This time of year, letters from students and parents fill our inboxes with tales of extraordinary experiences and positive impact. They fuel us for another fantastic year, help us to relive our own transformational travel experiences, and reinforce why we love our jobs.
We wanted to share a few of these letters with you, and we hope that they too inspire you to get out there and continue living life, learning about yourself, connecting with new people and places, and finding those magic moments that make travel meaningful and life-changing.
A Letter From Charlotte
Since I joined the Rustic Pathways family after my sophomore year in high school, I have grown and gained confidence. In Costa Rica and Fiji, I learned that nothing could stop one from being happy. In Thailand, I found that even the biggest of creatures could be the most gentle of them all. Not speaking anything much more than English, I found that you can communicate and build a relationship with someone without having to use words.
Rustic also let me have a lot of firsts: my first zip lining, white water rafting, skydiving, knee-boarding, repelling, taking care of an orphan elephant, cuddling with a baby tiger, catching a great wave surfing, having the best role models, and many firsts of exotic foods. I would not be the young woman I am today without this program. I have learned leadership, kindness, compassion, that simple things are what matter, how to laugh at myself, take on new responsibilities, and to appreciate one of the greatest rewards by causing a child to smile or laugh.
I could not be more proud to be considered a Rustic alum now. Thank you for all that you do and for starting something that really makes an impact on the world. I hope to work and continue to be a part of the Rustic family in the future.
Charlotte A. Hinrichs | Greenwich, Connecticut
Fiji & Australia, 2014 | Thailand, 2013 | Costa Rica, 2012
A Letter From Cassie
Rustic taught me several things about the world and a million things about myself. As school started for me last week, I’ve reflected heavily on what I accomplished this summer. I have come to terms that it’s so important to see the world, no matter what age, to realize that it’s not the same to look at a picture of a place, but to actually be there, to talk to the people, to eat the food, to absorb the culture.
Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity,
Cassie Francis | Las Vegas, Nevada
Tanzania, 2015 | Thailand, 2014
A Letter From Ryan
What I have learned from Rustic Pathways is that, while all of that is important, who you travel with, the people you meet along your travels and the stories they have to share is what really makes a trip special. I couldn’t have asked for a greater group of people to travel with. The students and the group leaders made my trip special. Nothing more can be said about that, other than our last day when we went to the airport for our return flight. Everyone was emotional because we didn’t want to say goodbye to the friends we had made.
Another particularly special part of the trip was staying in the village in the Atlas mountains. Even though our ability to speak with one another was limited to a few words, what we shared with the families we stayed with was greater than that. To stay in their homes with them, and work alongside them, was an unparalleled opportunity. It was great to laugh and exchange smiles with the families, and to play with the children. The culture and the physical beauty of Morocco were awe-inspiring.
Thank you again for providing me with the opportunity to travel with Rustic Pathways yet again. It made for an incredible summer, and amazing memories.
Ryan Lutker | St. Louis, Missouri
Morocco, 2014 | Costa Rica, 2013
A Letter From Izzy
Since my experience, I’ve been totally eye opened and have been helping my own community. I made friends on the trip I can’t go a day without texting. I now take 6-minute showers instead of 20 and cold showers instead of hot. I Facebook message my local leaders and miss the trip every day. I want to go back.
Isabelle (Izzy) Reed | Marina Del Rey, California
Cambodia, 2017 | Myanmar, 2016 | Thailand, 2015 | Cambodia, 2014
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.