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Join the family while living at the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home, teaching in a local public school, and tutoring the students who call this magical place home. Immerse yourself in the Karen culture during a homestay in a nearby village where you’ll work on development projects and spend time with locals. Educate yourself about refugee issues during an overnight visit to a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border.

With our No Anxiety Escrow Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 13 June 30 Limited
July 25 August 11 Limited

Program Profile

Country
Thailand
Community Service Component
Next Level
Community Service Focus
Education, Infrastructure, Economic Development
Get to Know
The People
Lifestyle
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

Connecting Programs

Schedule two or more programs in a row to create your ideal Rustic Pathways experience.

This program connects especially well with:

  • Day 1

    Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Before traveling you will receive your pre-departure packet, which includes your Rustic T-shirts, luggage tags, country books, airline tickets, and important contact information.

    Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you check-in for your flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader who will escort you all the way to Thailand! Rustic Pathways’ Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Thailand!

  • Day 2

    Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.

  • Day 3

    Sawat dee, and welcome to Thailand! Upon your arrival into one of the world’s most modern airports, you will immediately get the feeling that you have arrived in a place that is far different from the United States. Thailand is known as one of the most welcoming countries in the world and has deservedly earned the nicknamed the Land of Smiles.

    As you clear customs and enter the arrival hall with your friendly Flight Leader, you will meet our team of staff. As soon as all of the incoming students have arrived at the airport, it will be time to get ready for your connecting flight to Chiang Mai. The flight will take about one hour, and you will land in Chiang Mai around 5 p.m.

    As soon as you step off the plane in this fascinating northern city, you’ll notice that everything is different from Bangkok. The air is a bit cooler (though still sticky!), and the tiny airport is adorned with live orchids. After grabbing your bag, you’ll be met in the reception hall by our smiling Northern Thailand team of staff! These are some of the people who will be your hosts at the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home.

    Once everyone has their bags, it will be time to hop in our VIP vans and begin the voyage out to Mae Sariang. Although it will have been a rather long day for most of you, this final leg of the journey is an exciting time for everyone. This is the first time that you’ll see rural Thailand, and the beauty of this area is sure to take your breath away. As you’ll learn in the days to come, Mae Sariang is a diverse town and a central hub for education and employment for hill tribe villagers from the surrounding mountains. You’ll come to recognize the various ethnic groups by their distinctive cultural dress. By the end of your stay, you may even be sporting a traditional handwoven shirt, longyi, or shoulder bag yourself!

    The drive out to the Children’s Home is just a little under four hours. You will break up the trip with a nice dinner, and you’ll be there before you know it!

    Once you arrive at the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home (RPCH), you’ll be greeted by the students who live at this facility and the rest of our team of staff. Sit down for a snack, take in your new surroundings, and enjoy a shower before bed.

  • Day 4

    Wake to a whole new world that the darkness of the night hid from you. Looking out from the main house, admire the lush rice paddies and a swift river adjoining the property. A rolling range of mountains dotted with temple tops and pagodas form the perfect scenic backdrop.

    At breakfast, program orientation will begin, and you’ll meet the full team while enjoying some of the resident chef’s legendary cooking for the first time. After breakfast we’ll reconvene in the Big House, a gorgeous semi-open teak structure with breathtaking views, where your leaders will bring you up to speed on the family you are now part of. Here you will learn about the background of this Base, and get a great introduction to the people you will meet, projects you will aid, and the powerful effect you and your peers can have through your positive energy and willingness to help.

    Tour the property of the Children’s Home and learn about our relationship with Baan Rai School just up the road where more than 300 Karen students study every day. Most of our Karen students at The Base attend Baan Rai School, but many of their classmates live in meager accommodations on the school grounds. Government funding provides them tuition, basic uniforms, and lunch at school.

    This afternoon will be your first opportunity to jump into Karen and Thai culture. A short ride in our songthaews will bring you to the home of our long-time director, Yuttana, where his mother will teach you traditional Karen weaving as it has been practiced through generations. Even today, most Karen women learn to weave as little girls, and you’ll experience this tradition firsthand as you give weaving your best shot. After leaving your mark on a shoulder bag, visit a Buddhist temple to learn about Buddhism its integral place in Thai culture. After our afternoon programming we’ll head back to the Children’s Home just in time to greet the students returning from school.

    The morning orientation explains why this project exists, and when you see the students returning home your heart will fully understand, too. After greeting the students, the games begin! Cultural barriers fall as you and your Karen teammates join hands in activities. Dinner provides more opportunities to learn about your peers on the other side of the world, and you may even be elected to participate in our dinner presentations, a chance for our Karen students to practice public speaking. After dinner you’ll lead some name-games to set the tone for a great week ahead!

    In the evening, enjoy the sunset across the river, go for a run, play pick-up soccer, grab a guitar, or write in your journal.

  • Day 5

    Although you’ve just arrived, today is the start of the weekend! Rising early, you will review the plans for the weekend at breakfast. First on the agenda will be a trip to the Saturday market, just a short distance from the Children’s Home.

    Only held on Saturdays, this market is one of the major weekly events in Mae Sariang. The festive atmosphere is contagious, and you’ll soon find yourself having a great time interacting with the local people and perusing random items with your new friends. A little money goes a long way here, and our local staff will help you find the best deals and the tastiest snacks like nothing you’ve tried before. The Saturday market is the perfect place if you need to pick up any last minute items before heading out of Mae Sariang for the weekend.

    After lunch at the Children’s Home, pack what you will need for an overnight excursion into the mountains as you’ll be heading out of town for the Rural Outreach and Development (R.O.A.D) program. This ambitious project was established to assist nearby villages where our full-time students live with their families when they aren’t at the Base. Here you may meet with village leaders, visit residents in their bamboo homes, and help out on some engaging infrastructure service work. Get your hands dirty working to help alongside our friends in the mountains! In the last few years, Rustic students built a library in Baan Rai Lor village, a kindergarten in Baan Mae Ga Nai village, and a library in Baan Mae Lai village. This summer we are continuing our work in Mae Lai village, and with your help we will be able to finish another major project this summer.

    After a satisfying day of service and play, you’ll be ready for a nice dinner and some relaxing down time in the village. Tonight you will be staying in simple accommodations at the Mae Lai school in the village, so be prepared to live like a local for the night!

  • Day 6

    Wake up to the delicious smells of breakfast and the proud sights of your previous day’s work. In the morning we’ll continue working on the project and have lunch at the site before returning to the Base.  In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy the comforts, beauty, and people of the Children’s Home. Share stories, try your hand (or foot!) at the Thai sport takraw, exchange games and songs, and simply be present in your surroundings. Sunday afternoons are spent tutoring and teaching English to the local students to hone your skills for Monday’s teaching assignment.

    With Monday morning around the corner, it’ll be time to start your lesson-planning for your Education Enrichment activities in our local partner schools. Don’t worry; we have lots of experience with this! We’ll begin with everyone sharing ideas and techniques, and then our staff and veteran Rustic students will tell you what to expect in the classroom. Learn how to make a lesson plan, a few tricks that will help break the ice and get things off to a good start, and some classic classroom activities. Our staff will be around to make sure you are ready for the day ahead.

  • Day 7

    After breakfast and a quick review of your lesson plan, it’s time to teach! You will quickly learn that in an ESL classroom, speaking very slowly and clearly is your greatest asset. If you’re careful and energetic enough, you just might find that they’re hanging on your every word after just a few minutes! As this is likely your first attempt at really teaching a class (though you will be part of a team of a few students teaching together), don’t expect it to go perfectly. As with everything else, the more you practice, the better you will become. After teaching in the morning and afternoon, it’s time for Thai massages!  Your muscles are most likely soar from the weekend’s service work and this will be a good time to relax.

    In the evening, it’ll seem like you’ve learned a lifetime of lessons about teaching, so we’ll be sure to reflect and build on those for future teaching service.  Tonight you will have more opportunities to tutor and hang out with your new Thai friends.

  • Day 8

    This morning, you will have another chance to work on your teaching skills. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve improved after only one day. Walking away from a great class is one of the best feelings in the world!

    After lunch you’ll be visiting with local organizations who have been working along the Thai-Myanmar border for years.  Participate in discussions with these field experts who will answer questions regarding humanitarian work, development initiatives and community driven rehabilitation.   

    Return to the Children’s Home and choose from one of many activities or and/or side trips to the areas around Mae Sariang the leaders have planned. These may include a Thai cooking lesson, meditation at a local monastery, market explorations, or a bicycle ride through the idyllic countryside. After dinner lead some reading lessons or help some of the children with their homework before settling down for our debriefing and a mid-trip reflection.

  • Day 9

    After several days of hard work in the Children’s Home community, today will be your chance to venture farther afield to see what life is like in a remote region near the Thai-Myanmar border. After lunch at the Children’s Home, you will back what you need for the next two nights and depart for Baan Sakwal, where you will be spending the next two nights. While in the village, you will be working hard on infrastructure projects and staying with families in the village. We will stop for supplies on the way, and get settled in by mid-afternoon when you will head out for a walking tour to get acquainted with your new surroundings!

  • Day 10

    Mornings start early in the village, and you can be sure that food will be cooking over the fire before the break of day. After breakfast today, you will spend the day working hard on a service project at the school in Baan Sak wal village. With a break for lunch, you can expect to be finishing up in the mid-afternoon, just as the children of the village are getting out of school. Settle in for a delicious dinner and sleep well after a long day in the village.

  • Day 11

    In the morning, continue working on the service project before saying goodbye to your gracious hosts. Today you’ll be returning to the Children’s Home, where you will have a chance to discuss your time in Baan Sakwal village and prepare for your next journey to the Mae La Moe Refugee Camp beginning tomorrow. In the afternoon, you will be shown a video which will introduce you to the history of the camp. Enjoy a nice meal and a relaxing night with your friends at the RPCH, sleep well!

  • Day 12

    After breakfast, you will again stop at the market to get supplies for our excursion into the mountains to the refugee camp. Arriving at midday, you will sit down for lunch at the camp meeting hall upon arrival before heading out for a walking orientation of the camp. Our friends in the camp will show you the places where you will be working for the next few days, including the village dormitory, the cooking and baking training center, and the junior college. Once you have a good understanding of your surroundings and you are all checked in, you’ll be invited to join a soccer game at the camp – a great way to break the ice and get acquainted with the young people living here.

  • Day 13 - 14

    The next two days will be spent working on service projects in the camp, which will include working on rebuilding a shower room, creating a fish farm, and planting banana and papaya trees. Depending on the progress that the first group makes on the projects, the second group may complete these projects and begin another initiative in the camp. During your down time, enjoy getting to know the community here in the camp through conversation, activities, and pickup sports in the afternoons and evenings.

  • Day 15

    In the morning, you will say goodbye to the many friends you have made at the camp and return to the Children’s Home. Coming back to the RPCH again will feel like coming home, and your friends there will surely be happy to see you again. In the afternoon, our program leaders will facilitate a debrief discussion about your time at the camp, and how life there compares with what you have seen on the rest of the program. Then in the evening, we will have a special farewell party on your final night along the Thai-Myanmar border.

  • Day 16

    After breakfast your friends at the Children’s Home will take you to one of their favorite fishing spots, where you can test your angling skills. After lunch, you will begin the journey back to Chiang Mai, stopping at the impressive Mae Wachirathan and Mae Ya waterfalls on the way. Once in Chiang Mai, take time to freshen up before heading to the Night Bazaar to pick up some souvenirs for your friends and family back home.

  • Day 17

    With sad goodbyes, it is time to say goodbye to your programs leaders and new friends. Students going back home or connecting to selected programs will fly to Bangkok in the late morning. Safe travels, and we hope to see you again soon in Southeast Asia!

    **All students on our group flights arrive home on Fridays, regardless of whether they return to JFK or LAX. **

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email thailand@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • This is perhaps Rustic Pathways most ambitious global project, in which we have now supported over 35 Karen Hill Tribe children access education with many more on the way. In this quintessential humanitarian service project, this is your opportunity to make real relationships with real people in a real place and do some real service, and while having a really good time.

  • Our students typically love this program and come back year after year because of the relationships they build with their peers from across the world, especially their “Thai buddies.” Students are often inspired and empowered by the opportunity to teach in a real classroom and venture into Karen hill tribe villages for service. All of this happens in one of the most pristine and breathtaking places in the world. Finally, this is a rare opportunity to experience life at a refugee camp. RP students make connections with their peers growing up in the camp who face daily challenges and have a very different worldview.

  • To answer this question would be a massive generalization. That being said, the Karen strike most people as very hard-working, fun-loving, genuine, and caring.  Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles” and Karen people are no exception—they pass their time in the rice paddies exchanging stories and jokes.  It is a great privilege to soak in the subtle wisdom and ways of the Karen. The majority of the students at RPCH are Karen.

    The Karen (pronounced Kah-REN) are a distinct ethnic group who have settled primarily along the Thai-Burmese border. There are an estimated 4-7 million Karen people in the world today, with perhaps 300,000 in the mountains of western Thailand, making them the largest hill tribe in Thailand. Here, they have long been marginalized by Thai society, and most Karen villages still lack basic services, including schools. Citizens of neither Burma nor Thailand, some Karen people are in the precarious and terrifying position of statelessness, without any legal form of identification. Karen youth are growing up in quite a different world than the one their ancestors knew. The new generation faces great challenges as they are tasked with maintaining their traditional heritage and identity while also assimilating into rapidly modernizing Thailand.

  • You will have a number of service opportunities during your stay at RPCH. Rustic Pathways supports Baan Rai and Baan Pong schools where our Thai students attend school in Mae Sariang. In the past, Rustic Pathways students have contributed to a number of improvement projects at these schools and we continue to provide English teachers to their classrooms. A large part of your service, and realistically some of the most meaningful service anyone can do abroad, is teaching English. English is an incredibly valuable asset for these children. English exposure and practice will without a doubt open opportunities for them. Continue tutoring our Thai students, playing English games, or just have a chat once you’re back at RPCH in the evenings. Over the weekend, you will have the chance to work on improvement projects in the villages with which we partner. In the past, these projects have included painting, gardening, and the construction of libraries and playgrounds. During your second week, you will have the opportunity to teach in Mae Lai village school—a very rewarding experience, as students here are extremely eager to learn! Rustic students also earn their keep (and service hours!) at RPCH by helping with rice planting or tending to our vegetable garden. Your hard work will pay off when our students are eating the fruits (literally!) of your labor.

  • Yes, and it will make a difference in these students’ lives. Our staff will help you with the fundamentals of making a lesson plan, organizing activities, and creating games to break the ice. Ultimately, teaching English begins as an exercise in speaking very slowly and carefully. If you’re careful and energetic enough, you just might find that your students hanging on your every word after just a few minutes! Remember to go SLOW – repeat yourself often and don’t be afraid to be a bit silly. Once you have their attention, students learn very quickly! As this is likely your first attempt at really teaching a class (though you will be part of a team of a few students teaching together), don’t expect it to go perfectly. As with everything else, the more you practice, the better you will become.

  • Everyone at RPCH sleeps in traditional, Karen-style bamboo houses. The houses are stilted amongst emerald rice paddies and have wrap-around balconies overlooking rivers and mountains. There are houses for boys and male staff and separate houses for girls and female staff. Rustic Pathways students sleep separately from the Thai students who live at RPCH. Karen people almost never sleep in a room alone, so expect to share a room with at least one other person. You may find yourself in a dorm-style room with as many as ten new friends. Cushy sleeping pads, pillows, blankets, and mosquito nets are provided. You will be comfortable, but don’t expect a hotel’s ambience or amenities—the natural bamboo and teak structures are part of the appeal of the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home! When you leave RPCH for your village stay and refugee camp experience, you can expect to sleep on a thin mattress under a mosquito net.

  • Bathrooms at RPCH are shared and equipped with western toilets and hot water showers. When you leave RPCH to stay overnight in the village and refugee camp, you can expect squat toilets and cold-water bucket showers (a refreshing way to end your day!).

  • Doing a quick load of hand-wash laundry is a great way to start the day- the weather’s cool, it will get your blood flowing, and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment before most people have their coffee. But, if you need those extra fifteen minutes of Zzz’s, we have two washing machines on the grounds as well. Barring any downpours, your clothes will be dry by noon. On Sundays, staff and multi-week students can send their laundry out of RPCH. Your grubby service clothes will come back smelling fresh for a small fee.

  • There are mosquitoes and other insects in rural Thailand. They are usually not too much of a nuisance, but you will want to have a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and long pants for the evenings because The Big House, where we spend most of our time, is open to the outside air. Please be sure to bring insect repellent containing DEET. In addition, all sleeping areas at RPCH are covered by mosquito nets.

  • You’ll want money with you to buy handmade crafts in the villages and souvenirs at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. You may fall victim to the Thai habit of constantly buying ‘ka-nom’ – little snacks or sweets. You may also want to donate some school supplies, sports equipment, or clothes to the kids at the Children’s Home and the school (all of which can be bought in Thailand). Rustic Pathways recommends students bring between $100-$150 per week they are traveling.

  • Mae Sariang is hot and humid during the day, but the mountain air cools down a little bit at night. Daily downpours are short and give way to sunny skies. Be prepared for heat and dampness. Synthetic fiber clothes are great because they dry quickly and don’t attract mildew.

  • Don’t expect to tweet your every move! Phones and email will be accessible daily, although we encourage our students to unplug in order to engage more deeply with each other, the Thai students who live at RPCH, and their surroundings. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic.

  • Each Rustic Pathways trip is staffed by a combination of western (usually, but not exclusively, American) and local leaders. In addition to our Thai staff, we are lucky to have a number of our Burmese staff working at the Children’s Home. Some of our local and western staff live in Mae Sariang year-around to ensure our commitment to the community. Depending on the week, the size of the group at RPCH will vary along with the number of staff on hand. We never have less than one staff member for every seven students.

  • Students on Rustic Pathways Children’s Home and The Elephant Training and Hill Tribe Experience also call RPCH home for at least a portion of their program. You will have time to make friends with these students as we do many activities together and share meals, but there is time for bonding with students on your program as well. Depending on the week, the size of the group at RPCH will vary. You may find yourself in a smaller, cozier setting or part of a big high-energy crew. You’ll feel part of the RPCH family no matter its size!

  • Thailand is famous for its food, and this trip will awaken your taste buds to flavors you didn’t even know existed. You will eat a wide variety of Thai food, as well as a good deal of Western food, especially at breakfast when you can expect pancakes, eggs, or cereal. Almost all dietary concerns can be accommodated, but please alert us of any relevant restrictions beforehand just to make sure. Vegetarians are welcome!

  • You will be drinking only bottled water on this trip, and bringing a reusable water bottle is highly recommended. Bottled water is safe and readily available in Thailand.

  • Mae Sariang has a hospital with reliable medical care that caters to hundreds of Westerners every year. For the short time we will be in more rural areas, our staff will have a clear plan and route to the nearest healthcare facility in case of emergency. Learn more about our Safety and Risk Management strategy here.

  • Safety is a top priority, and all of our programs have staff certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or lifeguards.

  • Rustic Pathways does not make recommendations regarding immunizations. You will need to visit your local travel clinic and discuss your specific itinerary with a physician so that they can make medical recommendations for you. For general information about travel around the world, please see the Center for Disease Control website athttp://www.cdc.gov

  • All flights departing from and returning to the United States will have flight leaders. In the event a student is connecting from another country, they may or may not have a flight leader. In such instances, we generally have coordinated with the airlines to escort the students from check-in through customs, and delivered to a verified Rustic Pathways staff member who will be waiting for them at the baggage claim..

  • All Rustic students fly in to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. From there, students heading to northern Thailand take a short one-hour flight up to Chiang Mai, where this program begins.

  • The Rustic Pathways Children’s Home is located in Mae Sariang in northwest Thailand. The trip begins and ends in Chiang Mai, with students traveling by VIP vans to and from the RPCH.

  • “A person who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.” – 1951 Refugee Convention

  • Mae Ra Ma Luang is one of nine major refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border where those fleeing Burma can shelter. Mae Ra Ma Luang is located 4 km from the Burmese border deep in the mountains. Bamboo houses topped with leaf roofs crowd the steep hills near the river that rushes through the middle of the valley. The land is stunning, but the Thai government has deemed it too inaccessible for tourism and too harsh for farming, and so it has be appropriated for refugee camps. This camp is home to approximately 16,000 refugees. NGOs have stepped in to provide services including food, shelter, health and sanitation services, reproductive health, primary and secondary education, nursery schools, special education, social services, rehabilitation, libraries, and protection. As you can see, the refugee camps are not merely scattered shacks, but functional communities. However, what this community lacks is freedom of movement around Thailand. Those who are granted refugee status are required to stay within the camp confines at ALL times. This means some of the students you will meet have never left the refugee camp their whole lives!

  • The refugees at Mae Ra Ma Luang camp come across the Thai border from Burma. Since achieving independence from the British in 1948, Burma has been economically stagnant and marred in violence, controversy, and corruption. There are eight major ethnic groups (and hundreds more minority groups) native to Burma. All those who have challenged the regime have been targeted, but those in the most precarious position are the ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in eastern Burma. Since 1948 the Karen have been engaged in a battle for autonomy, making this conflict the longest running civil war on earth today. For more than half a century, the Burmese military government has carried out a deliberate, brutal campaign of violence, terror, rape, forced-labor, displacement, and murder while isolating the Karen from contact with the outside world. For over twenty years the Karen have been fleeing to Thailand seeking shelter from the ongoing abuses in the their native lands. There are over 150,000 people currently living in nine major refugee camps along the border.

  • Today, the official name of the country is Myanmar. The ruling military junta changed the name from Burma in 1989, as an attempt to avert international attention from civil uprisings in reaction to the genocide of thousands of Burmese ethnic minorities. Many countries, including the United States, refuse to recognize the name change.

  • We will be out of phone service for the time we are at the camp; however, there is a satellite phone that can be accessed for emergencies. Students will not have internet access while at the camp.

  • Yes. It is operated by a highly respected NGO.

  • Remember, it is a refugee camp in a remote location of the world. That being said, the accommodation is actually quite nice. Blankets and mosquito nets are provided. Extra blankets and woven mats are available to make a slim mattress. Additional bedding can be brought with us for special circumstances.

  • Believe us when we say you won’t be ready to leave after just two weeks! You’ve done the hard part on the journey over, so you may as well enjoy your time in Asia for as long as possible once you’ve made the trek! All of our programs within Asia connect seamlessly. All trips start and end on Thursday, thus allowing for easy connectivity and convenience.

  • The former leader of Burma once made a decision to change the country’s currency based on advice from his spiritual advisor.

    Contact Us: For more information about The Hill Tribe Support and Refugee Camp Experience you can email thailand@rusticpathways.com.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.

Carry-On

A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

  • Passport
  • 2 Photocopies of passport
  • Wallet/money
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Chargers
  • Camera
  • Ear buds
  • Change of clothes
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Medication
  • Additional community service forms
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. A wheeled bag is acceptable if it can be carried like a duffel bag over rough terrain.

Clothes

  • Socks (2-4)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Pants/capris (1-2, lightweight)
  • Knee-length shorts (4)
  • Athletic shorts/leggings (1-2)
  • T-shirts (6)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Fleece/hoodie
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Quick dry towel

Toiletries

(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm w/sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Foam earplugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Small packs of tissues
  • Razor/shaving cream

Miscellaneous

  • Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries
  • A bag for dirty clothes

Optional

  • Portable games (Bananagrams, cards, etc.)
  • Pictures of family and friends to share with your new friends in Thailand
  • Travel pillow

Important Reminders

  • SE Asia is a conservative culture with ancient customs based mostly on Buddhism. Dressing respectfully is very important. You will not be allowed to wear short shorts and low cuts tops. Everyone will be expected to respect the people and culture by dressing appropriately.
  • Carry-On Luggage cannot weigh more than 7 kilos (15 lbs.)
  • Check-In Luggage cannot weigh more than 15 kilos (33 lbs.)
  • If your bags weigh more than the amounts specified above, the airlines in Southeast Asia will charge you an excess baggage fee for every kilo over the allowed limit. In past years, we have had students incur significant charges for excess baggage. These fees must be paid in cash at the check-in counter (no USD accepted), so this is a situation that we always try to avoid!
  • You will have 2-3 chances to do laundry on this trip, please pack light!
  1. a
    Mae Sariang

    Welcome to Thailand! Mae Sariang is a quaint little mountain town that is home to the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home. Students will facilitate English conversation classes at Baan Rai, Baan Pong and Mae Lai schools.

  2. b
    Rural Village

    Overnight stay at a remote village. This will be home to the Rural Outreach and Development program where students will participate in an on-going service initiative aimed to improve the infrastructure of the local community and school.

  3. c
    Mae Ra Moe Luang Refugee Camp

    This is 4×4 off-road excursion to one of the most remote places that any RP program visits. Mae Ra Moe Luang Camp is home to 16,000 Karen refugees and the group will spend one night inside the camp.

  4. d
    Chiang Mai

    The largest and most populated city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna. Its history dates back over 700 years. Rustic Pathways Thailand has a Base House, an office and serves as the headquarters for almost all programs that operate in Thailand. On the final night students will shop at the famous Night Bazaar.