The Critical Issues Summit is a curiosity-driven, action-oriented two-week gathering of change makers from around the world.
Choose to explore one of five global critical issues as small groups in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam. Then come together to participate in a conference featuring issue experts, workshops, and community building. Join teens from more than 20 countries across the globe and delegates from local communities most impacted by the critical issues students will explore. Move toward making real change with a $10,000 design challenge to support innovative solutions to one of the critical issues.
Learn more about the other four Critical Issues tracks:
- Globalization in Laos
- Gender Equality in Thailand
- Refugee Crises in Thailand and Myanmar
- Access to Education in Vietnam
Nearly 300 students from 39 countries applied for full scholarships to attend the Summit. We now have students participating in the Rustic Pathways Critical Issues Summit from 15 countries, well on our way to our goal of bringing together future change makers from 20 countries.
Click here to read more about Critical Issues Summit Scholarship recipients.
No-Stress Travel Guarantee!
No-Stress Travel Guarantee!
Prepare for the Experience
Join our Critical Issues Summit community forum, which will launch April 1, and will be home to your pre-travel resources and community-building.
Dive into pre-travel resources to get into the right mindset and build your understanding of the critical issues. Starting in May, join monthly virtual meet-and-greets to get to know your fellow travelers. In June, attend a webinar hosted by our innovation curriculum partner, GiveBackHack, to learn more about design thinking and frame your experience.
While Rustic Pathways staff will add resources and monitor the forum, it will be yours to contribute to and make the most of. Individual questions related to your enrollment or travel should still be directed to your Personal Travel Advisor.
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Remember that you will be responsible for carrying your belongings everywhere you go, so PACK LIGHT! If your bag weighs more than 35 pounds, you have overpacked!
Weather in Southeast Asia
The summertime is known as the “rainy season” or the “green season” in Southeast Asia—days are generally hot and humid, with brief and refreshing showers that keep the land very lush and green. Temperatures sometimes cool off once the sun goes down, making for more pleasant evenings. Because of the heat, you will need to drink a lot more water than you are used to drinking to stay hydrated!
Important Notes About Your Luggage
Airlines in Southeast Asia have weight restrictions for checked and carry-on luggage. Please limit your checked luggage to no more than 33lbs (15kg) and your carry-on luggage to 15lbs (7kg). For your one checked bag, a backpacking backpack is perfect, or a duffel bag that is easy to carry. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the carry on regulations of the TSA. Lastly, remember to leave your valuables or prized possessions at home. It’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling.
Our Dress Code Expectations in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. Despite the hot climate, people in these parts of the world show less skin than in many Western cultures, and you’ll rarely see low-cut shirts or short shorts in rural communities. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we ask that our students dress conservatively while in country. If you are not wearing proper attire, we will ask you to change your clothes.
To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please bring loose-fitting pants or shorts that cover just above the knees (think basketball length). Bring basic t-shirts that cover your shoulders, and please leave all tank tops, cut off shirts, low-cut, see-through, or crop tops at home. As mentioned in our packing lists, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate because they are too form-fitting. The key is to show less skin and to stay cool by wearing loose-fitted clothing. Check out these tips about how to pack for culturally-immersive travel and why Rustic cares about preserving a conservative dress code on our programs.
Temple Visits, Meetings, and Special Events
When visiting temples or attending certain meetings, we want to clean up a little more. Wearing modest, clean clothes that cover the knees and shoulders is a must, as per usual. Being respectful is the name of the game! Most of the clothes you bring should be able to get wet, dirty, and/or even destroyed, but you’ll want a few outfits that you save for temples, meetings, and special events.
Personal hygiene is important in Southeast Asia. Access to laundry during the first week of your program varies based on the location and is not guaranteed. Plan accordingly. When accessible, expect to pay $1-2 per kg in a rural area. If at a hotel, it can cost up to $20 per load. During the second week of your program, laundry is available at the Ricefields Base.
A school backpack or daypack is ideal as it will be used for hiking / day trips.
- Photocopy of passport
- Visa documentation
- Consent to Travel form
- Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
- Additional community service forms if needed
- Wallet /money / ATM card
- Pens and journal
- Outlet power converter (Varies by destination. Thailand uses the same plugs as the USA–just make sure all electronics are compatible with 220v)
- Earbuds / Ear plugs
- Reusable water bottle
- One change of clothing
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.
- 2-3 pairs of lightweight pants, jeans (too hot to wear often) or capris; leggings are not appropriate as they are too form-fitting
- 2-3 pairs of shorts / skirts, which must go to the knees or longer
- 8-10 pairs of underwear – quick-dry material is best
- 3-4 pairs of socks – lightweight cotton or quick dry athletic socks are best
- 5-7 tops (t-shirts and sports shirts) – they can be cotton, or quick dry shirts like capilene or polypropylene. Tank tops are generally not acceptable unless for time at the pool. Keep in mind you will find cool t-shirts and clothes at markets you will be visiting throughout the summer, which can supplement the tops you bring over
- 2 light, long sleeve t-shirts – breathable is best for the sun and certain areas of the region can get buggy or chilly (if you’re lucky!) at night
- 1 lightweight hoodie – most likely needed on flights and in airports
- 2 swimsuits – two piece suits are fine but need to be modest
- 1 Sarong / shawl / lightweight towel (not white!) – many accommodations will have towels for you to use, but it is handy to have something of your own for sitting poolside or visiting a waterfall
Note: Most of the clothes you bring should be able to get wet, dirty, and/or even destroyed, but you’ll want two outfits that you save for temples, meetings, and special events. Items like collared shirts, khaki shorts, lightweight trousers, casual blouses or shirts without wording, and maxi skirts work well.
- Flashlight or headlamp – rechargeable batteries are preferable
- Ultra-lightweight rainproof jacket – fear not if you don’t have one, ponchos are widely available and do a better job!
- Hat – for the sun
- Comfortable flip-flops or crocs – Footwear that is easy to clean and easy to take on and off; you’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be taking on and off your shoes; cheap flip-flops and crocs are widely available in Asia for a fraction of the cost
- Closed-toed athletic shoes – shoes that dry quickly, that you can hike short distances in and that protect your feet are best; shoes will get muddy and dirty, so don’t get too attached to your footwear
- A color photocopy of your Passport
Most general toiletries are available throughout the region. We suggest packing all items that could leak in a plastic or Ziploc bag.
- Shampoo and soap – you may want to bring biodegradable or natural soap and shampoo, but they are not required
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Lip balm
- Insect repellent – we suggest a natural option or something with DEET
- Hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream or after bite
- Hand sanitizer – 1 small bottle. We don’t want you getting sick this summer!
- Contact lenses and solution – widely available and inexpensive in Soustheast Asia
- Sunscreen + Aloe Vera – good quality sunscreen is not readily available in Southeast Asia and is expensive!
- Feminine hygiene supplies – tampons are not widely available in Southeast Asia; past staff have suggested trying a menstrual cup, but test it before you travel with it
- We recommend you bring what you think you will need for the duration of the program.
Additional and Optional Items
- Phrasebook, guidebook
- Deck of cards, portable games
- Digital camera – Waterproof style shock-resistant cameras are great for our programs; we encourage students to disconnect from their phones during our programs, but you can use your phone on airplane mode