10 Things You Will Love About Camp Thailand
Seren from the UK booked a trip Thailand in July 2016 and didn't want to travel solo so she booked to do Camp Thailand, a group experience which mixes volunteering, teaching and exploring. Camp Thailand turned out to be one of the best experiences of her life, she got to do things she never imaged and also made friends for life.
Here Seren shares her experience and why she highly recommends you sign up for Camp Thailand...
1. Perfect for First Time Travellers
Want to travel but don't want to do it alone? Don't have friends with the same ideas as you? Camp Thailand is perfect for you. It's the perfect opportunity to travel 'solo' but with the comfort of numbers. You'll technically be going alone and can brag about it to family and friends, but will be meeting people and making friends from the minute you sign up for camp through their private Facebook page. You'll have camp leaders that have been in Thailand for weeks on end and you'll always have a Thai person at camp with you. Going with an organisation gives you a taste of what it's like to travel through a different country with a different culture and gives you the knowledge that you need to go solo when you decide to.
2. Gain a TEFL Qualification
Want to travel the world but need money? By signing up to Camp Thailand you get to complete a free online TEFL/TESOL course. It's a few small tasks that require a few hours a week over a course of 8 weeks and the certificate you gain can take you anywhere. You can teach English in Europe, South America and Asia so the travel opportunities are endless when you have a recognised qualifications. TEFL is the perfect way to earn as you travel and the demand for native English speakers is huge.
3. Mingle with Locals
You'll be based in one area for the duration of camp so make it your home for the next few weeks. Locals will love you. You'll walk the streets and they will chat and get to know you. They will appreciate you eating at their family run restaurant or buying gifts from their stalls at the local market. The young children will see you and practice their English by engaging in basic conversations with you. You'll make friends with local taxi drivers and you will learn that you can rely on them. You'll go to the local club, you'll get to know the bar staff and that brings benefits - free drinks?! I made friends with one barman and we still keep in contact to this day. Parents of the local children will admire you as you'll more than likely be teaching their children English and increasing their chances of a successful future.
4. Meet New, Likeminded People
You'll meet people from different background and different lifestyles but you're all there for the same reason - wanderlust. You'll meet people that want to travel, want to teach and want to embrace a new culture.
5. Opportunities to see and Do Things You Wouldn't Do Solo
Your taxi ride involves sitting in the back of a truck with your legs hanging off the edge. You get to ride in monster trucks and tuk tuks. You can cycle around the local area, gain some knowledge and learn about the history of the place. You get to go to temple after temple and they don't get boring - they are so beautiful and each with their own story. You go to different schools every week and meet different children. You visit a monkey temple and you get to feed them. You make a point of going out just before sunset to watch a thousand bats fly from a cave. You visit natural springs, hike up mountains and travel to the other side of the country to sit on the border of Burma and watch the sunset. You get to look after elephants and be blessed by a monk. It's a jam packed few weeks and well worth it.
6. Thai Culture
Thailand is a wonderful country with a lovely culture. It is very laid back and they're all so happy but you need to know about 'saving face' - it's not ok to get angry in public as displays of emotion are viewed in a negative light. Thai people love their Royal Family and no disrespect should be shown towards them, even the national anthem is played in the cinema before each film. Their culture is family central and respect must be shown to the elders and those in a higher social positions. One funny thing is 'Thai time' - Thai people are so laid back that if you say 10am, don't expect them to be there until 11! Thailand may be a culture shock to you but you will fall in love instantly with the country, the people and the lifestyle. Spending time in Thailand will teach you about patience, respect, self-control and will probably change your attitude towards things in life and make you grateful for the little things.
7. Give Back to the Community
The main reason for Camp Thailand is to teach English to children in local schools. By doing this you are giving back to the community that welcomed you as a visitor. You get to see the pride and joy on the children's faces when they realise that they are learning and understanding new things. You watch the children develop and their confidence increase as the days go by. Seeing the children run to you when you get into that school because they are so happy that you're there will send joy through your bones. Not only are you teaching these children but you are also inspiring them, and in years to come they will talk about that teacher that taught them the alphabet.
However, it's not all about teaching. Camp Thailand also works with Elephant sanctuaries and this is an opportunity for you to walk, feed and wash rescued elephants and ensure that they are well looked after. There are also opportunities to visit an orphanage.
8. Explore the Country
Your experience at Camp Thailand is what you make it. You must seize the opportunity to explore. There's an option to stay in Bangkok and see the city - one I recommend you taking. Venture to the Royal Temple and hop on the river cruise. Party on Khao San Road until the early hours. You can venture out of the town you stay in and visit other places. I was based in Cha-Am but often ventured into Hua Hin - a wonderful beach town with shops and markets. There's also an opportunity to sign up for an Island Hopping tour where you can visit Phuket, Phi Phi and Krabi. The Island Hopping tour adds to your experience and gives you opportunities that weren't available on main land such as rock climbing in Krabi or attending a cooking class.
9. Make Friends for Life
The number of intakes per camp is huge and you won't remain friends with everyone but there'll be someone who becomes your friend for life. You will live with these people for the duration of camp and you'll share memories and stories with them. You'll get to know all about their past, their troubled times, their life stories and their amazing memories. You'll laugh together, you'll cry together and they'll forever have a place in your heart. Social Media makes it easy to stay in contact with people, and although you may not speak to your campmates on a daily basis after coming home, and they may live on the other side of the country, they will be there for you. I made amazing friends at camp - ones that I have seen since coming home.
10. It Gives You the Travel Bug
One thing Camp Thailand gave me was the travel bug. Camp Thailand gave me the confidence to go it alone, or at least arrange a trip without the help of an organisation. Since coming home from Thailand I have planned my own itinerary and interrailed around Europe with a friend I made while at camp (see point 2 - friends for life!). I met one of my closest friends in Thailand and although we live hours apart and see each other once year (to travel) we are slowly but surely making our way around the world together. I am now planning my next adventure to China with her.
By Seren Phillipes