I just came across this piece I wrote for Lanta Animal Welfare in Thailand after I spent 6 weeks volunteering there over the Summer of 2012. If you are already going to Thailand or thinking of a trip, why not volunteer? Read my recommendation below to get yourself excited…
My time at Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) is something I will never forget. The friends I have made, both human and animal, the memories and the changes that I made are something that changed my life and I encourage everyone to take some time out of your travels, holidays or work to spend some time at LAW. Whether you are just visiting for a day and can walk a dog or you can dedicate a month or two at the Centre helping it run and caring for the awesome animals, it is all worth it. I spent a month at LAW with my boyfriend after travelling around Thailand, volunteering at other sanctuaries from dogs to elephants but spending a whole month at LAW beat all the days I spent at other places as it became my home, where the fun never stopped and the other volunteers became my family, and what an awesome team we were! I not only fell in love with Thailand and its lovely people but also the culture, food, weather, scenery… It really has it all and Lanta is one of the most diverse islands in all of Thailand. From towering cliff edges and rocky beaches to beautiful palm tree-lined sandy shores, a moped and free spirit is all you need to enjoy all it has to offer. No neon lights, all night raves or trouble here, just great food and great times! Your local could be the pub on the corner or a great little family run restaurant where you can get incredible Thai food for just your spare change. There’s Greek, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Seafood, BBQ, fresh smoothies every morning and cocktails in a hammock at night. Need I go on?
Arriving at LAW can be quite daunting, even flying into Bangkok can be a culture shock of smells and sights you won’t have experienced before and it can be an overwhelming experience especially for first time travellers. It is however a great stop on any traveller’s itinerary and taking some time out to spend at LAW is something you will never forget. A day in the life of a general volunteer can include feeding the dogs and puppies, taking care of sick or injured animals, preparing food for the hungry cats, walking 1 or 2 dogs to the river for a splash by yourself or a group to the beach for a swim with friends. You might spend your whole day cuddling a newbie or hand feeding an abandoned puppy or maybe even catching strays! If there are lots of volunteers it can be great fun working together as a team but sometimes when in short supply you might find yourself running the ship with just one or two others and even helping out the vets like I did! I got the chance to work with some wonderful vets from Poland to Singapore and learnt a huge amount not only about caring for animals but also about other people’s cultures and even about myself. It can be challenging but is totally rewarding. Living on site was one of the best bits as the fun just never stopped and I was able to play with the cats or just go and hang out with my favourite dog whenever I wanted. It can be tough at times though and I definitely had my fair share of cleaning up poo, scrubbing kennels and seeing some beautiful animals pass away. The best things you can bring with you to LAW are a strong stomach, kind heart and an open mind. You will get out as much as you put in, but with a willingness to work and a love for our four legged friends, you don’t need to be an expert to change their lives and your own. Every one of the dogs and cats has its own amazing personality. All the dogs are kept in four groups and spend the day socialising and walking together with their pack. The position of LAW is to sterilize nd treat animals, not to be a shelter for unwanted pets. Therefore all the animals are up for adoption.
If you decide to go, some dogs may have (hopefully) been adopted by the time you get there but if you get a chance to meet any of these guys you are in for a treat! There’s kind-hearted Woody, his brother Oscar and cheeky sister Chilli who were found abandoned together and have grown up at the centre. They are always favourites among volunteers. It will take you a few days to get them to trust you but it’s well worth the effort as they have so much love to give. Chilli’s excited bark is something that still makes me smile. Tarzan, our 3 legged friend has his own stories to tell and it won’t take you long to discover his love of cats! There’s Queen B, Bones and her gang, Princess, Kisser and Michael who I could watch for hours play fighting and winding each other up. Lila and Mai Thai, the long standing ladies who may have had troubled pasts but only have love and cuddles to give now.
From Pumpkin the baby to the big bruiser of the group Dok Dek, and his best friend Owen, there will always be at least one furry friend who will steal your heart. Now the cats are a whole other bundle of fun, with at least 8 black cats, 6 black and white and many other colours to choose from, it will again be their awesome personalities that will stand out and keep you playing in the cat house for hours on end. Each one will find a special place in your heart and a nickname from Psycho Kitty to Moustache Kitty and Momma, Rosie and Drunken Kitty. You’ll have your own nickname for each one by the end of your time there I’m sure! Now this is just one side of LAW - a short ride up the coast line you will find a whole other bunch of awesome cats, dogs and volunteers at Time for Lime where it all began! I’m sure I don’t need to introduce you to this place but if you don’t already know check out their website http://www.timeforlime.net/. This awesome bar and cookery school is what helps keep LAW running and as a volunteer it’s where you will spend most of your nights drinking discounted chilli margaritas! Another great thing about my time at LAW was the after hours. If I wasn’t doing the 'sleep in', keeping the dogs company at night, then I was out with the other volunteers at either Time for Lime doing a cooking class, discovering a new place or maybe even cooking together at the Centre with fresh ingredients from the local market!
My time at LAW is something I will treasure forever, along with my newfound friends, from South America to South East Asia, and all my furry friends who I am already saving up to adopt! It is hard work but totally rewarding and I will definitely be back one day.
So what’s stopping you? If you’re already heading to the beautiful country of Thailand, then stop by Koh Lanta and spend a month doing some good. Even if you are just looking for an alternative holiday, there are some of the best beaches and bars in Thailand here so the fun never stops. You can even be a flight volunteer and keep the good work going by flying one of the adopted dogs or cats back home with you to help them on their journey to their new loving homes. et in touch with Lanta Animal Welfare through their Facebook page or website http://www.lantaanimalwelfare.com/ and if you want to know more about my personal experience you can email me at email@example.com
Irma Rose Pettitt (Volunteer from August - September 2012)
They say living and studying abroad is great experience and so much fun.. and it totally is. It’s awesome and I feel so lucky to be able to travel the world with my best friend and partner in crime and study towards my degree at the same time. There’s not many countries that are granted as free an access to move and live around the world as we are in the UK which I am so grateful for.
However.. it is tough! Having to continuously pack up our bags and move on, never fully being able to settle down or make plans, yet all we seem to be doing it planning the next step and saving for something, never really getting a chance to live in the moment.
We have been on the move for 22 months now, studying full academic years, working full time, setting up lives, making new friends, saying goodbye, saving money and getting into debt, never knowing what is coming next! I love it and I hope it all pays off in the end and we can stay in Canada, get awesome jobs, settle down and then spend our money on holidays galore! At the moment we constantly seem to be paying for visa applications, police checks, paying off debts, saving for flights..etc it is stressful at times and right now I should be writing a report to the Department of Energy and Climate Change about the pros and cons of the UK using more low-carbon energy technologies for my assignment hand in tomorrow… instead.. I am resizing passport photos, researching sitting exams in Canada, applying for visas, skyping home, sending emails, sorting out healthcare… (Thank god I have Jimmy Kimmel recorded from last night with the Toronto Mayor Rob Ford! Watch it now…Legend or total mess? I just can’t decide!)
I JUST WANT TO PACK MY BAGS AND GO TRAVELLING AGAIN!!!
We have decided to sit our exams in Canada now as it was just too expensive and too stressful trying to pay for flights home and loose out on 2 weeks of pay from work. It’s actually still cheaper for me to pay £444 to sit my two exams out here then pay for a flight home! So happy we have this opportunity. I will miss seeing my family but my best friend and my Mum are coming out for the Summer and the Summer!!! I cannot wait to be care free with pockets full of cash. Our courses done, exams done, visas done, summer break and no debts!
Hawaii here we come!!!!
If you have any tips, questions or comments about long-term life abroad as a student or just a traveller - hit me up! Lets share the experiences!
- I need to remember this. I am always in a rush to organise my next trip, plan my next adventure and to find a place to settle. However it is the journey that matters and I need to remember to live for the moment each day. There’s no rush :)
So glad our blog is being read and is inspiring! Thank you for the lovely messages!
Some beautiful messages from friends of Lucca’s Mum! Thank you :)
This is what I have discovered in the past 22 months of my travels and from living abroad. It is the focus of my year and the quote that I am living my life by right now! Adventure, Education, Nature & Dreams!
The life of a traveller <3
I know our posts have been getting more and more sporadic over the last year but I can’t believe the last time I posted was when we left Australia in July last year! I doubt many people still follow our blog but for those of you reading this.. well done for sticking with us or welcome to our blog! Now prepare to be inundated with photos of China and snowy Vancouver!
That’s where we are right now.. Yup, Vancouver! And we love it!
We started up this blog 2 years ago in preparation for our world wide adventure starting in May 2012 and since then we have been away from the UK for 22 months!! We have been home for 6 weeks though when we stopped by in September last year to see family and friends but we are now living in Canada where we plan to stay until at least the end of 2015! (Although we’d love to stay forever if they’ll have us?!)
Since we departed the UK on the 7th May 2012 we have visited 17 countries and lived, worked and/or volunteered in 3 of them! When we left Australia in July 2013, we spent 2 weeks travelling up the coast of Vietnam and then 3 weeks travelling through China! That may sound like a lot of ground to cover in a short space of time? Well it was! It was a fast frenzy of smells, colours, lights and bizarre situations! But more of that to come…
Now we are living in Vancouver, Canada and absolutely loving it! We landed on our feet pretty quickly with a cosy little basement apartment with a lovely family and we were both working in Urban Outfitters until recently! Christmas and New Year flew by and we now both have lovely new jobs and are hoping to move in to our first proper apartment this Summer! We arrived in Autumn to a sea of reds and browns, it was spectacular! Winter has been just as beautiful too! I was really apprehensive about moving here as I had heard that it’s the most rainy city in the world but it’s barely rained in the 5 months we’ve been here! The weather has been great.. it did get pretty cold over Christmas though dropping to around -15 for a few days and it’s even snowed a few times! (It’s actually snowing outside now!) but Spring is on it’s way and I can’t wait!
We’ve been making the most of the great winter weather though and have been up to Whistler skiing with friends for a long weekend and Lucca’s already started ice skating, getting ready to practise ice hockey ready for next season! I got a place last November volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium which has been amazing. I teach for one morning a week in the Wetlab as an educational volunteer for their Aqualab program. I teach groups of grades 4-11 about the local marine diversity in British Columbia with live animals such as sea stars and anemones! It’s awesome fun and I’m getting some great experience. Plus I get to go see the cute rescued sea otters whenever I want!! I’m getting really stuck in with my environmental work, trying to gain as much experience as I can before I finish my degree in 2017! I’m even hosting a beach clean up as part of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF’s annual Shoreline Clean Up at Vancouver’s main beach, Wreck beach. If you’re reading this and you’re in Vancouver and you want to register to join me you can here - http://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/en/cleanup/event/spring2014/wreck-beach-trail-6
Our courses are going well too.. Lucca is in the equivalent of his 2nd year studying politics at the moment and I am studying my 2nd level Environment course along with the 2nd half of my globalisation module that I dropped last year. Think we’ve definitely proved we suit studying abroad to studying at a Uni in the U.K! Both of us lasted a year or less at Uni’s in the UK! Can’t wait to finally graduate and get a ‘real’ job but we’ve got a few more years to go yet! Canada is theee place to be for Environmental jobs though so we are super keen to stay! At least we can say that we’ve studied towards our degrees whilst travelling to 22 countries and worked full time (even if it’s only for 9 months of the year!) for the past 2 years! Living the dream!
Now our plan is to save save save as we need to fly back to the UK in May as we have a wedding to go to and exams but then we’re back here for Summer, our 26th birthdays, then on to celebrate 5 years together in October <3 and my dream is to go to Hawaii for Christmas this year! We also want to see more of British Columbia, head over to Vancouver Island, squeeze in another few trips to the slopes before the season ends and no summer will be complete without a trip across the border to Seattle and down to San Fransico. We also want to head across to Toronto and Montreal while we’re here. Another dream of mine is to head north to see the Northern Lights and get me some cold up in the Arctic regions! I’ve already been to 26 countries in my 26 years of life! So where will be the next new country for me in my 27th year???
So many places to see but as these great ladies once said…
"I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” ― Susan Sontag
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” ― Oprah Winfrey
Nothing beats travelling with your best friend!
Whale watching on the Great Barrier Reef!
In July we went on a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef to go snorkelling which was incredible. However on our way home we were treated to a surprise show from this lone Humpback Whale! It was during the first few days of their annual migration so a rare sighting but this cheeky chap followed our boat for about half an hour!
I couldn’t tear my eyes away for long enough to grab a better camera with a zoom but luckily I had my old film camera on me and managed to get these few snaps.
It was an incredibly magical moment and I can’t recommend whale watching enough - especially with an eco-credited company if you do go. Viewing animals in the wild is so rewarding.
We even managed to spot a couple more a few days later off the coast of Byron Bay.
Humpback Whales are the best!
Sunsets, nature, patterns and the ocean!
But nothing beats seeing one in the wild!
Koala bear spotting - Great Ocean Road 2013
Snakes, Koala Bears, Crocodiles, Wallabies and Kangaroos
Australian Wildlife at the Wildlife Habitat - Port Douglas
- This is what makes life exciting!