mahout. /məˈhaʊt/ noun. an elephant keeper.
This past week, I participated in a Mahout Training program at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center located in Lampang, just a short ride outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. During the six day program, I was assigned an elephant, and assisted its mahout with all daily activities. Having left this morning, my mind is swimming with thoughts on my time spent there.
I am unable to accurately put into words just how impactful this experience has been for me. After observing the interactions between my mahout, Thawan, and his elephant, Pum-Puang, I can say with confidence that I've never seen such a fierce connection between human and animal. When an elephant is first born in, or brought to, captivity, it is assigned a mahout. Thawan has devoted twenty one years and counting to caring for Pum-Puang. This relationship will not end until one retires, or passes on.
In the circles I run in back home in the states, everyone is constantly reaching for more – specifically in their professional lives. I think this is an admirable trait, and I personally am always striving to build my career. But what I learned this past week is that it isn't always about climbing the ladder, but finding fulfillment in each rung. The mahouts were so undeniably happy with the lives they lead.
Aside from working with the elephants, we also go to visit a local street market, sleepover in the jungle, & swam in a small (yet ridiculously refreshing) waterfall! Here are some snaps from my adventures...