When I was six, my uncle returned from an overseas posting with the United States Air Force. He regaled us with tales of Thailand: an enchanting place known as “the land of smiles,” with friendly people, turquoise water, pristine beaches and the best food he’d ever tasted. For a kid in landlocked Saskatchewan, it sounded like paradise. In that moment, I vowed that one day I, too, would go to this magical place.
Forty-five years later, I finally fulfilled that promise to myself on a two-week Thai journey. I devoured coconut curry, fed rescued elephants and survived white-knuckled tuk-tuk rides—though not without a keen sense of caution. In the decades since my uncle’s visit, the damaging effects of over-tourism have taken their toll on popular destinations throughout Southeast Asia. Thankfully, I discovered in Thailand a nation at the forefront of sustainable tourism.