Learning from my Experiences Abroad in Thailand and Sri Lanka


Now that my time volunteering in Sri Lanka is nearly half way through, I’ve had the ability to compare and contrast my past experiences abroad with this one. While it is not fair (nor just) to compare experiences, I cannot help but feel reflective of my time interning in Thailand and how it compares to my current experience volunteering in Sri Lanka. While these two trips have been nothing but eye opening and life changing, I have come to realize that they are in fact unique in their own ways. Therefore, I am appreciative and grateful from what I have taken away from each.

Here are some realizations that I have had while traveling abroad:

Internal adjustments: I’ve realized that my time in Thailand was spent trying to adjust to my experiences. This may have gotten in the way of seeing the world around me, and causing me to view it through a tainted lens.  My time in Thailand was spent learning about myself, the world around me, how to treat others, and most importantly: how to not treat others. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it has helped me to broaden my perspective and grow and mature as a person in a huge way. But this time, I am taking Sri Lanka as it is. I have been able to enjoy the present moment instead of worrying about the past and future, and have had great experiences and opportunities to exercise my use of being mindful of myself and others. x

Culture shock happens: It is a very real concept, and when not adequately prepared, it can take a powerful toll on you. For Thailand, Greenheart Travel prepared me but I didn’t mentally prepare myself. This time around in Sri Lanka, my experience of culture shock is less apparent. I have now experienced Asian culture before, therefore I was properly prepared before my trips’ departure. Although some sights and realities are still quite surprising, I now feel that I am a strong enough person to handle them and digest them in an acceptable way.

Quality of life: The quality of life in parts of Thailand and Sri Lanka are very minimalistic. Items are cheap to buy, yet people here know to only purchase and consume what they need. A yearly salary for a Sri Lankan farmer is about $12,000 USD, therefore money and time are spent wisely and usefully. People in Thailand and Sri Lanka have very little belongings and attachments, yet are the most friendly, happy and kind people I have ever come across in my entire life. At first these ideas were hard to wrap my head around, but after living like a local here in Sri Lanka, the answer is nothing but simple and straightforward– living life in a simplistic way without the distraction of desire will ultimately lead to the most pure form of happiness.|x

Helping others to help yourself: In Thailand, I worked with a dog rescue center that helped to improve the lives of stray animals. In Sri Lanka, I am working with a wildlife conservation project to alleviate human-elephant conflicts in the country’s agricultural sector. I have realized that by making a difference in the lives of others, I have ultimately made a difference in my own life, and how I view priorities. Often it is hard to take a step back and see the world beyond your own wants and needs, but if you are able to put the concerns and struggles of others first, you will find that your intrinsic reward will be far greater than any extrinsic one you have ever received. I have taken it upon myself to make as much change as possible in the month that I am living here, and cannot wait to see what a difference I can make.



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