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You've made the first step, you've decided to say no to riding elephants, and yes to visiting or volunteering with elephants in a sanctuary that promote health, freedom, and natural behaviour, now what? What should you know about being a volunteer? If you're visiting for a day, how should you dress or behave? What are the unspoken rules for interacting with elephants in a sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park?

It's early morning and I've just walked through a gauntlet of souvenir stalls, locals setting up their wares and getting ready for the onslaught of tourists to hit. At first, I was reluctant, I'm not interested in shopping, I want to get a glimpse of local life and culture; and while souvenir hawkers represent a small sliver of a community's culture, this is not what I had in mind.

It all started with a Skype call with my editor at Bootsnall (a popular indie travel website that I've been using since 2009), a conversation about solo travel in Southeast Asia, and adventure. A conversation where I ended up suggesting an article on travelling solo, and before I realized what was happening the word 'Myanmar' had trickled off my tongue. I didn't even thinking about getting my Myanmar visa.