LITTLE CURRENT—When many of Alexandria (Ali) Cosby’s friends headed off to college or university this past fall, Ali chose a different path—to take a ‘gap’ year and travel in pursuit of discovering her passion in life.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life after graduation (from Manitoulin Secondary School),” shared 18-year-old Ali of Little Current. “Instead of just picking a university program and going in blind, I decided I would travel and attempt to find my life path.”
Growing up on a farm, Ali has always had a passion for animals and decided to travel to Costa Rica and Thailand to work with wildlife rescue groups to see if she should transform her passion into a career.
“I started my trip in Northern Ireland, working at a hostel and surf shop,” said Ali. “It wasn’t animal related, but I wanted to learn about my family’s history; we have ties to Ireland.”
She said her experience in Northern Ireland for two months was a good way to get her feet wet with travelling, coming out of her shell and meeting new people.
“I lived with a girl from the Czech Republic and one from Holland,” she said. “I met a lot of new people from all over the world and I learned how to surf.”
From Northern Ireland, Ali travelled to Costa Rica where she started her month-long trip living with a family and attending a Spanish language school.
“I spent a lot of my time in Costa Rica working at an animal rescue,” she shared. “I lived and worked at the rescue and worked every day except once a week when we were given a day off. The rescue worked primarily with sloths, but we worked with other animals as well.”
Ali rounded off her trip with a month in Thailand, working at an animal refuge.
“Two of the weeks I worked with just two elephants,” Ali said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Ali worked with two elderly elephants, 60-year-old Choke-dee and 65-year-old Malai ngun.
“They were both severely abused from the logging industry,” she explained. “They had back problems and bad arthritis. I would take them for walks and swimming to help them from seizing up, clean them and feed them.”
“I formed a close bond with Malai ngun, who was blind in one eye,” Ali continued. “She trusted me enough that I could walk on her blind side.”
Ali said that her travels not only confirmed that she wants to pursue a career helping animals, but that she also learned a lot about herself and grew as a person.
“I was 17 when I started travelling,” she said. “It was scary at first, but I discovered that I can do it. It was a big achievement for me—travelling, trying new things and meeting new people. I became really independent. I’m really proud of myself.”
Ali has been accepted to the University of Guelph for zoology. She is hoping to continue her work helping animals between now and the fall, which she said could lead to even more globetrotting.
“I love helping animals—working with my hands to make a difference,” she concluded. “I hope after graduating (university) I can travel back to the organizations I worked with in Thailand and Costa Rica and continue to help.”