Volunteer tourism is becoming an important way to understand and experience
culture. In Thailand, one option for volunteers is to teach English to novice
monks in Buddhist temple schools. These volunteers choose to live in a Buddhist
temple in order to experience difference through the religious atmosphere
and interact with Buddhist monks. The aesthetic environment is unique and
awe-inspiring to this group. However, through interviews and analysis of travel
writing, this article argues that the unexpected also has a role in generating selftransformation.
Beyond the golden, glittering Buddha statues are Buddhist novice
monks who become not just representatives of Thai culture but particular individuals.
Volunteers discuss their own transformation as a result of both the
expected difference and unexpected familiarity they encounter within the temple
communities where they teach.