One of the best things I did last year, aside from getting divorced, was to take a risk and go to Thailand at, quite possibly, the most unintelligent and inconvenient time of my life. I was in the midst of selling my house, was still recovering from surgery and was in the process of reconstruction (which took almost 6 months and involved giant needles going into my boobs every 2 weeks… super fun). I was broke. I was exhausted. But I was in need of something to change. Something different. And something that I never did when I was married was travel. Or invest in my business. So I took all that I had left and bought a ticket to Thailand for a business workshop that touted that it would change my business life and take me next level. And that’s exactly what I needed as a single mom who’s business was now going to have to support us all going forward. It was photo shoots and business classes and marketing tips and, as an added bonus, there was an excursion to an elephant sanctuary where there were… wait for it… baby elephants!
It did not turn out as I expected. But as it’s the year anniversary of that trip, I’ve been reflecting on all that I got out of that trip; so little of it from the actual workshop, but so much from the people that I met and, quite unexpectedly, from this lady I’m hugging here.
Though elephants are the national symbol of Thailand, and are considered sacred by many, there is widespread mistreatment of them. In fact, all of those tourist attractions in Thailand where you ride elephants and they interact with you and do tricks? Those elephants, in most cases, were “broken” in order to be trained to do those things. I’m not going to share about that process on my blog because it is so disturbing (google it if you want to know more, but it will leave a black mark on your heart… you’ve been warned). So it was important to me to make sure that where we were going was NOT a place that participated in that. And, thankfully, it wasn’t. In fact, these elephants were rescued from abusive and poor circumstances and are now cared for by a beautiful team of people who work to educate the public about the mistreatment of elephants. These elephants didn’t do tricks for us. We didn’t ride them. They weren’t our entertainment. WE were their caretakers. We fed them. We washed them. We walked with them. It was honestly such an amazing experience.
And I think what surprised me most was that, although there were baby elephants… 3 of them… I kept hanging out with this girl. I was in awe of her. I asked our guides a lot of questions about her. She was 41. She’d been abused. She’d been freed. And now she was spending her days being matriarch to her new family; the other saved souls that joined the sanctuary.
And looking back I can see that this was exactly where I needed to be. And exactly who I needed to be with. Imagine that. Inspired by an elephant. I remember her markings. It was almost as though she was covered in this dark coating of old skin, and her experiences in life were rubbing it away, exposing her real, vulnerable, pinkness. Her calm demeanor despite how she’d been treated for most of her life. Her willingness to let me in, even though she’d been wronged by humans before. Her ability to keep the others in line with nothing but simply being what she expected of others and going in the direction that was necessary. And when she got in the water… she dropped right down and rolled around just like a little kid. And look at that smile. I swear I could hear her laughing.
Reliving it brings me to tears. I kind of wish I could see her again. I’d imagine she’s still letting people in, even though some of them may still hurt her, because most of them aren’t. I’d imagine she’s still exposing more of her real, gaining new markings to admire and explore. I’d imagine she’s still rolling around and playfully blowing water at the sanctuary guides who very obviously adore her. And I can just imagine her still calmly guiding her little family by simply being what she expects and going in the direction needed.