Packed like sardines with my knees bent and touching the seat in front of me, my body leaned up against the Cambodian man next to me (the only one who speaks English). With four (out of 14) of us crammed in the back seat, leaning back entirely isn’t an option so I contort my body for the duration of the 5 hour ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. My purse with my computer, water, books and essentials somehow weighing at least 8-10 lbs sits on one knee which bends slightly toward the other in attempt to find some level of comfort while fitting in this confined space. Sitting up against a window I consider myself very fortunate since I got one of the last seats (for $11) on the bus arriving only minutes before our 10am departure after my tuk tuk driver took a detour in the wrong direction.
I had no idea where I’d be heading until the idea entered my mind around 9am to look into buses heading to the capital. Still having no local SIM card, I’d be at the mercy of finding a local cafe or coffee shop with Wifi once I arrived in order to confirm a place to stay for the night. Generally speaking, I am the type of person who loves spontaneity but also prefers not making these kinds of decisions regarding travel and housing (safety/comfort essentials) so quickly and without time for preparation and research…so this has and continues to be a growing and learning experience for me. I find myself pulled to the idea in trusting the Lord’s/Universe’s plan for me, going within the realms of flow when I’m led in the very timing and direction that feels right. I was warned that this may mean sudden decisions and changes as I also experienced when I made the choice to head out into the world a little more than 6 weeks ago…but this is the first time its been quite so sudden.
In January, with a little over a week until February 1st (deadline for another month’s rent) and having just been laid off my job I pondered what the future held for me as I rode the Muni (bus) in San Francisco from my apartment in the Marina to a much less fortunate area of the city to serve in a food bank there. As I read “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss, I was struck with the overwhelming desire to do exactly what he was describing…heading out into the world and making a life for myself in ways I’d only dared to dream of before. It didn’t seem realistic having no credit cards to use as back up, no income or savings and having never traveled internationally by myself. In fact, from the comments and questions I’ve continually received while I’ve been away it’s apparent to me that almost all others have this limiting belief that the only way to do what I’m doing is to have a massive savings and credit cards to rely on. Ha! If only it was that EASY for me. This wasn’t something I planned. I had NO INCLINATION before that day on the bus. But suddenly as I sat there, this fire within me GREW until I KNEW WITHOUT A DOUBT that this was what I was meant to do! And more so what I MUST do!
Glancing out the window, watching the countryside pass by, my mind goes back to that moment…where the only questions I could think to ask were, “IS THIS POSSIBLE FOR ME…CAN I REALLY DO THIS?” And instantly my eyes threaten to overflow with warm tears of gratitude and unbelief. To see what I’m doing from a distance, I may not believe it myself…but to be in every moment…seeing the miracles and tender-mercies coming together to work FOR me…I am amazed beyond description.
2 hours into the drive we stop in a small town for a 20 minute lunch break. After having barely finished a discussion with the man next to me about tourists’ intestinal reactions to Cambodian food, I was less than enthusiastic to try local cuisine with 3 hours remaining on our trip. I’ve been very blessed not to have any of those kinds of experiences while I’ve been traveling for the past 5.5 weeks in SE Asia, but I wasn’t willing to risk my first encounter being on a long drive…so I went with my safe go-to’s of fruit, nuts/seeds and fresh veggie chips. The stand I bought from also had a wide array of bugs or dried fish I could choose from…but those will have to wait for another day.
Back on the bus (which is actually a van), staring out the window I’m mesmerized by the homes on the side of the main road. Every home in on stilts (assuming that’s for the extra land/garage space under the house) and very unique one to another. Even side by side they’re built using completely diverse materials, colors, size and style. I am absolutely captivated by the talent and resourcefulness of these people! To utilize only what’s affordable and available in order to create what I see before me…these must be some of the most creative people on earth! I wished greatly that we’d be able to stop for a moment so I could take a picture, but we were on a tight schedule…so I’d have to accept a small video instead (which somehow missed everything I meant to capture). To truly experience the beauty and magnificence of it all requires one to visit and see it first hand.
Hours later we arrived in Phnom Penh. A coffee shop, ATM and tuk tuk later I made it to my hotel where I’ll stay for a few nights. Its incredible the differences between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh! Phnom Penh is a big city where as Siem Reap feels much more like small town. Price and availability in a big city like this also means that for the same price I was paying in Siem Reap for a single room w/ AC, here I have a room that feels so much more luxurious! My bed and pillows are soft enough to actually sleep on, I have a separate shower rather than showering over the toilet, there are basic amenities, breakfast and a roof top pool with a view! I’m only here for a few days before heading out to Vietnam…but I am thoroughly enjoying the luxury while I’m here!