We’ve now shared our final laughs, eaten our last local meals, and said our final goodbyes.
As Amy and I watch the final taxi take our students to the airport, we can’t help but breathe a small sigh of relief. We’ve kept them safe, we’ve kept them happy, and ultimately, we are ready to let them go off on their own and experience the world with a brand new perspective.
It truly is a bittersweet goodbye. I can tell you now; this part is never easy for us instructors. Our priority for the last ten weeks has been how best can we facilitate this journey for the students. What is it that we need to do every day to ensure their experience is everything it can be, and should be? How can we impact them in a positive way? How can we teach them as others have taught us about leadership, ethical travel, experiential education and wilderness exploration? After the dust settles and the background noise of students chatting disappears, we sit back and realize how much these students have grownover the course of the program, and how much, we as instructors, have grown from them.
We remember that this is why we do what we do.
The last ten weeks have been nothing short of incredible. As a group, we’ve overcome fears, learnt new languages, tried foreign foods, crossed four borders, and ridden in tuk tuks, longtail boats, planes, trains, and automobiles. We’ve rafted down the Pai River, rock climbed in the Thai jungle, trekked through the highlands of Laos and navigated our way down the coast of Vietnam. We’ve volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand,
shelter built for a small community in Cambodia, created sustainable social business ideas with SONAS, and picked rice in the fields of Laos. We’ve dunked ourselves in almost every body of water we’ve come across, be it by snorkeling, paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking or just plain swimming, anything to beat the heat and humidity. We’ve learnt about the histories and cultures of four diverse countries; explored ancient temple ruins, visited
museums and royal palaces, spoke with Buddhist monks, and partook in a number of annual festivals.
I can truly say we have thrown ourselves into the ins and outs of Southeast Asia and taken full advantage of our time here. Sleeping was never a priority. Amidst the joy and happiness we’ve experienced as a group, as with any travel journey, we’ve also experienced challenges. We’ve been forced to confront the harsh realities of extreme poverty. We’ve lived the differences in cultural norms, and experienced first hand what our impacts as foreigners have on the lives of those living in the developing world. It also hasn’t been easy adjusting to living, breathing, and travelling with sixteen other people. Leaving the comforts of our homes for several weeks on end is never an easy task. As instructors, we recognize the realities of travel are always the most difficult for students to come to terms with. It is within these realities however, that we see the most growth.
We say goodbye today to eleven transformed students. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to watch each and every individual learn, make mistakes, and work to achieve their goals. We are thrilled to have two students go off on independent travel for the next few weeks, and eager to hear about what the other nine have in store for them at home. We can almost guarantee that wherever it is life takes them, it will be authentic and inspiring.
To our students, thank you for an unforgettable journey. We wish you all the best, and we hope your futures are filled with good vibes only.
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land, it is at last to set foot on ones own country as a foreign land” GK Chesterton.
Amy & Gabby