5:30 a.m. the alarm sounded and four of us struggled out of bed, threw on some clothes and rolled into the van. Thirty-five minutes later we were at the airport, climbing into a small plane the size of a cafeteria table. We flew in circles up to 14,000 feet and jumped out. As we descended back towards the ground, the entire country was in our sight. The mountains were ahead, ocean to one side, villages to the other and everything else below. As I glided through the air, I got to reflect on everything else I had done those past three weeks.
I had climbed to waterfalls, up mountains, painted murals, taught in schools, soaked in mud baths, snorkeled, and stargazed, all in the happiest country I’ve ever been to. I said “bula” around 200 times a day, the way to say hello in Fijian.
I went on my first Rustic Pathways trip the summer after my sophomore year when I ventured off to Fiji for almost three weeks. Half the time was spent adventuring and the other half was filled with community service at a school.
After the first taste of a Rustic Pathways trip, I was hooked. Last summer I explored Morocco for 16 days on a Rustic Pathways culture exploration trip. I went to numerous cities and explored each day and night market, talked to locals, and tried the signature food. I rode camels in the Sahara and slept in the sand dunes. Through it all I learned about the culture and religion and people.
I have toured some of the most amazing countries in the world – without parents, with kids my age, and doing what I love – exploring.
The most important element of these trips may not be the travel. Instead, it’s the relationships. Everyone on your trip specifically chose that trip, so they want to be there. You are with them alone with no electronics in most places for the duration of your trip. The remoteness of most of the trips makes wifi connections pretty rare, therefore all you have to entertain yourself is the people you are with.
At the end of each Rustic trip there is a ceremony called “Rustic Ties.” Rustic Ties is when everyone in the group sits around and shares what they love most about each person. You go around until everyone has shared one thing about every person in the group. This takes place at the end of trips, so everyone can reflect on the memories they have created with the group. This time is filled with emotion, laughs, tears, smiles, sadness. But it is what completes every trip.
These trips are filled with people from all over the world with countless different interests. Rustic Pathways’ main focus is on their summer trips. They have over 100 trips in 19 different countries in categories such as adventure, service, medicine, culture exploration or combinations of them all.
But they also do group trips during the school year. SAS has started pairing with Rustic for Interim trips, and this year there are 14 trips organized by them to countries such as Morocco, Fiji, China, India, Cambodia, Laos, Tanzania, and Australia. All very popular destinations for Interim.
A few years ago teachers were in charge of planning and running trips. Now outside companies are being used to to that.
John Gaskell, SAS teacher, said, “We tell a vender what we want and they give the price, some we can push back to some extent and negotiate. Though the flights are the most expensive. But some teachers completely design their own trips like Mr. Evans and I, and others go on trips that have had the plan in place for years.”
But the convenience of having Rustic Pathways plan the trip is a huge bonus for many teachers. This means Rustic makes all the logistical arrangements and their leaders meet the SAS groups at their country and continue to be leaders throughout the week.
With Interim sign-ups starting on Monday, now is the time for students to determine which trips are the best fit for them. My first choice for this year is a Rustic trip to Tanzania. It’s the perfect balance of service and adventure. I not only get to spend time with kids, but also go on a safari.
I encourage people to consider them, not just because of the adventure, but because of the relationships they help to create.