Jessie Wachter '03 Explores the World

For Jessie Wachter ’03, Pacific University Homecoming last month was indeed coming home.

Wachter flew in from Mongolia to celebrate her 10-year reunion, easily the alumnus to travel the farthest for the celebration.

But, then, travel is what she’s done for much of the last decade.

Wachter came to Pacific originally to play softball. She earned her degree in integrated media, with a minor in communications. After graduation, she went to work for the Portland Trailblazers, but soon realized she wanted to see more of the world.

She spent two years playing softball in Greece, then part of a year working in marketing for Kodak before signing on with her current company, Rustic Pathways — a choice that she says has allowed her to see the world, do good, and also make a difference in the lives of young people.

Rustic Pathways is a teen travel company that specializes in service and adventure trips for high-schoolers in more than 20 countries. Students get to experience another part of the world, have some adventure and also work on a local service project. They may climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, staff the Giant Panda Conservation Project in China, or work with orphans in India, among many other things.

Helping broaden the minds of the young travelers is one of the greatest rewards for Wachter.

“It’s a time when kids are deciding what to study, who they want to be,” she said. “They’re seeing the world is bigger than their iPhones or Instagram accounts.

“It’s an awesome dynamic — kids from different places coming together and working on really impactful projects,” she said. Most of the travelers hail from the United States or Canada, but about 20 percent are from elsewhere in the world.

They’re also getting a very different perspective on life, especially in some of the more rustic adventures with no running water or electricity.

“These are kids who have their own Jeep Wranglers and elevators in their homes,” Wachter said. “It’s a completely new experience.”

Plus, she said, she gets to see the world along with them.

She has been stationed with programs in India, Peru, then Tanzania, where she was the full-time program director. Most recently, she helped out on a program in Mongolia, the 54th country she’s visited.

It’s impossible to pick a single favorite place.

“I’m partial to where I’ve lived,” she said, “but then all these memories start cropping up.”

India, Guatamala, Bolivia, Burkina Faso … she could go on.

But home, too, holds an appeal. For the last several years, she’s spent about 90 percent of her time abroad. Now, she’s in the process of transitioning to a position where she’d get to be in the States a bit longer.

Last month, she spent a couple of days in Oregon at Pacific’s Homecoming, then she took her boyfriend up to Washington to meet her parents for the first time. Next, she was headed to New York, where she moved last year (though hasn’t actually spent time living yet).

“I’ve spent a whole decade living abroad, footloose and fancy-free,” she said. “Now, I’m slowly trying to slow down.”

It was amazing, she said, to see peers who had bought homes and started families in the 10 years since graduating from Pacific.

“I took a slightly different path,” she said, laughing, “but I’m getting there.

“It’s good, a new stage of life.”

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013