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The Land Of: Searching for waves and a purpose in Thailand with Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald

The Land Of mini web series on Vimeo.

Ocean and hammock time — that’s typically top of the agenda for any surf vacation. In the documentary miniseries The Land Of, Seeababe Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald and a group of surfers showed that your soul could benefit from spending that remaining time in between doing purposeful pursuits in the place where you’ve landed.

Filmmaker Stefan Hunt concocted the idea for the three-part web series filmed in Thailand. He described his goals of this independently produced passion project: “I approached this project with a simple goal. To illustrate that traveling with a purpose and having a positive impact — no matter how big or small — is achievable for everyone. You just gotta do it,” Stefan says.

Chrystal carries boards from the beach in the web miniseries, The Land Of. 
Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald in Thailand. 

Throughout the three-part series, Chrystal, her husband Joel Fitzgerald and travelers Ed Worland, Jack Entwistle and Nick Riley visit different regions of Thailand to connect with the locals on a deeper level whether its drawing with kids at an orphanage or working with Waves for Water distributing clean water filters. Chrystal gave us her firsthand experience of how she got involved with the film.

By Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald

Stefan Hunt contacted Joel and I and asked us if we would like to be a part of a project that would take us to Thailand to help children who had been affected by the tsunami [in 2004]. Both Joel and I have a big heart for children and humanitarian aid work, we said yes and with in a month's time met the team in Thailand.

This was my first trip ever to Thailand so I didn't know what to expect. I did secretly hope we would get surf, as we traveled there during a time of year outside of Thailand's swell season and we carried 7 boards between us.

Some of the scenery around Thailand, photographed by Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald.

Thailand has a very mixed group of communities and lifestyles from what I experienced. Buddhist, Christians, Muslim and other types of religions are practiced nearly side by side and there is a great sense of respect between them. In the areas we visited, many people had a fear of the ocean, the children being the most afraid having had some traumatic experiences with the 2004 tsunami. We did encounter a few ocean keen Thai, amongst them were fishermen and a handful of Thai-Rastafarians on the outer islands near the boarder with Burma.

Surfing is not very well known outside of Phuket, and we encountered only a small group of surfers on the islands. There are a few ex-pats around enjoying the empty line-ups, however to most Thai people, surfing is a new thing that is just beginning to catch on.

Chrystal, crew and locals go explore on a boat.

The first Chapter of The Land of, follows Joel and I at the Bann Santisuk Orphanage in Phang Nga. During our stay at Bann Santisuk we were involved in a building project at the orphanage and also spent time with the children, playing, surfing, studying, coloring and being a part of their lives. It was a wonderful experience and made me really grateful for my life, aware of the difference we can each make and also tore at my heart. Each of the children were special and unique, each a brave soul, each a shining light. It was challenging to learn of their stories, and made me realize how lucky I am. Every child is supported by donations so that is something we can continue to do to help.

The Land Of - Chapter One from Stefan Hunt on Vimeo.
Getting outside of the tourist bubble or trap is vital to having real life experiences and genuine human connections. From my own personal experience it is when we leave the guidebooks behind and get out amongst it all that the adventures happen. Starting with the goal of the market or the landmark and ending up at a back yard BBQ, on a boat trip, meeting new people, having unplanned experiences. When we allow ourselves to use the universal language of laughter, smiles, and hand gestures to express ourselves and trust our intuition miracles happen. Through this trust we move from the pre-packaged average trip to the exceptional and unforgettable journey.

Hanging out at the orphanage. 

In my experience there is so much good and meaningful living happening and people in the world. Sharing and telling stories about people who are taking the time to connect and give back matters. These stories not only help to educate and inspire others to lead even more purposeful lives, they also spread the good news in the world, which is vital. These stories give us hope and help us to believe in new possibilities for ourselves and the world at large. It is from hope, faith and love that I see the world changing.

The Land Of - Chapter Three from Stefan Hunt on Vimeo.

Coastal Thailand. 

My advice [for someone who wants to get involved in a project while traveling] is to follow your heart. Pray about it, ask yourself what you are interested in, what matters to you, and figure out why it matters. Our self will is one of the most powerful tools for transformation that we have. Once you have an idea, get online if you have access to a computer, Google the area you are going and see the needs there. Connect via the web, church, not for profit orgs, other surfers, or people in the area by just reaching out.

Another great way to get involved is to arrive at your destination and ask the locals where there is need, it may be someone who needs something translated, a days work helping a house get built, fields tending — a small donation of time and energy can go a long way. When you extend your hand, trust that all will be okay. The people you need to meet will appear. Waves for Water is also a great way for surfers traveling to remote areas to help out.

Shakas, a universal language.

There is so much I took away from being in Thailand, the main point being that everything we do matters. We are living very privileged lives in the western world and sometimes it’s easy to forget that our choices affect real people. Travel is a luxury, and privilege, being even more aware of how we can give back and tread lightly on our journeys really does help our world to be an even better place.

To read more about "How to Be a Responsible Tourist," check out this story on Groundswell Travel and students can also earn college credit. 

To find out more about Chrystal and read her stories, read her Seeababes profile story

Rhea Cortado June 10, 2014 2 tags (show)

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