As I sit in the back of a tuk-tuk weaving my way through the disorderly and chaotic streets of Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh I’m finally starting to truly reflect on the life I’ve lived in South East Asia for the last five weeks. I’m also getting to enjoy one of my favorite parts of traveling. The kayaking, scuba diving, hiking, and trying weird foods are all great, but there’s something about watching the daily life of a culture and a people that is so different than your own that just can’t be beat. The sounds of motorbike engines, horns, and bumpy roads, the smells of food stalls and fresh meat and produce at the local market mixed with the exhaust from the crowded streets, and the sights of ordinary people doing ordinary things. A guard helping a young boy cross the hectic street. A woman making sugar cane juice. Men working on machinery. And entire families of five on a single motorbike saddle going who knows where. In my own city, or even country, everyday norms are all too often overlooked, but on the other side of Planet Earth these distinctly different norms have a whole new meaning and give me a new perspective on things. And that is something beautiful that comes along with traveling.
This has been the longest stretch of time I’ve ever traveled, and my first time in this part of the world. The experience as a whole has been completely surreal and unbelievably exciting, and each mini-experience, adventure, and excursion along the way is a story worth remembering and telling on its own. I’m grateful I’ve had each and every one of these experiences and I’m just as grateful to have been able to go through them all with a close friend who I hold so dearly.
I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been on this trip. I’ve learned about traveling, about friendship and relationships, about cultures and people, and I’ve learned about myself. I feel a great sense of peace as I begin this 26-hour journey back to the United States. I am refreshed, recharged, and rejuvenated, and ready to get back to a life that’s a bit more familiar.
However, even the life I’m going back to isn’t completely familiar anymore. For the past five and a half years I’ve worked for Ride BMX Magazine, and when I get back home I will begin my new career as a full-on freelance photographer and videographer in the BMX industry. I’m eager to see what’s behind all these new open doors and to see where the paths behind them will lead me.
As I leave Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia I want to show my gratitude to Lindsay Matush for planning and researching the trip and being the best travel buddy I could ever ask for. I also want to thank all the other people we encountered an met along the way for giving us a glimpse into their fascinating lives and culture.
Thank you very much!
Kob kun krab! (Thai)
Khop chai lai lai! (Lao)
Awkunh ch’ran! (Khmer)
To see my other travel updates from this trip to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, click my “Travel Update” tag page.
I have a ton of great travel photos to post over the next several months that I’m really excited to share. Be on the lookout!
*Written and photographed on my iPhone while in a tuk-tuk at 7:45am on January 13, 2012.