It's no exaggeration to say that the weeks I've spent with GVI in Phang Nga, Thailand, are amongst the best of my life. At the ripe old age of 40 I'm taking a belated gap year, doing the travelling I didn't do when I was younger before returning to University to retrain next Autumn. Having never been to South-East Asia, and having never travelled alone before, I was a little nervous about my first trip of the year, but I couldn't have been more warmly welcomed, or better looked after, than I was by GVI. During my stay I had the opportunity to participate in many things which simply aren't available to "regular" tourists, from helping out at a sea turtle conservation centre to teaching in a local school. Having done some other travelling in the area since, the regular tourist haunts seem artificial and superficial compared to my experience with GVI, where I got to experience and be part of the "real" Thailand in a way that is difficult as a tourist. It was also wonderful to be part of something which is making a genuine contribution to significant global issues. Even though I was only with GVI for a few short weeks, I was helping and working alongside dedicated staff and long-term interns on projects which work with the local community towards UN Sustainable Development goals, making a genuine difference in the area. It is a very fulfilling way to see the world. If all that weren't enough, it has also been a tremendous amount of fun, living and working in a beautiful part of the world, alongside some of the nicest and most inspiring people I have ever met, who work hard and play hard too. I'm already looking at booking more GVI travel elsewhere in the world for later in the year, and couldn't recommend it more highly!