Our (Not-So) Secret Formula to Exceptional Programs
All Articles

Our (Not-So) Secret Formula to Exceptional Programs

There are a lot of ways a Rustic Pathways program adds value to your students’ education. When traveling with Rustic Pathways, you can select from a menu of incredible and welcoming countries, from immersive experiences, community-driven service projects, and the world’s most breathtaking sites. But I’ve seen other travel websites—I know this sounds very similar to what many other companies offer, so I won’t waste time.

Instead, I will let you in on a little secret—the formula for a transformational travel experience, the reason you should travel with Rustic Pathways.

It’s our program leaders.

It seems simple. Find good people, run good trips. But I can promise you, there’s a lot more that goes into it.

Each year, we spend four months interviewing, vetting, and challenging program leader applicants. To be considered for a program leader position, you have to meet our baseline qualifications: experience working with students, international travel, facilitating discussion-based learning, and managing day-to-day logistics. To be hired as a program leader takes so much more.

We hire for passion. Each of our program leaders deeply believes in our mission, vision, and values and is committed to creating a world where travel is an accepted part of every student’s education.

We hire for excellence. Our program leaders maintain excellence under pressure and the ever-changing conditions inherent to travel. They’re as adept at easing a student’s homesickness as they are at working with local partners to organize the day’s service project activities, or corralling students through the world’s busiest airports.

We hire for humanity. An appreciation for diversity in cultures and experiences is at the core of what we do. Our program leaders are eager to learn from one another, to collaborate, and work together as a team. They understand and acknowledge different perspectives, and encourage our students to do the same.

We hire for skill. They speak Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, French, Hindi, Khmer, Lao, Malayalam, Mandarin Chinese, Mongolian, Swahili, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese. They are teachers, coaches, outdoor educators, marine biologists, sociologists, and leaders in international development. They are surfers, dancers, hikers, and sportsmen. They are professional videographers, photographers, and artists.

We hire for adaptability. Travelers know best-laid plans never work. Rustic Pathways program leaders prepare for this, adjusting to whatever comes their way. Even more impressive, they do so within the cultural bounds of their current location – cross-cultural communication is their forte.

We hire for bravery. The bravery to read a situation, assess risk, and exercise prudence. Sometimes that means canceling a planned hike because the weather conditions are unsafe. Other times it means recognizing when a student is in personal danger. These are people who know how to make the right call when they need to, even when it’s a tough decision.

Right now, I’m wrapping up our 2016 hiring season. I can’t wait for our next class of exceptional program leaders to get out in the field and create incredible learning opportunities for our students. Later this month, I’ll be highlighting a few (new and returning!) program leaders on our blog, so check back to “meet” the program leaders who might be leading your adventure!

In the meantime, get an inside look at what our international staff have to say about leading Rustic Pathways programs.

About the Author

Lauren Anderson

Program Staffing and Training Director

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.