Olivia Haan - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I have always loved traveling and learning about new people and cultures. I have traveled with this company before and had an amazing experience so when I heard about the program to Thailand to work with elephants, I couldn't pass it up.

Service with elephants in Thailand

Service with the elephants

Why did you choose Travel For Teens?

I choose Thailand because I enjoy working with animals and I had never been anywhere near Thailand. I quickly became interested in the rich culture and history of the beautiful country.

What was your favorite part about Thailand?

In this specific program, we traveled to several different cities throughout Thailand, but what I loved most is the culture and tradition. I like learning when I travel to new places and I was able to learn so much in Thailand! My favorite city we traveled to was probably Pai which is where we stayed for a few nights before we went on a 2 day rafting trip down the Pai River. I learned about the relations between Thailand and its neighboring counties. It was really interesting to learn how different countries interact.

What made your experience abroad unique?

As I said before, this isn't my first trip with Travel for Teens and what I think makes their trips unique is that in three weeks, we were able to see most of Thailand and meet amazing people from all over the world. I was able to check everything off my list and more while still making life long friendships and giving back to the community.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

For this trip, we traveled with three counselors and they were there for us if we were sick and they were with us everyday to show us around. They organized all of our reservations and activities. Because we were with our counselors everyday, we got to know them and hear about their experiences traveling too.

Temple outside of Bangkok

Temple outside of Bangkok

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Personally, I wish that there would have been more time for service. We only spent about 4 days doing service and I understand that it would be difficult to add more service because it would take time away from other activities, but I really enjoyed the few days we did have and wished I could have done more!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

It’s hard to say what an average day looks like because we did something new each day. The first week, roughly, was working with the elephants and in Chiang Mai, the second was spent on the islands, and the third was in Bangkok. Throughout the trip we also had a two-day rafting trip and temples from all over Thailand. Some of my favorite activities were seeing the famous Muy Thai boxing, learning how to cook authentic pad thai, scuba diving, and competitive scavenger hunts!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

We stayed busy for the most part, most of our days were planned from sunup to sundown. We had the most free time when we were on the islands. We were able to go hang out on the beach or do scavenger hunts that our counselors set up. Other times we would go the markets and shop or walk around the town and try out local street vendors.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

Our accommodations were very nice, we stayed in hotels for the majority of the trip and stayed in dormitories in the beginning while doing service. They were always nice, and they always made sure that there were vegetarian options for me.

Scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand

Scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

The best way to prepare for these trips is to read the itinerary and pack smart. Many of these trips including this one travel to multiple cities and, in some cases, multiple countries. It can be difficult if someone has a giant unorganized suitcase. Not to mention that souvenirs are a must! By reading the itinerary beforehand, it is easy to see exactly what is needed. Also, when you're traveling abroad, it is always best to keep an open mind and have a go with the flow attitude. Sometimes the weather is not cooperating or flights get delayed/cancelled and activities cannot be done that day. It can be difficult especially if it’s something that has been anticipated, but the best way to fight that disappointment is to have an open mind in the first place, which is something I had to learn.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

I always like telling people about me experience abroad and I love sharing what I learned while in Thailand.

Would you recommend Travel For Teens to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend Travel for Teens for anyone who wants to travel internationally or domestically with a packed itinerary and making connections all over the world!