The Road Less Traveled
2331 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
June 25 - July 16, 2018 // 22 Days
July 19 - August 9, 2018 // 22 Days
Tham dee dai dee. ... We begin with a Thai proverb meaning, "If you do good things, good things will happen for you," as we travel to Thailand for 22 days of animal conservation community service, cultural immersion, and outdoor adventure. From the cultural hub of Bangkok to the picturesque seascape of an island in the Gulf of Thailand, up to the jungles in the northern region of the country, we leave little unexplored.
The confidence that was given to me on this trip will always be with me for the rest of my life.” - Jorge O., Thailand: Tham Dee Dai Dee
We teach English to Thai students in Bangkok while visiting temples, ancient cities, and flourishing markets. Then, our group heads to the island of Ko Samet where we engage in true seaside activities by snorkeling, paddling, and relaxing by the Gulf of Thailand. We get the rare chance to care for elephants at our jungle base camp, helping them bathe in the cool streams, feeding them, and hiking with them through landscapes full of natural treasure.
Discover more about our teen environmental community service and cultural immersion program in Thailand, Tham Dee Dai Dee! Click on the Description tab below.
Quiet and relaxing, this beautiful island with powdery white sand derives its name from the cajeput trees that grow on the island, called “samet.” Also known as “Koh Kaew Phitsadan,” or the "Magic Crystal Island,” most of the archipelago is a national park to preserve the magical space for snorkeling and sea kayaking.
News for those who have never taught English overseas: The schools here actually prefer that their teachers not speak any Thai. The goal is for the students to be immersed in an English-language classroom, with no choice but to speak English with their teacher.
From the breathtaking Emerald Buddha to Wat Po and Wat Arun, the centuries-old sacred spaces scattered throughout the country glow with ancient, enlightening energy.
Elephants are revered in Thailand. In the northern hills, fortunate visitors are immersed in hands-on learning by helping care for them – trekking through the jungle, bathing them, and even helping out with their morning feeding. Most exciting is the chance to see elephants in their natural environment, too.
Each Sunday evening in Chiang Mai, the streets fill with local food, clothing, and crafts while musicians and street performers pulse positive vibes through the air. Many of the objects are handmade and give testimony to the skills and inventiveness of local people.
The national noodle dish is super-healthy and super-tasty, and this trip is an opportunity to expand culinary horizons even further through the creation of delicious traditional Thai dishes. The entire experience is covered, from sourcing the ingredients in the market to sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Thai people are deeply religious. For the Buddhist majority (90%), religion underlies all activities and forms the backbone of their enduring culture. Bilingual Buddhist monks readily share their faith and self-centering meditation practices at a historic temple.
The spectacular Grand Palace undoubtedly is the city’s most famous must-see landmark. The beautiful gold-tipped series of buildings is more than 200 years old and it is definitely worth the trip.
Explore Sri Lanna National Park both on land and in the water by cycling through the gorgeous landscape in the morning, taking a break for a Thai lunch, then hitting Mae Ngat Dam lake in the afternoon to paddle and cool off: peaceful places perfect for powerful adventures.
Teach English to primary school students in Bangkok; Participate in Elephant care and conservation in the Himalayan Foothills outside of Chiang Mai.
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Adventure: The climb to Doi Suthep, Long tail boat trip, Bangkok
Hike: Side by side with elephants through the jungle, Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park
Explore: Chatuchak Market, Ancient city of Ayuthaya, Thae Pae Gate
Snorkel: Crystal clear reefs of Ko Samet
Tour: The Grand Palace, Wat Po, Wat Arun
Cultural Experience: Teachings from Buddhist Monks, Night Bazaar, Connect with Thai High School students, Thai Fruit Carving
Classes: Meditation, Thai Cooking
Cycle: Countryside throughout the Sri Lanna National Park Region
Kayak: Mae Nagt Dam Lake
We stay in a private bed and breakfast in Bangkok, a hotel on Ko Samet, and a lodge in Chaing Mai. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability. Toilets are western style at the hotels, bed and breakfast, and lodges.
San Francisco (SFO)
A leader-escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader. This flight will leave very early in the morning on the first day of the program. Please contact our office for details.
Additional in-country group flight is required and is not included in tuition.
Join in on the fun! Check out #ThaiRLT for a behind-the-scenes look at photos from past participants and leaders.
Labeled the “quintessential Asian capital,” Bangkok is where our escorted flight from San Francisco lands, unloading us into the culturally vibrant, tropical city. Our first two days of the adventure promise mesmerizing temples, mazelike markets, and the wondrous Grand Palace, home to the Thai king and royal court since 1782.
We orient to the landscape and familiarize ourselves with our service project. With our lesson plans prepared, we spend time teaching Thai children in primary schools that lack the resources to afford a permanent English language teacher. In the evenings, we explore the magnificent food, art, and architecture of the region both on foot and by boat (Think: dinner boat cruise through the ancient city of Ayuthaya).
Closing our English teaching work in Bangkok, we swap cultures, music, and ideas with bilingual Thai students our own age at a local high school before heading south to the gorgeous blue waters and warm sandy beaches.
We rest and relax on the island of Ko Samet, bobbing in the small sandy bays, surrounded by a thick jungle interior and aquamarine water. We snorkel and paddle our way throughout the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park, which makes up most of the island. We recharge our batteries in this unique space known for its lively reefs.
Ferrying back to the mainland, our adventure takes us north to the charming city of Chiang Mai, flourishing in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Here we converse with Buddhist monks in historic temples, learning mindful meditation, and increasing our awareness and appreciation of this ancient land. We spend dinnertime with our favorite local Thai chef and try our hand at creating authentic delicious Thai dishes. From the fresh markets to the pan, and eventually our plates, we enjoy every step.
Before journeying east to the jungle, we challenge ourselves to reach Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a temple on the mountainside with more than 300 steps leading up to a breathtaking view: the city to the front and the stellar gold-plated chedi to the back. Heading to Sri Lanna National Park, we cycle along countryside roads meeting locals along the way, then cool off by kayaking in Mae Ngat Dam lake.
We find ourselves in the presence of the true jungle giants at the elephant basecamp. With the development of Thai economy, many elephants are no longer working to transport timber or crops and require safe spaces to live. We help care for these creatures by preparing food, feeding, bathing and providing exercise for them with hikes throughout the jungle. The land sings around us as we conclude our service work assisting the animals and getting to know the families who live at the sanctuary.
In a bittersweet goodbye, we say farewell to our new (yet never to be forgotten) friends of the jungle and return to Chiang Mai for a traditional closing banquet and a magical trip to the night bazaar before heading home.
Gather in San Francisco, CA, to board the escorted flight for Bangkok. Arrive in Thailand the next day, settle in and get the lay of the land.
Visit various temples, experience markets, and prepare for English teaching service.
Ferry south across to Ko Samet and settle in at the resort for relaxation. Snorkel and paddle to make the most of the refreshingly warm Gulf of Thailand waters.
English Teaching, Ancient City Visit, & Canal Tour (Day 7-12):
Teach English to underserved local children. Continue to explore surroundings by visiting the ancient city of Ayuthaya for a dinner boat cruise, winding through the unique canals to see Bangkok by water. Spend an afternoon with bilingual Thai high school students for a cultural exchange. We experience the art of Thai fruit carving and visit an orphanage to honor the tradition sharing a meal and spreading generosity on birthdays.
Energized and back on the mainland, hop on a short group flight north to Chiang Mai to meet with Buddhist monks, learn about meditation in a historic temple, and hone Thai culinary skills. Discover the gems of Sri Lanna National Park by cycling and kayaking in Mae Ngat Dam lake.
After a short drive out of Chiang Mai, arrive at jungle base camp. Meet the families of the sanctuary and elephants to be cared for in the coming days. During the days, we spend time at the Elephant Camp, returning to Chiang Mai each evening to dine and rest.
Say goodbye to our giant, new four-legged friends. Return to Chiang Mai for the famed night bazaar, a final banquet, and celebration before returning to San Francisco on the escorted flight.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Thailand. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations is a personal one, and should be discussed with your family doctor.
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
For an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call our office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200 and we’ll happily send you one!
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
In-country flight will be booked and invoiced by RLT, in addition to the tuition.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.