The third month was a very heavy month for me, especially during my travels to Cambodia. I felt sad and tried to make sense of everything that I observed in the country. Cambodia’s tragic past still has an impact on the lives of their citizens, and we learned about their struggles when we spoke with the locals. We would then spend our nights reading everything we could to understand more about Cambodia.
Don’t get me wrong
Cambodia is incredible, and I hope that you have the chance to visit one day. But don’t be like me six years ago, where I rushed to see Angkor Wat and left without ever getting to know Cambodia.
Everywhere I went, I heard the same thing over and over again. I want to go to school, I want to go to school…I want to learn. All they want is something that I sometimes forget to appreciate.
“I left school to support the family. My only mode of learning was picking up tattered pieces of paper left behind by schoolchildren.”
I was reminded of the stories I heard as a child, and what poverty looks like in a developing country. It was incredibly sad, and it left me feeling… I don’t even know how to put into words how I felt.
Of course, there is more good than bad in this world, and I saw that in Cambodia. There are many organizations aimed to help Khmer people. We also met incredible entrepreneurs who make it a priority to run their business in a manner that makes the world a better place.
I learned a lot, and I felt a lot. And I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be born in Canada. My close friends have heard me say this, but it’s true, being born in Canada IS winning the lottery.
Are you jumping on this journey now and you are feeling lost? Get oriented and read the first post in this series: About One Life Changing Year
Life as a nomad | Summary of the third month
Dates Travelled: September 19, 2017 – October 18, 2017. Yes yes, I am publishing this post almost a month later, but I keep the thoughts and events limited to the actual month it occurred.
Budget: TBD. I haven’t reconciled the spend to our original budget yet, but I know we are over our budget this month. We overspent on food (surprise, surprise), accommodations, transportation, and tips. We weren’t over budget by a lot and the savings we incurred in the previous month absorbed this overspend.
Places Visited: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Siem Reap.
Items Lost: Nothing lost! We’re still looking to buy that hood cap we lost before we even arrived in Bali during the first month of our nomadic life! We most likely left it on the plane during our first flight from Toronto to Taiwan. And by we, I really mean me…
Transportation: Took the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We then flew from Bangkok to Siem Reap. After another sleepless night on the train, I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of the train experience in Thailand and I’m never taking an overnight train again. Gary slept well during both trips though, so I’m an anomaly.
What I Miss: I missed Chiang Mai a lot while I was in Bangkok and Siem Reap. Chiang Mai felt like home to us during our second month of nomadic living.
Seeing a footlong lizard walk right in front of us while on our way to Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok. That was scary and cool at the same time because we never expected to see a lizard crossing a busy sidewalk. We later learned that the lizard is an Asian monitor lizard and that Lumpini Park has tons of them! Which brings me to my second scariest moment this month…I was running full speed chasing after one lizard before I realized there was one napping right in front of my feet. Trampling over a three-foot lizard would not have been pretty.
Scary moment #3: Geckos
My other frightening moment was finding a crushed gecko right next to the doorframe of our hotel room. It was a tiny little lizard who probably got killed when housekeeping came into the room. But still, seeing that small tiny corpse sent shivers down my spine. I was planning on ignoring the lizard and was going to wait for housekeeping to take care of it the next day… but the thought of having a dead creature in our room creeped me out. So Gary took care of it. RIP.
From then on, I was scared to find the lizard in our hotel room. A few days later, we stayed in another hotel room in Cambodia, and we could hear the lizard shrilling, but we couldn’t see it! Ugh, it was so stressful, and I slept with bedsheets covering my face.
I’ll tell you one day when I’m back in Canada why I’m scared of the lizard. I don’t want to tell you now and jinx myself.
Funniest Moments: I’m drawing a blank
Memorable Moments: Searching for Asian monitor lizards in Bangkok, wandering the Angkor Wat temples. Eating all the good food in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Meeting the most incredible couple in Siem Reap! We love their philosophies on life (a more eloquent version of ours), and we were very touched by how they give back to the world. The few days we spent with them was like taking a mini-crash course on life, and our brains soaked in so much knowledge. Spotlights to our naivety were revealed, and they helped stabilize unresolved feelings in my heart. Saying goodbye to them was so hard, and I had to fight back the tears as I wondered when we would see them again. But of course, these are the moments where I have to trust the universe that we will cross paths again (or, I could make an excuse to come back to Cambodia).
Yucky Moments: A bat pooped on me while I was at Angkor Wat. Also, when a huge coachroach decided to crawl up my leg wasn’t fun either.
Thoughts and feelings during the third month of life as a nomad
We keep meeting so many inspirational people
The individuals we’ve met on this trip are a reminder that I am taking the right path on this journey of life. I find the more I embrace who I am and accept myself, the more I attract like-minded people.
We’re becoming one of those people who book their accommodations one day in advance
Looking for a place to live on the day of is still too adventurous for me.
Someone needs to remind rude tourists that they are guests in the country
I’ve seen far too many offensive travellers disrespecting the locals, and it drove me bonkers. Like seriously, you are guests in the country you are visiting. Just because you have the luxury to travel doesn’t give you the right to be rude! I’ve seen people scream at temples while others flip out for finding blended ice in their smoothie. I’ll give you a moment to think about the ridiculousness of that situation.
Forgetting that I was no longer in Thailand
Leaving Thailand was a bit of a shock to our system since we got so used to Thai life. A good example was in regards to my data plan. I had unlimited data in Thailand, which meant I could tether off my mobile phone and not worry about poor wifi.
Come Cambodia, we buy 6 GB of data to last us almost a month. 6 GB of data isn’t bad, right?
Well, the day after we land in Siem Reap, I get a message saying that I used up all six GB of my data… in just 24 hours. What the heck. How was that possible?! I even took a four-hour nap during our first day in Siem Reap, which meant I used up data in less than 24 hours! I later realized that I was still in unlimited data mode mindset and must have used up all the data while tethering to the laptop. Fortunately, we were able to buy 4 GB the next day for $5 USD.
Giant rats are… saving Cambodia from landmines!
I said I’ll stop talking about rats last month but… I found rats that are saving the world! These rats help identify mines in a faster and safer manner compared to the traditional techniques of mine detection.
While in Cambodia, I learned how landmines are an enormous problem that resulted from decades of wars. Millions of deadly landmines are still around rural Cambodia where people live and farm. As a result, many casualties and injuries have arisen because of these undetected mines.
I won’t go into details here as I will likely write a separate post about the issue. If you’re interested in learning more, you can start by reading these two articles to get a sense of the matter.
“These people have no education. These people are stupid”
Yup, an expat said that to me. I was so stunned that I didn’t know how to respond. Looking back, I should have dropkicked that person. Ok, maybe not. Bringing awareness to that ignorant comment is the better approach, but I was so stunned.
So I’ll try to bring empathy to readers here. Please don’t ever think that way. Spend a few days in their shoes, and you’ll understand why education is not always possible for some families.
The average salary in Cambodia is roughly $3 USD a day
We saw and met people trying to make their life work on this meager salary. Over time, we got to know some of them as they shared aspects of their lives with us.
$3 USD a day, that’s it. With maybe a four day holidays a month, where most try to go back to the countryside to see their family. Many were, in fact, young adults who send their earnings back to their family.
Talking to them and their daily struggles gave us so much perspective.
Life of a nomad | Learnings from the third month
Education changes lives
Study hard to have a better life in the future. Almost every person I met in Cambodia had the same aspirations; to get a higher education. Like my parents, they respect and dream of school so much. For most, that was their sole purpose in life. The two common phrases I heard in Cambodia was either I have no education or I want to go to school. I was so incredibly sad to listen to a girl link her self-worth to education. “I didn’t study past grade 11. No education. I am stupid.”
It broke my heart to hear her say that about herself.
Relying on the news to be aware of the countries I want to visit
I’ve been avoiding the news at all costs since university, and only learn of headline stories in passing. I sometimes take in the news to see how the markets are doing, but that’s about it. Since we are travelling, I started reading the news to keep up to date mostly on the weather conditions.
My observations confirm why I shun the media in the first place. News media are so biased, and things get blown out of proportion. It’s also very unfair for media to portray one side of the story and use fear to manipulate behaviour.
Plans change all the time. Cancellable hotels are the best things in the world
Not so with airfares, especially if you book with budget airlines. But we are learning! We did book one non-refundable hotel because the price was so low and we were 100% certain that we were going to visit that place.
…We didn’t go to that city. So much for 100% certainty…
Now, we try not to book hotels and airfares too far in advance in light of the lessons we learned this month. It is difficult to balance between booking ahead to secure a good deal, or booking later with the risk of increasing prices.
Life as a nomad | Photography progress during the third month
Photo editing and organizing takes forever
I almost don’t want to do anything fun for a few months so that I can organize all the photos
People keep copying my shots!
I noticed this in Bali when we were doing a hike in the ridge. I’d spot a good photo place and think I’d have time to compose the photo. Because I am very slow at photography, I need time to set up and capture the shot I have visualized. What ends up happening is that before I know it, a few people are standing behind me, IMPATIENTLY waiting for me to leave! Or, the rude ones would just stand in front of me with their iPads blocking my shot.
Patience is critical when it comes to taking photos of touristy places
I had to wait forever for people to get out of my shot (my fault for not getting up early enough)
Gary tried to get me to delete all my dog photos
Of course, that didn’t happen. I now have a ton of cute dog photos, which I think will show up in a future post titled “Dogs of Asia.” Stay tuned.
I spent 20mins photographing birds at Wat Benchamabophit
That was fun.
I spent 20 minutes trying to capture a photo of the traffic
Post processing photos is a lot of work
Cropping, straightening pictures, editing is SO MUCH WORK.
I have a completely different appreciation for photographers now, especially those who can shoot in unpredictable situations. It’s easy to tell a person to stand still until the photo turns out good. But it’s another story to try to capture the moment. It’s so hard.
What’s next for our fourth month
Well, we changed our plans AGAIN and made some decisions based on a flip of a coin. The couple we talked about in our defining moments convinced us to, and we are so glad we listened to them. Had we not met them, I’m sure that I would have one HUGE regret from this year of slow travel.
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