We at White Elephant Adventures invite you to step into a world remarkably different from your own. We encourage you to do so with an open mind and a perspective that might be new to you. Current western rhetoric often describes cultures as you will see in Laos as undeveloped, as impoverished, or as somehow “un-modern”. The languages you hear, the cultures you witness, the way of life of the people whose homes you will visit in Laos are every bit as alive and pulsing with the vigor of human vitality and imagination as in all countries of the world.
While the “developed” countries around the world are reeling from the environmental and social consequences of their development, the people of Laos live a life where nearly everything they need is produced locally from the landscape, utilized as it is, and then returned back to the environment where it is readily absorbed by the natural landscape.
In the countryside of Laos you will find very basic living accommodations, limited medical access, and a very different perspective and knowledge of the world. But in place of daily digital global news, knowledge that humans have gone to the moon, and lavish homes is an intimate connectedness with the earth and freedom from many of the social pressures, stresses, and obligations that weigh on citizens of richer countries. Instead, you’ll find people working the earth to its natural rhythm, children swimming in rivers with carefree abandon, men fishing their daily catch, and women weaving some of the most beautiful clothing you’ll ever see. Laos is a rapidly changing landscape where wealth meets poverty and high-technology meets tried simplicity. The people of Laos with their sustainable, granted basic, ways of living are being tempted by the pleasures, comforts, and vices of wealthier countries.
The incredibly rich cultural tapestry of people and cultures woven across the landscape of Laos is best explored with modesty and deep curiosity. It is certain that the influx of foreign cultures is bringing rapid change, some good and some bad. But if this front-line of change is approached with a deep sense of humility and respect we might leave room for Laos’ people to adapt to “modernity” on their own terms rather than wholesale adoption of established foreign cultures at irreparable expense to their own. The cultural anthropologist Wade Davis says it best, “The goal is to find a way in which all peoples of the world may benefit from the genius of modernity, without that engagement implying the loss of their ethnicity.”