Thanks for the checking out the blog for this Global Leadership Adventures program!
Here are a few things you can expect:
- We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week here at GLA Headquarters from our program staff and students, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a blog post daily – that’s totally normal.
- Blog updates sent on weekends may not be posted until Monday.
- Due to many factors, including but not limited to internet accessibility, photos may not always be available to post onto the blog. Sometimes onsite program staff are only able to send text back to Headquarters, where our team updates the blog.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you enjoy following along on these unforgettable adventures.
Cell Phone Policy: The GLA cell phone policy is currently in place this summer to help foster meaningful connections between students. This means your student’s phone will be collected every day and returned to them after activities are completed to have with them through the night. Actual tech times and regularity will vary greatly by program location and time zones. During designated ‘tech time’, your student may use their phones as they wish. Please note that your student may not always choose to use this time to get a hold of their parents. If you are not hearing directly from your student each day, you can assume that no news is good news! We strongly recommend you follow the blog to follow your students’ experience without talking to them every day. If you are a parent and would like to get in touch with your student directly, you can call us at +1-619-758-3031 and we can set up a formal time for you to connect with your student.
For frequently asked questions about the blogs, please visit our Program Blog FAQ page.
-The Global Leadership Adventures HQ Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 28
Hello Friends & Family!
We are so glad that all sixteen of our students arrived safely and on time! Many students left on a Monday and arrived on a Wednesday. Looooong trip!!
It was a chill day at the hotel, completing swim tests and meeting new friends. Many students were eager to see the city so we took an evening walk to a hustling and bustling local marketplace where we got to try lots of yummy treats like Mango Sticky Rice, Pad Thai, and Bubble Tea.
We were back to the hotel by 8 pm so that everyone could get a much-needed long night of rest before we start our orientation tomorrow morning!
We have a friendly and diverse group of students that have already started to build a strong community. Even with the lack of sleep, there was energy and excitement bubbling all day.
More updates soon!
-The EMCA Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 29
The first half of the day was all about orientation. We played some games, started to develop an understanding of Thai culture, and learned what was expected during this trip. The students performed hilarious skits that demonstrated what NOT to do regarding GLA policies, came up with creative (and sometimes quite harsh) possible disciplinary procedures, found safety risks to manage around our hotel, and tried to guess some culturally appropriate “dos and don’ts”.
It was a fun morning, but the real fun started when we left in the afternoon to see the Wat Pho temple. Drenched in sweat, we stared in awe at the beautiful and holy artifacts around us. From there we walked to a nearby flower market that was absolutely packed with flowers of all shapes and sizes.
Then it was time for dinner at a classic Thai grilling restaurant. There was a huge buffet to pick food to grill directly on our tables. A server even came over to put live crawfish on the grill right in front of us! It was both a little shocking and very delicious.
The van ride back to the hotel was full of shared laughs and fun music. We returned for our first Chow Circle. It was flawlessly led by Kaiden, tomorrow’s leader of the day. Then we split into smaller mentor groups for a short reflection. After that, a couple of hours of free time in the pool and then off to bed.
Tomorrow we travel to Kanchanaburi, where we’ll stay for most of the trip!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 30
Written by Leader of the Day: Kaiden
Today we said goodbye to the fast-paced city of Bangkok and hello to the rural town of Kanchanaburi. Our morning started off with our final meal in Bangkok. We then went back up to our rooms to pack everything up for our journey west. Prior to departure, the group went to 7-11 to purchase any snacks for the ride. We bought things ranging from pineapple danishes to seaweed-flavored potato chips. Some of us even went to Café Amazon, which is pretty much just a better version of Starbucks. We then finally hit the road.
Our home base in Kanchanaburi was not our first stop. We were all super excited to visit the historically-rich site of the Kwai Bridge and railroad. The bridge was constructed by Japan during World War II through the use of prisoners of war. The purpose of the railroad was to transport items and people through Thailand without having to use boats. The museum described the whole process of constructing it, the immense brutality the prisoners of war experienced, and a general overview of the events happening around the world at that time.
Following our visit to the museum and bridge, we went out for lunch on a floating boat-restaurant. We were given an assortment of food including egg rolls, fried rice, etc. We all enjoyed talking about our experiences over our delicious meal.
We finally arrived at our main home base of the program in Kanchanaburi and did a photo scavenger hunt to find risks around the hotel. It’s an absolutely massive resort full of impressive views. But it’s also empty and quiet. Walking down the empty halls, in such a massive space and hearing our voices echo, felt surreal. Some even said they got spooky, haunted vibes, jokingly, of course. But it’s an awesome place and we’re all super excited to call it home for the next two weeks and fully take advantage of the space and opportunity for fun.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 1
Written by Leader of the Day: Elizabeth
Today is Canada Day so we celebrated with our Canadians John and Malachi. After a lovely breakfast at our hotel we headed in the van to Elephant World. Elephant World is a sanctuary that rescues ex circus and trek camp elephants as well as wild ones who have been injured. Their sanctuary is gorgeous and elephants are free to roam all over. They are cared for by wonderful staff and volunteers. They also enjoy baths with tourists in the beautiful river. Our first activity was feeding them. Elephants are very picky eaters and want to eat yam beans before watermelons, they will spit out food if they do not want it. It is surreal feeling to feel an elephant trunk grab food out of your hands. They have over 50000 muscles in their trunks and they are very strong.
After meeting our elephant friends we got into a open van and headed to do field work. Elephants love to eat all kinds of fruits and veggies, and they eat 10% of their body weight everyday. In order to care for these gentle giants it takes a great deal of food. We planted corn in a field that will feed our elephant friends.
After our hot field work we came back to the sanctuary and ate a lovely lunch and enjoyed the serenity of the river and Thai jungle. We then waked down to the river and watched elephants give themselves a mud bath and shower in the river. Near the river, we met a 20 month pregnant elephant who is due in 3 months; it takes almost two years to grow a baby elephant. You could out your hand on her belly and feel the kicking. Elephants love to be dirty and spray dirt on themselves to avoid sunburn. They also enjoy putting leaves and twigs on their head almost like a hat.
After observing elephant hygiene habits we met the oldest elephant who was 79 years old. Her teeth are old so she prefers to eat sticky rice balls which contain grass, bananas, rice and other nutrients and are much easier to chew than fruit. Some of our brave students tried the elephant rice ball mixture. We also observed her drinking, the noises almost sound like a toilet flushing. To drink you spray water in her nose and she sprays it into her mouth.
After our long day we said goodbye to the elephants and got in the vans to head to Natura. We followed the elephants’ tricks and headed into the river to cool off. The current is very fast so we stayed in the shallow area but it was lovely to be cool. After our relaxing swim, Vijo taught us about Thai sprit rituals. You light incense and ask a higher power for protection. It was a relaxing way to end our day of hard work.
After we ate a lovely vegetarian Thai dinner accompanied by a cat and two stray dogs. We headed home and reflected with our mentor groups. It was a magical day to stand inches from gentle giants and ended with a peaceful swim.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 2
Written by Leader of the Day: Leire
Breakfast in our systems, our group set off to Elephant Haven first thing in the morning, and met the six elephants in the sanctuary.
In order to get them used to us and vice versa, we fed them some leaves and pineapples, to which they responded as happily as expected.
After a fun and short-lived first meeting, we started our service by preparing some rice balls and chopping some slices of watermelon for them. When all the food was ready, we fed it to the elephants, with whom we then took a great walk through the forest and to the river. However, the elephants didn’t feel like bathing so early, so we all headed back to the main entrance for lunch.
Having recharged our batteries, we got into the forest once again, where we watched the elephants getting a mud bath and ended up sharing it with them. After that, we all got into the water, elephants and mahouts included, in an attempt to rid ourselves of the heat, although it wasn’t necessary in the end, as our bathing in the Kwai river got interrupted by heavy rain. This brought us back to the main entrance, where we waited for the rain to stop and got back to helping in the sanctuary. This time, it came in the form of shovels, rakes, and brooms, as we cleaned out the elephants’ excrements.
This concluded our service for today, after which we relaxed at Natura, where we had some dinner, rope swung into the river and got back to the hotel.
In mentor groups tonight, we made hilarious portraits of each other in which every member drew a different part of the face. Then we created a personal mission statement that will help guide us to be true to our core values throughout this trip.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 3
Written by Leader of the Day: Malachi
This morning was very eventful. As I was finishing my breakfast, which was a spread of rice, meats, eggs and juice. My roommate came running to my table soaked. He told me our bathroom was flooded, I ran back to save my stuff, by the time I got there all the water was drained. A burst from the back of the toilet had bursted and flooded the bathroom. We moved our stuff to a new room and continued on our day with a delayed schedule.
We traveled to another elephant sanctuary. Somboon Legacy Foundation Sanctuary. I chopped down a banana tree, while our group gathered the trees and loaded them into a truck. Older elephants lose their teeth over time and forget to drink water so banana trees are frequently feed to them as they have high levels of water. We learned about the two senior elephants and the long history of abuse they have been through. This sanctuary was a hands off experience as they believed and taught us that it was healthier experience for the elephants. I believe it’s more beneficial to the elephants as well but a hard way for them to make money.
We ate lunch and we went through their museum and filled out a scavenger hunt sheet and learn more about the biology, daily life of the elephant, ethical and unethical ways to live with elephants. we also learnt how we can make the world more sustainable by reusing elephant waste to make paper.
We watched the elephants bathe with their caretaker, this is the most natural way for an elephant to bathe while still being taken care of. The other sanctuaries we visited had tourists wash them, which causes stress on the elephants. We finished our learning experience and headed to a cooking class of traditional thai food.
All of us had really good energy about cooking and enjoyed learning how to cook the food. The Thai lady named On who was teaching us to cook spoke good english and made the experience really fun. With our stomachs stuffed we headed to a local market of street food and knockoff clothing. I bought a hat and a small portable fan. I bargained and got a lower price on both. Even after the cooking class some of us bought snacks including insects and drinks. Then we headed back to the home base to reflect on our day. I learned a lot about the long history of elephants and I think the difference between the sanctuaries were based on ethics and money. My favourite part of today was definitely the market. Looking forward to learning and exploring more tomorrow!!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 4
Written by Leader of the Day: Ana Chapula
Today we started the day with a late breakfast. Luckily, Olivier and Randy matched outfits for the day which put a smile on our faces. Our first activity was a session on captive elephant welfare. We learned how tourism in Thailand is socioeconomically driven and why that is the reason bad practices on elephants continue to this day. Then we got the opportunity to get creative and create our own Elephant Sanctuary based on the three we visited. Split into four groups, we designed an elephant sanctuary and presented our ideas to a panel of judges. Presentations were judged on creativity, economics, animal welfare, and poster design. The ultimate winner was McHout’s Sanctuary– an elephant sanctuary sponsored by McDonald’s with various McDonald’s themed attractions. However, the other ideas were very creative, including a sanctuary with a skyview hotel, a sanctuary with a boat ride to watch elephants bathing, and a sanctuary with a full resort on site.
We had lunch at the resort and got ready to leave for our “river float”. As we got to the river, Khun gave us instructions and safety procedures to understand the current of the water and stay safe. Floating down the river was fun. We saw cool bird nests and coconut trees. Afterwards we went on a jungle walk. We saw wild elephant footprints and walked their trails. Before dinner we had free time at Our Land and then had our final “Animal Extravaganza Competition” where we played muddy games and answered trivia questions. Ultimately, theCobra team won.
Before we made out to the resort to shower and go to bed we had mentor meetings where we drew what we like about ourselves to better understand leadership and recognize our own strengths. We were interrupted by the Our Land dogs suddenly running into the jungle and barking which meant… wild elephants!! We all went to the second level for safety and waited to see if we’d get a wild elephant sighting. While we didn’t end up seeing them, we heard them crashing branches and trumpeting at the dogs.
Then we watched a slideshow of our first week together and celebrated July 4th with some sparklers!
Finally, we got back to the hotel to rest after a very long day!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 5
As the leader of the day, John Grant, and the writer of this blog, I had the privilege of guiding my group with our staff through an exciting day at Erawan Falls. After a tiring Fourth of July extravaganza, we decided to sleep in an hour later to rejuvenate ourselves. With our energy replenished, we embarked on a thrilling journey, experiencing the beauty of nature, overcoming challenges, and forging stronger bonds as a team.
After enjoying a delicious breakfast, we packed our essentials and set off for Erawan Falls. Before starting our hike, we made a stop at the ever-convenient 7/11 store, where everyone stocked up on snacks for the day’s adventure. Fueled and ready, we proceeded to have a delightful lunch at a local restaurant, with the Pad-See-Ew emerging as the most popular dish among our group.
Our one-and-a-half-mile hike toward the tallest part of the pool began, and along the way, we encountered several levels of the falls. Each stop offered breathtaking views and provided opportunities for relaxation and exploration. However, an unfortunate incident occurred during our ascent as Lucas, one of our group members, was struck by a branch, resulting in a head injury. Thankfully, Michael and Pinom swiftly attended to him, ensuring he received immediate care. As the leader of the day and also the oldest of the group, it was my responsibility to ensure the well-being of every member of our group. So, when Lucas was hit by a branch and his head started bleeding, I made the decision to stay back with him, providing comfort and reassurance while he was being checked out. It was important to me to be there for him, especially since he is the youngest member of our group, and I view him as a little brother.
At the waterfall, Olivier showcased his skills by catching some shrimp, and we marveled at the sight of fascinating bugs in their natural habitat. The cascading water, combined with the serene surroundings, provided an idyllic setting for everyone to immerse themselves in the joy and beauty of nature.
Following our descent from the falls, we made our way to a restaurant for dinner. Considering everyone’s craving for familiar flavors from home, we opted for a place that served a variety of dishes, including burgers, fries, pizza, pasta, and steak. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, relishing the opportunity to indulge in our favorite foods. To mark the completion of our first week of volunteer work and celebrate the knowledge gained about elephant sanctuaries, I took a moment to toast our achievements. It was a heartwarming experience, acknowledging our growth as individuals and as a team.
With dinner concluded, we headed back to the market, responding to the group’s high demand for another visit. The market offered an array of treasures, and each of us indulged in our personal shopping endeavors. Kaiden opted for sticky rice, Randy adorned his iPhone with some stylish bling, Jordan assisted Owen in selecting fashionable clothing, and Ivy and I playfully indulged in fake-branded items. As the evening drew to a close, we returned to our hotels at 7:45, eager to make the most of our remaining free time.
Being the leader of the day was an immensely enjoyable experience, guiding my fellow GLA students through an eventful day at Erawan Falls. The day’s adventures, from hiking through the natural splendor of the falls to overcoming obstacles together, strengthened our bonds and created lasting memories. While Lucas’s injury brought concern, we were relieved to learn that he received stitches after going to the hospital and was on the path to a full and speedy recovery. As we eagerly anticipate the involvement of other GLA students in leading future expeditions, we look forward to the continuation of our volunteer work and the exploration of new horizons.
In conclusion, being the leader of the day was an immensely enjoyable experience, guiding my fellow GLA students through an eventful day at Erawan Falls. The day’s adventures, from hiking through the natural splendor of the falls to overcoming obstacles together, strengthened our bonds and created lasting memories.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 6
Written by Leader of the Day: Ivy Wells
We woke up this morning and headed to breakfast feeling tired after having a late start the previous morning. After we enjoyed a meal of french toast and tropical fruits, we packed our bags and headed to a local neighborhood where we talked about the conflict between humans and elephants co-existing in the same environment. We learned a lot about problems and how people have made previous attempts to solve the situation. We all discussed some questions we had and potential answers.
After that, we headed over to some bee hives where we got the opportunity to try some natural honey straight from the hive and we were even able to buy our own bottles.
We left and drove to a local tree nursery nearby where we gathered around a pile of dirt to plant tree saplings inside of black bags packed full of soil. Inside the pile of soil a little frog even paid a visit to us. We then had a delicious lunch. We were given the option of hiking up a short waterfall or returning to the resort. Lucas, John, Oliver, Heba, Elizabeth and I decided to hike up to see the waterfall and take in the beautiful nature. We saw large swarms of butterflies, spiders, shedded snake skin, and a natural salt lick for elephants.
We all arrived back at the hotel and sat in the lobby to hang out and order treats from an online app called Grab (similar to Doordash or Uber Eats). We had a much longer free time than usual which was much needed after doing lots of service and being out in the sun for many of the past days.
For dinner, we all went to the Our Land reserve and gathered around the campfire for activities and hanging out. One of the activities was talking to a partner about a deep question. After a couple of minutes, we switched partners and discussed a new question. I was able to connect with many of the students and get to know them in a different way. It was definitely the activity that stuck out to me the most out of the entire trip. I was very happy to have gotten the opportunity along with my other friends to hold Vijo’s pet ball python snake named K. This was definitely a night to remember for many.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 7
Leader of the Day: Olivier
Blog Writer: Kaiden
Today was all about banteng, a critically endangered species of cattle. We started the day off by heading to a Banteng conservation reserve. The reserve focused on rehabilitating banteng back into the wild and increasing their population. We got to watch a presentation about the banteng and the things happening to help preserve the species. Then we played a game, for points, to show how much we learned from the presentation. We then went to go see the live banteng living on the site. We even got to feed one!
Following the banteng, we spent our service time creating seed bombs. Seed bombs are small balls made of clay, with a seed and nutrients in the middle. The bombs are then launched via slingshot into the forest to provide random, but still efficient, forestation. The slingshots were super fun to use! What was not so fun, however, was the blazing heat and higher-than-normal humidity levels today. Service was pretty difficult and felt pretty exhausting, but we survived and had a lot of fun, nonetheless.
We also completed a key GLA activity, the debate. John mediated. Olivier, Rebecca, and Malachi were the council that listened to all sides and created the final plan. Everyone else was split into partners to represent organizations with varying viewpoints and demands regarding elephant tourism in Thailand. It was a productive and respectful debate with great points and arguments from every pair.
We spent the final hours of our night with a spontaneous trip to 7/11 (a huge fan favorite), time in the river, and dinner at Our Land before we decided to have an early trip back to the hotel, due to an incoming thunderstorm. We ended with a mini-mentor group session, playing funny games, sharing a “story of self”, and reflecting on the day.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 8
Leader of the Day: Petra
Blog Writer: Leire
Today we started our day off by getting some knowledge on the topic of snakes, and got to meet six different species of the animal during a 70 minutes long session; a Reticulated python, a Burmese python, a Sunbeam snake, a Red tailed pipe snake, an African Ball python, and a Monocle Cobra
After an incredibly hot lunch hour, during which we ate in hammocks under the shadow of the trees at OurLand, we did two activities related to leadership; the Bucket of Dreams, where we were deprived of some of our abilities (seeing, talking, or touching) and had to work together to retrieve said bucket, and the Types of Leadership, where we divided the definition in three parts and talked about the different ways you can be a leader. During a debrief, we realized that the two activities were connected. The Bucket of Dreams activity was actually a giant metaphor for the three different types of leaders.
Then, we went to a waterfall where we picked up some trash along the way. We headed back to our hotel for showers and a quick rest before returning to dinner at OurLand.
Lastly, in mentor groups, we played a silly game, shared some meaningful stories, and reflected on the day.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 9
Written by Leader of the Day: Jordan
Today we started our sustainable building process. We woke up at eight for a traditional Thai breakfast with some aspects of home food. Then we traveled 15 minutes to the concrete site. We discovered that concert comes from inserting dynamite into hills that are homes to several animals and blowing the hills up so factories can harvest the rocks from the sides of the mountains and then send the product to another factory that processes the rocks and minerals into concrete. We learned that concrete is very inexpensive to make and most of the times over processed materials are made to seem more expensive but in reality they are not.
We then went to Outland to start our mud brick building. We split up into our four animal groups and then two went to the mud pit and the remaining two went to the brick site. The two groups that were at the mud pit had to jump into a hole that was filled with mud and mix it around with their bare feet. The group had to mash the hard mud up with water until the mud became a soft smooth clay substance. After 25 minutes of running on the mud, mashing the mud with all body parts, some throwing, and playing into the mud, the two groups had a challenge to see who could make the best mud bricks first. The challenge consisted of four people on each team running with mud and tossing mud to their teammates to get the most mud into the molds for the bricks. The group had a blast and helped to make around 30 bricks to contribute to sustainable houses.
The second group was challenged with some heavy lifting. They had to take the dried bricks that weighed around 10 pounds and carry them to a location that was about a 2 minute walk away. Under the hot sun and high humidity both groups were tired and ready for a break.
The amazing cooks at Ourland prepared a Thai lunch that consisted of fried chicken, deep fried eggs with a sweet and spicy sauce, garlic rice, and some fresh watermelon. After a lunch break, the group got into our vans and headed to our next fun activity which was kayaking. We arrived at the kayaking place after a fun one hour car ride. We then split into pairs and started our three hour paddle down the Kwai Noi river. We stopped along the way on an island to take a group photo and then we returned to our boats. The adventure down the river was filled with amazing sights. We reached out destination and then made our way to Ice Phochana restaurant.
We had a well deserved dinner and then we ended our night with one of the group’s favorite activities by stopping at a 7 11 to get some yummy nighttime snacks.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 10
Leader of the Day: Owen
Blog Written by Elizabeth
Today we started off at breakfast with only 3 members of our team present because many wanted some extra sleep. We then headed over to a Thai military base and saw their mud house structures. Mud houses are more sustainable than concrete and very sturdy. We even learned that they’re bulletproof.
We headed over to OurLand and started making mud bricks. The Great Wall of GLA is slowly making progress. Mud felt very cool on a hot morning!! We had a lovely lunch of spicy Thai chicken and dragon fruit. After our day of service work we were ready to relax.
Our vans headed over to the River Kwai once again and we got our orange lifejackets on. We floated down the river on foam rafts as rain poured down and ended up drenched by the end. The raft floating turned into a (safe) throwing each other off competition. It was very fun and everyone got soaked! It was nice to have fun in the river after many long hot days.
As we exited the river the rain came crashing down harder than ever and we rushed into the vans. We headed back to the hotel instead of the nature reflection that we had planned. Our local director Vijo got separated from his cell phone and was left in the rain with no car, but eventually made it back to the hotel in time to set up a movie for us! We got dinner delivered to the hotel and had a nice night in. Relaxing at the hotel was nice after two busy weeks of travel, work and adventure!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 11
Written by Leader of the Day: Sam
Similar to other days, today we started our day with breakfast at 8, and departed the hotel at 9. We arrived at Ourland where we finished off the mud wall we had been building for the past 2 days. Feeling accomplished, we ate lunch and headed back to the hotel. After a much needed rest time after our hard work, we played a game of Family Feud in our mentor groups on the pros and cons of “voluntourism” or service abroad. After the hottest part of the day passed, we left for a trash collection site. There we were introduced to kind man who has been collecting trash and recyclables from the nearby village and sorting them, and eventually selling them for a small amount of money.
We were split into groups and were prompted to collect a specific type of recyclable and put it into a bag. Soon after we headed to Natura for a rainy dinner. Despite the rain we headed to the market and indulged in the delicious snacks and desserts they had to offer.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 12
Written by Leader of the Day: Randy
Today, our last day in Kanchanaburi, was all about sustainable farming. We worked hard on compost piles at Red Squirrel, a sustainable farm run by Our Land. We cut down banana trees and chopped them up, collected fresh manure, and mixed them together to make compost.
During the hottest hours of the day, we took a break a Natura where we hung out in the river, had lunch, and rested in hammocks. We did an individual mid-program reflection and wrote letters to each other. An ice cream cart came by for a sweet treat!
After finishing the project at the farm, we went back to the hotel to shower and dress up for our final night at the Our Land reserve. We had dinner and shared favorite moments around the campfire. Then we said goodbye to Jordan and the local staff that aren’t coming with us to Phuket. “Uncle Nom” had handcrafted flowers out of leaves for every student. There were lots of tears and hugs. We then went back to the hotel to finish packing… Our vans are leaving for the airport at 6:30am!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 13
Written by John
Our day kicked off by saying goodbye to Kanchanaburi. Waking up early, we hit the road by 6:30 in the morning, with our sights set on Bangkok. The drive to the city took us a few hours, and by 10 AM, we were stepping into the hustle and bustle of the Bangkok airport.
Our bags were swiftly checked in, paving the way for a well-deserved lunch break. The food court was buzzing with options – from familiar chains like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen, to local favorites like Korean corn dogs and bubble tea. It was hard not to get excited in the face of such diverse culinary options. And just for a fun twist, I took a quick picture with the iconic Ronald McDonald statue.
After lunch, we went to security, since our flight departed around noon. Phuket was the next stop on this part of the trip, which we reached by 2 PM. Once there, we took a scenic drive to the dock where a charming wooden boat awaited to take us away to the island of Koh Yao Noi.
Upon reaching the island, we quickly drove to our hotel to unpack and settle down. After freshening up, we were off to explore the local cuisine further, and by 5:30 PM, we were relishing a hearty meal of black rice, chicken, and an assortment of vegetables.
We decided to conclude our day by soaking up the stunning sunset, watching as the streets were painted in hues of crimson and gold. The refreshing coolness of Phuket compared to the heat of Bangkok was appreciated by all, leaving us feeling more relaxed and comfortable. This day, filled with the joy of shared experiences, and the thrill of discovering a new place together, made our journey truly unforgettable.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 14
Leader of the Day: Heba
Blog Writer: John
Today we began our journey an hour earlier than our typical schedule. As the morning light unfolded, we, an enthusiastic bunch, hopped onto a boat, ready to explore the turquoise waters encircling the islands. We initiated our venture by strapping on snorkeling equipment and life vests, allowing us a sense of comfort in the inviting sea.
The option to swim without life jackets was presented to us not long after and was greeted with excitement. Many from our group had fun jumping off the boats into the ocean. This fun hour of snorkeling, diving, and soaking up the sun gave us a lot of joy.
In between, we were offered mango sticky rice, which everyone loves. An event of particular interest during this time was Heba’s first entry into the saltwater, a memory that proved to be a great milestone.
Afterwards, we hopped back onto the boats to journey towards another location for a brief, but equally thrilling, 15-minute adventure. We found a sandy beach perfect for lunch, where we held a picnic, eating fried rice and chicken as we chilled on the warm sand.
After lunch, we returned to our hotel for some rest and freshening up, marking the end of what could only be described as an extraordinarily surreal experience. The sight of everyone having fun and the general ambiance felt like a scene straight out of a movie.
As the clock struck 5:30, we moved towards a pier to admire the view, clicking numerous photos to commemorate the memorable day. This was followed by a dinner rich in seafood – fish, squid, and shrimp – wrapping up the day.
Reflecting back, what made the day particularly endearing was not just the sun or the water, but also the sense of harmony shared among us. To me, this day stood out for its tranquility and relaxation, and the ability to appreciate nature’s gifts, marking it as one of the most beloved days of my trip.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 15
Leader of the Day: Lucas
Blog Writer: Elizabeth
Today we started early again and headed to the mangroves. Mangroves are an important part of all tropical ecosystems. They produce tons of carbon dioxide, almost 20x more than a rainforest. Mangroves also protect islands from rough waves, especially hurricanes. We met up with local community members and 12-year-old students who participated in trash cleanup with us as a class project.
We worked together for 3 hours and could see the trash disappearing but it would’ve taken years to get rid of all of it which was very sad. This inspired our initiative towards the 4 Rs (reduce, refuse, reuse, and recycle). After cleaning the mangroves we headed to a recycle bottle sorting center.
We had thousands of various plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and containers to sort through. The local community sells these sorted recyclables to grocery stores and uses that money for a fund that acts as “health insurance” to participating community members. It is amazing to see what communities can do for each other. After a long morning of recycling, we headed to lunch.
After lunch, we headed home through the rainstorm and had mentor groups. During mentor groups, we reflected on our goals after this trip and how to take what we learned home to make an impact. After the rain settled we head to local shops in town.
We all bought beautiful bohemian beach clothing and souvenirs for us and our families back home. After shopping till we dropped we headed to dinner. Our restaurant had gorgeous views of the Thai countryside. We had a nice meal of Western food and pad thai. We watched the beautiful sunset as we gathered for a group talk about conservation and the different ways our service impacts this community. It was a great day here and we are all sad to be leaving soon.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 16
Written by Leire
We started our day with a light breakfast, after which we drove off to get on the boats that would take us island hopping throughout the day.
In each of the places, we had some friendly competition; swimming, and trash collection. Our third island was also our lunch spot, with the crystal clear water of its beach successfully tempting us to get in once again.
After a quick stop to see monkeys at one of the many marvelous islands —from a distance, of course— we set off to our last water destination of the day; a nice, empty spot where we jumped and swim into Thai water for the last time!
A pause at the hotel and a quick trip to a café later, we were happily surprised by our mentors, as we found ourselves on the boats once again, this time on our way to dinner at the beach, which then led to individual and collective reflection, and the definition of our One Meaningful Goal (yes, OMG). Our goal as a group is “to inspire others to be more sustainable by sharing/communicating our stories.”
Stomachs full, and hearts content with seeing the stars in a fairly clear night sky, we got back on our boats, got to the hotel, and had one of our last and best bonding times.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 17
Our last day!
After a late breakfast and a stop by the local cafe, we loaded into our vans and started our journey home. We made a stop at a local marine life sanctuary and got to see some beautiful fish, sharks, and pufferfish. Then we continued on to the mainland.
After checking into the hotel, we spent most of the day at Central Mall, using any baht we had left on souvenirs and delicious snacks.
For dinner, we went dressed up and went to a restaurant with an absolutely stunning view. There weren’t many other people there, so we had room to get up and dance to loud music they were playing. It was a magical last night.
Back at the hotel, we had one final appreciation circle and then an hour of free time to say our last goodbyes.
It’s been an incredible trip! Thank you to all for the incredible memories!!