“Fishy” situation

03.09.11 | 3 Comments

**not for vegetarians**

The fish is sure fresh in this market…

Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Monk-ey Business

03.08.11 | 1 Comment

Buddhist monks have always fascinated me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the peace that they seem to project. Maybe it’s their bright orange robe and their shaved heads that provides such a visual contrast to all of the world that’s around them, whether it’s old or new. They embody such a strong aesthetic, exotic image to our western eyes that it’s hard to resist the temptation of snapping shots of them. They get their picture taken all the time. It’s not illegal or anything, but is it ok with them, or insanely annoying? Do they happily play the game or does it take a lot of monk wisdom not to feel like they’re curious zoo animals?

For example, was this one posing for the tourists? Or was he just being a monk, in a moment of contemplation in the biggest temple in Cambodia: Angkor Wat. I wonder.

Of course I am the first person to want to take millions of photos of them, because, like all westerners, I find them incredibly photogenic and representative of our mental image of the far East. Isn’t it fun to catch a monk snapping a photo with his camera-phone? Monks use technology too!

A funny thing happened after I took this shot (discretely, I thought): the monk turned in my direction and took a photo of me! It was like saying “right back at ya!” or “you’re as strange as I am to you”.

I smiled and waved back. No hard feelings. But it definitely makes me think twice about taking photos of these beautiful monks. However tempting it is to bring back more indelible images of them, I’ll try to just let them be.

Craving familiarity

03.03.11 | 15 Comments

I’d like to take a break from blogging about what we’re seeing and where we’ve been, to take a moment to write about what it’s like to be traveling for so long. In fact I feel like I’d have so much to say I could write a whole book about the process, both logistical and mental, of traveling long term. For now, I’ll focus on the simple fact that after six months of traveling, I’m craving familiarity.

This may come as a surprise to some of you following this blog, since it seems like we’re having non-stop fun and seeing amazing things every day. There is definitely a large amount of truth in what I try to portray, but there’s also some behind-the-scenes realities.

Most of the time, one craves exactly the opposite of what one has. When you have a life with a regular job, a routine, a home, you crave exoticism, spontaneity, escapades, discovery. When you’re living the nomadic life, you crave the familiar, comfort, points of references to hold onto, friends, a sense of purpose. At least, that’s what I’m feeling right now. I want to feel at home and with a clear purpose.

That said, I made a life choice. I left my job, my apartment, my friends to go pursue what possibly could only be experienced once in a lifetime: a year traveling around the world, with no strings attached, enough money and with the company of the love of my life. Sounds pretty idyllic. That’s what everyone dreams about, right? Well, not so easy in practice.

There are many layers to this type of traveling that contributes to feeling disoriented or exhausted. For example, the constant decision-making as Justin expressed on his blog, but for me it’s the loads of time I have on my hands which opens the dangerous doors of thinking about what I’m doing, why, life, etc… In a normal life, that’s what I would crave: time. Right now, I’m finding that distracting my mind and keeping it busy is essential to staying sane. It’s very easy for me to slip into thought processes such as “why am I doing this again?”, “what’s the point, really?” and even as far as “what’s the purpose of my life?”. Yikes. I seem to be desperately trying to hang onto something larger than myself with no avails.

Faded islands in the distance – Halong Bay.

Our itinerary also makes me feel trapped. Do we really have to go everywhere we said we would? Why? At what point to you draw the line and say “ok, I think I’ve seen enough for now”? At the same time, not doing everything we said we would doesn’t seem to be a good solution either. Sure, we can stop the trip… and then what? I actually do like many things we’re doing. For instance we’re in the magical place that is Halong Bay and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

What I’m really craving is to be home. Thing is, I don’t have one. I know we could get into a discussion about what “home” means, but right now I’m talking about a home where you have keys, can open the door and step back into your cozy little world and resume your various responsibilities. For us, that would mean creating a new home and creating a new set of responsibilities which I don’t think I’m ready for either.

So as the French say, “J’ai le cul entre deux chaises” (my ass is in between two chairs). To stay on the trip seems like a whole lot of work, a trial on my stamina. To stop the trip presents a whole other spectrum of challenges including figuring out where we would want to live and what we would want to do, which are pretty big questions to tackle.

What’s my solution? On a conceptual level, I know it is to just accept and appreciate where I am. Whatever mindset I’m in, it doesn’t matter. On a practical level, I’m not able to get there easily. I seem to have to break down (usually involving many tears), let the tension off my chest, calm down (or sleep) and then realize that where I am and what I’m doing isn’t so bad after all. I wish that realization was more permanent. I had the same thought process when I had my job, but wanted to escape and go travel. Break down, let it out, sleep, feel better. There’s gotta be peace I can find in whatever I’m doing. How does one find that strength?

There are life lessons being learned on this trip. Everything, I’m sure, is exactly the way it should be.

I held a python on my neck

02.24.11 | 4 Comments

That was part of our Mekong river trip. At a lunch break, they brought out this huge python for people to hold for a few seconds. You have to understand: I hate snakes. Small, big, green, brown, whatever… I’m happier away from them. However, when would I ever get a chance to (hopefully) safely hold a python who’s not hungry and see what it’s like? Now was the time. And Oh. My. Goodness. That thing was creeeeeeepy. I could feel the muscles move beneath the skin. Yuk. Looking at the video, I only held it for maybe 15 seconds, desperately trying to keep some semblance of a smile, before my knees were about to give out. I was shaking. Hard. But I did it :)

Along the Mekong

02.23.11 | 3 Comments

From Saigon, we went to Cambodia via the Mekong Delta. We did it as part of a 3 day tour which eventually dropped us off in Phnom Penh by boat. The journey was very interesting. The group tour aspect, not so much. It’s not really our normal style of exploration. However, we did get to experience and see cool things we otherwise couldn’t have.

They took us on a canoe ride through a narrow jungley chunk of the delta. Very exciting, especially knowing that there are crocs around. “Keep your hands inside the boat!” we were told.

This is the type of canoe we were in. I call it a canoe, but maybe it was just a really small boat.

I love these hats!

This is the dusty road that lead to the boat that lead to the homestay we stayed at the 1st night.


Saigon by night

02.20.11 | Comment?

In Saigon, we stayed a good chunk of the time in the backpacker district. At night, when the temperature drops a little, the scene becomes very lively. Or maybe is it just more interesting to watch the hustle and bustle of the city when lights shine and people crowd the streets to find a good, cheap beer.

There’s as much traffic in the evening as any time of the day.

This was the street right outside our hotel.

This is what it looks like to walk on one of the most happening corners of the district. Tourists, music, flashy lights.


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