At least once in everyone’s life, you have a moment of needing a break. A need to get away from the mundane, day-to-day and to do something for oneself. These periods of thinking about Numero Uno often lead self-discovery and appreciation for the world.
EF Ultimate Break Traveler, George Attia, graduated from high school this past year. Rather than take the traditional track of catapulting right into college, he decided to take a year off from school to travel and experience the world. George took a trip to Southern France with another division of EF to deep-dive into the French language. When planning his second trip, he knew EF was the way to go and selected the Ultimate Break Thailand and the Islands trip. Here are his thoughts on the experience:
Morgan: So George, what made you decide to take a gap year?
George: I had just completed four years of school and didn’t want to jump into four more right away. I wanted to do some traveling and try something new first.
M: Was it hard to convince your parents to let you take a year off?
G: They had their reservations at first, but once I had a plan they were ok with it.
M: What was the plan?
G: I was originally looking into internships in Australia and New Zealand, but they offered little to no pay. The only benefit was working in a different country. My goals for travel were learning about a country’s culture and history, while meeting new people and having a great experience to grow as a person. I traveled with EF before, so I knew I’d have a great trip. As soon as I found the Thailand and the Islands trip, I booked it almost right away and had no regrets.
M: Sometimes when you know, you just know! What was your favorite part of the trip?
G: I really liked visiting the Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary. Before we went, I was concerned about the treatment of the animals, but I was pleasantly surprised with the facility and how well taken care of they were. I had a great experience feeding and learning more about them.
M: The Elephant Sanctuary is definitely a highlight of this trip. What was your favorite city you visited?
G: I really liked Chiang Mai. Bangkok is an international city with a lot of tourism, but once we got to Chiang Mai, it felt like we were getting the real culture of Thailand. The people were friendly and it was an easy city to walk around. Walking through the night markets and riding around on tuk tuks* give you a feel for the culture. The goods people buy and sell in the markets to make a living, in addition to the food sold in the market was all fascinating to me. Things like jackfruit and dragonfruit seemed so exotic to me, but were commonplace there. I was able to get some real culture shock that I didn’t experience in Bangkok.
M: It sounds like you accomplished most of your goals of absorbing another culture and creating memorable experiences on this trip. You also mentioned wanting to meet new people. How was your experience with your group?
G: I liked everyone! I was worried at first because I was younger than everyone else, but the whole group was really friendly. Even though we are spread across the entire country and Canada, it was great to see everyone got along. There was a day in Phuket where a lot of us decided to go jet skiing. It was a really fun activity to do together and, even though we had only been together less than two weeks, it felt like we had known each other much longer.
M: Jet skis, elephants, night markets and new friends? Sounds like a great trip. What’s next on your bucket list?
G: Well, I start my freshman year of college in September, but my twin brother and I want to do a cross country road trip together. My goal is to alternate school and work with travel.
M: Sounds like a good plan to me. Do you think you’ll take another Ultimate Break trip?
G: Someday I’d love to go again! Maybe I’ll take the Australia and New Zealand trip.
So, there you have it, George is proof that sometimes you just need to take a breather and travel. If you set your mind to accomplishing goals like absorbing another culture and making new friends you can’t go wrong with Ultimate Break – you may even have an elephant adventure of your own. Get to Thailand in the summer or winter.
*Tuk tuks are small, two passenger taxis that zip around Thai cities. They’re quick, efficient and sometimes a little unnerving, but all part of the experience.