Volunteer in a northern hill tribe village; immerse yourself in elephant conservation learning; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle, islands, and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, Muay Thai, and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-altering summer abroad.
Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia not colonized by Europeans during the 16th - 18th Centuries. The monarchy is strong and the King is revered for his social reforms. People are well educated and, as the country moves rapidly into the 21st century, are embracing global culture without discarding their own rich traditions. Most Thais are Buddhist and it is expected that all men will spend some time as Buddhist monk during their lives. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. The country is geographically diverse – the mountainous jungle-clad north is populated by numerous minority tribal groups and has stunning national parks, while tropical islands in the south have some of the world’s best beaches and snorkeling. We take you to the north where you take a deep dive into the hill-tribe culture for the majority of the program and are rewarded with some of the most stunning beaches in the world for the final portion of the trip. Thailand is an immensely popular travel destination, even through the challenges thrown their way with the pandemic. Traveling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of the country and uncover the true essence of Thailand.
This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students, and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years.
You will head into quarantine to ensure a safe journey. In an indigenous Colombian tribe, the youth of the society were put into a cave to grow and learn for the first nine years of their life before being exposed to the outside world. Picture yourself as one of these youths; you will be able to catch a glimpse of bustling and shiny Bangkok through the windows and the wafting smells of Pad Thai will tempt your nose. Once quarantine is done, you will be let free and appreciate all the little things that bit more!
Connect with your fellow traveller who you’ve already begun to connect with via our Whatsapp Group. On Day One, fly straight into the heart of northern Thailand; Chiang Mai. We begin our orientation and immerse ourselves in the kaleidoscope of new sensory stimulus. We will explore the city alongside the drive and ambition for each of you being here in Thailand!
You will see a LOT of elephants around these parts. Fortunately, you will be staying at an ethical elephant conservation park that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left within Thailand and they are threatened. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry, have a bleak future. You will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals, helping care for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is facing.
This week is all about empathy and understanding. We will be based in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai and work to support one of the minority tribes in northern Thailand. We will work alongside a transparent NGO which takes an intersectional feminist, gender neutral, grassroots approach to working with at-risk populations in ethnic minority communities.
Spend a day to relax, enjoy, suss out your favourite temple/cafe combo. Do some washing and pull up your can-do pants for the next section of the journey. To give you some idea, there are 121 temples within the city limits of Chiang Mai. Enjoy sleeping in a comfortable guesthouse here before we embark on a trekking trip through teak and bamboo forest to camp near ethnic minority villages on a 2 night, 3 day unforgettable hiking experience. You’ll gain insight into traditional tribal village life, which is alive and well in Northern Thailand.
We head into the country side and spend a few days working those arms; learning climbing and canyoning in a unique climbing landscape. We will be camping in a small rural village and being exposed to the principles of permaculture concurrently. There’s a night market to check out when we have some spare time; but trust us you will be feeling ready for bed after the climbing sessions!
In Bangkok, cultures entwine in a symphony of sounds, scents, sights and tastes – it is sensory overload! We will explore temples and markets via e-scooter whilst here, making sure we cram in as much excitement as possible. Just when you’ve had enough of the city fix, we travel from Bangkok to Southern Thailand.
Changing gears, we take on a half day hike and a half day of reflection and insight at a peaceful Buddhist Meditation Retreat. Khao Sok National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world, and is home to the largest flower in the world, a carnivorous species with a diameter measuring 2-3 feet!
Railay is a peninsula on the mainland only accessible by boat, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, dense jungle and the clear emerald waters of the Andaman Sea. This is a world-class area for rock climbing and snorkeling. These first glimpses of the islands around Railay are truly mind blowing. Get high with a bit of rock climbing before taking out a kayak to explore the islands.
We will be able to compare Railay with a more obscure island destination – Ko Lanta. We settle into our accommodation for a few days of relaxation and reflection. Sweat it out with two days jam packed with muay thai. There will be a Thai cooking course so that you can take something home from this sensory journey. There’s time for relaxing on the beach, swimming, and reminiscing about our adventures.
Your last days will be spent digesting your experiences and sharing your final days with your fellow participants. Celebrate all your accomplishments at the Final Dinner before packing your things and departing this fabulous country. Depart Bangkok for home having had an unforgettable month in the ‘land of smiles’.
Note: Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, relax and explore independently with others in the group.