In May, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Chiang Mai, Thailand through GIVE Volunteers. This trip was created in order to give individuals the opportunity to volunteer abroad in some of the most remote, rural areas of Thailand. Throughout the two weeks of travel, we were scheduled to teach English to young students, volunteer at a reforestation institute, and work on sustainable agriculture projects. Our trip was focused on maintaining sustainable tourism practices while being fully immersed into the cultures of each village that we visited.
As an Environmental Science major, I was most looking forward to the agriculture and reforestation projects that we would be working on. I was beyond excited to explore these topics in a different country and physically be able to do my part to help the communities there, and I was not disappointed. We got to work on a local farm in Muang Khong, Thailand, where the owner was working on transforming his land into an organic farm. We worked side by side with him and other community members to construct watering systems that used river water as opposed to water from the community’s limited supply, build a fully functioning plant nursery using only bamboo, use the community’s corn scraps for fertilizer, and hand dig a catfish pond. The purpose of this project was not only to help out a man with big dreams, but it also was to help set the pace for future farmers. Neighboring farmers saw the work that we were putting into this farm and became educated on not only the environmental benefits of going organic, but the economic benefits as well. We hope that this transformation will lead to surrounding farms becoming more eco friendly as well.
Overall, this trip was truly a life changing experience. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel throughout the jungles surrounding Chiang Mai, mostly via bamboo river raft, and stay with several different hill-tribes. I was fully immersed into every tribe’s culture and lifestyle for the entire trip. This experience opened my eyes to the broader view of life. Most of these villages lacked resources such as running water and electricity, things that we take for granted every day. However, the people that I met during my trip were among the happiest and most grateful individuals I have ever met. Although they do not have all of the material items that we may have at home, they genuinely were so much happier. This made me realize that although I live in a first world country, I can maintain a more minimal and sustainable lifestyle and still be content.
Not only did this trip change my outlook on life and daily habits, but it inspired me to share this knowledge from my experience with others. I hope that my friends and family follow in my footsteps to break out of the mold of “first world living” and be more sustainable, even through the tiniest changes.