Elephant Riding, The Conscious Way


Before my trip to Southeast Asia, like many others, I knew I wanted to sit atop a glorious giant in all its exotic splendor.  However, I knew the reality of this popular tourism activity is widely rooted in some serious animal cruelty.  If I was going to do it, it could only be in a right and beneficial way.  Thankfully, I found Elephant Village in Luang Prabang, Laos. I was able to learn, care for, ride, and feel good about my experience and sharing it with others.

I did my research.  Elephant Village was by far the most expensive elephant riding organization I had seen, but for good reason.  These animals had been rescued from logging work and cared for in one of very few places that provided an elephant hospital and an on site elephant vet.  These creatures were only available to the public until around noon, bathed, then lead into the jungle within the perimiter of the sanctuary which was very vast. They all had days off and because the cost of spending the day with them was so high, it ensured a stress free environment with fewer people.  The day I went, there were only two other women in my group and we enjoyed a peaceful and personal day with the elephants.



The cost was  almost $100.  That was by far the most expensive part of my entire trip, and some serious $$ for Southeast Asia.  Although I was on a backpacker’s budget, this was the only big splurge I allowed myself.  This money went into feeding and maintaining the elephants as well as educating locals about the impact of slash and burn and teaching them other skills and alternatives on how to earn a living.  Elephant Village even denied the leasing of the land to the government to establish a tourism project!  How cool is that?!  I saw how dedicated they were to the land, community, and elephants, which meant a lot in deciding where I put my dollars. 

All in all, it was a memorable experience. I wouldn’t say to anybody, ‘Don’t ride elephants!’  The important point is to find an organization that cares and is not perpetuating animal cruelty.  There were many places that were ‘no ride’ which I think is great, but I had the opportunity to ride with a clear conscious and know that I was contributing to something positive.  It’s not so much what you do, but how you do it!

Fighting for Yourself

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Everyday is a challenge. Some days I’ve spent with friends, laughing and dancing until I close my eyes; those are the easily conquered ones.  Some days I can’t stop listening to that voice in my head that says, ‘what are you doing with your life?’  Not a fan of those days.  It’s those days I have to remind myself that life isn’t easy, and I’m not the only one who questions their own path.  A healthy dose of being constantly unsatisfied has kept me fighting.  And fighting for yourself is not giving up on your dreams.

I just finished watching Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue and felt compelled to write about standing on your own.  This documentary was done so well, and I was reminded of what a true artist she was, a blues artist.  Part of her story really spoke to me and I’ve been finding an uplifting thread lately with being a woman and doing what feels true to yourself.  This idea of fighting for what you want; it’s been keeping me going lately.

“You are what you settle for.” Those words stayed with me after that film and it’s exactly what I’ve been feeling these days.  This relates to my recent job endeavors completely.  I came rolling into Portland all nonchalant, thinking that I was going to freelance write and snag a cool barista day job, be creative and wander around Portland.  Not so much.  Unfortunately, my friendly warnings that getting a job in Portland is hell were true.  I almost bent a little for a corporate barista gig, but upon learning that I’d have to take out my labret piecring, cover any tattoos, and be drug tested, I literally asked, “Am I in Portland?”  I don’t feel bad about declining the position because I haven’t been traveling for 3 years to get a mediocre low wage job where I can’t be myself.  I may as well just go for an ambitious job with benefits if I have to abide by rules.  I repeat, ‘DON’T SETTLE!’

As for the writing, my real passion, I just continue doing it.  Everything else will work around it, and I can’t allow the excuse of ‘nothing is working’ to not write.  It’s why I’ve created my life the way it is, to be this constantly moving equation.  These wandering years have been filling my life with experiences and allowing new scenery, strange and beautiful people, and unconvered mysteries to constantly inspire me.

As I near the end of my 20’s, I feel myself crossing this imaginary threshold of gender expectations and an overall societal pressure to ‘build my foundation.’  But the truth is, I’m kind of irresponsible-in the traditional idea of what ‘responsible’ means anyways. ‘Un-dateable,’ that’s another one I picked up from watching Frances Ha.  But the one responsibility to myself that I must fulfill is writing.  I just went through a low point of being stressed out on life and not writing.  I ate a lot of ice cream too…But I can only stay away from the pen so long, until I really start feeling without worth.  That’s when you know what you should be doing and you owe it to yourself to do it.

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For all those people out there not settling, still fighting for your dreams, I praise you!  Those kinds of people are what make this world beautiful.  I know I am, it’s a constant evolution, and it isn’t always what I had in mind.  I read something the other day about the goal being secondary and process being what really matters.  It’s about what you’re doing now, because the presence is all we have, right?