The Rustic Story

Education. Travel. Philanthropy.

Rustic Pathways has been the leader in global teen adventure travel and community service programs since 1983. Through purposeful design, we create culturally-immersive travel programs for students ages 12 to 22, customizable teacher-led trips for school groups, and gap year semesters for recent high school grads.


Rustic Pathways empowers students through innovative and responsible travel experiences to positively impact lives and communities around the world.


Rustic Pathways is committed to creating a world where:

  • Travel is accepted as an essential part of every education.
  • Travel is a model of sustainable development.
  • All people are connected by a shared humanity and all decisions are made with a global perspective.

The Early Years

Rustic Pathways was founded in 1983 as an overland touring company in Australia. Back in those early days, the only trip we ran was an eight-week adventure through the Australian Outback. Our organization has changed a lot since then, but our programs still embody that pioneering rustic spirit.

Community Service

We expanded our programming to New Zealand and the Fiji Islands in 1996. At that time, we started working with some of the communities in Fiji’s Nausori highlands and decided to start offering programs specifically designed around community service projects. We realized these were incredibly powerful experiences for the communities, our students, and for our staff.

Growing our Family

Over the years, more and more people joined Rustic from different parts of the world who wanted us to expand to their home countries and communities. That’s how we grew our operations across Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and the United States in the late 1990s and 2000s. Without them and their relationships there’s no way we could have grown to operate in nearly 20 countries, offering more than 100 programs.

Rustic Pathways Foundation

We created the Rustic Pathways Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, in 2006 to enhance and sustain the positive impact of Rustic Pathways. Students returned from programs inspired and wanted to stay involved with the communities they visited with Rustic. Through the foundation, the Rustic Pathways community has raised more than $500,000 to provide ongoing support to our community partners since 2016.

Gap Year and Group Travel

We wanted to give more students the opportunity to have life-changing experiences with Rustic. Gap year programs, which we introduced in 2007, allowed us to expose high school graduates to experiences that last up to three months, which provide important learning and growth opportunities before they head to college. Creating Group Travel in 2012 gave us the ability to partner with teachers who wanted to provide immersive educational experiences to their students as a supplement to traditional classroom learning.

Intentional Program Design

By 2016, we understood how much our travel experiences influence the development of our students and impact their overall education. But we wanted that development to be more intentional so we created our Student Learning Outcomes. These 10 learning outcomes shape the development of all programs, including our Critical Issues series, which involve deep cultural immersion experiences and encourage participants to take action. We also measure the impact our programs had on students. See the full results in our 2018 Impact Report.

In 2019, we’re introducing the Rustic Pathways Global Critical Issues Summit to bring together change makers from around the world.

Making Travel Accessible

Our vision is to create a world where travel is accepted as an essential part of every education. We’re working with Thrival World Academies to build the largest network of publicly-funded study abroad high schools in the country—to enable each and every student to travel abroad as part of their public school education. We also created The 2019 Critical Issues Summit to give promising young change-makers an immersive learning experience and the tools to have an impact in their home communities at no cost.