Upon finishing school and completing a year of community work (compulsory in Austria), during which time they worked with the elderly, Henry, 19, and Jason*, 20, are currently on an adventure to become fully fledged intrepid travellers before restarting their studies in Vienna. In this interview, we gather their opinions on travel, community life, and volunteering at New Life.
Why did you choose to come to New Life?
Henry: I was interested about the program, about the yoga and meditation but the main thing was about the agriculture about the sustainable thing. I want to see how it works in Thailand and I’ve already been in some places in my country.
You are quite young to be travelling the world. What prompted you to come out [here] and how did your families react when you said you wanted to go to Thailand?
Henry: We are both travelling [for] the first time on our own so it is quite new this area. Our families were quite nervous when we started and they nearly didn’t let us so it was for the parents of both of us, I think, quite a step forward and also for us too. They are now quite nervous when we tell the stories about anything we are doing and anxious to see if when we come back we are healthy.
So how have your travels been?
Jason: We had been travelling in Bangkok for three days before we came to New Life and afterwards we are going to travel around in Thailand for 20 more days. I have been to European big cities so I got used a bit to them but Bangkok was a whole new experience.
In what way?
Jason: The pulse of life and also probably the people who tried to cheat on you and take all your money probably. Yeah but also from the prices it is quite cheap and still has its own history so that makes it very interesting and also the food is different to what we are used to so that makes it a whole new experience and I think I’d like visiting more Asian cities.
And what about New Life, how are you finding that, how long have you been here now?
Henry: We’ve been here for two weeks now. The weather is a little bit changing – hot then rainy. The work is quite a variety, from in the field working with the plants, helping with the cows to working in the kitchen just cleaning but I think it is a very good project and it’s definitely worth coming here.
And what about living in a community, how has that been?
Henry: I’ve enjoyed it because you can always come to places where everybody meets like the dining hall or even the meditation hall. There is every time somebody you can talk to or just leave them but there is always somebody around so that’s quite nice so don’t be alone every day.
What’s the thing you like the most about New Life and what’s the thing you like the least?
Henry: What I like the most is the food after work because most of the time I am very hungry and getting lunch, between working and lunch there is an hour and I really don’t get that. I really enjoy the food because really it is very healthy food and good food as well, Thai food, what I don’t like… I have to think about it.
Jason: What I most appreciate about here is probably the new experiences of community life and the work you do and meeting all these new people. What I least like is actually difficult to say but yeah sometimes that you are really forced to do the work on the field in the afternoon and it’s quite hard and it would probably be better that you could do some more of the work also in the morning – yeah that makes it not that hard and then you would have actually more free time.
Henry: What I maybe don’t really like is that whole community is based on basic Buddhism, that’s okay because Buddhism is quite peaceful, but I don’t really like maybe is that most of the stuff is on the teaching of this one guy Thich Nhat Hanh. Even although this guys says quite good things about our new world, not even ancient stuff like the Christians do, I think there should be more variety [with] sayings and quotes from other people not just from one.
So you said you were interested in the meditation and yoga. Have you been doing that and how have you found it?
Henry: I haven’t had any experience of either of them so it was quite new for me. I did once a meditation session with Adam but I don’t really get it. I enjoy the five minute meditation in the morning but I’m not really a person who meditates. The yoga, I’ve had some lessons with [yoga instructor] Tomoko and I really enjoyed that and maybe I will also do it after New Life because it is quite cool. Today we started Tai Chi with [life coach] Tom and I think that’s also one I’d like to do in the future.
Jason: So I haven’t done meditation because I’m actually quite bad at the thing and I can’t keep my mind together so yeah I drift away quite often so actually meditating is not something for me. As Henry mentioned, today we started Tai Chi and I think it’s really good. I’ve also liked some projects like the social anxiety group. I don’t suffer from social anxiety but you get used to lessons that improve your language skills so I think these are also good and also the excursions on Sunday and also the freedom on Saturday to do whatever you want.
If you had advice for any future volunteers, what would it be?
Henry: Maybe when you come as a volunteer you should be aware that when you work here the hours are not that long but be aware of the conditions like the weather, it is hot and when it rains you also have to work, but I think it’s quite a change to the life that I’ve lived before, sitting in school, so it’s quite nice. What volunteers maybe need for the work itself is long gloves because today I got really scratched from weeding so it’s just really know what equipment you need.
Jason: We both started our travel plans at New Life and signed up for one month stay here and it’s probably good that you can decide after five days whether you can stay or not. When I think of some people I think some of them might enjoy it, some of them might not, so don’t depend your whole stay on the New Life Foundation so probably do it at the end and then you can extend your visa and stay longer and doing it that way means not all of your journey depends on your stay here.
* Names are pseudonyms