It’s OK if there’s something you don’t know as you prepare for your Rustic Pathways trip, or even if you’re nervous about traveling abroad. Everyone is thinking about something, and probably the same things you are. We asked members of the Rustic Squad, a group of dedicated Rustic alums, what they wished they had known before traveling for the first time.
(Pssst… Want to join the Rustic Squad, our incredible group of alumni? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how!)
Cayli Dobbs – Burke, Virginia | Jai Ho India
Bring a heavy jacket if you’re going to India, even though it’s summer. It’s monsoon season during the summers, so it rains a lot too. Bring both a rain jacket and an umbrella.
Olivia McKinnon – Manhattan Beach, California | Highlands and Islands Service Immersion (Fiji) and The Refugee Youth Project (United States)
I wish I had packed gifts for my host family and more long skirts because that’s pretty much all I wore. I wish I would have brought more jeans, t-shirts, and dresses because we aren’t allowed to wear shorts or tank tops during service.
Miyin Delgado Karl – Miami, Florida | Come with Nothing, Go Home Rich (Thailand)
If you are doing service related to infrastructure, bring a loofah!!! Cement is hard to scrub off your skin after a day of service, especially if you are taking bucket showers.
Sarah Edwards – Redmond, Washington | Children’s Home and Elephant Sanctuary Project (Thailand)
I wish I had brought a quick-dry towel because my towel never dried. Also, bring a sweatshirt for the rural outreach and development part of the program because it gets cold at night! A sweatshirt is good for the van rides. Also, don’t get the DEET bug lotion—just get bug spray. The lotion leaves your skin feeling sticky and gross. I found that the bug spray that I bought in Thailand works really well.
I wish I knew to pack plastic bags because everything got wet every day. Also, I wish I knew that you need closed-toe shoes because we were never allowed to wear the open-toe ones.
On Moroccan Wanderer, the packing list was perfect. I had everything I needed, but a lot of the boys didn’t realize the no-shorts rule applies to them, too. Because of that, all of the boys had to buy pants in country and then wear one or two pairs for the entire trip.
Sydney Leiter – Davie, Florida | Children’s Home and Elephant Sanctuary Project (Thailand)
Bring rain boots or any plastic boots you won’t mind getting dirty. They’ll come in handy at the village and the elephant sanctuary and will be easier to clean or dispose of than regular sneakers. Bring either Gatorade powder or any brand of electrolyte powder to add to your water. I figured this out on Nicoya Turtle Expedition in Costa Rica, but it’s helpful for any trip where you’ll be in the sun for most of the days. The electrolytes help keep you hydrated!
Tayte Gossling – Toronto, Canada | Life in the Bateyes and Public Health in the Caribbean (Dominican Republic)
For any projects that involve doing service within a local community, bring lots of pairs of cropped pants! Shorts are definitely a “no,” and trying to show respect for the culture is super important, but wearing long pants can get very hot after awhile.
Katherine Luttmann – Fairfield, Connecticut | Highlands and Islands Service Immersion (Fiji) and Life in the Bateyes (Dominican Republic)
LONG SHORTS! I went to Fiji and the Dominican Republic, both for service-intensive trips. It was important to bring your own long shorts because you had to wear them for service. If you didn’t bring any, you had to buy bathing suit shorts there, which weren’t very comfortable.
Sage Spalter – Berkeley, California | The Cambodia Children’s Project
A box of granola bars! Even though the food is great, it’s always good to have something extra and it’s easy to add to your suitcase. Also capri pants!
Ruby Halfacre – Bradenton, Florida | Come with Nothing: The Mekong Expedition (Laos)
Bring work shoes that are good for working in mud, sand, or concrete and also bring more than one change of clothes.
Lily Cloonan – Needham, Massachusetts | Elephants and the Amazing Thailand Adventure
I would say to pack less than you think! You end up buying so many clothes there like elephant pants, tank tops, and t-shirts in the markets. These clothes will also be more culturally appropriate for the temples.
Still have questions? Leave us a comment below, on social, or reach out to us directly at email@example.com.
Rachel joined Rustic in 2013 and led programs for three summers in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ghana. She’s also led programs in Fiji and Tanzania. A graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in sociology and Spanish, Rachel focuses her love for travel, writing, and her unquenchable curiosity of our natural world as Rustic’s Brand Engagement Manager. Based in Tahoe, CA, Rachel is a talented ceramicist and lover of the outdoors.