A Travel Adventure:
I remember, the sun streaming in from a crack in a small window, feeling hot against my body. The pillow that I was sleeping on was drenched from my sweat, making my hair stick to my neck. When I was sick with a terrible stomach bug, my boyfriend and I were in Phnom Penh, the Capital of Cambodia. We had planned to stay only one night in Phnom Penh and I’m thankful that we had both agreed to. We had just started our travel journey, and had been to Siem Reap previously. I remember the feeling as soon as we stepped outside of our hostel in Phnom Penh. The pollution and sewage smelled very strong. The other thing I noticed was that everyone who we passed by happened to stare at us, namely because we were Western and they knew that we were tourists. The staring made me feel uncomfortable, like we were famous, but for all the wrong reasons.
I recall, that same day, after my stomach bug had seized, going to the Killing and Genocide Field. It was there that I learned about Cambodian culture and history. Here the realities of nature were not one bit romanticised to me. The images posted of some of the people who were involved were raw, harsh and the outcome beyond human destruction. It was nothing like the picturesque view that I had in mind of what I thought Cambodia had always been like.
We travelled in 40 degree weather, in Cambodia’s dry season. Adaptation to the climate, culture and life-style was difficult to me. It was safe to say that I had experienced a great deal of “culture shock,” a term which I didn’t really understand the meaning of until I was back home.
Reminiscing about the travel experience, there were times where I broke down crying. Cambodia was my “Paris-Syndrome,” the difference between the fantasy I had in my head and the harshness of reality. I missed the pastoral way of living back home. Everything was nice and clean, unproblematic and not sandy or dirty back home in Melbourne; and Cambodia was very unhygienic. Everything was up-front and personal. Two of the strongest memories I can recall from our trip, was how close the family ties were. That day it rained for a few minutes and I remember seeing little kids living in huts with their family, all huddled under a tin roof. There was no fence and none of them had shoes on. They also wore rags for clothing. Despite all this, they had smiles on their faces. That bit would always stay with me, because despite their circumstance they were happy; they had each other. They would cherish the small things that I know I take for granted back home.
The other memory I will keep with me is the fight for survival. I remember we passed a father and his two sons hunting in murky water. The father had a net and the sons were on the other side in the lake, swimming towards him and splashing their arms. This tactic was used to get all the fish to swim closer to the father, so he could capture them. They did succeed, as I remember shuddering from seeing several dead bleeding fish caught in the net.
I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t know it was going to be that tough. I will miss the “no stress” attitude of Cambodia, learning about their culture and the stories behind there amazing historical sacred temples. Lets not forgot, also drinking coconuts for $1 and seeing people helping people. The Westerners who were living there would teach English to the Khmer people to get by, and I thought that was lovely, and maybe possibly one day I will go over there and teach for a bit too. You just never know.
About Elizabeth: Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor and an emerging travel/beauty blogger. Follow her on