Volunteering as a Yoga Teacher in Thailand
It’s 8:00am and I’m standing on a dock by the water. Five people are in front of me, palms planted on the ground, hips lifted to the sky. Downward facing dog. One of them looks up and gasps with surprise; a mother macaque monkey and her baby are making their way across the lagoon in front of us, tails balanced as they scamper across a telephone wire. Palms at heart centre, breathing in, my yoga students and I pause practice to watch them. I begin to realise I have the coolest job in the world. I’m actually not getting paid for this job, but it’s not something I mind at all. I’m a volunteer yoga teacher at an island eco resort in Thailand.I’m actually not getting paid for this job, but it’s not something I mind at all. I’m a volunteer yoga teacher at an island eco resort in Thailand. Click To Tweet
Koh Chang is one of the islands that are scattered like pancake droplets near the Cambodian border. Its name means Elephant Island, and it’s my home for the next few weeks. I teach one or two yoga classes a day in exchange for accommodation, access to a little kitchen, and a 150 baht ($5) food stipend. The living quarters aren’t fancy. In fact, my little bungalow has no air conditioner, no glass in the windows, and a simple mattress with a mosquito net. However, as a low-budget traveller, it’s all I need to call home.
Volunteers come to this oasis from all over the world. Also volunteering currently are a girl from New Zealand who runs a kids camp and a couple from the Netherlands helping with permaculture and gardening. We are just entering the high season for tourism and volunteers, so in a few months, this place will be bustling with young people helping out.
Volunteering as a Yoga Teacher in Thailand: A Day in the Life
As the resident yoga teacher, I really get to know the people of the community. After I’ve finished my morning tea and meditated on the beach at 6:30am, I greet the other workers who start to filter in for the day. “Sawadee-ka! Hello!” This place is owned by a mixed group of Thai and French people and everyone is treated like family. By 7:15am, I’m headed out to the dock to set up for the morning yoga class. My students are a mixture of travellers and locals and we chat before class as the morning sun begins to illuminate the water around us. The ocean waves are just visible down the channel of the lagoon. Each class, I start off with a short meditation and think to myself how incredibly lucky I am to be here.
It’s been over three months since I began travelling in Asia, and this is the first time I get to settle in and stay in one place for more than a week. Unpacking my dusty backpack and hanging my clothes up in a dresser feels incredible. For the first time in ages, I can relax and take each day slowly instead of racing off to see the next sight or hopping on a bus, train, or plane to somewhere new. This opportunity has given me space to breathe and a feeling of purpose. Also, I get to save money.
For many travelers, myself included, volunteering is a great opportunity to stay thrifty on the road. True vagabonders are “rich on time, poor on money” and often look for ways to exchange their hours for a place to sleep at night. This opportunity has given me that, and so much more.
Finding Volunteer Opportunities
Counterintuitively, many volunteer opportunities are actually quite expensive. If you want to work with orangutans in Borneo, for example, several programs start their weeklong prices at $1,000. With a little grit, however, it’s possible to find volunteer jobs that are completely cost free.
I found my current job through a website called Workaway. It’s $42 for a year’s membership, where you can message hosts around the world about jobs of every kind. This was my second time using the platform, after spending 4 days doing social media and marketing work for a boutique hotel in Laos. There are several other websites that operate under the same principles – check out Worldpackers, WWOOF, and HelpX.Volunteering is an amazing way to cultivate experiences you would never otherwise get. Click To Tweet
Volunteering is an amazing way to cultivate experiences you would never otherwise get. A friend of mine spent a month making cheese in India. She loved it and, like me, was able to walk away with a network of amazing friends and an unforgettable experience.
Though the countless bus rides, hostels and roadside meals of travelling around Southeast Asia may one day blur in my memory soup, I will never forget sharing my passion for yoga with other travellers (and monkeys!) out in a tropical Thai lagoon.
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