Besides the night markets, beautiful temples, and flavorful Thai food of Chiang Mai, Thailand, don’t miss the opportunity to get up close and personal with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.

It was not too long ago that we thought it was acceptable to ride elephants, watch them perform tricks at the circus, steal their ivory for products and carry humans through jungles, often by poking and prodding elephants with sharp metal objects to get them to obey all so we could have a Jungle Book experience. If anyone has watched the documentary For the Love of Elephants on HBO, you will quickly understand that elephants are actually feeling creatures and can be harmed by the mistakes and abuse of humans.

Adventurers are living in a time when satiating our deepest sense of wanderlust is no longer a luxury reserved for the rich and famous. With frequent flier programs, “travel hacks” and cheap accommodations marketed specifically toward explorers of the world, we are increasingly able to book vacations in the most exotic locations without having to break the bank. And let me tell you, it’s a great feeling to book an adventure of a lifetime on a dime!

Yet, while I traipsed through the wild jungles and gritty city streets of Thailand, pleased with my penny-pinching plans and ready to see the best of the “land of smiles,” there were moments filled with incredible wonder and splendor followed by an intense feeling of guilt and privilege (a strange and new emotion for me).