Critical Issues programs are designed for passionate students who aspire to make meaningful impact. If you’re interested in an experience that focuses on social justice, international relations, nonprofit work, or learning how to effect change, these programs are perfect for you.
Cambodia – From The Ground Up:
Understand current issues in Cambodia by visiting local nonprofits and international development organisations in Phnom Penh. Partner on a service project with the BSDA, Buddhism for Social Development Action, founded by a small group of monks to empower and help women, children, and marginalised members of the Kampong Cham community in education, health, and income generation.
Myanmar – Documenting Democracy:
Explore the evolution of democracy in Myanmar through interviews with local artists, filmmakers, students, and families. Myanmar is slowly making strides to open up to the outside world, which is reflected in local art. Spend a week developing stories about how life has changed in recent years through the eyes of your interview subjects in Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay.
Fiji – Marine and Environmental Field Studies:
Take a deeper look into Fiji’s marine ecosystem and the impact climate change has on this fragile habitat. Learn about the various strategies in place to protect, conserve, and restore Fiji’s marine environment. Learn to identify tropical fish and coral species.
Morocco – Peace, Wonder, and Understanding Islam:
Explore Islamic faith in Morocco during this Critical Issues program. Islam is often misunderstood in politics and the media, leading to polarization and fear surrounding the religion and the people who subscribe to its teachings. Join us to examine the roots of stereotypes in an effort to promote peace and build empathy by engaging with local Islam experts, scholars, and religious leaders in Morocco.
These programs are great for students who want to fully immerse themselves in a different language while also learning more about the culture, and customs of the people who speak it.
Morocco – French Language Immersion:
Discover the rich heritage of this former French colony where French is still the main language spoken in government, commerce, education, and medicine. More than half of the population communicates in both French and Darija Arabic. Experience the wonders of this breathtaking country while observing influences of French culture blended with native Berber, Arab, and other European and African cultures.
China – Chinese Language Immersion:
Designed for all levels of Mandarin speakers, this program allows students to practice their reading, writing, and communication skills while immersed in Chinese culture. Live and study at Tianjin University. Complete language classes each morning, then spend your afternoons exploring and practicing Chinese through cultural engagement activities on the streets of Tianjin and Beijing.
Costa Rica – Spanish Language Immersion:
Learn Spanish from native speakers during this program that is perfect for students of any skill level. Live in the peaceful mountain town of Turrialba with a host family to immerse in the local culture. They’ll help you practice your Spanish after mornings spent working with other students during structured classroom time. Improve your linguistic ability as well as your knowledge of Costa Rica’s vibrant Tico culture.
Morocco – Arabic Language Immersion:
This is an incredible opportunity for students to put their Arabic skills to the test and dive into a completely different culture. Get instruction in the local Moroccan dialect Darija and Modern Standard Arabic, which you’ll hear on TV and read in the newspaper—both to help you interact better with the people you meet. Morocco is an ideal setting for international study, with a rich, colorful, and fascinating history.
Groups that are particularly interested in environmental conservation and wildlife are a great fit for these programs. Whether it’s learning about caring for elephants from a mahout in Thailand or lending a hand on a giant panda conservation in China, these programs not only allow students to learn about the issues affecting wildlife around the world, but also gain practical experience with experts in the field.
Thailand – Thai Elephant Conservation:
Live and work at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, the largest elephant conservation center in Southeast Asia. Learn about the ancient bond between elephants and their mahouts, or elephant keepers, in the tranquil forested mountains of northern Thailand. Work with restoration ecologists from Chiang Mai University who are developing methods to quickly and sustainably restore the forests.
China – Giant Panda Conservation Project:
Spend time with adorable giant pandas in this incredible adventure that’s perfect for animal lovers or students with an interest in animal conservation. Get hands-on experience working with this endangered species by helping staff at the CPC Wolong Nature Center in Sichuan. Monitor the pandas’ diet, clean and maintain their living spaces, and contribute to ongoing research
Australia – You, a ‘Roo and Australia Zoo:
Volunteer at Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo, located in Queensland! Go behind the scenes and perform zoo tasks in various animal departments. Learn from the zookeepers as you assist them with their duties and participate in conservation workshops. Get up close and personal with wombats, wallabies, echidnas, and kangaroos. Then use your new skills to help at a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center.
These programs are ideal for the group that wants to be physically challenged. Setting a goal, working hard to achieve it and then finally succeeding, is an incredibly empowering process. Give your students the chance to push themselves, and to find out what they are truly capable of on one of these programs that incorporate big, multi-day treks.
Tanzania – Climbing Kili:
Embark on the adventure of a lifetime with a challenging seven-day trek through five unique climate zones on Mount Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa. Improve your safety and chances of summiting by allowing your body to better acclimate to the altitude with this seven-day route. Recover from your climb with a relaxing trip to a secluded hot spring and an epic safari experience in search of African wildlife.
Peru – Peru By Backpack:
Your students will become experienced backpackers by planning their meals, housing, and travel arrangements, and trekking across the diverse Peruvian terrains. Explore cascading waterfalls and small mountain towns, and meet locals who will help you get to your next destination. Embark on two treks to discover the Andes, explore Machu Picchu, sleep under the stars, and gear up for the unknown.
Thailand & Myanmar – Southeast Asia by Backpack:
Become an experienced backpacker by planning your meals and taking charge of your travel arrangements as a group during this off-the-beaten-path journey through Thailand and Myanmar. Start with an epic cross-country train journey across Thailand traveling along the northern border between Thailand and Myanmar and exploring remote highland communities. Venture to destinations rarely visited by tourists in the Mon and Karen states in Myanmar.
Nepal – The Yeti Expedition:
From the colours and magic of Kathmandu’s markets to the serenity of Himalayan trails, this 10 to 18-day adventure offers an intriguing blend of trekking and service. The rugged foothills of the Annapurna Range will reward those willing to break a sweat with stunning views of mountain vistas, you’ll come away with a full and real appreciation of this fascinating land. Then put on your service shoes and dig into the ongoing projects with our community partners. Live in a village and support local people through earthquake relief, infrastructure, or education enrichment.
Come With Nothing
One of our most immersive and challenging programs, Come With Nothing is perfect for a group of students who are ready to get outside of their comfort zones. Students come to the program with only a few items that they can fit in their carry-on bag, and pick up some extra supplies in local markets. They then travel to remote villages, stay with host families, and work on community improvement service projects.
Thailand and Laos – Come With Nothing:
The Mekong Expedition: Come with nothing! Bring only what you can pack in a carry-on bag and buy additional supplies in local markets in-country. Travel to three remote villages where you will live with the locals and work with them on school and community improvement projects. Moving from northern Thailand and into Laos, you’ll take an awesome overnight boat ride down the Mekong River. Be prepared to rough it on this incredibly rewarding service experience!
These programs are perfect for groups with a particular love of the ocean – you’ll delve deep into scientific enquiry, fieldwork and environmental conservation. Experience the incredible world hiding just under the surface, learn about climate change and give back through service projects contributing to the health and wellbeing of the ocean and its inhabitants.
Fiji – Marine and Environmental Field Studies:
Take a deeper look into Fiji’s marine ecosystem and the impact climate change has on this fragile habitat. Learn about the various strategies in place to protect, conserve, and restore Fiji’s marine environment. Learn to identify tropical fish and coral species. When not working in the water, relax and enjoy island life and get to know Fijian culture by visiting nearby villages.
Australia – Rustic Island:
Journey to “Rustic Island” – an idyllic coral cay 70 km offshore in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. We are the first and only tour provider to run camps here! Get dropped on the island for a 5-10 day program combining marine biology, personal development, outdoor education, wilderness first aid and/or survival skills.
Dominican Republic – Marine Life and Coastal Restoration:
Explore the crystal clear waters of Bayahibe Bay working alongside marine biologists to rebuild the coral reef habitat that’s home to marine species, including manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles. Learn biological techniques to monitor sea animals in the wild. Get muddy as you work to rebuild the mangrove swamps of Los Haitises National Park. Contribute to anti-pollution projects with local ecological organisations.
For people who love sports, it’s more than just a hobby – it’s a way of life. These programs are perfect for groups who eat, breathe and sleep their favourite sport. How better to experience a new country and culture and connect with the local people than through your favourite sport?!
Dominican Republic – Dominican Baseball Heritage:
Baseball is life in the Dominican Republic. Experience first hand the passion that is found at all levels of Dominican society as you play bitilla with local children, scrimmage against community teams, play full fledged games at professional baseball camps, and help build new fields throughout the community. Explore the hidden gems of the Dominican Republic as you travel to the Bahia de las Aguilas; considered by many as the most beautiful beach in the country.
Costa Rica – Travelling Soccer and Service:
Get ready to travel, work, and play your heart out on this intensive two-week soccer and service project through the heart of Costa Rica. Using the game you love as a medium, you’ll develop relationships with tico locals throughout this beautiful country, and give back to your host communities through thoughtfully designed service initiatives. In your downtime you’ll take advantage of the best adventure activities that Costa Rica has to offer.
These programs are designed specifically for budding photographers and photojournalists to improve their skills and build their portfolios. A professional photographer leads these programs that incorporate workshops and teaching sessions into an exciting travel itinerary. Our leaders focus on using photography as a means to get to know the local people and share their stories with your photos. We have both introductory and advanced photography programs.
Nepal – Himalayan Photo Adventure:
Hone your photography skills during this 10-day sightseeing adventure with experienced Rustic Pathways photo guides. Capture the mighty Himalayas, one of the world’s most impressive mountain ranges, and explore Nepalese culture through visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites, traditional villages, and bustling marketplaces. Leave with an impressive portfolio of one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Cuba – Intro To Photography:
This program is designed to give students an up close and personal “through the lens” look at Cuban life, architecture, and natural landscapes. Capture life in Havana’s old city and its surrounding neighborhoods, wander the Viñales Valley on horseback, and take in the sunsets and wildlife on the shores of Cayo Levisa. Each afternoon you will have a workshop and exposition, sharing your photos with your group and guides, learning techniques that will help you develop your photography skills.
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam – Snapshots of Southeast Asia:
Learn how to capture the sights of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam on this traveling photo workshop. In Cambodia, capture bustling Phnom Penh, take shots of the intricate temples of Angkor Wat, and homestay in a traditional floating village. In Laos, you will explore the beautiful town of Luang Prabang, give alms to monks, and swim beneath a waterfall. In Vietnam, tour the city of Hanoi, visit the country’s largest pagoda, and step back in time with a tour of Confucius’ Temple of Literature — all while practicing your skills with our professional photographers.
Morocco – Advanced Photography Workshop:
Travel across Morocco and develop a portfolio that captures the diversity of the country and your skills as a photographer. Guided by professional photographers, you’ll have both private and group lessons to improve your technique. Explore markets, learn about Berber culture in the high Atlas Mountains, ride a camel through the Sahara, and marvel at the mosques in Marrakech. Get a comprehensive understanding of this diverse country and come home with photos to show family, teachers, and possibly even editors.
Do you have a group that’s interested in the medical field or looking to gain practical first-aid skills? We have wilderness first aid and wilderness first responder courses taught by outdoor medical professionals. In these programs you will come home with a certification from Wilderness Medical Associates and have practiced your skills in local communities and outdoor settings. We also have programs like our Introduction to Public Health in the Dominican Republic that go beyond medical skills and dive into politics, environment, social issues, health indicators, and other factors that relate to the health of a society.
Thailand – Medical Certification and Community Health:
Earn an internationally-recognised Wilderness First Aid certification through Wilderness Medical Associates while enjoying the legendary amenities of the Rustic Pathways Ricefields Service Base. Learn how health care works in a rural context and gain valuable experience assisting with service projects designed to provide support for community health projects in the area.
Dominican Republic – Public Health in the Caribbean:
Work alongside health care professionals on high-impact public health projects across the Dominican Republic. Explore the diverse regions of this beautiful Caribbean island while immersing yourself in local culture and practicing your Spanish in a health care setting. Identify health needs of rural, urban, wealthy, and impoverished communities and help develop meaningful public service initiatives. Earn your Wilderness First Aid certification and apply your new skills to helping communities in need.