Ever wanted to really experience a country and its culture minus the ‘tourism’?
There are several ways to experience life in another country and have a more enriching experience while at the same time giving something back.
Starfish adventures offers travellers travel programmes that are fun, exciting and help support local communities. The elephant programme is centred around learning about and working ‘for’ the elephants instead of the elephants working for you.
On the outskirts of Surin lies the small farming community of Tha Tum. The community is dedicated to raising elephants for conservation, rehabilitation and release of wild elephants. Mass amounts of land allow space to roam rather than confined areas.
Sydney university student, Hannah Moody, recently travelled through South-East Asia, desiring to break outside of the norms of tourism. This being her first solo trip after graduating, a lot of research went into what she wanted to do and where.
With a love of cultures, the environment and animals, the project allowed her to experience of all those interests in one place. She spent two weeks at Tha Tum, assigned to the elephant of the local couple she was home-staying with.
“There are moments of sharing something that you can’t capture but enriches your experience that wouldn’t happen in a hotel room or lying on a beach. The thing I love about when I travel, is not just about the spontaneity but it’s a love of connection – being open to having experiences with people that in a sense connects and transcends language barriers.” Hannah Moody
The activities involved in the stay at the centre revolved around the day to day care of the elephants. This allows travellers the chance to learn about the culture and daily life of the locals through hands-on participation.
“There are little unexpected moments that make your experience memorable. It’s what makes a place. You can’t experience a culture if you don’t experience the people, as the people are the culture – the vessels that carry it. This takes you to a deeper level than superficially going to a place and just skimming the surface.”
In addition to gaining a real experience, travellers can leave knowing that they have contributed to sustaining the economy of local businesses. This can also be done by shopping at local handicraft centres where profits return into the hands that made them.
The best months to visit Thailand are November – February to avoid the monsoon season and the very hot, dry summers of the region. Travellers can be assured that home-stays are safe and have gone through a careful screening process.