As I am continually asked how I ended up alone in Chiang Mai last month, I have come to realize that I'm not exactly sure. It all started one birthday, when I wanted to encounter an elephant, and I began a search, which revealed that most elephant tourism involves very sad circumstances. I decided to volunteer at an elephant rescue, and the organization that stood out to me most was Elephant Nature Park (elephantnaturepark.org). After a week enjoying the Loy Krathong festivities (you've seen photos of the releasing of hundreds of lanterns into the sky), a Thai cooking class, temple-hopping, night markets, and just the beautiful city which felt like another home to me, I piled into a van with others from across the globe, including vets, to drive to the jungle to scoop "ella" poop, scrub water troughs, stack watermelons and unload trucks full of bananas, and to hang out alongside these animals, for which there are not words. And I fell in love with Sri Nuan. I was so overcome after meeting her, that I become goofy with joy. I visited her every day and would say her name (which I had to practice, as Thai is a tonal language and I do not have a good ear), sing to her, wave to her mahout (elephant caretaker), and giggle like a school girl/happy nut case.
I did not question my decision to get on a plane and fly 8,000 miles to clean up after giant animals. I just knew I had to go. And now I know why...to fall in love, the best reason in the world to do anything.