In 2015 I went with a group of 17 other young people from my school on a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. We went with an organization called World Challenge. World Challenge is basically a massive safety net organization that stops bad things from happening to the groups of 15-year-olds that go on these trips. The trip was a month long and we got to organize everything.
Where we were going, how long we were going to stay in each place and what we were going to be doing. It was a really good experience and I am glad I partook in the expedition, but if I could do it again I’d do a lot differently.
Firstly, I’d buy my kit from somewhere a little bit cheaper than Kathmandu. Although everything I got was of superb quality and I still use most of the things I did buy; it was just outrageously expensive for a 15-year-old. I did fundraise a lot of that money, but it really wasn’t enough and I ended up leaving my mum with a big financial loss because of this. I’ve recently stumbled along a website called Travel Factory. Here they sell everything you’d need to go trekking, glamping, whatever it is you’d want to do along with Hotels, Cruises, Car Hire and much much more, all at very competitive prices. It would have helped relieve some of the initial outlay that all of my camping and trekking gear cost (we had nothing). If you want to check them out here’s a link: https://t.cfjump.com/46575/t/3562
Secondly, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to go with World Challenge. Although I had a great time and we could clearly see why certain rules were in place, it did feel very restrictive and as if the control we thought we had, was disappearing as the trip went on. I’ve since come across The Working Holiday Club, and although you definitely could not go on one of their trips as a 15-year-old, I think they are the best option for anyone over the age of 18. They are a complete safety net, giving you a job, housing, and a bank card all within the first 24 hours of arrival. The only thing they don’t cover in their very competitive prices is the flight and visa charges. They do however offer a visa service that helps you get the working visa you need to go to your wanted destination. If you want to know more their website has a lot of information about the varying packages and also has an option to enquire to your very own in country agent who can then give you all the information you need. The best part is they aren’t overly spammy. I joined up 6 months ago and I had one appointment to talk through the best option for myself and how I would go about it and I haven’t received any emails since, it’s completely on my terms if I engage with their service which is something I really like.
I would like to put out an honourable mention to the international card company I used. Travelex was the company that I decided to go with and they made it very easy for me to see how much money I had on my card, I also received two cards, which came in handy quite often as I had one on me at all times – that could be easily canceled if it was stolen, and one safely in my locked backpack that could be used as a backup. They made it really easy for my mum to add money to it if I needed it. They had very competitive conversion rates and this allowed me to keep as much of my money as I could. When it came time to cancel the card it was a very easy process where I went into the store, paid $10 and the card was no longer active, which was a relief as I didn’t have to continue paying any fees or charges and I still have the option to reactivate the cards if I start to travel again. Overall this was probably the best decision I could have made for this trip.
The actual trip was quite fun. We arrived in Thailand and went straight from the airport to the already booked hostel. It was mine and another members’ job to find an appropriate taxi at a decent price for all 20 of us -adults included. We managed to do this fairly quickly (Within an hour) and we were all beginning to become acclimatized to the area. We didn’t spend very long here, maybe 3 days, and then we went to the first camping ground where we would complete our first trek. It was quite small spanning 2 days. The biggest problems I faced was leeches loving me and crawling through the tent trying to eat me and becoming quite sick (we think from the malaria tablets) overnight. That was really not a pleasant experience.
The trek itself was really nice, we went over rickety bridges and saw what elephants can do to an environment; we saw all these different types of animals that we would never see in Australia and even some of the plant life was absolutely gorgeous. The campground itself was really beautiful and the tents that were given to us were really quite spacious for 2 people.
We quickly moved on to go up into the mountains for our week long trek. We trekked for over 40km in 5 days and went to a different mountain tribe every night. The treks were gorgeous. The villages were so beautiful and the places we slept in all had these really homely touches that I really wouldn’t expect in the middle of the mountains in Thailand. There are 2 I remember quite clearly. The first one where we ate with the villagers and we played with the children well into the night. The villagers danced for us and taught us their story-time dance. This was a really awesome experience and was definitely the beginning of getting me hooked on travel. The second village that sticks out in my mind was a beautiful village with these big dirt roads that had been mostly washed away by dirt and this really gorgeous common area with a fire pit to one side. This was probably the highlight of the journey for me with the group becoming really close and talking to each other with respect and even some adoration. The view definitely helped with a look out over the canopy of the forest below us (the one we had just trekked through) and the guides we had teaching us how to make plaited rings out of the bamboo that just covered the area.
After we finished this trek we moved onto the Rest and Relaxation portion of our little adventure in the islands of the bottom of Thailand. We actually went way past the normal touristy area of the island and ended up in this really nicely remote area where the beach was right in front of us. There were a few problems here with a couple of people getting heat stroke and a snorkeling trip that could have gone better for all involved. This was the only part of the trip where I remembered to take photos, but honestly, they’re all really bad. It was a beautiful time though, with lots of time spent in the clearest waters I’ve ever seen and seeing really interesting fish.
After only 3 days of rest, we got on a bus and headed over to Cambodia. Here we went into a remote village built a path along the edge of a classroom and some of us painted the side of a different classroom to add a bit of colour to these children’s day. We took turns in working and teaching English, and we all had a really good time. It was kind of funny though because the person who set us the job of building the path underestimated us and we had it done in the first 2 days of our 5-day trip there. We had to keep finding things to do within the school to help these children learn and grow.
The place we stayed at was just someone’s house, they had 2 areas set up, one about where the girls all slept and an open area below where the boys slept. It was really nice and we all discovered a new favourite. The people who ran this place gave us 3 meals a day and I think on our third day of being there they made us this beautiful barbecue pork that none of us could get enough of. I’m pretty sure we demolished this massive pile of pork in less than 10 minutes. Although, there was one night where all we could hear was this weird screaming and panting. We all joked someone was giving birth. I still can’t come up with a better explanation, and I kind of hope that the woman and baby are doing okay now.
After this, we went back into Siam Reap where we did all of the touristy things, and I got sick again and had to stay in the hotel so I don’t really have any good stories. Other than the pancakes that where covered in fruit and my discovery of dragon fruit which is delicious and everyone should try it.
We finally headed home, and that ends the month I spent travelling with a group of 17 young people and 3 adults.