Why Volunteering In Thailand Can Be The Best Travel Experience

Thailand is one destination that does not really needs a reason to visit. Being regularly featured in most of the “Top Destinations to Visit” lists, its popularity in travel fraternity is not unknown. Then why should you be thinking about volunteering in Thailand? You might wonder.

Volunteering abroad is a form of traveling overseas that allows a traveler to gain experiences that are not possible on a regular holiday visit. There are things one gets to do, see, and feel that are unlikely during a regular trip.

So, what exactly are these differences? What makes a volunteer trip to Thailand better than a regular travel expedition? Here’s the answer to it all…

Living

One of the primary things that differentiates a volunteer trip to Thailand from a regular trip is the living arrangements. It varies drastically in many aspects; including style, area, facilities, and most importantly, the budget.

guest house thailandVolunteer in Thailand

  • Accommodation provided in a volunteer house placement.
  • Meals are provided at the accommodation itself.
  • Rooms allotted on same gender sharing basis.
  • Day starts fresh and early.

Regular Travel Experience

  • Living in a hotel room.
  • Have to arrange and pay for each and every meal of the day.
  • Day starts when you want it to (could be at noon as well).

While for a regular trip to Thailand, one need to do all the bookings in advance and pay for each meal and facility; for a volunteer trip, it’s a one time payment done in the form of program fee. It’s more like living in a home away from home, literally.

Networking

This is one of the most interesting differences between a volunteer travel and a regular trip to Thailand. It is known that Thailand is also denoted as The City Of Smiles, and that is for a reason. Volunteering in Thailand lets you discover that reason in its most genuine form.

Volunteer in Thailand

  • Get to interact with the natives on a much closer and personal level.
  • Get to make friends with people from across the globe while living together.
  • Get to learn a word or two of the local language.
  • Get to understand and immerse in the local culture.

Regular Travel Experience

  • Little to no interaction with the locals (unless you to stop to ask for directions).
  • Friends/family/partner (or whoever came along) are the only travel companions.
  • Get to witness the local traditions and culture, but without any insights to its roots; let alone getting to immerse yourself in it.
  • The only opportunity to learn something of the local language is either from the menu card of a local restaurant or billboards.

Local Guidance

This is a key aspect of volunteering abroad that makes the entire trip a great success. A regular holiday would certainly take you to some of the best places that your guidebook has mentioned. However, a guidebook is the result of a traveler’s findings and can provide only limited information and insights.

Volunteer in Thailand

  • A dedicated local coordinator appointed throughout the tour.
  • Recommended places to visit that one won’t find in guidebooks.
  • No need to hire a tour guide.
  • Help in making arrangements for weekend tours.
  • First point of contact in case of any problem or emergency.
  • Support and guidance throughout the sojourn.

Regular Travel Experience

  • Have to hire a local guide for each monument or tourist site.
  • Have to book your own tours and visits to tourist sites.
  • Have to rely on guidebooks for exploring.
  • Embassy is the only point of contact in case of any problem or emergency.

volunteer in thailand
Overall Experience

There are some travelers who crave for adventure, some like to explore the heritage and culture, while others just want to post those selfies to burn their friends back home. Volunteering in Thailand provides you an opportunity to experience all these things along with a few more, unmatched experiences, especially the experience of making new friends.

Volunteer in Thailand

  • Give happiness while making a difference.
  • Experience local living.
  • Learn to cook Pad Thai the authentic way.
  • Make friends with elephants.
  • Gain international work experience.

Regular Travel Experience

  • Limited adventures
  • Visiting heritage sites mentioned in the guidebooks.
  • Little to no interaction with the natives.

One volunteer travel abroad experience for me, gave me a new perceptive on life, and made me realize that this is the way I want to travel. I haven’t looked back ever since.

Dave in ThailandIf you have been to Thailand before and are planning another visit, try making it a volunteer trip this time and experience the difference yourself. And, if you haven’t been to this paradise ever, plan your visit now.

Resources for volunteering in Thailand:

Volunteering Solutions

A Comprehensive Guidebook

~ By guest blogger, Dave Dronacharya. Dave is a full time travel writer/blogger. His passion for traveling got him into the habit of writing, which soon turned into a profession. He writes and shares his personal experiences and facts in his articles with only one objective in mind; motivating others as well to travel as much as they can. His work is published on The Huffington Post, SocialEarth, VolunteersMagazine, and Cultural Trip. Follow Dave on Twitter

Burmese Days

A country in the midst of a political transition and geographically placed along the Himalayas, sharing borders with India and Bangladesh and linking a “Golden Triangle” with Thailand and Laos, Burma, now Myanmar, is a fascinating country with the friendliest people in Asia.

Yangon

I stay near the Sule Paya, a golden pagoda set in the middle of a busy traffic intersection. The first thing I do upon landing is head to the bank to exchange my uncreased, unmarked US $100 bills that originated after 2006. Foreign credit cards are not accepted in the country and the banks and black market are extremely particular about foreign currencies. After this extraneous process, I wander Yangon, weaving my way through the activity on the sidewalk; the plastic stools where men drank tea, the noodle stands and the open aired markets. Men use wooden crates to make their “cheroot”, betel nut and chewing tobacco rolled in leaves. I continue on to the infamous Shwedogan Pagoda, said to house eight hairs of the Buddha. The Pagoda is breathtaking at sunset, as the tower turns crimson and the monks begin their chants. A group of monks came over to practice their English and one spread his arms and said, “I wanted to thank you for choosing to come to my country, and welcome to Myanmar!” That would be the beginning of many welcoming gestures from the Burmese people.

Two men coating the Mahamundi Buddha with gold

Bagan

We pull into Bagan at 4am just in time to see the monks, dressed in crimson robes, walk the town for the morning alms. We are greeted at the bus station in the pitch black with horse-carts. Sitting on a wooden crate on wheels being dragged around town by a horse, I feel as if I have found the wild wild west.  At 5am, we take bikes and flashlights and set out to the city of temples, finding one, in time to see the sky change from black to purple to a light blue, and then slowly a golden orange, as the sun began to seep through the valley, illuminating each temple as it went. It is calming, majestic, and even spiritual. After a day of biking through the temples, I hop on a bus to Inle Lake.

Bagun at sunrise
Bagun at sunrise

Inle Lake

Inle Lake thrives with communities of villages that use it as a life source. It serves as a transport hub, with wooden canoes lining the canals to enter the lake each day. Villagers go to work by the lake, boats take children to school each morning and businesses moving goods, ship their items over water. It’s a source of food, with floating gardens and farms, and fishermen who wake in the early dawn. Its a religious center, housing floating temples and pagodas. And it serves as a town center, with floating markets bringing the villagers together each day to buy food. Craftsmen’s stilted stores line the lake, preserving age old professions like blacksmiths, weavers, seamstresses and basket makers. Each day comes to a close in Inle with a boat full of monks floating by, doing their evening chants. I fall so in love with Inle that I choose to ignore the creeping influx of tourist offices and western restaurants.

Daily commuters on Inle Lake
Daily commuters on Inle Lake

Mandalay

North of Inle, lies the busy, noisy, congested, dusty city of Mandalay. The city’s grid system is set up around the Mandalay Palace, the last royal palace of the Burmese monarchy. I visit the Mahamundi Buddha, a large Buddha painted in gold every day, and the historic teakwood Shwenandaw Monastery. On the way, my taxi driver is eager to discuss the political situation in Myanmar. With the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country is at a crossroads and, as the US lifts some economic sanctions, tourists continue to flow in. This transition is seen in Mandalay’s financial distract, as men go to work wearing a dress shirt and tie, with a longyi, the traditional cloth wrap, on the bottom.

Produce market in one of the villages on Inle Lake
Produce market in one of the villages on Inle Lake

Although the country is undergoing rapid changes, it’s essential to preserve the centuries old customs and traditions that make Myanmar such a unique cultural gem.

~ By guest blogger, Tess Murphy. Tess has traveled extensively through Europe, Asia and Australia, keeping a travel blog everywhere she went.

Why I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (Part 1)

For years I had the desire to travel abroad and volunteer, but it wasn’t until 2010 I took the leap and finally did it. I chose to volunteer through a non-profit organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), and I chose Morocco as my first volunteer country.  Continue reading “Why I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (Part 1)”

Kilimanjaro and the Maasai

On June 24th, I will begin a 6 day climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. The purpose of my climb is to raise money for the O’Brien School for the Maasai, and a women’s group that operates out of a room in the school.

The O’Brien School for the Maasai is a non-profit organization that gives the children in the village the chance to receive an education and a hope for a future.  The school was started by Kellie O’Brien a native of Chicago after meeting one of the Maasai men, who told her how much they needed a school for the children in the village. A year later the school was complete. Each year the school expands, and they are hoping to continue the school growth to allow even more children to receive an education.

Not only are the Maasai children benefiting from The O’Brien school for the Maasai but the Maasai women are as well. These women fight on a daily basis for their right to exist as an equal in their communities.  Money raised will help these women start innovative, sustainable projects that will benefit the women in their village.  Supplies  to help them sew, bead and do numerous other crafts will be purchased with the money raised, allowing them to sell their hand made items to support their families and for many, the money will help put their children through school. Some of the money will also go back to The O’Brien School for the Maasai, providing the students with school supplies, books etc. to continue their education.

I’ve been told the Maasai people look at Mount Kilimanjaro every day and think the people who climb it are very brave, when really it’s them who are the brave ones. My struggle will only last the 6 days it will take to summit, while their struggle is a lifetime. If the money raised from my 6 day struggle can help make life a little easier for the Maasai people then I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and can leave that mountain knowing the money is going to truly deserving people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My goal is to raise at least $2500, and my first attempt at fundraising was Sunday when I hiked with friends at Tunica Hills in Louisiana. My friend & co-worker Richard, had the idea of turning a hike into a fundraiser. Tunica Hills has 7 waterfalls, and he suggested I ask for my friends and family to sponsor me for $1 a waterfall!  I sent out letters and emails to friends and family explaining my Mount Kilimanjaro climb and my Tunica Hills hike. By hiking day, I had raised over $200!! I had not hiked much except as a kid, and I thought I was prepared for the hike, but four days later my body is still unhappy. On my hike, I was accompanied by Richard, his friend Cody, my co-workers, Virginia and Aaron, and Aaron’s girlfriend, Monica. It was overcast skies with a chance of rain.

We drove an hour or so to Tunica Hills, and began our climb down to the creek bed. I made it to the creek bed, by slipping and falling down a hill. My day began extremely muddy!  We spent most of the day walking the creek bed, climbing over random rock formations, getting our feet wet jumping from one side to the other. Climbing through the creek was tough, since it had rained so much the days before making the ground extremely slippery.  We were only able to see 5 of the 7 waterfalls due to the weather.

After seeing the final waterfall, we made our journey back to the car, but decided to take a different route through the actual trails. I quickly learned just how out of shape I am climbing up and down all those hills. It was such a great day though, hanging out with friends and being out with nature. I’m so excited to continue my training for Mt. Kilimanjaro!

To make a tax deductible donation to The O’Brien School for the Maasai on my behalf please click here.

~ By guest blogger, Leslie Vice. Leslie volunteered with Sucheta in Morocco in 2010 through Cross Cultural Solutions. She will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and volunteering at The O’Brien School for the Maasai in Tanzania this summer.