Finding a Service Program as a First-Time Traveler
If it’s your first time traveling alone or your first time traveling outside the United States, maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while. Maybe you’re thinking about where you’ll sleep or what the bathrooms will be like. Maybe it’s food or what you’ll be doing when not participating in service. That’s important, but we can ease those concerns by telling you about Rustic Pathways base houses.
During Rustic Pathways base house programs, you don’t have to sacrifice the comforts of home (or close to it) during your first solo or international travel experience. Instead, our bases in Australia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Dominican Republic, Laos, Thailand, and the United States provide accommodation with familiar living standards and amenities, and easy access to service projects with our longtime community partners
Here are the top service trips for first-time student travelers at Rustic Pathways bases houses ?
Aussie Surf and Service – Glass House Mountains Base
Join us for an unforgettable adventure on the Sunshine Coast! Experience some of Australia’s most beloved coastlines, iconic cities, and remote beaches while contributing to diverse community service projects. Volunteer at nearby elementary schools and coach special-needs youth at a sports center. You’ll also help with marine mammal research and coastal restoration projects with local organizations. When you aren’t engaged in service activities, you’ll explore the region with new friends, encounter the local wildlife, tour the diverse landscapes of Stradbroke Island, visit markets, sandboard massive dunes, and learn to surf!
Access to Education: Cambodia – Kampong Cham Service Base
Partner with the NGO Buddhism for Social Development Action (BSDA), a grassroots organization founded by a group of monks to empower and support women, children, and marginalized members of the Kampong Cham community. Alongside the BSDA, you’ll put your leadership skills into practice by organizing educational exchange activities for local students. Lead a range of programming to the students at BSDA’s three community centers. In addition, work on infrastructure improvement projects at the centers. After challenging but fulfilling service, head north to the city of Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat. Then enjoy an unforgettable day exploring local markets and some of Cambodia’s renowned temples.
Experience breathtaking sunsets, palm-fringed beaches, and blue waters during this week of surf, service, and adventure in Costa Rica. Your service efforts will focus on helping the community to improve its quality of life. Then grab your surfboard and head to the beach for lessons from expert surf instructors. No previous experience is necessary and experienced surfers will not be disappointed.
Join us for two weeks or more on this service program at our Eco-Lodge Service Base, where you’ll work on meaningful environmental and needs-based service projects with local community members. After service, relax and take advantage of island living. This extremely popular program will give you insight into the Fijian way of life and introduce you to the natural beauty of this island nation. Our South Pacific Eco-Lodge sits in the hills south of Nadi and is surrounded by the diverse mix of cultures that makes this area unique. You’ll work with a small group of students each day on a variety of education and infrastructure service projects designed in partnership with local communities.
Highlands and Islands Service Immersion – Highlands Service Base
Participate in a grassroots project designed to support basic needs within the community, such as education and access to health care. You’ll live in pairs with a host family that will open cultural doors and introduce you to the Fijian lifestyle in the Nausori Highlands. You’ll contribute to the ongoing development of a school, work on small-scale agriculture and construction projects, and lead English exchange programs for students in the village. Then travel to the Yasawa Island chain, where you’ll live right on the beach. Snorkel to tropical coral reefs, swim in the turquoise waters, and kayak to pristine beaches in this island paradise. Return home with a new perspective about the challenges this community faces on this rewarding and immersive experience.
Marine Service and Adventure – Islands Service Base
Explore the world’s third-largest coral reef system and thousands of marine species in Fiji. Assist with tracking fish populations, monitoring the health of various reef habitats, and observing marine life behavior. This practical experience will give you head start if you choose marine or animal conservation as your career. You’ll also help with development projects that contribute to the ecological balance of this aquatic wonderland. Your hard work will be rewarded with snorkeling trips alongside manta rays, exotic fish, squid, and sea turtles in this gorgeous stretch of reef. Visit majestic sand dunes and kayak with your new friends along the coast before parting ways.
Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children – Ricefields Service Base
Engage in life at Ricefields where service is exciting and the sense of teamwork is powerful. Ricefields offers seven meaningful service projects to choose from each week: Welcome Homes, Fish n’ Sticks, Meals on Flip Flops, Bobbing and Floating, English Exchange, Teaching and Tutoring, and Hands in the Dirt. We have developed a number of partnerships over our many years in the region, and our service projects produce life-changing experiences for our students and long-term outcomes for the communities in which they work. Many students who come to Ricefields stay for two weeks, four weeks, or even the whole summer. Choose from several exciting side-trip options during your stay to enhance your Ricefields experience and maximize your summer in Southeast Asia.
Rebuilding the American Dream – New Orleans Service Base
Assist with the ongoing Hurricane Katrina and tornado recovery effort. Repair damage caused when the levees failed and submerged more than 80 percent of New Orleans underwater in August 2005. Work with residents and organizations to rebuild homes as well as social, environmental, and cultural features of the city. Help with projects in schools, urban gardens, community centers, and neighborhoods. Soak up New Orleans’ famous atmosphere as you enjoy music in the birthplace of jazz. Live bands, fresh jambalaya, and friendly locals will show you the true meaning of Southern hospitality.
Call 440.975.9691 for more information about Rustic Pathways service trips for first-time travelers or to talk through your options to one of our Global Program Advisors or click below to explore programs.
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.