I have felt Cambodia right through my heart. A country with such a painful history, but with a population so welcoming you feel part of their big family from day one.
Just as Vietnam did, my Cambodian visit reinforced key life lessons for me:
- Be grateful: As I mentioned in a previous post, looking at Cambodia’s bloody history reminds me of the million things I can be grateful for…
- Be supportive: It is so important to be there for one another, support each other. Cambodians are extremelly generous and help their neighbours. The gap between poor and rich is still getting wider and wider throughout the nation. Organisations like Khmer for Khmer are doing brilliant things to help better the country and it’s important to support them. But the lesson here for me is also about trying to break that ‘wall of independance’ (the one that haunts every big city) back at home and really, really connect with people and help each other when in need.
- Have real conversations: I met someone throughout my trip to Cambodia who became my travel companion for a week. What I’ve learnt from him (among other things) is not to be afraid to ask the tough questions. I wouldn’t dare at first asking local people about the Khmer Rouge period by fear of making them uncomfortable, but he did… And every time, they discussed their experience so openly to the point that it looked to me as if they wanted to share their pain, let their difficult past out of the box. So I started asking too. I’ve probably avoided many times asking the hard questions related to sensitive topics (particularly with strangers). I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of this… It’s by having real conversations that we can open up dialogues and learn from each other.
- I like company: Now, this lesson isn’t much of a surprise as I’ve always liked to be with people, but I had no idea how I would go travelling by myself for so long. Although I can do it and at times I need it, finding people to travel with or connect with for more than a few hours gives me so much energy. So let’s hope the next three months bring a few more long-term encounters! 😉
If you’d like to read a summary of my time in Cambodia, head over here.
Next destination: Laos!