners.
Another factor that ensures the success of our programs is our exceptional program leaders and local staff.
Our staff are the backbone of our organization. Each year, we retain more seasonal program leaders and local staff and implement more rigorous training methods, which means we’re getting more experienced. That experience directly translates to the growth that students experience on our programs. I could go on for days about how great our staff is. Learn more about how we hire our seasonal staff and read about some of our returning program leaders this summer.
Jack has spent his professional career as a writer and editor. Before joining Rustic, he worked as a journalist in Kansas and Colorado, taught English in Swaziland, and transitioned to marketing roles in the Boston and New York startup worlds. Jack is excited to channel his love of storytelling and his appreciation for education as Rustic’s Content Production Manager. When not working, Jack is either watching baseball or planning his next adventure. Jack and his wife, Blythe, live in Brooklyn.