Leaving the Land of Smiles

Leaving the Land of Smiles

These last 4 months in Thailand have been incredible –  from the beautiful landscape of the country, to the people, young and old, who have shared with me their lives and homes, to the team here who has helped me grow in countless ways and who I can officially call my “Thai family”, and lets not forget about all the smiles. Every where you go, you are greeted with a warm smile.

I grew up overseas, and have been fortunate enough to travel the world. When I was young, my family had visited Thailand, and I always knew it would be one place I would return. But living from my past experiences, I came to Thailand with no expectations. Almost immediately after landing, I was greeted at the airport by the team here, and soon after sent off to go explore, teach, and photograph a wonderful hill-tribe in Northern Thailand, Mae-La. Mae-La touched my heart the moment I arrived, and more than I could ever had imagined. In my 4 months in Thailand, I was fortunate enough to visit Mae-La 3 times. Each time more magical than the last. I have a background in photography and art, and one of my last times in Mae-La I set up art classes for the week, and designed a mural to go on one of the school buildings that each child had a hand in painting. As a media intern I was responsible for photographing and documenting my time there – and the best way to do that, was to live in the moment.

I taught, photographed, and brought in new volunteers to each location near Chiang Mai. In Doi Saket, the secluded temple of Wat Mon where we taught evening or morning classes to novices, to the bamboo structured school at Wat Nong Bua. I had tea with the monks, and visited local factories with the novices. I leave Thailand with a deeper understanding of Buddhism and the impact it has on the Thai culture and communities. I hope to be able to apply some of the Buddhist principles I’ve learned to my life back home.

And let’s not forget all the people I’ve met, from all walks of life, each leaving an additional imprint on my heart. Thank you David, Nid, and Marcia, the team here in Thailand for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful experience. Thank you Phra Pong, Phra Ake, and Phra Zen, the monks at our partner temples, for inviting me to inquire and learn about Buddhism. A thank you to all the novices at the temples, and children in Mae-La for reminding me of the joys in teaching. Thank you Jed, the English teacher of Mae-La, for introducing me to a wonderful culture. Thank you to Drew and Joe, the other interns, for becoming my partners in crime. Thank you to all the volunteers I’ve met along the way, Victoria, David and Diane, Robert, Kate, Bob and Carol, Beth, Chris, Adam, Jenna, April, Yasmine, Millie, Lucy, Boss, Anna, Simone, Monkon, and Daniel for reminding me of why we’re here. A thank you to all my new friends, who without, this trip may not have been the same.

I leave Thailand with a smile on my face. Not because I am happy to go, but because I am blessed to have been here. This is a smile I will carry with me forever.

With love and a smile,
Mellissa Frangias
Media intern

*Mellissa Frangias is a photographer and artist pursuing her teaching credential in Washington State. To view more of her photography and experiences in Northern Thailand, you can view her work online at,

Prakriti Malhotra is the founding director of Inspire. She has over 12 years’ experience helping individuals plan their overseas volunteering trips whether it be for their gap year, a sabbatical from work or a post retirement adventure.
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