My Volunteering Experience in Thailand – Ayla Oden

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Last summer, I was desperately looking for a new adventure. I would convince a friend to go backpacking with me one week, and they would back out the next. While I found the search for a travel companion hopeless, I was still determined to go somewhere- do something exciting- that summer; and that’s when I decided to take up solo traveling. That’s when I began looking at volunteer programs. As you may have already guessed, I chose to travel with Volunteering Solutions. I signed up for their Thailand Summer Volunteer Program without knowing a single person in the group.

While traveling across Thailand with Volunteering Solutions, I quickly discovered all of the perks from traveling alone. Here is what I realized during the trip;

1. You Become a Confident Traveler

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The Thailand Summer Program was my first experience traveling without my family, so of course,  I was really nervous about it. But through the countless taxis, ferries, trains, planes, and buses, I realized that I was completely capable of finding my own way. Traveling alone creates a sense of pride and confidence in a person. While at first, I was nervous to travel by myself, I quickly learned to appreciate and even respect my independence.

2. You Get to Make New Friends

Ayla Oden Thailand

I have always been one of those kids who gets shipped off to summer camp every year by their parents. Most of the time, I had a friend or two who took the trip with me, but a couple of times I showed up to my bunk completely alone. The funny thing is, I don’t remember having any less fun when I went alone than when I went with friends. The same is with volunteer traveling abroad. My volunteer group immediately became friends with one another. Many of us were traveling alone, but once we got together, we truly acted like we have been friends all along.

3. It’s An Opportunity Not to Be Missed 

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If I hadn’t taken the leap of faith and signed up for a program that was completely a new venture for me, full of strangers,  I would have completely missed out on the best summer of my life. Sometimes you just can’t wait on other people (rather you must never). If you don’t take every opportunity, you’ll miss out on countless amazing adventures.

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At least once a week, someone will reach out and ask if I regret traveling alone. And my answer will be ARE YOU KIDDING?! What I, rather, would have regretted is not going at all. If you’re in the same boat as me, take the leap of faith. I volunteered to discover Thailand, but when I arrived, I discovered myself. Embrace it and love each and every adventure for the experiences it gives you! I learned how to navigate Bangkok, made lifelong friends, and got the summer of a lifetime all while traveling alone. I know it’s scary, but some of the best moments of your life are meant to be experienced alone.


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