Rustic Pathways Global Perspective Series #2
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Rustic Pathways Global Perspective Series #2

What do people around the world do to relax or cope with stressful times?

We reached out to friends and colleagues throughout the Rustic Pathways community to hear how people in their communities are finding ways to relax. This is the second article in the Rustic Pathways Global Perspectives Series.


Beach in Australia

In Australia, during times of stress and worry, many people choose to spend time in the outdoors. As the majority of Australians live in coastal areas, the beach is always a hit! While activities including walking, swimming, and surfing are always popular, paddle boarding, kite surfing, and wake surfing are starting to gain traction too.

Many people say that being by the water has healing benefits and there’s science to back this up! Ocean water contains an endless supply of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that have antibacterial effects. These benefits can be gained by being in the water and even just breathing in the sea air. As Australia heads into the winter months and the water cools down, it will be great to take on these benefits from the shoreline.

While beaches are more quiet than usual due to our isolation restrictions, they are normally crowded with people having sausage sizzles in communal barbeque areas and eating kanga banga sangas (kangaroo sausage sandwiches!) As restrictions slowly ease, it will be great to see people heading into the outdoors and beaches being used in the typical Australian way again.


Cooking and dinner in China

During the homestay time, there are a few activities we do at home:

  1. Cooking food together and learning cooking skills from each other
  2. Family karaoke is a lot of fun for all generations
  3. Playing Mahjong or card games are popular
  4. Reading books

Large scale self-quarantine orders from the government happened during the Chinese Spring Festival Holidays time, January 23rd – January 27th, so a lot of Chinese had returned to their hometowns for family reunions. Usually, grandparents, parents, and grandkids will only spend time together for 2-3 days during this once a year reunion. Normally, it is a difficult time for families to say goodbye after such a short catch up.

But this time, they have to be together all the time, some daughters and sons are stuck home for more than one month. They can not wait to say goodbye.

Costa Rica

Bike ride in the Dominican Republic

This is an interesting question and it’s going to depend on who you ask. For example, if there are kids in the familia and both parents work, there really isn’t much free time to waste; let alone relax. People are finding themselves in need to adjust to new ways of working styles, schedules, and the use of new technologies to do their jobs, work remotely and work from home. Furthermore, if they have children, they need to figure out how to keep up with their virtual classes, assignments, and everything else. Even with no children, young adults and teenagers are needing to adjust to new ways of doing things and to a new normal. I think that most of us are finding virtual ways to be more productive and keeping ourselves busy and entertained or relaxed. Something that’s become more popular is online classes; many people are taking cooking classes, yoga classes, dancing, meditation, and work-out virtual routines. Cooking at home has definitely become more popular and necessary, and people are finding ways online to learn new recipes, desserts, and things to prepare.

Another element that is going to influence people’s new lifestyles is whether or not they have access to nature. In Costa Rica, we love going on walks, jogging, and running outside and many people, especially in the countryside, are taking advantage of the open spaces. Cities are more challenging for those types of outdoor activities but we still find ways to keep ourselves busy and go out in safe ways.

Esta es un pregunta interesante y la respuesta va a depender a quien se la haces. Por ejemplo, si hay niños en la familia y si ambos padres trabajan; la verdad es que no van a tener mucho tiempo libre. Las personas se están teniendo que adaptar a diferentes estilos de trabajo, diferentes horarios y tecnologías para poder trabajar de casa y remotamente. Adicionalmente si tienen niños, deben averiguar cómo continuar con su educación virtualmente. Aún sin niños, los adultos y personas jóvenes debemos ajustarnos a una nueva normalidad y formas de hacer las cosas. La mayoría está buscando medios virtuales para ser más productivo y mantenernos ocupados y relajarnos. Algo que se ha vuelto más popular son las clases virtuales, muchas personas están tomando diferentes opciones como de cocina, yoga, baile, meditación y ejercicios. Otra cosa que se ha vuelto más popular y necesario es cocinar en casa y las personas están encontrando en línea nuevas recetas, postres y cosas que preparar. Otro elemento que afecta la vida de las personas es el tener o no acceso a la naturaleza. En Costa Rica las personas aman hacer caminatas, salir a correr o trotar al campo libre y especialmente en zonas rurales los ticos están aprovechando esos espacios. En la ciudad es más difícil encontrarlos pero aun así hay formas de mantenernos ocupados y salir de formas seguras.

Dominican Republic

Roasting marshmallows over an open fire

There are many people who do not have the privilege of staying at home. However, there are others who are taking these times as a break of the turbulent days that characterize big cities around the world. There has been an incredible use of home space to do many indoor activities.

Games and apps are becoming more popular than before. One of the games that are a thing right now in the Dominican Republic Parchis. Parchis is a popular board game that is coming back in an electronic version people can download in mobile devices. It allows you to play with friends and families while keeping social distance.

Along with parchis, cooking has been one of the favorite activities. I had never seen as many people cooking as in the past weeks. People are using this time to cook those Dominican dishes, that although are yummy, are very laborious and require a lot of time. Sancocho, which is a soup with veggies and different types of meats, and (Sweet milk beans) habichuela con dulce, a traditional dessert eaten during spring break, has been very present.

Hay muchas personas que no tienen el privilegio de quedarse en casa. Sin embargo, hay otros que están tomando estos tiempos como un descanso de los días turbulentos que caracterizan a las grandes ciudades de todo el mundo. Ha habido un uso increíble del espacio en el casa para realizar muchas actividades de interiores.

Los juegos y las aplicaciones se están volviendo más populares que antes. Uno de los juegos que estan siendo muy populares en este momento en la República Dominicana es el Parchis. Parchis es un popular juego de mesa que vuelve en una versión electrónica que la gente puede descargar en dispositivos móviles. Esto permite jugar con amigos y familiares mientras mantienes el distnaciamiento social.

Junto con el parchis, la cocina ha sido una de las actividades favoritas. Nunca había visto tanta gente cocinando como en las últimas semanas. La gente está usando este tiempo para cocinar esos platos dominicanos, que aunque son deliciosos, son muy laboriosos y requieren mucho tiempo. El sancocho, que es una sopa con vegetales y diferentes tipos de carnes, y la habichuela con dulce, un postre tradicional que se come durante las vacaciones de primavera, ha estado muy presente.


Tea break in Fiji

In Fiji a new activity has recently taken over, bringing smiles and a sense of community to all Fijians. In just 2 weeks, the Facebook page “Barter for a better Fiji” has gathered 125,000 Fijians and already spread internationally to other countries in the South Pacific. The initiative was started by Fijian woman Marlene Dutta as a cashless and commercial-free way of trading to help people exchange goods, especially locally grown fruits and vegetables for supermarket items. This page has been more than just a trading page, with countless stories, comments, requests, and smiles resulting in food donations to families in difficult situations.

Bartering is an ancestral system here in Fiji, and the COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on the resilience of the Fijian people who have been able to use their limited resources to bring in new technologies to facilitate ancestral connections. The page also brought back excitement to people who spend their days going through the listings on the page, commenting and negotiating on each item, or offering free help for anyone in difficulties. Ender Rence is the administrator for the Barter for Better Solomon Islands Facebook Page and says she started the page to reconnect with her roots. “Back in the village now as we are talking people are still doing barter,” she said, “for me, I said this is who I am, this is what my people have been doing and are still doing.”

South Korea

Koreans are social gourmands. To cope with everyday stresses, it’s common to find people gathering and sharing tasty meals. This culture may have stemmed from historically considering food as remedies. While there are regional specialties based on regional products, major cities offer a wide variety of food. Culturally, Korea’s fried chicken has been one of the popular items to cope with stress, while some people may turn to spicy food. Along with food, there’s a variety of entertainment, such as karaoke and batting cages, offered for stress relief.

Hiking and biking are popular physical activities to cope with stress. 70% of South Korea’s landscape is mountainous. Even within the metropolis, Seoul, there are few beautiful mountains to hike. Along the Han River that runs through Seoul and extends to Gyeonggi province, there’s a bike trail. Since the river runs through Seoul, there are multiple easy access points for bikers to join along the stretch of the river. For both mountain and bike trails, it’s pleasant to see the diverse views offered by the four seasons weather or Korea.

대한민국인들은 사교적이며 미식가들이다. 매일의 스트레스를 풀기 위해서 삼삼오오 모여 맛있는 음식을 나누는 모습은 쉽게 볼 수 있다. 이러한 문화는 전통적으로 음식을 보약으로 생각하던 문화에서 생겼을 수도 있겠다. 지역 생산품에 따라 지역별 유명한 음식들이 있기도 하지만 도시에서는 여러가지의 음식을 쉽게 찾을 수 있다. 스트레스를 풀기 위해 찾는 음식으로는 치킨이 오랜동안 사랑을 받아왔고 종종 매운 음식을 찾는 사람들도 있다. 여러 음식과 함께 스트레스를 풀기 위한 놀이도 여러가지 있는데 노래방과 야구배팅장이 대표적인 예이다.


local temple during Buddhist holidays

In Thailand, many people focus their energy on keeping a healthy body and mind as a way to deal with stress. One of the most ubiquitous methods of handling mental stress is meditation. It is common for Thais to go to their local temple during Buddhist holidays and join in group meditation sessions (amongst other ceremonies and activities), or to have an independent practice at home. Many Thais incorporate Vipassana Meditation in their daily routine, and it is commonplace for locals and visitors to Thailand to join in meditation retreats. At a retreat, one would live life as if they were a monk. This means getting up before the sun rises, hours of meditation every day, only eating during the morning hours, and sleeping on a mat on the floor. If you would like to try meditating, you can try this youtube video which guides you through a 20-minute session.

In order to maintain a healthy body, many find positive healing benefits in Thai Massage (นวดไทย). The tradition and practice has been put to use for centuries and many masseuses in Thailand are seen as doctors. Over time, this craft has been nearly perfected with tried and tested techniques. Massages and help people heal, relax, and feel refreshed (even if there is some pain in the process)!

With the current COVID-19 situation, many people are spending more time with their families, especially the younger and middle-aged people who moved to Bangkok, the capital city for work. Many businesses in Bangkok have temporarily shut down and their employees have moved back in with their parents and/or extended family. With extra time available, many people in the younger generations are learning how to cook some traditional Thai dishes, including time-consuming (but delicious) desserts. If you find yourself with extra time on your hands you can try your hand at making one of my favorites– khao tom mad (ข้าวต้มมัด).


For many Vietnamese who are living in such stressful and worrying times, meditation and mindfulness practices have become the norm amongst themselves, old and young alike. “Khí Công”, or Chi practice is the martial art practice that focuses on the inner peace, agile and overall wellness of the human body. You could spot people, as young as 6 years old and as old as 75 years old harmonize this ancient technique at various locations in Vietnam.

Sport dance is also a popular stress relief methodology. People gather in public areas, crank up the cheerful music and start swaying in mesmerizing dance moves. It is truly a fantastic way of mending people’s spirits, especially when the social distancing has been lifted. This is one of Rustic students’ highlights in Vietnam and a fun way to get to know local people and culture!

Đối với nhiều người Việt sống trong thời đại khủng hoảng và nhiều căng thẳng, thì việc luyện tập thiền và tĩnh tâm đang trở thành xu hướng chung, bất kể độ tuổi lớn nhỏ. Tập Khí Công, là một phương pháp phổ biến chú trọng vào sự an nhiên trong tâm hồn, nhanh nhạy và một thể chất khoẻ toàn diện. Bạn có thể thấy người già và trẻ em, từ độ tuổi từ 6 tới 75 đều tập cùng nhau bộ môn này, ở rất nhiều địa điểm tại Việt Nam.

Khiêu vũ thể thao cũng là bộ môn được ưa thích để giải toả căng thẳng. Nhiều người hội họp ở những nơi công cộng, bật nhạc sôi động và bắt đầu nhảy những điệu nhảy mê hoặc. Đây là một cách tuyệt diệu để gắn kết con người và tâm hồn lại với nhau, nhất là khi lệnh cách ly xã hội đã được gỡ bỏ. Đây là một trong những điểm sáng của các học sinh khi các em tới thăm Việt Nam, và là một cách rất hay để làm quen với người dân và văn hoá bản địa.

About the Author

Scott Ingram

Scott is the Director of Admissions at Rustic Pathways. He has spent the last 15 years in the student travel and experiential education world. Before helping families find the perfect Rustic Pathways program, he led gap year programs that took students around the world and spent three years teaching English in Japan.