The first thing that people say when I tell them that I’m going on this upcoming trip is “That’s so cool! Who are you going with?” and that’s when I tell them that I’m going solo. Then I get some varied response of “wow! I wish I had the courage to do that!”. The truth is, I don’t think it’s courageous to travel by myself. If I am being totally honest, I feel a bit guilty. After the year I’ve had in my personal life, I actually feel a bit like I’m running away from things. It’s an escape of daily life. It’s an opportunity to not feel like I’m giving everything of myself to other people. Now, granted, I will be giving myself in service to the sanctuary. But, I feel that’s a bit different. Maybe it’s not. But, I feel like these majestic beasts have such horrendous pasts that I have the opportunity to help ensure their future lives in peace.
Why elephants? I have always thought they were phenomenal creatures. I remember when I was younger (before I knew how bad circuses were) being in amazement and awe at the majestic elephants with their jewels and costumes. They stepped in the ring and all eyes were on them. Then, as the atrocities of circuses, carnivals and zoos came to light and how all animals (not just elephants) were treated, I never thought I would have an opportunity to see one in person ever again. A few years ago, I read a book called Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult and learned so much about how truly incredible elephants really are. I learned that they are a highly matriarchal society that place an enormous emphasis on taking care of one another and protecting the future of the herd. They mourn the loss of their herd members and have been known to revisit burial sites of their lost family. They have a hard exterior, but tender loving eyes and gentle souls. I guess in some way I began to identify myself in much the same way. So, I began reading as much as I could about elephants. I learned about the incredible work of some pretty fantastic humans across the globe who have dedicated their lives to the protection of these beasts. That’s when I learned about the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. www.elephantnaturepark.org I discovered that this is “one of the good” sanctuaries that promotes responsible animal tourism. So, I jumped at the chance to make my mark and do some good work.
In just about 7 days, I’ll board a plane and settle in for a 23-hour plane ride to the other side of the world. I’ll meet people I never would have an opportunity to meet in any other circumstances. I’ll eat strange food and hear many speaking a foreign language and won’t understand a word they say. I’m pretty sure that I’ll get really good at miming my thoughts in effort to communicate. I’m ok with that. More than ok, really. I’m looking forward to making sure my every word counts. As Ursula K. LeGuin says “Words are events; they do things, they change things. They transform both the speaker and the hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”