The following was written by an EnRoute student who is currently traveling in Laos:

After two days of trekking through the depths of the Laotian jungle, I have
come to three realizations:
1) I sweat a LOT. Who would have thought a group of eight people could
produce so much perspiration in the course of two days. Six hours hiking
each day and a total distance of about seventeen miles… it’s no wonder we
slept so well those nights. Lots of us were nervous about this trek –
leeches, altitude, mud and heat. It sounded intimidating and difficult, but
we all killed it! As tired as we were at some points, reaching the top of a
nearly vertical incline and arriving at an incredible view of Laotian
mountains made it all worth it. As Chloe would say, even though some of us
struggled, we all made it out alive and climbed a little higher on growth
2) The village way of life is drastically different from my own. as soon as
we entered the village by foot, the only way to access the remote location,
chickens and pigs were running in front of us, kicking up the dirt that
covered the ground. Naked little kids approached us shyly, only to run back
to their straw and bamboo huts, plopping down to continue playing (aka
making their mud balls). Showers don’t exist – instead, everyone bathes in
the river, sometimes fully clothed. I thought about how spoiled I was with
my dirt free home, my shower and my clothes. I looked at my expensive
hiking shoes and looked back at the adults wearing no shoes. Dinner is
cooked on the floor of a hut, and we sit on stone blocks to eat. I think
about everything I’m so lucky to have at home and feel so fortunate. The
village stay has been one of the highlights of my trip simply because it
was such a humbling experience.
3) A lot can be said between two people who don’t speak the same language.
Here in Asia, it is inevitable that we all hit language barriers that
inhibit communication and understanding. As we’ve said before on this trip,
it’s hard to really know someone if you can’t understand his or her
language. However, as we all played with the village children, I realized
that we could so do much communicating just with our hands, facial
expressions and body language. Teaching them games and laughing with them
as we played was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe how much we could
understand about each other even though we couldn’t communicate with words.
Each activity we complete invites us to reflect on so many different
levels, but our trek and village stay was by far the best learning
experience for me.