Hello and sawadee ka! I’m Johanna, known as Jojo, Jo or Hanna – depending on where you got to know me. I’m originally from Germany but have lived in different countries such as the US, Ireland, France and Sweden since I turned 16. In July 2014, just after having finished my Master’s degree, I set off to conquer Southeast Asia. I spent 5 months exploring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Bali and had ‘the time of my life’. No – seriously – this adventure is one of my favorites so far. Not only did I meet amazing local people, try exotic but delicious foods, and experience new things, but also did this trip help me put certain ‘problems’ or ‘concerns’ into perspective.
While traveling through Northern Thailand, I visited an elephant camp near Pai that offers rides but is known for its humane treatment of elephants. I ended up volunteering at the camp as I wanted to take a break from being on the move. It was then that I fell in love with an elephant called Tutdao. To everybody’s surprise, I quickly learned how to look after and control her. I became Tutdao’s second ‘Mahout’ (Thai word for elephant keeper/trainer) and worked with her for the next 5 weeks.
I then returned to the camp in November and stayed for another 3 weeks. It was at this point that I realised I had to come back and stay for longer. I was simply not ready to return to my old life. Not only had I fallen in love with the elephants (Tutdao, Ot, and Pom Paem), but also had I found a new place to call home. A place where I learned new things every day and got to experience a different way of life. I loved the people, the landscape and language, etc. so I booked a one-way flight to Bangkok for early January 2015. In addition, I had met somebody who was in the process of setting up an NGO for reforestation and elephant conservation in Pai. My initial plan was to join this team (I actually ended up working for the NGO for one month) but things didn’t work out and I returned to the elephant camp.
I continued working with Tutdao for 3 months and got even closer to my Thai ‘family’ during this time. I shared my experiences through this blog until it was time to go back to Europe. That was 1.5 years ago. I now live in Dublin and enjoy working for a fast growing, global company. Nevertheless, Tutdao is always on my mind. I am determined to go visit her one day as well as her African relatives in Kruger National Park, South Africa. But until that happens I’ve decided to blog about 1) elephants & my experience of what it meant to look after Tutdao, 2) recent travel experiences and 3) tips & tricks that are relevant for young professionals.
Thanks for joining me on this journey!