Summer High School Programs in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

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About

Join Rustic Pathways in Thailand, where we’ve been running cultural immersion and service adventures for over 15 years. Thailand boasts a wide variety of programs ranging from one to three weeks long. Students can choose one program or easily connect programs across the country and Southeast Asia. Whether you are looking to immerse yourself in rural village life, learn about elephant conservation, or have an island hopping adventure, you’re bound to find an ideal experience in Thailand.

“When you go and you stay in a small village and learn how people live, it stays with you. You don’t take anything for granted anymore and you’ll never see things the same.”
--Brian Haggerty, Thailand Country Director

Impact

Questions & Answers

This trip is very safe! Base houses are owned by RP, so it's is completely RP-Staffed. Trips that are not in base houses are still very safe and there will always be RP staff with you. I have never felt unsafe on any of my Rustic Trips.

Reviews

97%
based on 64 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.5
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 8
  • Value 10
Showing 1 - 15 of 64
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Maddie
10/10

Thailand with rustic pathways

My first summer with rustic was definitely one for the books. Thailand itself was fantastic and the elephants there were amazing but the true memories were made with the people I met through the organization. I owe rustic everything and I am so thankfully that they exposed me to an experience that allowed me to see the world and discover other people and how they live. It was truly and amazing experience and I have already booked my rustic trip to Australia for next summer!

How can this program be improved?
Make it longer!
Yes, I recommend
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Maggie
10/10

Rice fields, Monks , and Smiling Childern Program

This was my first trip with Rustic and the overall experience was amazing. The people ofThailand are some of the most genuine people I have ever met. They always have smiles on their faces! The friends that I made on this trip are amazing and we still keep in touch. We are planning to do another trip next summer and are excited to explore another country and culture together. My experience in Thailand is one that I will remember for a long time. From building homes, to teaching children English, to walking on the beaches of Phuket. This program has a wide variety of activities and is a great way to do community service.

How can this program be improved?
D
Yes, I recommend
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Casey
10/10

Rustic Pathways Children's Home and Elephant Sanuaury

I had an amazing time! I could tell safety was a top priority which I appreciated. At no point did I ever feel unsafe and if that was the case our leaders always checked in on us and made sure we were feeling our bus. Whether it be something a simple as a headache or the stomach bug, rustic staff was very aware and caring to all my needs. The service was hard but very rewarding. It was so much fun and all the girls on my trip were awesome and made the service so much more fun. The elephants and the thai school kids were so adorable.

How can this program be improved?
The food was good but often the meals were repeated which was okay but got tiring after 3 weeks. We had Thai Food but rarely had times to try varieties of food, every meal was just rice and occasionally pad thai and that's it. Not much authentic cuisine, only the basics. Which is okay, I was just expecting to try more things since Thailand is known for their awesome food.
Also don't follow the itinerary too closely, I found it was very off and it is often not updated, so don't rely on the specifics.
Yes, I recommend
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Bonnie
10/10

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children Trip

The Rustic staff is incredible: from the flight leaders, to the group leaders, and down to the local staff, everyone is so enthusiastic to learn about you and to share a bit about themselves and their culture! The trip was very organized and although it may seem daunting to travel to a new place alone, it was the best decision I ever made; I met so many wonderful people and made so many friends. Through activities and service I was able to truly become a part of the community in Udon Thani and learn more about the culture firsthand.

No, I don't recommend
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ainsley
10/10

rice fields, monks, and smiling children

I have been on a program similar to the programs that rustic pathways offer prior to my trip to Thailand. I went to Costa Rica, which was basically all fun with very little service. I was not sure if I would enjoy going on such a service-centric trip like the rice fields program. Little did I know that this trip would be the most life-changing experience of my life. I grew to know people on this trip that I will never forget. I have closer bonds with people on this trip than I have ever had with my best friends at school. I must admit, I was very nervous to travel across the world knowing no one. Even on the plane rides there, I thought that I would never make friends with these strangers. My advice to anyone that is considering going on one of these programs, is to not go with anyone, no matter how scary it seems. The friendships that you will form will WAY outlast your rustic trip!! With these friends, I participated in 9 equally impacting service projects. Each project had such a good purpose and I truly felt like I was helping the community with these projects. My favorite service project by far was "Hands in the Dirt", where we started building an organic farm for a local school. Many Thai farmers get severely sick because of the pesticides they spray on the food because they do not wash their food well after it is grown. Organic gardens eliminate the need for pesticides. The garden we are building at the school will also be a source of income for the students of the school. This is the third organic farm that rustic pathways has built in the small community of Udon Thani. Another service project that really impacted me was the hospital meals project. For this project, we cooked food and brought it to a local hospital. In Thai culture, when a member of your family is sick, you drop everything that is going on in your life to go stay with them in your hospital. This includes your job, which means the family is not receiving money while the person is in the hospital. This service project provides a source of food for the family members. The day I went there was at least 430 people in the line, and all of them were so grateful to us. That was one of the most empowering things about Thailand: everyone was just so grateful. Even though some of these people have no running water, not enough clothes, and not enough food for their family, they were still so grateful for everything. This trip to Thailand is by far the best experience of my life, and I will be taking another Rustic Trip next year!!! My favorite memory is when 4 other people and I went on a side trip to Chang Khan. I became such close friends with these 4 people in this short time period and I know that our friendships would not be the same without this trip! I recommend this trip to anyone who wants a unique experience!

How can this program be improved?
I would like more group bonding experiences. Like someone else has said in these reviews, I think that our group could have gotten a lot closer if there had been more group activities.
Yes, I recommend
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Gabriel
10/10

Ricefields, Monks, and Smiling Children

I feel that people seem to like the phrase “life-changing” a lot, and use it to describe just about any experience that they really enjoyed. Sure, I have had many amazing experiences that I will never forget, but none that I would label truly “life-changing”. This mindset of mine completely changed with my first Rustic trip in the beautiful country of Thailand. First off, the people you get to meet are amazing. Whether it be your fellow students, the staff, or the locals, everybody is so open and friendly. I think it’s safe to say that nobody really felt alone on the trip and that everybody was able to form some great relationships. Also, this trip really allows for so many fun activities, all while immersing us in the local culture. One awesome thing that we did was try a bunch of unique local Thai cuisine, and it was really great to be able to try new and different things together with an equally inexperienced bunch of people. We even got to eat crickets, which were surprisingly tasty! Lastly, the service on this trip was great and so meaningful. I’ve volunteered at my local library shelving books before, but that can’t compare at all with what we got to do on this trip (of course, working at the library was/is still a good thing). We got to do inspiring things such as building a house for a struggling mother with epilepsy, teaching Thai schoolchildren English and how to swim, preparing meals for hospital patients, and starting an organic farm at a local school. It was motivating to know the backgrounds of all the service projects and it provided us with some insight on what the situation is like over there, regarding various aspects of life. One of the best things about the service for me was that I got to do a lot of physical exercise and help out the community at the same time. Back to the “life-changing” aspect of this whole experience: After I’ve returned home, I’ve been exercising a lot more, and I actually owe that to all the outside work we did on this trip. Also, I feel like a more open person, more open to new things and to meeting new people. I am honestly looking forward to starting school again and trying to make some new friends. All in all, my first Rustic trip was such an awesome experience, and today I will be signing up for another one for next summer!!! Thank you so much Rustic Pathways!

How can this program be improved?
It would have been nice to have had some more group activities, especially during free time. As individuals, we made a lot of personal friendships, but I felt that our whole group could have been more connected if we had done some more stuff with all of us together.
Yes, I recommend
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Molly
10/10

Rustic Pathways Children's Home

My trip to the Rustic Pathways Children's Home was fantastic. I made strong connections with not only the other people travelling with me, but also the local children who stayed at the children's home. On our trip, we also spent time teaching English at a local school, which I though was an incredibly rewarding experience and really fun. I had such an amazing time and would recommend it to anyone interested in a global trip.

Yes, I recommend
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Julia
10/10

Ricefields Monks and Smiling Children

Honestly I have never been a sleep away kid who has ever wanted to go away from my family for more than a day. It took every ounce of courage for myself to explain and convince my parents why it was necessary for me to travel 29 hours around the world to do service that could have been done within the United States. For me Thailand had always been on my bucket list and I needed to have an extremely that I could keep to myself. As open as everything is now I have so little that I can do and not have everyone knowing exactly what I'm doing. But when I first got on the plane to Thailand I was already starting to feel homesick from my parents and I convinced myself that this was the worst idea ever to go on a trip with a bunch of people I didn't know completely across the world. Everyone told me that I needed to go alone but I regretted it so much as I was sitting on the 29 hour plane. After we got there we got our room assignments and thats when my whole perspective changed. Everything started to fit in place and I finally started making friends but never would I have ever guessed that I would form closer bonds with these people that I had gotten to know for two weeks than my friends from home that I had known for 13 years. I cannot tell you enough GO WITH NO ONE YOU KNOW. It lets you form the relationships for yourself and have something that you can always cherish and keep to yourself. These kids were so amazing and I feel so blessed to have gotten to know so many amazing people in such a short span of time. Additionally Rustic pathways completely changed my perspective on countries seen as inferior to Americans. I very much saw my culture as above other culture but as I began to actually emerse myself I began to realize their culture is not better nor worst than ours; its just different. I always thought that not having running water is so horrible, not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, and using "bum guns" was such a horrible idea but as I began to really look at the cold hard fact if their was of living were so awful, then why are so many Americans (many of which are my best friends) struggling with depression, yet these people who had so little were always smiling? One experience that really struck me was bringing food to the hospital. American hospitals can be busy but I can guarantee there is no hospital as busy as the one we brought food to. The line was out the door and when I asked how people were in line to get food or to get inside the hospital someone said about 500 people. The reason we brought food to it was because many of the Thai family members could not work while their family members were in the hospital, so as a result they were losing money while trying to pay expensive hospital bills. This stressful situation leaves many hospital experience starving because they don't have the money to buy food. As one can imagine this is an extremely stressful situation, yet when they came in lines to get food they were very patient and everyone always said thank you in english and we responded in Thai. Everyone gave me a smile and most either shook my hand or hugged me. This relatives opened my eyes because it showed me how appreciative they are even when they are in appreciative tough situations.

Yes, I recommend
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Olivia
10/10

The Land of Smiling People- Thailand

I traveled with Rustic Pathways for the first time this summer and spent a month in Thailand. I made so many friends from all different parts of the world and my perspectives on happiness and friendship were changed forever. Getting the opportunity to sit down with Thai children and engage them in English vocabulary and make a strong connection with a person who doesn't speak my own language was mind blowing. We may not have spoken the same language, but friendship is able to transcend all barriers. I loved being able to bond with so many new people who were all compassionate, caring people. Also, the program leaders were so amazing and were a large reason to why I had an amazing summer being that I got sick and had to go to the hospital twice and they were extremely professional. During my program, I was able to to see how kindness is the best medicine and how it can really change a life for the better. I only learned these extremely important lessons because I traveled with Rustic Pathways, and I will always be grateful to have had that opportunity.

Yes, I recommend
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Lucy
10/10

Thai Elephant Conservation Project

The Thai Elephant Conservation Project was my first program that I had done with Rustic. To be honest, I was very nervous because a few weeks prior to my Rustic program, I had done a different service program with a different company. It was not a good experience to say the least. I won't get into it, but because of my experience with that company, I was very nervous. I was also nervous, because I would be traveling across the world with a group of people that I've never met before. The only other time that I had gone to Asia, I was with my school for an exchange program and had my sister and my friends with me the whole time. Lastly, since I'm deathly allergic to nuts, I was worried that I would have an allergic reaction. But, I was really worried about nothing, because Rustic was so amazing and I had a life-changing experience.

Right when I got to the airport, our flight leader made sure that everyone knew each other's names and played a lot of ice breaker games. I don't know how, but I became friends with the people on my program before we even stepped foot in Thailand. So, my worry about going to the other side of the world with strangers disappeared, because it was like I had known all the students for the longest time.

Rustic was also so helpful and accommodating with my nut allergy. My program leaders already knew that I was allergic to nuts and there was not a single nut in any of the food options. In addition, the program leaders carried med kits with them at all times and there was an epi-pen in the med kits just in case. It was amazing that Rustic went out of their way to make sure that I wouldn't get an allergic reaction and feel safe eating anything.

With my actual time at the elephant sanctuary, it felt like I was in a dream. I was doing things that I never dreamed of doing. Ever got assigned a partner randomly and an elephant with their respective mahouts (elephant handlers). Within the first 10 minutes of meeting our mahouts, they were already joking around with us and teaching us everything about elephants. We got to ride elephants, bathe them in the river twice a day, feed them sugar cane, corn, and potatoes, and, of course, clean up their poop. It was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I will never forget how amazing it was getting up on Red Moon, my elephant, for the first time and seeing the world from so high up.

One of my favorite days was when everyone rode their elephants into the jungle. On the way there, my partner, my mahout, and I were singing at the top of out lungs and having the time of our lives. We got to the jungle and everything was so peaceful. We hiked to a waterfall and swam. We collected bamboo to make cups and plates. We had a huge bonfire where we danced, sang, and played games around the fire. Lastly, we slept under the stars with elephants all around us. I don't think many people can say that and it just shows how in every Rustic program, the students do once in a lifetime experiences.

In addition to just riding the elephants, we got to make paper out of elephant poop. We went to the night markets and mall. Mostly though, we did a lot of conservation work. There were group discussions about the poaching and logging industries and how we can work to end them. We planted grass and sugarcane for the elephants to eat in the future, and spent an afternoon in the elephant hospital to see how the people at the conservation center take care of the elephants and help them if they need it. I loved how we didn't just ride the elephants all day, we did an array of conservation work to make a lasting effect of our time in Thailand.

By the end of the 11 day program, I was an certified amateur mahout, I made some amazing friends that I still keep in touch with to this day, I learned what mahouts dedicate their lives to caring for elephants, and I got to have a connection and bond with an animal I thought I would never have. I could not have asked for a better trip and Rustic has forever changed my life. I would not be where I am as a person without Rustic. I was a leader, a change maker, a person that was heard. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and experience that Rustic gave me.

Yes, I recommend
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Devon
10/10

Life on the Margin!!!

Thailand is named the land of smiles for a reason. My eighteen days on Life on the Margin were filled with laughter, dancing, incredible stories, and debrief sessions. This trip is definitely for people who love to engage in intellectual conversations, have a love for children, and are open to a new lifestyle for the duration of the trip. Over the course of our trip we were able to dissect global issues, our surroundings, and ourselves, while still being silly when dancing in the back of Songthaew's, or sliding around in the mud when playing soccer with local children. We engaged in a mutual exchange of culture with the children we lived with in the base house, children we taught, and children we played with. This trip is for anybody who has an interest in global issues, a love for service, and a desire to explore the roots of Karen culture. Learn to embrace a culture different to anything you have experienced, embrace the dirt, and embrace all the new friendships! I have been on multiple Rustic Pathways trips, and the more service the closer your group with become. Laugh with your new friends as you stuff your face with amazing noodles, slip in the mud, and rock some elephant pants with crazy colored crocs. Get to know the amazing staff as you sit crossed legged around the table eating amazing food, while you are surrounded by the gorgeous rice patty fields. Don't forget your bug spray, water bottle, and a journal to document the amazing trip!

How can this program be improved?
I wish the program was longer, and that the first week our group was more separate from other Rustic groups.
Yes, I recommend
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Nicoline
10/10

Life on the Margin

Signing up for the Life on the Margin trip in Thailand was quite possibly the best thing I've ever done for myself. The experiences I had teaching, doing service work, discussing, and getting to know the local Karen people were suprising, enlightening, fun, and educational is every way. I didn't expect to learn so much about myself and how my place in the world connects to those overseas. I left the beautiful country of Thailand with a newfound sense of community and the love of all my friends, despite us being scattered all over the world. I would recommend this program to anyone who is seeking an impactful experience and isn't afraid of a little cement or a few chickens. My biggest piece of advice to anyone going to travel is to just let loose and be open. I have always been afraid of the uncontrollable but I had so much more fun when I was able to throw my hands in the air and sing, share my ideas, and be in the moment. The thing I remember most is the fun times I had with my group. Thankfully we were only 9 and that allowed to all become close quickly. Time flies before your eyes and you may not remember the views of the mountains forever, but you will remember embarrassing yourselves singing Taylor Swift songs in front of a group of Burmese students who are far more talented than you. Mishaps always turn into the best memories and the funniest stories stories to share with friends and family. If I could go back I don't think I would change a single thing about my trip. While this program does involve a hefty dose of discussion based learning I wouldn't trade my experience for anything else.

How can this program be improved?
Longer!!! The general consensus of our group felt that we could dive deeper into the issues we were learning amount and make more impactful, deeper connections with the locals if we had more time. I would also recommend that the leaders start the "debriefs" earlier in the evening as they often ran until 10:30-11:00 at night.
Yes, I recommend
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Sophia
10/10

Southeast Asian Adventurer

This summer I went on the trip of a lifetime! Spending time in both Thailand and Laos, I ziplined across waterfalls, belayed down cliff faces, boated down the Mekong, saw river dolphins, and most importantly met the most incredible people. The leaders were all wonderful, each with great stories to share and advice to give, and everyone was so friendly. The trip was excellently organized (like clockwork) and the Base House was amazing!! Definitely pack for two weeks of adventure (bring athletic shorts!!) but do not overpack (I made that mistake). This trip opened my eyes to all the adventure that is out there, and since returning I have been so much more active!! I would 10/10 recommend this program to all adventure and travel lovers.

How can this program be improved?
Improve the packing list, as it could have been more specific. Other than that nothing!!
Yes, I recommend
Cailley
10/10

Elephants and Amazing Thailand

Traveling across the world alone is scary. You don't know anybody, you don't know what to expect, you're visiting another country with a different culture, and the food is weird. But what people don't think about is that everybody is thinking the same thing. Nobody knows what is going to happen during the two and a half weeks, and that is what makes it such an adventure.

This past summer, I traveled from New York City to Frankfurt to Singapore to Bangkok to Chaing Mai, with a group of 25 other girls and 1 boy. During those 45 hours of travel, I had no idea that I would meet some of my best friends in the world. Everybody was kind, loving, cared about the environment, cared about all cultures and all people, and genuinely wanted to spend every waking moment living in the present time.

My group spent one whole week living on the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, where we trained to be mahouts. We were each paired with a partner, an elephant, and a professional mahout (or elephant caretaker). My elephant's name was Boon Mee, and my mahout's name was P. Neuk. During those six days, I learned so much from a man who I did not speak one word of the same language as. P. Neuk taught me and my partner to love ourselves, everybody, and everything around us. He taught us to care for our surroundings and be happy ALL THE TIME! We woke up every morning and retrieved our elephants from the jungle and brought them to a nearby body of water where we would give them their baths. Then we would ride them back to the TECC, and spend a day in beautiful Lampang, Thailand, before repeating the bathing schedule during the evening. My time at the TECC was life changing, and I could not be more thankful for P. Neuk and Boon Mee for teaching me how to cherish every moment in life.

For the second week of the trip, my group traveled all around Thailand visiting Buddhist temples, museums, waterfalls, and much more. My favorite moment of the entire two weeks that I was away was the day that we visited a Buddhist Monastery in the mountains. I remember being told that the climb to the monastery was over 500 steps. The whole group groaned and we were all dreading the day that we had to walk up all those stairs. But when we got there and started walking, I noticed that there were signs up against all of the trees that had Buddhist quotes about suffering and sacrifice, making me think about everything differently. The steps were torturous, but reading the quotes made it worth it and so did the destination at the top. When we arrived at the monastery, I remember seeing the hundreds of Buddhas lining the inside of the main area. I remember seeing pictures of renowned monks hanging from all the walls. At the time that we were there, it was a very important Buddhist holiday and all of the Buddhists were visiting the temples and monasteries to pay their respects to Buddha and monks. On this day we got to meditate with a monk at the top of a beautiful mountain in the middle of Thailand. I will never forget how surreal it felt to be meditating with a man who devoted his entire life to following the footsteps of Buddha while sitting in a place so breathtaking and unknown, listening to him speak Thai words and feel like I knew what he was saying even though there was such a barrier between us.

Thailand changed my life, and it will change yours to. I truly cannot say that I disliked any moment of this trip, no matter how hot and humid it was. Please travel to Thailand and experience the same amount of wonder that I did this summer!

How can this program be improved?
More discussion about the difference between cultural elephant preservation and environmental elephant preservation.
Yes, I recommend
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Savannah
10/10

Children's Home and Elephant Sanctuary Project

If you're thinking about going on this trip, you should. Going to Thailand was my first time traveling out of the country, and I was hardly nervous. RP staff makes it so easy and comfortable to travel, and upon arrival I felt immediately welcomed. The Children's Home is the most amazing place that I have ever been. The people and staff there are by far the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. They love genuinely and are eager to make new friends and build relationships. On one of the first service projects we did, we stayed over night at a school. This night we talked about some of the misconceptions we had about the country. It was amazing to see how many people were warned to "wear their backpacks on the front of their bodies" and "be extra careful of your valuables" because of an inaccurate stereotype of Thai people as untrustworthy. It seems many of us came with the impression that because we had more than someone else, they would undoubtedly want, and try to get whatever we had that they don't. Besides the fact that on this trip I learned that my perceptions of having "more" are very different from others, and that just because I have before seen my life as "better" than those who have less, doesn't mean that is the case, I learned that people are good. From my experience, Thai people seem to be some of the most trustworthy people. Some even leave stores unlocked at night, and invite strangers into their homes with open arms. It's almost as if those who gave us the
"advice" to be extra cautious, actually had no idea what they were talking about. I felt so safe here, and at peace more so than I do back home. Leaving the Children's Home was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I think that it truly may be magical.
Although leaving was hard, the Elephants were worth it. Spending a week learning about and helping care for and understand elephants and their role in Thai culture was amazing. It became clear that though these are still not ideal conditions for the animals, it is the best we can do. Love and learn and protect. The hotel was fantastic, and it was so neat to interact with the Mahouts and learn more about their lifestyle. We also had many other excursions on this trip, such as going to temples, white water rafting, and visiting markets. This trip was the most unique and beneficial learning experience I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and I fully and whole-heartedly recommend it.

How can this program be improved?
At the Sanctuary, we were taught about what is and isn't natural for the elephants, and although some sacrifices must be made that are not always the greatest option, rustic students were offered the opportunity to ride the elephants, which I believe ti be extremely unnecessary and also confusing, as we were learning what was best for them. I can say now that what is best for them is not to have kids hop on for a quick photo-shoot, but to have kids understand why we need to treat the animals with respect. However the sanctuary is doing most everything else perfectly to ensure a safe environment for the animals.
Yes, I recommend

About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on...