With 7 months to travel, 4 countries to cross and 1 backpack to carry, IVHQ volunteer Megan Glavin shares the final chapter of her volunteering journey. Read about Megan’s experience as a volunteer in Thailandbelow, or read back over her time as a volunteer teacher in Argentina, when she lived in the Peruvian Amazon and spent time in a rural monastery in Sri Lanka!
They say Thailand is the land of smiles, a place that welcomes and accepts. It is the land of spicy curries and flavorful stir fries, and copious amounts of rice. In the north, remote villages nestle into jagged mountains covered in the emerald green of rice terraces, and for 2 months, that’s where I called home.
Northern Thailand is inexplicable in its beauty: lines and lines of rice fields break up bamboo jungles, and golden temples and spirit houses dot the dirt roads of every village. And the people, too, embody this beauty. Smiling strangers zoom past on mopeds, and shopkeepers welcome with fresh mangoes and cold beer, giving a personality to a place I came to know as home. Life here is laidback, with so much time spent splashing around in nearby rivers and waterfalls with the village children, or sharing laughter around bonfires at night. It is a part of Thailand not many see, and that’s what made it so special.
I was a part of the IVHQ Outdoor Work Project, working primarily to build rice fields and consequently, a sustainable economy for the local hill tribes in the area, many of whom are stateless and at risk of having their land taken from them by the government. IVHQ’s local team was formed to protect the rights of the hill tribes, and that, along with hosting volunteers, works to bring citizenship, education, and resources to the tribes. It meant a lot of sweat, mud, and hard work, but it was exciting to be working on something tangible with such distinct cultures.
Every other week was a home stay, and we’d pack up our buckets and hoes for a week of work in a remote hill tribe village. These were some of my favorite experiences, living and working within these unique environments. Each stay brought with it a new project, and we did everything from building dams to rice terraces to roads, always ending the week with a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude towards those who had opened up their homes and lives to us. Farewells were said in the best ways possible, with barbecues of bamboo-skewered meat and sticky rice, enjoyed in the company of each other under hazy sunsets.
I love volunteering for this reason: because it brings people together with another culture in a way that could not be experienced through any other means. Because I am living a part of their life and I can call it my own; because I can have these moments - these nights full of shared stories, laughs, and food - that give me so much love for the life I am living.
Weekends in Thailand were spent in the nearby city of Chiang Rai, or further away, exploring towns, temples, and waterfalls. Buses, songthaews, and mopeds took us through bustling night markets full of crazy eats and impressive art, and into blissful canyons spread out under sunny skies. Songkran, or Thai New Year, happened in the middle of my stay, and seemingly the entire country took the weekend off for a festival of water and good times: the happiest weekend of the year.
Some of my favorite memories are from these weekends away, getting to know the best of northern Thailand. Yet, I define my time here by the laughter of my village children as they splash-attack me with water in a nearby river; by the curries of coconut milk and spice and so much sticky rice; and by the nightly bonfires with all the friends I made along the way. Because Thailand gave me more than the unforgettable memories - it gave me a home, and that’s what means the most.
Interested in volunteering on the Outdoor Work project in Thailand? Learn more about IVHQing in Thailand here!