This trip has differed from other solo trips I’ve taken. Rather than spending the majority of my time on my own or with locals I’ve met, I seem to be meeting more of my fellow travelers. I couldn’t figure out what was so different this time around until I realized that I’m on a budget for this trip. My other trips have taken place on long breaks from work and I knew I’d be going back to a reliable paycheck. This time I’m being much more careful. It’s worth it. I’d rather be frugal and know that I can meander my way through Cambodia at my pace rather than spend up a storm and spend my time traveling towards a departing flight.
In any event, I’m meeting more budget travelers because I’m staying at more budget places. For the first time since college, I stayed in a dorm bed in a hostel last week. The bed part wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. The Brits on their gap year, chest bumping in the bar area were much worse than I anticipated, though. Trade-offs.
When I first sensed that this trip was taking on a different feel than others, I wondered why. I knew there must be a reason. Some lesson I’m meant to learn. Or something.
Over the last few days I think I’ve figured it out.
I’m supposed to realize that I’m not as crazy as I worried that I was. Actually, most of these people are crazier than I am and there’s some great comfort there. Every person I’ve met went through most of the steps that I did. We all felt that this was a trip we wanted to make and set out to do all the tiny, small things that need to be done before leaving. We all thought about the size of our backpacks. We considered how many tank-tops to bring. We wondered if we were bringing too many hair ties. We cried when we said goodbye to some of our friends. We packed our things into boxes and we got on planes with no jobs to return to.
I’m not the only person who did that. One night I sat at a table with three other people who I felt were all really smart and interesting and slowly realized that every single one will return home with more experience, but with no job waiting.
In a first-ever situation, I’m NOT the craziest person at the table when I sit down here. I’m the one traveling for the shortest amount of time and I have the smallest backpack. NOTE: I constantly compare my 50 Liters to others to make absolutely sure that I’m traveling the lightest. Compared to some of the 80 Liter packs I’ve seen going in and out of hostels, I am the lightest by far.
In Battambang I met Daley from the UK who is bicycling through Southeast Asia by himself. He started with friends and soon realized that he needed to be on his own schedule. At night, if he hasn’t come across a guest house in a rural town, he camps behind trees off the side of the road. When he can’t find noodles, he cooks something. He once grabbed the back of a truck with one hand and rode the bike with the other to get into town faster. I asked him tons of questions about this until I was absolutely sure that he is taking a riskier, scarier and significantly harder trip than I am.
There are two key takeaways here:
1. Friends and family, I could be putting you through a lot more than I am. Sleep well knowing that I care about your mental well-being.
2. The decision to take this trip was nerve-wracking. I felt caught between wanting to get back into a routine to show people that I hadn’t lost real-life momentum and wanting to take a trip that I’ve been mentally planning for 6 years. Once I’d decided to do it, I was conflicted about where to go. I made a final decision at the very last minute and here I am. Looking back it felt so hard to arrive here. But all that time, tons of other people were making the same decisions. And now, here we all are. I imagine this is what it’s like when bikers go to the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, or when twins go to that creepy convention in Minnesota. All this time they felt a little odd about dressing in the same outfit as their 28-year-old twin sister, but all of a sudden they’re surrounded by other people doing it and their whole perspective shifts. Bring on the matching hairbows!
So, my friends. That’s all I have for now. Just a short post on why I’m not crazy. On an unrelated note here’s a picture of me petting a one-day-old puppy with one finger because I was afraid of murdering it by mistake:
To further prove my lack of crazy, here’s a picture of me happily riding in a boat “not considered safe by international standards” with no windows and not enough life-jackets:
We’ll see ya, friends and family!