Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants.

It’s World Elephant Day, August 12th, which means it’s time for some real talk about riding elephants. Are you ready?

There was once a time, not even a decade ago, where riding an elephant in Southeast Asia was a pinnacle accomplishment in one’s travel diaries. The dreamy pictures of exploring the jungle on the backs of these massive wild giants.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s something that was always on my list to do one day, and live out all of my colonial safari fantasies.

It’s an idyllic image that has appealed to hundreds of thousands of tourists for a long time, me included, and no one really questioned it. Where did these elephants come from? How were they being treated? What was their quality of life?

riding elephants

In the late 1980’s, after logging was banned in Thailand, local elephant trainers turned their talents to tourism, inciting the elephant tourism boom we’ve seen on all of the travel blogs and in our Instagram feed today.

To the untrained eye, it looked harmless. You’d ride an elephant just like you’d ride a horse right?

How different can it be? What’s so different? If you’re like me, you grew up going to the circus and visiting the zoo, interacting with animals was fun and exciting, not many thought much further.

Even now, many of what we see online is slated with a “conservation” agenda designed to deter us from digging further. But how many baby elephants or lion cubs are really in need of rescuing?

In June National Geographic launched a massive exposé around the cruel reality of wildlife tourism.

riding elephants

The truth is what you might expect if you begin asking questions, hard and cruel.

For example, elephants who are broken in a process referred to as “the crush,” are trained to parade tourists around in a circle, receiving some of the worst treatment of all captive animals in the world. If you’ve done what I’ve done and gone down a rabbit hole of videos of this, you’ll be beyond shocked.

There are only 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and more than half of Thailand’s 7,000 elephants still live in captivity, enduring daily beatings. So why do tourists continue to ride on the backs of captive elephants?

The main culprit is simply lack of awareness.

riding elephants

As travel has become more and more accessible over the past few decades, tourists and travel industry leaders have come face to face with the ethics of visiting a foreign country and what activities cross the line of being irresponsible and exploitative.

How is cuddling a lion cub or playing with an elephant or posing with a tiger anyway ethical?

In 2010 Intrepid Travel took the lead against standing up against elephant cruelty by partnering with World Animal Protection (who conducted extensive research on the treatment of captive elephants).

The results were shocking and Intrepid Travel became the first global travel company to ban riding elephants on their trips. Intrepid used to make a lot of money riding elephants until they realized how cruel a practice it was, and they stopped, heralding in a new era of responsible travel.

I really admire how Intrepid has owned up to this mistake; it speaks volumes about their ethics and backbone as a company. And hundreds of others have followed in their footsteps since and have banned riding elephants too. Talk about inspirational.

riding elephants

So what’s all the fuss about? Are elephant rides really that bad? 

I’ve been privileged enough to experience wild elephants on safaris in Africa and Asia, and trust me, you can’t get near them. In fact, elephant – human conflict is still a very real issue in many parts of the world.

People often think that an elephant in captivity is domesticated, and so somehow it’s okay to have them under human control.

But the reality is that elephants never have been domesticated. Even if born in captivity, they are still a wild animal and need to be ‘broken’ to accept human control.


If “breaking” an elephant sounds harsh to you, you’re not wrong. Baby elephants are taken from the wild and begin training immediately. Many times their mothers are killed in the poaching process, and if you’ve observed elephants in the wild you’ll see how cruel it must be to separate them – elephant babies stay with their moms for years, and the herds are incredibly social.

They are tied up and beaten with bullhooks until their spirit is broken and they obey their trainer to avoid more injury.

riding elephants

They spend their days carrying humans around on a tourist path which is not nearly enough exercise for these giant animals. Despite their large size, their anatomy is not suited to carry humans on their backs and many sustain long-term spinal injuries.

When the elephants aren’t working, they are usually kept in shacks and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move. These social creatures are kept isolated from other animals and kept in solitary confinement until their next job.

Is it surprising some of them go berserk?

riding elephants

How can you help?

It’s truly an awful practice but as travelers, we have the power to change this.

You, right there, reading this blog. You hold the power. Elephant tourism simply cannot exist without the tourists so if it’s on your travel bucket list, it’s time to remove it.

Know a friend traveling to Thailand? Gently inform them of the severe cruelty captive animals face.

riding elephants

Most people who have ridden on the backs of elephants simply didn’t know anything about the animal’s treatment. Spreading the word works. Just 10 years ago riding elephants was incredibly commonplace but now, most seasoned travelers know the cruelty that lies behind the practice.

The more we talk the better. Many of my friends have ridden elephants in the past and regret it now. Many didn’t know better, and we’re not here to shame people, but rather use our collective voices to try and change how elephants are treated now and in the future.

riding elephants

So what to do if you’ve always dreamed of seeing elephants?

Keep this one rule in mind: If you can ride or touch an elephant, or watch it perform, chances are the elephant has been subjected to cruel training and is living in poor conditions and you should not further encourage the practice.

Thankfully, public awareness of cruelty to captive elephants has increased but unfortunately, many attractions are trying to dupe tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary,” “rescue center,” “refuge,” and “retirement facility” to their names.

riding elephants


But the abusive training methods and deprivation are often the same and make the elephants follow the trainers’ commands to let people ride, feed, touch, or bathe them.

All those trendy Instagrammers standing by elephants at sunset? Think what it took to have that mighty creature beaten into submission to allow a person to stand there with them peacefully.

Do you research before visiting these places; riding elephants is cruel.

riding elephants

What can we do?

It can be hard to truly pin down the ethical tourism operators from the frauds but trust me, it’s worth doing the research.

Intrepid Travel is an industry leader when it comes to prioritizing animal welfare during their programs and if you still really want to have elephants be apart of your Southeast Asia trip, they offer programs that do so ethically. They are also inspiring many other tourism operators to follow in their footsteps, and they’re trying to change an entire industry.

Intrepid works with places like Elephant Valley Thailand, Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), three of the high welfare venues doing great things for captive elephants.

At these venues, you can observe elephants from afar, where they are free to just be elephants and not performers.

Trust me, the best way to see an elephant is when it’s wild and free, just being happy funny creatures. I mean, elephants are hilarious! I love watching the babies trip over their trunks and getting scared by birds. They are so smart and fascinating to watch.

Consider joining safaris that are responsible and traveling with operators that put animal welfare first. I’ve seen elephants in the wild many times on my travels in Asia and Africa, and it never gets old. These are old and special creatures, with wise eyes that deserve respect.

We are living in an era when animal cruelty is being tolerated less and less and while we have made significant progress in the past decade, there’s still so much more work to be done with riding elephants.

riding elephants

Help us spread the word today on World Elephant Day by using #StopElephantRides and #WorldElephantDay but most importantly, speak with dollars by only supporting organizations who prioritize animal welfare and want to #BeKind.

Spill – have you ridden an elephant before and would you now? Have you seen some of these dodgy wildlife sanctuaries on your travels? Are you committed to protecting elephants too? I would love to hear more. 

riding elephants

The post Going to Southeast Asia? Please be kind and don’t ride elephants. appeared first on Young Adventuress.

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A birthday getaway to New Zealand’s cutest cabin

All right, it’s happened guys.

I’ve found New Zealand’s cutest cabin. I know, I know, that’s a bold statement. Especially considering New Zealand doesn’t do “cabins” in the way my little American heart wish it did.

Let me introduce you to the High Country Cabin!

New Zealand cabins are called a “bach” short for “bachelor pad,” and are often cobbled together little holiday spots, usually build out of leftover supplies on someone else’s land, usually off the grid, no wifi and with an outdoor toilet. Picture corrugated iron walls and roofs and drafty windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bach, but I often yearn for cozy cabins.

high country cabin

high country cabin

I’ve encountered very few wooden spaces and cabins in New Zealand, you know, that smell divine and remind me of my childhood in the Appalachia or my university years in New England. Why? Who knows.

My best guess is that most of New Zealand was deforested by us foreigners over the past century and and now all of the wood here gets sold overseas.

I really wish New Zealand would stop exporting everything great it makes, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

Someone please tell me I’ve got this all wrong.

Don’t forget you can join Airbnb today using my code for $45 off your trip to the High Country Cabin

Well, at least now, I can safely say I’ve found the cute cabin of my dreams and it happens to be in one of my favorite spots of New Zealand – Twizel.

Man I love Twizel. I don’t really know why, if I’m being honest. I just do, I always have.

Only 1.5 hours from Wanaka where I live, Twizel is just on the other side of the Lindis Pass on your way to Mt. Cook and Tekapo. The beginning of the Mackenzie Basin, here the weather is dry and beautiful, with man-made lakes and canals on either side and the twinkling Southern Alps right in front of you.

high country cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook is just nearby, but Twizel remains a sleepy little town that tugs at my heart a bit.

Twizel is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the nearby region and mountains.

The High Country Cabin is just outside of Twizel right at the foot of the mountains and has some of the nicest views and cozy vibes around and some sheep for company in the paddock outside. No wonder it’s hard to get a booking in! Plan ahead.

When I was thinking of nice spots to go for my 31st birthday in May, I knew this would be the perfect spot, especially when one of my best friends came down from Auckland with me.

high country cabin

high country cabin

I love spending time on high country farms and stations in New Zealand, and the year before rung in my 30th birthday further afield in Canterbury at Lake Heron.

Maybe I enjoy spending my birthday with sheep for company. What does that say about me?

Wait, don’t answer that. Oh god. All my friends are animals. Fuck, when did this happen?

high country cabin

high country cabin

I’ve been following High Country Cabin on Instagram for ages, and it’s been on my mind to come out and stay for a long time. After that, I was so excited to finally make it happen in May.

Fulling embracing both my millennial and blogger side, I wholeheartedly book places that I find on Instagram especially when they look as delightful as this spot.

Luckily, it lived up the expectations and was even better in person. So much better in person that we actually didn’t leave the cabin the whole time we were there!

Boom! The marking of a good spot, I reckon!

high country cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

Tucked away on 10 acres of Ben Ohau outside Twizel, this is as high country as it gets in New Zealand.

Especially when the sheep peek in the window – trust me, endless hours of entertainment. Though, I did feel a twinge of shame or two when we had a lamb roast in the oven for my birthday. Sorry sheepies!

As fall was ending and winter on its way, we cranked the woodburner the whole time we spent there, a bit of an indulgence considering how warm and well-built the cabin is, unlike many New Zealand houses.

The sunrises and sunsets were magical out here, and being in a dark sky reserve, watching the stars was a unforgettable.

Read, write, cook, nap, eat, repeat.

In conclusion, I couldn’t think of a better birthday, and a true mark of being in my 30’s I reckon. I’d rather hang out with one good person and sheep than party or be in a city, or even put on makeup!

The older I get, the more I value good company and unwinding in a beautiful place. I need to make more time for these experiences, what about you?

How do you spend your birthdays these days? Do you love cabins too? Have any favorites to share? Spill!

Don’t forget you can join Airbnb today using my code for $45 off your trip to the High Country Cabin

high country cabin

high country cabin

Many thanks to High Country Cabin for hosting me on my birthday in Twizel – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!

The post A birthday getaway to New Zealand’s cutest cabin appeared first on Young Adventuress.

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I’m PREGNANT! Baby T coming February 2020!

I am SO excited to share that our secret is finally out!! Michael and I are expecting our first child in February 2020! Our hearts are so, so full already. 🙂

First Pregnancy Announcement

You have no idea how hard it was to keep this quiet from the online world for all of these weeks. Even before I got pregnant, Mike and I had always agreed that we’d wait until the first trimester was close to over before announcing to the world. We wanted to give it enough time to make sure everything was going well. It was the best decision for us even though it was so tough! I am beyond over the moon to FINALLY be sharing our news!

I finally had my first appointment and ultrasound last week on August 7th. Yep, I had to wait SO long (11.5 weeks) but I guess that’s normal for some practices. It was tough for me, especially being a first-time mom and having known I was pregnant even before my missed period. I just tried my best to rest in the peace God gave me. The moment I saw my little baby on the ultrasound, I had an insane rush of peace come over me. It was one of the best moments of my life so far. I am so excited to be a mom. And Mike is so pumped to be a dad! AH! He’s going to be the best. 🙂

I am sure you all have lots of questions for me already so I figured I’d answer some of the top questions for you in today’s announcement post!

First Pregnancy Announcement


Yes! Baby T was planned. 😉 We are so grateful to God that we got pregnant pretty much right away. Mike and I waited much longer than we originally wanted to start trying, so I am eternally grateful that it wasn’t a struggle for us. We’re sincerely beyond grateful.

I will probably share more details about that part of our story and all of my feelings in the future.


I found out at 8 DPO (days past ovulation) which is very, very early. That cycle, I wasn’t planning on taking a test until my missed period but that day I just felt extremely winded, so I figured, “what the heck!” haha. I didn’t have any First Response Early Result tests on hand so I used a cheap pregnancy test. I did the thing, set the strip next to me, my timer went off, and there was a faint line. I couldn’t believe it so 30 minutes later, I did another one and there was another faint line! I literally screamed all excited but I still was a tiny bit unsure, haha.

Literally 15 minutes after the second test, I had a podcast interview. Oh my gosh, I felt like a jumbled mess! After the podcast interview, I took another test and the line was even more clear. I was pregnant. I was pregnant!!

I told Mike later that night over dinner. Sadly, I didn’t have anything cutesy planned for telling him but we were so excited! I confirmed the next morning with a FRER test that yep, I was definitely pregnant!

First Pregnancy Announcement


I am 13 weeks! The due date is February 23rd, 2020.


Nope, this mama has no signs of a baby bump yet. I’m slightly bummed but at the same time, I’m okay with the bump taking its time. Remember, I’m only 4’11”, super petite, with a short torso… so I’m a bit nervous about how big my tummy is going to get, haha.


Yes! We will be finding out the gender. I can’t wait to find out who’s in there!

First Pregnancy Announcement

We are just so happy and we can’t contain our excitement. We’re finally going to be parents! This is something we’ve both wanted for a very, very long time and we are so grateful to God. He keeps His promises.

If you’re wondering what this sweet little baby means for CWS, let me give you some assurance! Don’t worry! I’m not going to become a “mommy blogger” on you. Of course, I’ll be including updates throughout my pregnancy and yes, I’ll share about brands/products that we’ll be using when Baby T is here. But for the most part, CWS will be staying the same. I’ll still be writing about everything I usually do, I’ll just have some pregnancy/motherhood thrown in. 😉

I will be sharing a recap of my first trimester soon! If you have any questions for me, drop them in the comments and I’ll include them.

Let’s connect! >> Facebook | Instagram Twitter Pinterest

The post I’m PREGNANT! Baby T coming February 2020! appeared first on Coffee With Summer.

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