Meet Our First S.E.A Backpacker Ambassador – Eliza Arsenault

Updated November 18th, 2017.

Last week we launched our S.E.A. Ambassador Program and we would like you to meet Eliza our first Ambassador! Eliza has called Thailand home for the past year and a half. Using Ubon Ratchathani (Isaan) as her base she has also made time to travel South East Asia far and wide. Originally hailing from the United States Eliza lived and studied in New England, but quickly after graduating realized that the open road was where she felt most comfortable. While she does find herself craving good cheddar cheese every once and awhile, in general Eliza is well addicted to travel and can’t imagine stopping anytime soon…

1. For you where is home and can you briefly describe your daily life there?

My current home is Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, and I’ve been living here for about a year and a half. I’m a teacher at an elementary/high school, and I love it! I teach English, math and science, and my students (between 12 and 17 years old) are awesome. The school year consists of two semesters and two breaks. During the semesters I pretty much just hang out in Ubon and focus on teaching, but during breaks, I get to travel around Southeast Asia and beyond.

2. Where have you gone backpacking? 

In Southeast Asia I’ve been to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, and I’ve also been to India and Nepal.

Exploring Ayutthaya, Thailand

3. What is one of the most important things you have learned while on the road?

To notice the beauty and significance in the little things. The big things you see and experience are important and impactful, but it’s really all the small day-to-day details and occurrences that provide the fuel for travel, and for life. 

4. If you had to recommend one place in S.E.A for someone to head tomorrow where would it be?

Wat Phu, near Pakse, Laos. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but well worth a visit. An ancient temple that displays art and architecture from both Hinduism and Buddhism, it rests on a hill overlooking a lush and expansive valley. You wont find many people there, perhaps just a few Laotians, so you can take the serene aura of the temple and its surroundings in peace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Wat Phu in Laos. 

5. For you why has travel become an addiction?

Wow, where to begin! Traveling has in some ways become a source of sustenance for my life. Much like food, if I go too long without it, I want and need it. Sure I get “full” sometimes, but that same urge to travel always comes back. Traveling is so many things to me. First and foremost, it’s a way for me to challenge my own biases and preconceived notions about the world; it’s a way for me to push against the walls of my comfort zone and expand my understanding and appreciation of all that’s around me. I learn so much when I travel: about different languages, cultures, people, habits, taboos, climates, and histories. The world is my classroom, and I try to soak in as much information whenever I can. This is particularly easy, and fun, while traveling.

6. Where is the funniest place you have ever fallen asleep (in S.E.A)?

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?), no funny stories here. I’m a bed kind of girl.

7. What is the best book to pack in your rucksack? 

I loved A Primate’s Memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky. The author is a fantastic writer and he conveys stories about his life as a researcher in Kenya, some of which are adventurous and inspiring, and some grounding and a good reality-check.

8. What does your future hold?

I plan on teaching and traveling around the world for the foreseeable future. I love experiencing new places and cultures, and am lucky to have found a profession that lets me live abroad and immerse myself in a different culture, while also having the funds and time to travel during vacations.

9. What is your favorite quote?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

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10. What things from home, try as you might not to, do you still crave?

Good beer, cheese, and the feeling of being cozy.

11. What is your best money saving budget tip for other backpackers?

Get off the main drag and eat on the street. Stay well away from Foreignerland.

12. What is the strangest thing you have done since leaving home?

Eating dog stew. The dog was naughty, but the stew was delicious!

13. Have there been any ways in which you have surprised yourself?

I have always felt pretty comfortable in my own skin and pretty open to new things and ideas, but until I moved to Thailand, I didn’t realize just how little I knew about the greater world beyond my backyard. I knew that moving abroad would force me to widen my comfort zone, to push back against the boundaries of my box, but I’ve been surprised at how much the bubble of my world has grown.

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Think you’ve got what it takes to become an S.E.A. Backpacker Ambassador? Check out our Ambassador page for more info! 

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