Our Approach to Student Learning

At Rustic Pathways, we believe travel provides a unique environment for learning. Our programs are designed to encourage critical thinking; learning moments and opportunities for growth are intentionally built into our programs. Leaders facilitate meaningful discussion and reflection, supporting student learning and amplifying the impact of our travel experiences.

Student Learning Outcomes

We believe in a key set of characteristics and capacities that enable students to achieve personal growth and make a positive contribution to our world. The outcomes we aim to foster in students that travel with us are:

1) Openness to New Ideas and Experiences: Eagerness and curiosity to learn from the perspectives of others and the ability to incorporate one’s own experiences into a lifelong quest for knowledge and growth.

2) Sense of Wonderment: The ability to be amazed and inspired by the world, from the small and seemingly mundane to the powerful and seemingly impossible to understand; recognizing beauty in the unknown, while letting the world’s mysteries stir thoughtful questions and give rise to new meanings and understandings; a sense of awe as a driver of one’s passion and achievement.

3) A Belief that All People are Connected by a Shared Humanity: Recognizing the innate value of any human being; embracing diversity, and believing that what unites us is stronger than what divides us; understanding the interconnectedness of one’s actions and the notion that individual actions can have global impact; the ability to connect local stories, struggles, and successes to larger structural and systemic issues facing the world.

4) A Desire to Positively Impact the Lives of Others: A drive to use one’s talents as a force for good in local and global communities; recognizing the power of a series of small actions towards a larger goal and contributing personal effort towards creating change.

5) Empathy: The ability to not just “feel someone else’s pain,” but rather to walk in their shoes and see the world through their eyes; a more profound ability to switch perspectives and recognize dual viewpoints. Empathy, rather than sympathy or pity, is a precursor to effecting change.

6) Self-Awareness: The ability to define values, motivations, and passions, and to identify how those values are shaped; the ability to assess one’s own strengths and weaknesses, analyze where and how to improve, and to reflect on and re-evaluate previous opinions or decisions; the desire to use an understanding of self to better relate to and communicate with others.

7) Humility: An ability to understand one’s place and importance, to deeply respect others, to recognize others’ talents without comparison to one’s own; to possess a grounded understanding of one’s limitations; to provide service to others without question of their position in society.

8) Grit: Intrinsic determination to persevere through challenges and setbacks without complaint and defer instant gratification in order to reach a set goal.

9) Independence: The ability to think and act for oneself; to take responsibility for and stand behind one’s beliefs and actions; to explore the world confidently and carefully and to find support when necessary.

10) Intercultural Competence: The desire and ability to behave and communicate effectively within and across cultures, to view issues from other perspectives, and to collaborate and engage in decision-making processes with diverse groups.


Travel provides us the chance to learn about ourselves. When I travel, I find myself reflecting on my own life—what I value, what I’m passionate about, how I came to be who I am. At Rustic Pathways, we have the ability to profoundly impact the trajectory of our students’ lives. I believe that our programs play a role in creating thoughtful, empathetic leaders and compassionate change-makers for our world.

Erin Murphy, Director of Student Impact, M.Ed. Harvard University