"DON’T BE AFRAID TO DREAM BIG AND TO BELIEVE THAT YOUR BIG DREAM IS POSSIBLE."
There I sat in the middle of the Asian jungle, in the middle of a small river bed, allowing a stream of water to wash away the mud in-between my fingers and toes. The sun gently warmed my face as I cooled off in the stream, soaking in the beautiful nature that surrounded me at the Elephant Park Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
I was sharing this experience with a group of young backpackers, mostly from Europe; some of which were on their gap year, others were volunteers who’d been there for weeks helping care for the three elephants (including a mom and her new baby), and a few were English teachers at the local school who’d chosen their career path as a means to travel. We’d just finished giving the elephants a mud bath and had walked the trail to the stream to wash off.
I was there alone. I’d made this solo journey to Thailand for my 30th birthday. It was my first experience overseas.
I was born with a spirit of wanderlust and as a kid I yearned for adventure. While my little sister played inside with her Barbie dolls, I was romping around in the woods or wading in the creek pretending I’d traveled to distant lands. My favorite Disney movie growing up wasn’t Cinderella but The Three Caballeros. I was less impressed by the fairy godmother’s capability to transform Cinderella’s tattered rags into a beautiful ball gown than I was to watch Donald Duck travel around South America. When I became a little older and learned how to operate my parents’ video camera, I’d create travel videos highlighting the places I desired to visit. As a young adult, I’d flip through travel magazines and fantasize about the places I’d go … someday.
A few years before my 30th birthday, something inside me decided I was going to make world travel happen for myself - whatever it would take, I was going to fiercely and unapologetically go after my dream.
So there I sat on the opposite side of the world at the elephant reserve, as far away as possible from the familiarities of home. I’d been in Thailand a little over a week and part of me still couldn’t believe I was in Asia. Just then, the very large yet graceful mother elephant appeared out of the lush green foliage, walking toward me in the river bed with her baby following closely behind. It was in that moment that the little girl inside me took my hand, smiling, and looked up at me with sparkling eyes.