The Elephants That Made Me Reprioritize My Life
It's crazy how traveling accelerates time. Weeks that originally seem like ample time to experience all a given city (or country) has to offer can suddenly evaporate amidst the hustle and excitement about getting to see said offerings.
Thailand so far has been the epitome of this experience. From Bangkok (where I ate a scorpion) to Ayutthaya & Sukhothai (Thailand gems of historical significance), to Chiang Mai to Pai and then down to Ko Phi Phi Island, I'm still trying to figure out where the time went.
So far all of Thailand has been incredible, but easily the most memorable--and dare I say life changing experience of it all so far--was the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary located a couple hours outside of Chiang Mai. (Sidenote: both Chiang Mai and Pai in northern Thailand are two of the coolest, most creative, inspiring and inviting places I've ever been).
Anyone who travels to northern Thailand will quickly hear about all the opportunities to ride, play with, bathe with, etc. the elephants. I was hesitant to do it though, because I've heard mixed things about how the elephants are treated at some of the locations. But after doing some research and hearing first hand from a couple other travelers that it was in fact humane and well worth it, I decided I would try it out. I'm so glad I did.
It's difficult to put into words exactly what made the experience so spectacular, as so much of the value is intangible. The energy at the Sanctuary is some of the purest, cleanest, happiest most unpolluted I've ever felt. It's as if the remote jungle village the Sanctuary is a part of is stuck in a time before technological, environmental and philosophical pollution, and despite the volume of tourists that make the trek out there, it doesn't feel in danger of becoming polluted. It's almost as if it's sacred and genuine intention shields it from the harsh elements of the "outside world."
Of course the elephants only add to the magical feel of the Sanctuary. Shortly after arriving we were able to feed and play with them, an experience made even better by the couple of baby elephants and pregnant mother. It was truly amazing--despite their massive size they are actually quite majestic and incredibly gentle. There is something inexplicably magical about them and upon seeing them it was almost impossible to pull your eyes and hands away.
The most fun came when we joined them for a mud bath to cool them off in the afternoon heat. That mud bath (which quickly turned into a mud fight) was followed by a dip in the river where it's difficult to say whether we (tourists) or them (elephants) had a better time. The baby elephant especially was captivating, rolling around and spraying water with an almost child-like demeanor.
The last few minutes of our time at the Sanctuary was spent seeing the people's village and farm that functions there. The simple, effective, authentic lifestyle of the jungle village was the icing on the cake and personified the intention for simplicity I've been seeking--and finding--since I began traveling.
My experience at the Elephant Sanctuary got me thinking...Do we dare believe that other parts of the world can live with such happiness and efficiency, despite technological and cultural advances? Of course it's unrealistic to think the whole world could hold the same energy as the Elephant Sanctuary, but what would happen if we started trying to strive for purity, authenticity and peace every day? Life would be less complicated. Happier. More genuine and authentic. My time in northern Thailand was relatively short...but I have every intention of utilizing the invitation from the guide there to return to the Sanctuary for an extended period of time, so I can keep figuring out what's really important in life.