"This is it", I whispered.
The hair rose on the back of my neck, my posture straightened & my eyes widened; I just booked my ticket.
I was finally making the two month trek across SE Asia, with my final week spent volunteering with elephants in Thailand.
I'd done months of research beforehand, but it wasn't until I arrived on the gorgeous island of Phuket & immersed myself in the culture that I'd discovered a darker industry; entertainment geared towards tourists that exploit wildlife & the local community.
I saw children dance with fire & babies under 5 approach me to sell bracelets.
Monkeys were kept on chains for photographs with passing tourists & elephants hauling giant metal frames with 4 or sometimes 5 people on top.
I wanted more than anything to get close to these animals & children to experience as much of the culture as possible, but wrestled with the thought of contributing to the problem.
I realized then that travelers come to Southeast Asia to experience a close encounter with an exotic animal or an authentic local, & knew the only way to make a difference was to raise awareness & provide a positive, fun alternative that didn't take away from the experience.
I observed the culture respectfully in Thailand & listened to the needs of the locals.
Through my genuine admiration for the Thai culture I learned how much they value life, all creatures & their families, & did the best they could to make ends meet with the tourism demand they were given.
After two months of touring the continent I'd arrived at an Elephant Nature Park & found an amazing community of people working together to rescue the overworked elephants.
It was considered eco-friendly tourism, a refreshing alternative experience with the magnificent creatures that never forget.
I spent my days tending to a landmine wound on a 60 year old elephant named Malai Thong, medicating a baby elephant named Khamla (see the video below!) & my evenings floating in the river, giving them baths & enjoying the breathtaking sunsets.
I knew then it was my mission to inspire people to travel the world, influence them to experience the culture responsibly & give them the unforgettable memories to share with their families when they'd returned home.
I'd found a way to show travelers how to positively engage with the culture, locals & wildlife.
Together we can truly make a difference - one country at a time.
Watch my latest travel & volunteer videos!
Khamla, a baby elephant at the Elephant Nature Park, is suffering from a form of herpes virus that is deadly to the endangered Asian Elephant. Watch me & the vet team administer the vital medications he needs to survive. Each hour of his life & drop of this medicine is crucial to his survival!