Demetra Skenderis (Colgate University)

I don’t think I can even quite put my experiences in Thailand through Loop Abroad into words. I’ve always prided myself in being independent but even I can admit I was a little nervous just hopping on a plane, flying half-way across the world not knowing anyone. To ease my hesitancy, I decided to Skype video chat with one of the leaders of Loop Abroad. Emily not only worked around me and my parents’ schedules by also providing her cell phone number, but quickly made me overcome any uncertainty by answering any and all questions. After speaking with Emily, there was no doubt in my mind I was going through with this and I now had a friendly face to greet when I made it.

Little did I know, I would meet so many unforgettable faces in Thailand. From the friends you will grow with, the monks you will learn from and the leaders that inspire you, you will find that every person leaves an impression on you on this Loop Abroad experience. It doesn’t give the relationships justice to simply say you will make friends. As simple as it sounds, I wish someone had told me: everyone who is on this trip wants to be there just as much as you. Everyone is just as excited to experience new smells, tastes, and sights just as much as you are.

I think that is why I cliqued so well with everyone I met instantly, because we were all just as enthused and genuinely happy to cheer the other on in whatever amazing activity we were all experiencing new together. There is no way you won’t leave this trip without friendships that will last a lifetime. I know that is insanely cliché to say and trust me it feels even more cliché to write down, but I wholeheartedly believe it.

These connections I made were not only with other traveling Loop Abroad members like me. The best way to put it is, I adored the staff. They are some of the most cultured, down-to-earth, and hilarious people I’ve ever met. I really think the Loop Abroad leaders made my trip what it was. I could go to absolutely any one of them with any question or concern but at the same time to watch a movie or joke around. We had nicknames for almost every single staff member like some sort of sports team or something. They were our doctors when we needed a band-aid, our teachers when we had questions, our goofballs when we wanted a laugh and all the meanwhile always our friends.

My favorite game to play with these friends/leaders was, “Surprise Me?” Any time we’d go out for a meal in Chiang Mai, I’d let my Thai leader Noom know what I was in the mood for whether that be spicy, seafood or chicken or whatever, and he would surprise me with a dish he thought was tasty. I fell in love with each meal more than the next. You will get to try some amazing flavors, some of which will be once in a lifetime opportunities.

I am not the most daring with food but I went out of my comfort zone during this trip to Thailand and let me tell you my taste buds are still thanking me. Even so, if you aren’t that adventurous, there are so many yummy noodle and rice options that you certainly will not have any issues finding something you like. I am still dreaming over this Lavender Pad Thai we got to have after our trek through the jungle on top of the Monjam Mountain. It doesn’t sound like it should work but oh trust me does it.

And yes, I did say trek through the jungle. This was one of the coolest and most rewarding experiences. The view at the top, after this couple hour hike, was breathtaking and worth every stride. I feel like every time we would do a new activity though, I would label that the coolest experience I’ve had. So everyone stopped taking my word for it by the end of each activity  In Chiang Mai, from exploring the Chiang Dao Caves with bats above, playing with tigers and zip lining on the longest, highest, and fastest courses in all of Asia, to being enamored by the sacred temples, marveling at the street markets we lose ourselves in and being immersed in the lives of the Thai villages, I can’t pinpoint what was actually the coolest experience because they were all so remarkable.

Moreover, at the Elephant Nature Park, not only do you bathe and feed the rescued elephants every single day (leaves you in awe every time) but you also care for them in every way imaginable. Yes, you clean some poop, but believe it or not it’s actually kind of fun. And honestly, anything is fun when you look to your left and right and there are just some elephants casually walking around.

While you are responsible for cleaning up after the elephants, you are also responsible for getting them food. This is not just in the most direct and obvious way. We got to plant grass for them to later eat and my favorite activity would have to be when we got to cut down a field of cornstalks with machetes. This was the most tiring activity, so after we finished we got to tube down the river. It was so much fun but also amazing to just look up to elephants all down the sides.

A few measly words truly cannot give this experience I had in Thailand through Loop Abroad justice. No adjective or description can accurately depict each sight or touch or taste that I had during my couple weeks in this foreign world. It was the best, most thrilling and unforgettable decision I have ever made.