Travel is not just about seeing the world and loading your brain (and your camera’s memory card) with wonderful, lasting memories.
Sure, it’s about that, but it’s also about personal and spiritual growth.
Exposing your mind to new cultures, philosophies, and politics broadens your thinking and nourishes the soul. Travel makes the unfamiliar a more friendly and accessible place, and it erodes the distinction between “us” and “them”.
Some countries offer an experience that borders on the spiritual and Thailand is certainly one of those destinations.
Practically everything about Thailand is magical: from the smiling locals to the universal love of Buddhism to the abundance of incredible animals.
Here’s how to nourish your intellect and soul when you visit Thailand.
The Land of Smiles
We all know how much a smile can brighten our day and the very act of returning that smile helps us manage our stress and brighten our mood.
Tourists are often given the wrong kinds of smiles: painted-on smiles, insincere smiles, and smiles that mask indifference.
In Thailand, you will see some of the most genuine, charming and serene smiles on the planet. The nickname “the land of smiles” may have been coined for the tourism industry, but smiling is a deeply ingrained part of Thai culture.
The smile or yim is how Thais mask their anxiety, frustration or stress. It comes from a desire to smile through negative emotions and thus overcome them.
Best of all, this kind of behavior is infectious!
Thailand is home to many incredible animal species and the Asian elephant is among the most majestic and humbling to behold.
While there is unethical animal tourism in Thailand, there are also several sanctuaries dotted around the country to allow elephants and other animals to live in comfort and protection. These have traditionally been kept to northern territories such as Koh Samui, but operations are making their way south.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, for example, works tirelessly to ensure the safety, well-being, and happiness of their elephants.
The staff, owners, and managers radiate passion and love for the elephants, all of whom are rescued from exploitative and abusive working lives in the logging and tourism industries. Although you can’t ride the elephants here, you can feed them and watch them enjoy daily activities.
Visitors are briefed on the correct way to behave around elephants and there’s a wonderful sense of communion between the animals and their human counterparts. The sanctuary also plays host to several soi (stray) dogs and cats who have been adopted by the sanctuary or their staff members.
It’s telling, in fact, that the elephants choose their mahouts (carers) and not the other way around.
There are few exercises that unify the body and soul like yoga, and Thailand is one of the best places in the world for yoga. The country’s predominantly Buddhist population have embraced the exercise for its numerous physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.
No matter your location or budget, you can find an affordable opportunity to practice yoga in the stunningly serene, natural surroundings as a full retreat, a day class, or a drop in session.
Indeed, you can even become a registered yoga instructor at various locations in Thailand, just check out allyogatraining.com for more details. Whatever your experience level you’ll find some of the most supportive and helpful people and some of the most incredible environments in the world to help you to perfect your craft.
You don’t have to be of the Buddhist faith to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of Thailand’s 33,902 working temples or to appreciate the sense of calm and serenity that permeates them.
The predominant school of Buddhism in Thailand is the conservative Therevada Buddhism which has been the country’s most dominant religion since the 12th century. Thai people take Buddhism extremely seriously and the temples are treated with solemnity and respect by locals and foreign tourists alike.
Take a stroll through a temple or two for a humbling and awe-inspiring experience.
There are few places in the world that will broaden your perspective and nourish your soul in the same way as Thailand. Add it to your bucket list for an unforgettable and uplifting journey. See you out there!