Creating Travel Karma
Save an Elephant, Win a Trip to Thailand!
“When I go to Thailand, I can’t wait to ride an Elephant!”
I remember having these thoughts myself, and have heard them echoed by so many other people planning their vacations since. Of course! Why wouldn’t you want to sit atop such a majestic beast? It would be just like riding a horse – except bigger, and WAY cooler, right?
With so many amazing stories and photos that come back from friends and family, my own included, it’s very easy to only see the industry for face value. Something pretty special and very foreign to that of our own culture.
It wasn’t until moving to Thailand and spending a fair amount of time there that I actually started to learn more about the elephants and what they must endure to be ready for us to ride them, and essentially work for us. What I discovered was not the happy picture I had envisioned in my own mind, nor did it reflect all the fun photos and stories my friends and family had returned with.
I’d like you to take only 2 minutes of your day to watch a quick video which outlines, quite accurately, how elephants get to the point of being able to ride them, do hard labour (such as logging), and make paintings. This story is sadly more common than you might ever expect. This happens to elephants all over Asia, and in circuses around the world.
Sometimes ignorance is blissful, and it certainly was for myself. What I’m offering you is ‘The Matrix‘ decision. For those that haven’t seen the movie, all this quote refers to is that once you know the truth, there’s no turning back. Watch the video if you’d like to know more about an industry which wears a heavy veil to shield it’s actions, in the name of ‘creating a perfect holiday’.
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more. -Morpheus
A Few Possible Solutions
If you have made it this far, I apologize for the graphic nature of the video. It appears you were one of the growing numbers of people concerned with their actions while on vacation. If you couldn’t get through the video, I don’t blame you. Either way, the fact that you are still here, I thank you. I feel that sharing knowledge is already 50% of a solution, which is a pretty good start! The other half is then using your newly found information and acting on it.
Many of us only act out on things which may be harmful to others, the environment, or any of it’s creatures simply because of lack of education, or knowledge on a subject. I believe in people, and our desire to live in a better world – not only for ourselves, and our loved ones, but for everyone we share the world with. Had I known what I know now, of course, I would never have even considered riding an elephant when I first arrived to Thailand.
A very easy (and free) solution to help, is to simply wipe any elephant rides from your future travel plans! Many companies will certainly promote themselves as non-abusive (though who would ever do the opposite?), however it’s sadly almost impossible to be the case where mass tourism is involved.
Another solution is to try and see some wild elephants in one of the many national parks in which they still live! A favourite of mine is Khao Yai National Park, only a few hours north of Bangkok.
There are other ways to help too, if you want to really make a dent in this universe!
Share your newly found information with your friends and family… or anyone for that matter, if you hear of their plans on riding elephants abroad.
I have decided that given the nature of Where Sidewalks End’s Positive Impact Travel philosophy, it seemed befitting that we would try to help raise awareness for this cause. Since knowing truly is half the battle, that gets us half way there, and means that we can make a difference in our own travel plans.
In addition to sharing what we’ve learned, I wanted to make an opportunity for us to give something back to a cause that first helped open my own eyes to what has been happening with the Elephants in Thailand. Just outside the city of Chiang Mai, there’s a place where elephants can live out their final days free from any of the abuse they may have faced in their captive lives. This foundation is called the Save Elephant Foundation, and rescues old, worn out elephants who have lived a life of servitude. They are fed, washed, and able to wander free of leg-binding shackles amongst other rescued elephants in a massive outdoor environment. For many of them, you can witness a sort of elephant group therapy that arises as a newly rescued elephant is brought to be welcomed as part of their growing herd.
Guests are welcome to come visit the park, with their donations and entry fees going entirely back into the foundation to help rescue more elephants, and continue to expand their nature grounds.
A Contest with Good Travel Karma
What has become an annual tradition, from now until the end of the year, a group of travel bloggers have joined together to raise money for a cause which promotes Positive Impact Travel. The project is known as the Travel Blogging Calendar, which consists of several layers. The calendar itself is a weekly article with photos and information about a festival or event happening somewhere in the world that same week. It’s full of beautiful photos and stories, and is an all around healthy dose of travel inspiration. Your donation, no matter what the amount, gives you access to all this content for 1 full calendar year! If you wish to renew, there will be another noble and Positive Impact Travel cause to contribute to by the time your membership expires. It’s as simple as that.
The Save Elephants Foundation that was chosen for 2014’s fundraising efforts. Every single cent, yen, dollar, dong, baht, rupee and whatever else that comes to the Travel Blogging Calendar will be donated directly to the cause. If you don’t feel right donating through a second party, feel free to donate directly to the foundation here: http://www.saveelephant.org/donate/
*Please note: 100% of money raised by the TBC goes towards the charity. All work being done on this cause is by the volunteering efforts of the bloggers involved. All overheads have been covered by members of the board itself.
A blogger’s main objective is (or at least should be) to inspire and inform the public with sharable information so that the message can reach the masses. The Travel Blogging Calendar is simply the medium in this case.
To incentivize the fundraising efforts and to try and maximize visibility this year, WSE Travel (that’s us) decided we wanted to give back to those who decided to make a pledge to the cause! For that reason, we have teamed up with Flight Network and are offering a Travel Package valued at USD $3300 total for a trip to Thailand. $2000 in airfare will be provided by Flight Network, and can be used all by one’s self, or divided between 2 for flights from anywhere in the world to Thailand.
Once in Thailand, WSE Travel would like to host you for a week of Positive Impact exploration. We will welcome the winner and their guest (should they choose to bring one) into the bustling metropolis of Bangkok. You will spend the first night in town at a nice, centrally located boutique hotel. The following day, you will be joined for a city tour fitted to your interests around Bangkok with a personal guide. That night you will venture up to the ancient city of Chiang Mai, close to where the Save Elephant sanctuary is located. While in Chiang Mai, you will be staying in another boutique hotel for the next 3 nights. You will be treated to another city tour around the old Lanna gated city. A return journey to Bangkok will be provided, with one final night’s stay in Asia’s city of Angels. Of course, This trip would not be complete without a visit to the Save Elephant Foundation itself, during your time in Chiang Mai. Transport and entry fees will be covered, as well as a warm welcome by the very same elephants your donations went to helping! You will be greeted by some of the biggest smiles imaginable… literally!
The contest is scheduled to take place in March of 2014, so if you’d like the opportunity to enter, don’t delay and donate today using the links provided below! No donation is too small or too big! If you are reading this ‘after’ the contest has closed, you can still donate to the charity which shall need ongoing support from whomever is willing to help.
We can replicate this trip for anyone interested in going that did not win in the contest as well.
Please note: This prize is not exchangeable for cash. Any adjustments made or additions added will be at your own expense. It is possible, however, for you to gift the prize to another lucky person, if you prefer.
Although the contest part of this article is time sensitive, the other issues are timeless and should be mindful whenever one travels.