There was a time in my life when I wanted to see the world and thought I only had a short amount of time to see it all. I was more concerned about how many stamps I collected in my passport rather than the quality of the time I spent in each place. It was not until I had my first experience in SE Asia with GIVE that I realized I had been doing it all wrong.
We spent 2 weeks living and working within the region, Muang Khong. This experience lifted the superficial veil of travel and allowed me to become part of a community rather than a tourist passing through. We shared meals with the locals, learned from them, and became completely encompassed by the culture. By the end of this experience, we felt like we were part of the family.
I'll never forget trekking through the jungle following in the footsteps of a mahout named Eddy. We spent 2 hours tracking semi-wild elephants. As we passed through lush vegetation, Eddy was telling me about his family, his experiences growing up in the jungle and the special connection he shares with his elephant. Reminiscing on standing face to face with my favorite animal and I still remember my conversation with Eddy above it all. Memories are deeply encoded when you share an emotional connection with that place or the people within it. That is what GIVE provides when you travel, a connection to yourself, others, and this planet, unlike anything you have ever felt before.
Before joining GIVE, I had never truly made the connection that my actions could have an impact. I cared about social issues but lacked guidance and direction. GIVE mobilized that deeper desire within me to be a part of something that was bigger than myself.
I've learned that small choices lead to larger lifestyle changes and one of the best ways to make others more cognizant of their actions is to lead by example. I'm thankful to work for a company that builds up its employees and genuinely cares about the legacy they are leaving behind.