Stampeding into the Elephant Park

 

 

Into the Wild Elephant Camp

 

In order to come to Thailand, there are some essential things you must do. Ride a motorbike, try street food (also known as mystery meat), go to a wat (temple), negotiate with a Tuk Tuk driver and finally, go to an elephant sanctuary. Elephant sanctuaries are fairly common in the Chiang Mai area, so it’s relatively easy to find one to go to, however, you do need to do your research.
 
Most of the sanctuaries are no ride sanctuaries which means just that, you can’t ride the elephants, however there are some that do offer rides. Now, you are by no means a horrible heartless person for wanting to ride an elephant, but many of the elephants at such parks are severely mistreated and therefore are highly discouraged to go to. 
 
We decided to go to the Into the Wild Elephant Camp. And the park absolutely lived up to its name…you go VERY into the jungle wild of Northern Thailand. 

 
Walked up and down very steep, mud covered hills, and had to trek through the Thai jungle to get to the elephant park. The struggle was very real, but it was also very worth it upon arrival. 
 
It looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park. Seriously. A cabin was constructed in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing around except for jungle. Oh, and T-Rex. 
 
We signed up for a half a day excursion, and in the words of Goldilocks, a half day was justttt right. Not too long but certainly not too short by any means. What was included was feeding the elephants, a jungle walk with the elephants, bathing the elephants and then swimming with the elephants (oh, and lunch was included, always the way to my heart). 
 
I hated the experience. 
 
Just kidding 😉 
 
Truth be told, I basically wanted to adopt an elephant by the time our session was over.  I am not one to enjoy typical tourist activities (not a fan of visiting churches and cathedrals, and hate to even be classified as a “tourist”) however this is something I am SO glad I did. Plus, my GoPro pictures of elephants eating (or more so inhaling) bananas out of my hands totally made it worth every baht. 
 

Here are some things I learned while I was out on my adventure: 
 
  • Elephant in Thai means “Chang”, which coincidentally is my favorite kind of bier in Thailand (and also, the cheapest). On the bottle you’ll find photos of two elephants. Duhhhh it all makes sense now.
  • Elephants can live to 70-80 years old. God bless it 
  • Elephants start giving birth at around the age of 17 and are pregnant for an easy 2 years. Woof. 
  • You can tell an elephant’s age based on the curvature of their ears. Younger elephants have pointier ears while older elephants have ears that curl over at the top. Knowing that, how old was Dumbo?  
  • Baby elephants are known to have temper tantrums. The baby will just fling themselves into the mud and lay there. ( My brother did the same thing…it’s actually a phase he never got out of, kidding). The mother will try and lift the baby with its trunk, and when that doesn’t work, it gets other elephants to try and help lift the baby. 
  • Elephants have great balance. They can walk alongside a steep hill and using their trunks to sort of feel out the ground in front of them, they know where to step and where not to step. You remember that cartoon of an elephant on top of a ball from the circus? Balance kids, balance. 
  • Elephants eat bamboo, bananas, and I believe sugar cane (although I could be wrong on that one). They spend the majority of their day eating, about 20 hours. 
 
Anyways, don’t want to bore you with all the informational tidbits I learned. Just need to jot them down so I don’t forget. 

Going to an elephant sanctuary was well worth the experience, especially because you can get so up close and personal with the gentle giants.  

Now, how to fit one of them into my backpack is the question. 

Cheers,
Dre xoxo
P.S.- check out the Into The Wild Elephant Camp here
 
 
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Starting over

Begin Again

 

Pai, Thailand

 

I’m starting over. Easy as that; nothing else to it. 

I’m sitting in the back of a 12 person van winding down a hill in northern Thailand, wondering WHY my blogging has been quite nonexistent. WHY am I not bogging? What is holding me back? Why am I so afraid to put my thoughts into words, my thoughts into writing? It’s almost as if I’m afraid of it, afraid of who is going to read my writing, apprehensive as to what other people will think. It’s all so silly really, especially when writing, blogging and more importantly sharing those passions became such a turning point for me. It was quite a monumental point in my life really, and I’ve subconsciously decided to forgo that because of some made up fear that someone out there will not like or agree with what I have to say.

As any good writer must do and has done, the only response that comes to mind, in such tasteful fashion, is screw it ( you can also insert similar R rated phrase here however I must at least keep this PG. k

I’m not afraid to share how I feel…because feelings make us real, make us genuine, make us UNFORGETTABLE. And in my own little way, that’s exactly what I’m striving to be…unforgettable, even if it’s simply my cat that thinks so. But then again, aren’t we all striving for the same.

I’ve come to Southeast Asia to understand what it is i want and what I really want to be doing. Traveling teaches you so much more than anything you could ever learn in a classroom, anything you could learn behind a desk. Not to discredit either of those things by any means, but it’s one thing to hear about it, it’s another to bare witness to.

My new journey has started, and there are miles upon miles of openness, opportunity and adventure below me, around me, within me. I will never be the person I was one month, six months, one year ago, and that is EXHILARATING. To know that I, through my own power, strength, determination, am making my dreams come true. I am not special and I am not above anything or anyone by pursuing this dream, however, I refuse, absolutely refuse, to settle for less than what I deserve. I’ve been there, done that, for far too long, longer than I want to admit to, and I’m finally in a place where my voice is heard, my opinion taken seriously, and my dreams, my goals, understood.

Chapter one, page one–complete

Now, let’s turn the page.


Remember to remember to remember

Be happy

Love yourself

Find your voice

Be well

We are all travelers

KEEP GOING

-Unknown

 

Onward xoxo

 

 

Discovery Within

freedom

 

I haven’t done this in a while, maybe in over a year, maybe longer, but for some reason, it felt right, to do in this moment. I miss writing, I miss how it became my escape, how it provided me solace and sanctuary in a world that was rocky and unpredictable for me, and to be quite honest, still is. I miss writing, and yet, every time I’ve sat down to jot the words, the words escape me, quicker than a flock of birds being approached by an unknown soul, fluttering and scampering about, simply trying to escape the situation as quickly as possible. That’s how I felt I reacted when I would sit down to write. While writing was not something I exactly thought about often, it was always in the back of my mind, always something looming in the shadows of my life. Write more, Andrea, write. As an artist must paint to practice their art, you too, must write a bit each day to keep your love for writing alive.

It’s so easy to ignore something when that something is yourself. You become consumed with other things, you fill your life to the brim, hour by hour, day by day, with functions, events and gatherings that seem to provide satisfaction to you. You anticipate and plan these events so far out, the excitement building and building, until once the event arrives, the fizz is gone and all you’re left with is a flat luke-warm beverage, the bubble and the excitement having evaporated, the bubble and excitement long gone.

I miss writing, I do. I miss the freedom it provided me, the escape it granted me, the world it let me create. For so long, in a life that, in a way, doesn’t even feel like it once belonged to me, writing was my way out, it was where I went to create and develop my dreams. I recall sitting on my lunch break while at my previous job, jotting down quotes and inspirational phrases that I, myself, had come up with. Things to help me get through the day, things that would inspire me when I was down. And let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing in this world more inspiring than reading inspirational text from someone that you could so easily relate to….yourself. It provides you with a serenity, that while you may be feeling down in a certain moment,  things are bound to get better, they HAVE to get better, because you reading words that were written by YOU, in a time when life was easier, life was simpler, and you were happy. It will get better, if you trust the words written by you.

Life has absolutely consumed me… my days are short, and my months, shorter. Days quickly blend into nights, morning coffee cups swiftly morph into evening wine glasses, and life as I know it has turned into a slide projector..clicking from one slide to the next, without even a second to simply appreciate the image, the life, projected.

I feel as if I’ve lost myself a bit in the flurry of life. I am trying so hard to grasp onto the things that I love, the things that truly make me happy, and even in doing so, I’ve become stressed out because it feels like just one more thing added to my plate.

I’m not asking for a simple life, no, and in fact, not at all. I am not looking for a life filled with routine, cookie cutter schedules and predictability. I am not looking for a life where the clock ticks by slowly and the days feel like years. Those things are not at all what I am searching for. Simply, I am attempting to re-find myself, to take another shot at the things I love, the things that have brought so much happiness into my life, and determining where the balance may lie, where the fulcrum exists.

While I have been granted endless opportunities in the past two years to truly explore and discover this amazing city, I may have forgotten about the one thing true thing that begets discovery, and that is the discovery of myself.

Through New Eyes, Story Nine

Through New Eyes, Story Nine

Scott Simon, Co-Founder of Thrive Cleveland

Photo Credit: Greg Murray

Photo Credit: Greg Murray

We are all on a journey, a journey that, no matter what part of the world you live in, no matter what language you speak, what religion you practice, what your sexual preference is, and what economic bracket you fall into, each and every one of us is taking the journey together, whether we are cognizant of it or not. Social barriers and norms crumble to the ground when the journey is recognized, and prejudices and discriminations are blown away like dust in the wind when the journey is acknowledged, purely because it is felt by all.

It is a journey, an expedition, that we are all familiar with but yet fail to pay tribute to on a less than daily basis. Maybe it’s because the busyness of our everyday lives seems to distract us from the true meaning of why we are keeping ourselves busy in the first place. The journey that I am speaking about, the journey that all of us share, is of happiness. We all want happiness, we seek it, reach for it, strive for it, in everything we do, but do we really know what “it” is? Do we know how to control it, do we know how to make it ownable to each of our own lives, and do we really feel like we have a say in it?

Now, I know this is a topic that I write fairly often about; in a way, you could say that it is a topic close to my heart. While it is a topic that can be talked about and written about for lifetimes on end, I choose to write about the topic of happiness simply because I have met too many people that are leading lives they do not seem to be proud of; lives that they portray as empty, as hollow, with no way of knowing how to fill that void and enrich the very thing they have been gifted with; the gift of leading an amazing life.

It’s time we change that.

Meet Scott Simon, the co-founder of Thrive Cleveland,, a new boundary-expanding happiness incubator. Incubator, you ask? No,we are not talking about raising chickens here. Rather, we are talking about raising UP people; pushing them, encouraging them, and pouring love and support within them.

 

DSC_1005

Scott Simon, Co-Founder of Thrive Cleveland

Of course we are all familiar with the term “happiness”…happiness is eating our favorite ice cream on summer’s hottest day, happiness is sitting amongst family and friends and feeling that level of comfort and acceptance that we don’t feel around anyone else, happiness is jumping on an airplane to a destination we have never been to, excited to meet people we have yet to meet.  But, what does it really mean

Happiness lives at the corner of pleasure and meaning; when we feel purpose and joy in the things that we do and in the impact that we have.

Broken down, 50% of our happiness is embedded in our genes. It’s why some people always just seem to be happy, and others, maybe not so much. After our basic needs are met, only 10% of our happiness is based on those things that we would think would normally make us happy… our level of education, how much money we make, where we live, etc. That leaves 40% of our happiness owed to our thoughts and actions…things that we can control.

Thrive designs shared happiness experiences that gets people to exercise that 40%. They aim to create “Wow” memories that bring people together under the shared purpose of stimulating simple, pure,  happiness.

One look at Thrive Cleveland’s website and you will quickly realize that this is an organization that thrives on the simple high of making people happy; of pushing people to be the change they themselves have always wanted to be by unifying them with the common thread of plain, simple, happiness. 

Curious? Intrigued? Evoked?
Read Thrive Cleveland’s story, through Scott’s eyes.

1. In your own words, describe Thrive Cleveland

Within their deepest, trust selves, people’s greatest desire is very simple:  to be happy.   Thrive’s mission is to help empower people and communities to be the happiest they can be.   How you ask?  Thrive creates experiences – which are rooted in the science of positive psychology – that are designed to push our happiness buttons.   Our experiences are really compelling  – but at the same time they connect people, push boundaries, get people into “flow” and help people get healthier and more active.  In a very real way, THRIVE CREATES HAPPINESS.

2. Give us a little background on the concept of Thrive Cleveland…why it began, when it began, and who was apart of the initial concept. 

I was totally blown away when I met a professor at Harvard – Tal Ben Shahar – who had the largest class in all of Harvard:  the science of happiness.   In meeting him, I realized that happiness wasn’t about rainbows and smiley faces … Rather it is deep, important human quest which can be enhanced in scientifically ways.  That blew me away, because I was used to the who pop psychology thing (10 quick steps to self esteem).  Here was a total science of high performing, optimistic, high achieving people.  I wanted to know :  What made them tick?   And could we learn from them to make others happier?   That was the simple but powerful premise of Thrive.

3. What kinds of events does Thrive Cleveland organize?

If you came to a Thrive event, you would never know it was grounded in science.  You would just have a blast.  We do healthy noontime silent discos, mindfulness tea ceremonies, tribal drum experiences, huge gratitude murals, food experiences, random acts of kindness, and more.   One of my favorites was an event all about stress release, and we encouraged people to do yoga and then to smash plates, cups and China against a wall.   It was both hilarious and awesome simultaneously.

4. When you are brainstorming these events that are geared around happiness, what is your first overarching goal when planning such events? What do you want people to ultimately get out of the event?

Ok, so here’s the thing about happiness.  It’s a PRACTICE, not a state of being.  So what we want our events to do are to inspire people to take on happiness practices and give them the experience to know they can do it.  That is our secret sauce.

5. Out of all of the events that have been put on by Thrive, which one has impacted you most?

Our last event, which was a “pop up wedding” probably hit me the hardest.   Our theme was LOVE which is obviously a huge driver of happiness.  But sometimes people can get cynical and downright negative when it comes to love.  So we wanted to really hit home how truly powerful and inspiring true love can be. The event was pure, surprising, powerful.   It was light love lightning In a bottle.

 

Photo Credit: Lindsey Beckwith

Photo Credit: Lindsey Beckwith

6. There have been numerous Thrive events recently that have sold out in a matter of days. Why do you think Cleveland has responded the way it has to Thrive?

I think in Cleveland it’s all about trust.  If people know that you will give them something amazing and transformative they will follow you anywhere.

7. The people that are involved in the organization of Thrive all come from a variety of backgrounds, careers, and skill sets. What is it about Thrive that has attracted people from so many different walks of life?

Great question.  Because happiness is the great unifier.  No matter what you background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender … We all equally want and can access happiness.  That said, our Thrive crazies are a special breed.   They want to blow people’s minds just as much as they want to make people’s lives better.  They get off on making people smile.   I love that.

8. Why do you think Cleveland needs an organization like Thrive Cleveland?

Honestly, I think EVERY city needs a Thrive.  Every company needs to be touched by Thrive.  Every family needs to learn from Thrive.   But Cleveland has been an incredible launching pad for us.  It is home for us, and Cleveland has a great history of civic pride and activism.  We love our city with a passion.  And if there are people who want to make it better, we support them.  That’s just how we roll here.

9. In your own opinion, what do you think is the number one factor in people not reaching complete and utter happiness?

Believing that external things – money, a new car, a promotion at work, keeping up with the Joneses – will solve our problems and make us happy.    Society reinforces this every day – every second.  “Just buy our product, and you will have love, happiness, self esteem.”  But that is a load of CRAP.  the inverse is true – happiness comes from the inside out – the work we put in to be healthy, giving, optimistic, compassionate, adventurous, courageous.

10. Along the same lines, when asking people what makes them happy, what is the number one response?

That’s easy:   the relationships they have with family and friends.  That’s why being happier is so powerful – because when we get happier those we love get happier too. It’s proven.  So it multiplies and multiplies  the impact.  That’s why we are bizarre enough at Thrive to think we can change the world.

11. What has been the most thought-provoking response?

I love the concept of the beautiful  ANTICIPATION  we feel when waiting to give a gift to someone we care about,   Sure, it’s awesome to receive gifts on our birthday … But when you buy or make an awesome gift for someone and you are quietly waiting to give it to them:   That is a BEAUTIFUL human space to inhabit. We totally underestimate the happy power of giving to others.

12. There is a documentary on Netflix (and is actually my favorite as well) that is titled “Happy”. It tells us the story of how people across the world define happiness and what it means to them. What does happiness mean to you?

Well, that is my favorite movie as well.  It so clearly explains what we do at thrive. But to be specific, we view happiness as the intersection between meaning and pleasure.  It has both short term, joyful qualities, and long-term meaning qualities.  When you can nail both, you are in the zone.

13. Ten years from now, where do you hope to see Thrive Cleveland?

Honestly, I believe there  will be a thrive in every major city, and we will be connecting people and communities to happiness in all kinds of ways that we can’t even conceptualize now.  I also think we can revolutionize the way workplaces operate, focusing much more on the happiness and engagement of employees instead of just focusing on productivity and profit.  The skies the limit, and I can’t wait to see our role in it.

“We design experiences that spread happiness. We inform our design with the “science of happiness.” Thrive experiences create the optimal conditions for people to be their happiest, together.”

Dia de Noquis (Day of Gnocchi) Photo Credit: Kimberly Shuck Cowan

Dia de Noquis (Day of Gnocchi)
Photo Credit: Kimberly Shuck Cowan

 

For more information on Thrive Cleveland, check out their website: 

http://thrivecleveland.com/

Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/thrivecleveland?_rdr=p

Twitter: 

http://www.tedxcle.com/scott-simon/