An important message


There have been a million thoughts and emotions running through me in the past week since leaving Hoi An. I haven’t figured out where to start… do I focus on one thing, everything, or nothing at all? How much of myself and my life should I continue to share with the world? I still don’t have an answer… so I’ll do what I’ve always done, go with my gut. Do what feels right, right now in this moment. And right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Cambodia on a rainy afternoon, finally ready to lay it all on the table—to sort out what’s going on in my mind and hopefully clear up some misunderstandings for those on the outside looking in. I’m pausing this blog to clear the air, regroup and continue so we’re all (hopefully) on the same page moving forward.

2Letting my guard down with some pure, unfiltered honesty here in a stream of consciousness. Please continue with that in mind. And grab a cup of coffee or tea… or wine depending on your time zone, as this will be on the long and heavy side.

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There were some harsh comments on the last post. And I’m sure there were many more of you thinking the same but didn’t express it. I’m not here to defend myself or my actions, but rather to let you in a bit more so you understand where I am coming from. Not because I can’t handle criticism… that kind of criticism has no affect on how I think/act/live. I was sad to read some of your words but not because I took it personally (I know better after 5 years of blogging, it’s not for the faint of heart, especially when you open up). It’s because my goal—aside from documenting this journey for myself and my future—is to reach others in a positive way, to connect and promote some sort of knowledge or change for the better, even in the smallest sense.

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There’s enough negativity in the world and it’s collectively bringing us down together. We’re the most advanced species on earth, evolving over millions of years, yet we are destroying each other in so many ways. From one negative thought or comment to war and genocide and everything in between. It’s heartbreaking because we are capable of rising above that—deep down we all want the same thing. I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems or become the next Mother Teresa, but I can at least hope to influence those around me and do my part to improve it using whatever resources I have. I’ve witnessed enough here in Vietnam in the last week to feel sickened to be part of the human race and yet so completely connected with every living, breathing soul at the same time. Behind it all, we are all existing as one—call it God, call it Being, Enlightenment, the Unmanifested or whatever you’d like. It’s there and it’s within us.

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Back to Earth for a second… I’d like to offer clarity to something in particular that has been bothering me.

It’s important to remember that the stories I’m sharing, the experiences I’ve lived through and the decisions I’ve made have been through a very different mindset than I was in months ago. Not only because I’ve grown and changed as a person, but because of my environment. A third world country in Asia is different than life in America in so many ways. You have to adapt and change the way you live, which means making different decisions than you normally would back home. Some people travel simply to check a box off their bucket list or as a way to escape normal life. They stay in their comfort zone with nice accommodations, interact only with those they can understand and are familiar with, stick to the safe and well traveled/touristy sights, and leave satisfied, resuming normal life the way they left it. And that is completely fine. But I didn’t travel across the world just to see things I’ve seen and heard about from everyone else. I’ll find that too, but I want to go beyond the surface and assimilate into new cultures, learn from them, live how they live and feel what they feel. To actually understand them, which in turn will deepen my own understanding of the world.

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Some of my favorite memories so far have been from these glimpses into a different life that we are so far removed from. Just like I want to connect with you, as readers, it’s equally as important to connect to those around me here—even with the barriers of language and culture and all of the unknowns. I am opening myself up to new experiences every day, then opening myself up to you to describe those experiences in the best way that I can.

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Sometimes things get lost in translation and I can only blame myself for not being able to communicate as well as I’d like to. It’s a constant work in progress, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and trying to put yourself in my situation. I just ask that you read this with an open mind, knowing that I am doing the best I can and listening to my intuition—I can’t do anything else.

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Here’s one specific example: someone made a remark about “accepting rides from people I don’t know”—I mentioned this briefly before but for those of you who are under this impression, let me elaborate. Transportation in much of Southeast Asia is nothing like America, or most westernized nations for that matter. You don’t need a license and certification to become a cab driver—you don’t even need to have a license or be of a certain age to drive, period. You do what you can to survive and provide for your family, and if you have a means of transportation, that becomes your livelihood. Anyone with a motorbike can be found on the sidewalk, offering to take you anywhere you need to go for under $2. Yes, you can wait for a cab who will take twice as long to get there and charge you double, but they aren’t any more trustworthy and motorbikes are the most common and preferred way to get around, and essential to everyday life here. Of course I’d never hop on a random motorbike offering to give me a ride back at home… but this is not America. Different situations call for different decisions.

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On that note, so much of every day life here is nothing like what we’re accustomed to. What we know as logical scenarios and behaviors don’t exist in the same way here. Even in larger cities, much of everyday life is carried out based on individuals’ moods and emotions rather than rules and standard operating procedures. You can’t depend on law enforcement to protect you, or a problem to be dealt with in a fair and reasonable way, or even to be able to find something as basic as contact solution after being sent on a wild goose chase around the city for hours by people who don’t understand what you’re describing. There is no consistency, no guarantees. It can be frustrating when you’re used to predictability, so you label this foreign land as irrational and chaotic and dangerous. But for the locals, it’s all they know—and it makes perfect sense. Hundreds of motorbikes and taxis and buses and pedestrians converging into one intersection in every direction, inches from colliding yet somehow, seamlessly blending without incident as if orchestrated by some greater force. Motorcycles drive on sidewalks past newborns in baskets and even through retail stores (this actually happened). Families of four with infants are piled on motorbikes, no helmets, driven by teenagers, cutting in front of semi trucks filled with loose metal objects or bird cages or cattle and if this were to happen anywhere in America, we’d be horrified and call them unfit parents… but this is normal life here. We are all doing the best we can, the only way we know how. You can enter this foreign soil and maintain your stance, convinced it’s the only proper way to think and live, but life becomes much richer when you let go of what you’ve been conditioned to and see the world through new eyes.

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Some readers have skipped over or chosen to ignore my posts prior to this, focusing only on the partying and dangerous situations and creating a storyline in their mind that does not exist. Please keep in mind that you’re reading a small snippet of what I choose to share, and reality goes far beyond what you see on the screen.

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There have been speculations on patterns in my posting, shifts in tone, even changes in the types of pictures I’m posting. People have connected dots that I’m not even aware of—they don’t exist in my reality. It’s interesting and sometimes entertaining to read and I can understand why it happens… it’s human nature, no fault of our own.

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I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong in life—only actions and consequences. Every action is a risk in a sense, with varying degrees of consequences. The actions I’ve taken have all been calculated risks, and I’ve been willing to accept the consequences before going in. Yes, I have been lucky so far, managing to avoid any permanent or seriously damaging consequences. But I know they still exist, and I will continue to balance these risks with the experiences I want to have and the life I want to live, always keeping in mind how it will affect my friends and family. It’s a fine line sometimes, and all I can do is rely on that inner voice to guide me.

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We all have preconceived notions of places and situations we could potentially find ourselves in. We all have a plan, or at least an idea of how we’d react and the decisions we’d make. The truth is, reality is far more complicated once you’re in it. Even if you’ve never been in the exact same situation, place and time as someone else, we all have different backgrounds and factors influencing our thoughts and actions. It’s very easy to judge based on your own personal beliefs but it’s also easy to forget that we’re all making decisions we feel is right for us personally in every moment, and my decision may not look like yours—nor should it. I wish there was a way to bring you into this journey with me in the physical and mental realm—to be in my shoes and live in these moments. If only that was possible—then you would truly understand, and the judgment would no longer be there. Instead, it’s my responsibility to bring you as close as I can with my words and images. Clearly I have to work on that some more, but I hope this post is a start.

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For the majority of you who have expressed concern for my safety in kinder words, I really do appreciate you taking the time to comment because it means that there are people out there who care—complete strangers that I’ve managed to connect with enough that they care about the well being of someone whose existence has no affect on them or their lives personally… but that means it does have an affect. Because we are all connected, and I’d love for nothing more than to strengthen and expand that connection to as many people as possible. It’s a domino effect—one positive thought or action can be enough to change someone’s life, and one life has the potential to change the world. As sappy as that sounds, it’s the truth.

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I have no idea what the future of this blog will look like, or my own life for that matter. I will continue to document and post as long as I see a benefit, and it remains enjoyable and not forced. I’ve been keeping a separate journal of stories that can’t be published for various reasons… perhaps someday I’ll combine them all into a memoir to be published before I die. I think it would be a pretty interesting read…

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All I’m certain of is that reality is anything you want it to be—and for me, right now it’s a crazy, beautiful, and wonder filled life. I often worry that my best days are behind me, that it can’t possibly get any better and that I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I could go back and relive it all. But I think I’m finally learning to let go and trust the timing of my life. Even after 9 weeks, each day is filled with blissful “am I dreaming?” moments of pure happiness—but I know that it’s all temporary. Lasting happiness can only come from within. I’m not quite there yet but I must be on the right path. One day, one moment at a time.

Thank you again for dedicating part of your valuable time to follow my story. I’m thankful to be alive and a small presence in anyone’s life, and will continue to do my best to make it worthwhile.

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Goodnight from Cambodia,

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84 thoughts on “An important message

  1. You write beautifully and from the heart. When I see comments from many I can only think that they have not travelled and experienced amazing cultures of the world. I live in Australia and have travelled extensively, its what we do but in my life and travels I have found that many american’s like their comfort zone and rarely venture out of it, I mean even the military set up their own shops in different countries so they dont have to go without peanut butter. That’s what travelling to other countries is about, experiencing their life, culture, food etc. Everyone does it differently. oh and I travel on motorbikes in Bali without a second thought, its just what you do when you travel to these countries. Keep on experiencing all the world has to offer and may it be as different and challenging as you want it to be and every now and then you can throw in a hamburger or something that reminds you of home just to keep it real! Take care, your book at the end of this journey is going to be incredible xx

    1. Agreed, Amanda. I’ve experienced the same. You express it well.

      Jenna, you are on the journey of a lifetime…several lifetimes, even. You’re making the journey an end in itself. That is just as, if not more, important than whatever the ultimate destination may be. Thank you for sharing it at such a raw level, for sharing it knowing full well that reception will be divided. That opinions are many. You have been very gracious about it all.

      Cheers, Ardith

    2. I agree. I may have even peed in the same outhouse with the big spiders in the mountain village near Chiang Mai! 🙂 People who judge have not been there and cannot possibly understand. Enjoy your experience and keep sharing!

  2. Wow you really came back from that last post and all those comments and laid it on the table! Beautifully said! You’re right we’re only getting a portion of the story, and I’m sure we all had scenes from Taken running through our minds while we were reading! Good luck on your next adventure and I can’t wait to see more beautiful photos!!

  3. I’m sorry you have had negative comments on ur journey. You don’t deserve it. What ur are doing is so many wonderful things: courageous, amazing, beautiful, spirited, soulful, selfless. I love what u r doing! May God keep you safe thru ur journey and may you continue to let go. May ur journey and your words continue to inspire people to be more open minded and kinder to each other. Peace be with you?

  4. You are incredible. Your journey is incredible. And I’m so thankful you are sharing this with us. With me. I appreciate you and while I don’t “know” you I still feel connected. And a bit jealous that i did not have the opportunity to do the same for myself. Thank you for sharing the beauty, the reality, the ugly, the scary, and the precious moments you’ve captured. Stay true to you, your writing and your journey.

  5. Thank you for your heartfelt honesty. I’m enjoying following y our journey, and seeing inside a world I will likely never get to experience for myself. I wish you all the best as you explore this life changing chapter in your life.

  6. You’ve shared so much of your heart through these posts, and I can’t express how different and raw that is. You definitely have a way with words. Keep on writing and sharing your journey–it’s been a joy to be along for the ride halfway across the world. Thank you for that.

    I think too you expressed the differences in cultures and worlds very eloquently. I definitely understand that you are facing a whole new way of living there. Something that isn’t worse or wrong, better or superior–just different and new. I appreciate so much how you have tried to encounter, absorb, and adapt to the culture in each place you’ve been. You have a much deeper understanding of this than I think many people do when traveling.

    I hope if anything, my comment yesterday, showed nothing but concern. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and learning from your choices–good, bad, beautiful, ugly!

  7. Jenna, you are so right. I often forget that the world outside of America is so different, unique, and filled with millions of people we will never meet…or maybe even never understand. I don’t have a lot of experience traveling outside of the U.S. but the times that I have have been refreshing and enlightening. Not only because I have placed myself in this other world, but because the people in this other world are just like me, to the core. I do believe that we humans are so unique on this earth, that we have this ability to contemplate, think, wonder, and hope. It’s amazing, really. I hope you continue to reach deep into your mind and heart, searching, listening for answers. In this world of noise and busyness, to have a place of peace is such a treasure. I will continue to pray for your safety, but more importantly for your searching heart. I hope each day you are moved closer to an answer.

  8. I absolutely love reading these posts and sharing these stories with you and literally cannot wait until the next one. I’m actually a little angry that a post that could have shared more stories and perspectives from another part of the world was spent explaining yourself to those people who don’t understand your journey! Thank you for sharing all that you have and keeping us a part of your story, too.

  9. I never comment but read regularly…Thank you for sharing your journey. I find a lot of inspiration in every post. Keep on doing you!!

  10. Beautifully said. You have a lot of people rooting for you. Hope you find what you are looking for. Thanks for letting us get a glimpse into the adventurous life and live vicariously through you :). Stay safe!

  11. Sweet Jenna, please do not let the negativity of others bring you down. Everyone has an opinion on how they think things should be done, but you have to live your life for you and do what you think needs to be done in order to allow yourself to grow. Some of your posts have been scary to read and I do have genuine concern for your safety but I know that you are a fully grown woman capable of making your own sound decisions. You are doing something most people only dream of and never have the chance to actually do. We, as women, constantly have other people’s judgment placed on us…whether it’s who we date/marry, how we look, what we wear, how we parent our children…the list continues. You know what is right for you. Always trust your better judgment. I look forward to every new post and will continue to read as long as you continue to write. I completely understand if it gets too much for you to keep spilling your life and heart out for the world to view, but will continue to pray for you on your journey. Be safe and happy in your travels.

  12. Jenna,
    I have followed your blog for many years. I found you because I loved your design style and l loved all your tutorials. You have a way with your writing that is clear and easy to understand. Your photography is amazing. I read many, many blogs; however, there are maybe 2 or 3 that I follow and make sure to read every post. Your blog is one of the three or so that I look forward to every day.
    I rarely ever comment on someone’s blog. I know I should do a better job interacting with you because I feel that you have really connected with me. It is crazy sometimes when I think about it because I don’t know you personally but I feel as if I know you. When I read this post, I realized that you need to hear that you are accomplishing the goal you have set out to accomplish (at least with me) – you have connected with me and I am one of those people out there who care about your well being. I do have to say though, your existence DOES have an affect on me. I find myself thinking how I should really step outside my comfort zone so I can experience more of life than what I do. I admire how you could do something like you are doing. Never in a million years could I do something like you are doing. You have so much courage and you are so brave. Wow. Words can’t express how much you amaze me.
    I hope someday you will be able to write a book and use your talent in your photography and story-telling abilities. It would be fantastic and one that I would surely purchase. I also hope that you will continue to share your experiences and find your path on this unbelievable life journey you are on.
    I will continue to pray for your safety and will look forward to each and every blog post. Always remember you are connecting and making a difference.

    1. I completely agree!!! You are my inspiration right now and I can barely wait to read each post!!

  13. Sweet Jenna Sue,
    Well written! Safe travels! Know that your family here loves and supports you. You are amazing and courageous!! I love reading about your adventures good and bad and the photos you share are lovely. Thank you for taking us on the journey with you. Love, Aunt Toni

  14. Jenna you don’t owe anyone anything! I’ve loved reading about your adventures and I admire your boldness in taking on this path less traveled. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. This is your adventure and your life – I’m just glad to get to peek into such an awesome experience. Carry on girl!

  15. “Lasting happiness can only come from within”

    Wow. Couldn’t be a more simple, to the point fact that many (def including myself) quickly overlook in life.

    I love reading all of your posts! You are strong and brave to put time and effort on yourself to find out who you really are. I’m truly fascinated, and embarrassingly jealous.

  16. It never occurred to me that you might receive negative comments on your last post. I’m sorry that you did. I, too, have had concern for your safety but you are obviously an intelligent woman making choices that are the right ones for you.

  17. I think this was a lovely post. I am sorry to hear you have received so much negativity. I think you are going through something amazing and life changing, please don’t allow others’ negativity and passive aggressive comments to discourage this journey. Stay safe and keep soul searching!

  18. I’ll tell you this-I was an occasional reader of your blog before. I don’t even remember how I found it. But after checking in one day and seeing your were embarking on this adventure, I became a regular reader. What you are doing is amazing and I love hearing these stories. I’m sorry that other’s have negative comments but please don’t stop sharing! I am truly inspired by your courage to step into “another world” and live your life right now. You are gaining so much worldly knowledge and that is priceless. So thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to hear about what’s next. And I don’t care if you get on a stranger’s bike 🙂 But be safe and enjoy the time you have to step out there and see the world.

  19. Jenna, I was shocked to go back and read the comments that some people made about your last post. It always saddens me how quick people are to pass judgment (especially on the internet). Like T. Swift says, haters gonna hate. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to read all of those negative comments after you put yourself out there to hopefully inspire others. I, for one, am inspired. I hope you continue to journey and challenge yourself. YOU are the only person who knows what is best for you. Trust that intuition, we have it for a reason. You seem like a strong, introspective, and kind woman, and I love to live vicariously through your posts 🙂

  20. To me it is so sad people who either know nothing about other places and cultures in our world, or presume to be the moral authority of everyone’s life, are the people who have the loudest, most negative voices. Pay them no attention…what so ever! I am so enjoying your chronicles of this amazing journey you are experiencing. Your writing is beautiful and your photos, wow, they bring us to areas of the world we will never see. You are giving us a gift through through your blog. Thank you so very much for sharing this awe inspiring journey with us…

  21. I agree with nicole, above. If you feel like you have to explain, you are still not living this for yourself. I have been following you for a couple of years now and enjoy reading about your adventures. I love travel and immersion into other cultures. Many times my husband and I are embarassed to be known as Americans because we find so many of them rude and narrow-minded. “Rights and entitlement” dont necesarily exist in many parts of the world.
    Anyway, i have a friend that blogs and documents her life, and i often wonder, what is it like for her husband and children to know that their lives are constantly on display. How can you relax and enjoy life if you are writing a story for the world in your head all of the time and every picture taken is with others in mind, and how they will view it? I think this too has become a way of Western life, telling eveyone about our every move. It hasnt brought about more hapiness, only more anxiety. Do you see what i mean?
    Obviously this is a way to connect, and maybe even finance your adventures, but it sounds to me like you could just use some time not worrying about what you are gonna say, or others response. Just live it….maybe LATER, like in a year, reflect and update.
    I can almost guarantee you will experience things differntly if you leave us out of it for awhile!….but i’d miss the pics…what about a link to a photo box where no comments are taken? Hmmmm…

    1. Absolutely agree with this. We’re all so keen to photojournal our lives. While it may be interesting, we do lose a little bit of the moment. Be you without an audience for awhile. Enjoy!

  22. What a beautiful post, Jenna! My English 1A students are reading your I-Search paper from way back when, the one about revving up your car’s engine–and they’re loving it. Maybe I’ll assign your blog for them to read, too, just so they can break beyond their Tuolumne County mindset and touch the world. So please, Jenna, keep on writing and chronicling the outside and inside of your life. Keep on risking.

  23. I am a long-time lurker who doesn’t read comments or leave comments but now I have something to say. It was shocking when you left for Southeast Asia, but as I continued to read, the more I admired your ability to do what it takes to find what it takes to make YOU happy. I have wholeheartedly enjoyed reading about your adventures, ones that I will never take but by taking the time to read you blog, I am living me in an exotic place on the other side of the world during those long minutes while reading. I applaud your courage for sharing the bad as well as the good and said a little prayer of thanks at the end of the last post to learn you were ok. I hope you don’t let strangers making judgmental comments prevent you from continuing to share this marvelous journey that you are on.

    1. EXACTLY THIS!

      What you are doing is truly amazing. It isn’t all perfect and that is life – thanks for sharing and I look forward to posts! 🙂

  24. Dear Jenna
    I think you’re a nice girl, surely full of life and willing to know a lot about yourself, the world, etc. We might be the same age. I’m french and you’re american, but we do share a lot. I loved reading your posts, a little bit “eat pray love” oriented but still. Your vision and sincerity are fresh and nice – I even understand your trying to feel and let things / emotions go through you.
    But you cannot expect people to read your last story and not tell you to stop being an inconsistent traveler…
    From what I understand of your writings, you’re acting as if it was normal to be different in another country (South Asia is different, you have to adapt)- but it’s not right. Men or human beings are the same all around the world, and you still can fall on some bad guy even if you’re the stranger.
    After a few years in Africa, my parents taught me to always be careful and watch my back. After being in Latin America and being caught in a taxi that willfully led me to a wrong path, just because I was a woman and so easy to detect I was a tourist, I recognized the reality of this.
    One of my sister’s friend died in Cambodia 2 years ago – her body was found naked in a river, after having been molested to the worse. It was a nice girl, and she just was unlucky, but so far we still don’t know what has really happened. She went for a walk, and never came back – just to be discovered dead like this. Please don’t try to teach us what reality is in South Asia – the reality is there is poverty, envy towards rich people (which is normal in fact) and that sometimes tourists are walking around as if it was normal to be a tourist in a poor country; or for another examplr, a car accident without a helm is still more lethal than with a helm, wherever you are. A bad encounter on the beach is still the same, whether in Africa or in America…
    I’m surprised that you feel annoyed about the comments you had after writing this story … you should know better, don’t you? It’s soooo normal that people are worried, are angry even because your story seems a little bit unaware of what happened : you met bad people, and it was written on your face that you were just another american girl taking the 3d world to a wolrd dedicated to your own experimentation… it’s not just “another world”, it’s the same you live in, people just talk another language…. and our safety is not something we’ve been “conditionned for”. It’s a luxury – don’t take this for granted. That would be SO not worth it. Be careful, more than that.
    Chloé

    1. Hi Chloé! I’m a bit confused as to what you mean by an inconsistent traveler. I evaluate each situation and take action based on what I believe is right in that moment. Each country, city and day brings a new experience and I’m constantly changing as well so these posts will not remain consistent, that is a guarantee.

      I’m so saddened and horrified to hear about your sister’s friend. That is heartbreaking and terrifying. I’m also sorry for your scary experience in Latin America.

      Many readers have no idea what SE Asia is like, just like I didn’t a few months ago, so I’m doing my best to create an accurate representation from my perspective. Poverty plays a huge part in it, of course, as it does in any nation. Yes, tourists are easy targets. I agree with all of this. My guard is up now more than ever before.

      I wasn’t annoyed at any comments, I appreciate anyone who reads and takes the time to interact. I was simply trying to provide more information and context to clear up some misunderstandings. I am doing my best to communicate in a way will resonate with everyone on some level, which is a heavy task but worth the effort in the end.

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

  25. Wow, so eloquently said, I’m loving every minute of your journey and especially all the details, good and bad. First of all, it’s your life and you go for it. What is the ole saying ” when you’re old you won’t regret the things you did, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do”. So go for the gusto and enjoy your ride, however it comes, yes I feel so connected to you (and no I don’t know you personally), but I feel I do after reading all your posts. It’s a wonderful world out there and believe me I’ve been around it, and it just amazes me how many people have never left their hometowns and have no idea what they’re missing. You’re doing what makes you happy and experiencing things that some people only dream about. My one big concern is that you’ll stop blogging about this experience because of a few negative nellies and all I can say is PLEASE don’t because there are A LOT of us who would miss out on this great adventure you’re on. BE SAFE and keep us updated for sure.

  26. It’s your life and you are choosing to share it with us. Whatever decisions you are making are yours to make. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized judging people is a waste of time. Nothing comes of it and it just makes both parties feel bad. Please continue to share your life with us, I look forward to every new post!!

  27. I really can’t add anything more than what’s been said in the other comments. I do worry about your safety and while I may not make some of the same choices or decisions as you have they are your choices and decisions to make. While I may question it is not my position nor my business to judge someone for their choices. I have read every single post since your announcement to travel and I will continue to do so.

  28. I have loved reading about your journey. Could I do what you are doing, no!! I like the comforts of home. I have no desire to ever leave the country. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone feels like I do. I think the world would be a boring place if everyone was alike. Your pictures and words are something I look forward to reading. How amazing to be able to step out of your comfort zone and venture to places that are as beautiful as the ones you have been. It sounds like you are doing this for you. Don’t let others get to you by their mean words or possibly their jealousy. Deep down inside, a lot of people wish they could be you. Myself included. I give you a lot of credit to leave behind your home and go to the unknown. Life is short. Enjoy your journey. I have to agree with the commenter above. Your book will be amazing. God’s speen Jenna.

  29. Jenna, I look forward to reading your posts and although I’m not physically on this journey with you, your posts make me feel like I’m there. I’ve traveled to many, many countries, but have never had the opportunity to go to Asia. I’ve heard stories from friends and family that have traveled extensively throughout Asia and they echo exactly what you’ve said. It is a different culture and you can either choose to immerse yourself in the culture to get the full experience or try to Americanize it, which defeats the whole purpose. Enjoy your time, trust your gut, open your eyes and take it all in.

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes and it is very fitting to the content of this post, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

  30. Jenna,
    I’ve read your blog from waay back….loved it then….and love it now!!!
    I’m with Nicole….you do not need to answer to anyone.
    This is completely your life experience….and I LOVE reading
    every word of it! I check your blog almost daily hoping you will have a surprise post sooner than the last! =) I would LOVE to read your secret stories too!
    You have such a gift of writing (among many other talents) and
    you need to continue doing what you need to do! You do have many
    who care about the person you are, and admire the fact you are able to
    experience this life journey! Be safe!…..and take it all in!!!
    Lotsa love & best wishes from Texas USA!!!

  31. Jenna,

    You are hurting, and unkindly phrased comments attempting to characterize or criticize your motives had to be salt in the wounds. You don’t have to share with us, and being lambasted for so doing must sting. Badly.

    That said, I do hope you will not throw the baby out with the bathwater….that you will also take all the worried comments sent your way as indicative of the caring of your readership. I was not a commenter, however, from the start of your journey I have been silently concerned for your safety.

    I was born and raised in Africa, the child of expatriate Americans. I understand the allure of the Third World– the elemental beauty that will be an ache in your soul for the rest of your life. I spent twenty years absorbing and loving the smell of cook fires, the unadulterated smiles at simple joys, and unsullied dense jungles and undergrowth.

    BUT, too many times over the years there were also terrible things that happened, thankfully not to me. Sometimes people just being in the wrong place at the wrong time…but often down just to naivete or to not understanding the culture or just being unfamiliar with surroundings. It is always best to travel in groups (and I always was heartened when you formed these), to know something about where you are going, to realize that (just as in the US or any other country), not all people you meet are as innocent as they appear. This applies to fellow travelers as well as local residents. (Don’t know if you know this, but Americans are also encouraged to register that the US Embassy whenever they go into a country, so that someone knows they are there.)

    I know you didn’t ask ANY of us for permission, blessing, or advice! 🙂 Must be teeth-grinding to be inundated with it.

    Anyway, just to encourage you, but also to note that (unlike some of commenters above apparently believe), the concerns of many posters are not issues of xenophobia or narrowness of experience: There are those like myself, with good, long experience of decades immersed in other cultures, who are also concerned. Because life happens. You are rediscovering the beauty of life–I don’t want you to lose yours. 🙂

    Prayers to you. May your journeys be safe and life affirming! All the best.

  32. I check in frequently and can’t wait for your next posts. Keep living! Keep writing! Keep sharing! Only you can go through this journey but I for one certainly appreciate getting a glimpse of it and imagining myself there 🙂 Thanks so much! Be careful!! xoxoxox

  33. Jenna,
    I have been following your blog since you livd in Florida. You are an amazing designer but who knew you are also such an eloquent writer! Each morning, yours is the first blog I click on anxiously waiting for an update to your exciting adventures. Try to ignore the negative nellies as many of us are living vicariously through you! You appear to be staying true to yourself and that’s what is important. Looking forward to your next update. Wishing you exciting adventures and safe travels!

  34. I have really enjoyed reading your posts. You can’t please everyone all the time. Do what you think is best for you at this time. Safe travels 🙂

  35. Hi Jenna
    I have never followed other blogs for long as I get really bored with all the words fast. But I started following yours and I LOVE your pictures, you have a gift and I also love how your stories take me their by visualization. This is an amazing journey you are on so enjoy it! Please do not sensor your stories either! Great work!

  36. Jenna,
    Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. As you are doing that you are intimately connected to your true self. And from there, as I think you know, you are so right to go with your gut. No matter what happens it is never going to steer you wrong. Keep living in the moment and you will definitely continue to experience the best, most blissful moments and they will build upon each other! The one thing I know that has no limits is experience. Enjoy!
    Denise

  37. As a mother of 3 grown travelust children, I love reading your blog. You are a very gifted writer, photographer and one smart cookie! Imagine how your decorating style will be affected from your journey… It changes our whole color palate of life.
    There’s no safe place in the world – especially here in the US. People forget that :/ Enjoy your travels lil lady!!!!!

  38. Jenna, I am sorry to hear that anyone was critical and unkind. This is your life and you get to experience it the way you want too. I have so enjoyed reading all about your journey and seeing the pictures your share. Living in the now is always the best and you seem to be doing an excellent job! It is inspiring and very unselfish of you to share everything with us. I am anxious to for you to continue…..keep going and writing and sharing! looking forward to your next post!

  39. Lovely pictures, lovely writing and I love the journey you are taking us on with you…don’t let people with negative comments ruin it for the rest of us who are enjoying the ride half way around the world and rooting you on. I check everyday for a new post/pictures because I feel as though I am learning from it too. Keep up the good work and safe travels…
    Marilyn

  40. I have been following your journey and many times I have wanted to comment, but have not. As you stated, as a blogger, you know that comments are a part of it and the those who feel the need to criticize your behavior need to learn to be more respectful. If don’t like what you have to say should just move along and keep their opinions to themselves. But everyone is a critic. I’m glad you aren’t going to let them stop you from sharing your experiences. You are so much braver than I am Jenna and I only want to wish you a safe journey. Please keep sharing! I have never had any desire to travel to that part of the country, but your pictures and shared stories have changed my mind. I don’t know if I could stay in a hostel in some of the conditions you are describing, I’m a little too old and spoiled for that, but I would love to see the world you are sharing with us.

  41. Gosh I am in awe of what you are doing !! So sorry to hear you had negative comments. I have been reading your travel experiences and they are wonderfully documented, so honest and so interesting. You go girl !

  42. Jenna, I originally began following your blog to read about your renovations and I admit I didn’t always check your posts but when you began blogging about your journeys you got my full attention! For one, I’ll probably never see those amazing places in real life. However, I feel I’ve gotten the next best thing through your photography and narration. People who judge, are negative usually do so because deep down there’s something lacking whether that be in their life, their person…I only know that whatever you’re going through, you’ve so kindly and freely chosen to share and as a reader, I thank you for your honest, open experiences. May your universe be good to you?

  43. I have been following your blog for quite a while and while I loved your decorating posts, I have loved reading about your journey even more. I don’t normally post comments or even read them but I wanted to let you know that I think you are very brave to share all of this with us. Thank you.

  44. Jenna Sue, you are amazing. I have only commented once before, but felt compelled to today after reading this post. Keep on doing what you feel is right, and live your life with authenticity. You’re so right, South East Asia is a different world to many people’s conventional upbringings – but if you don’t live in the moment and immerse yourself in the culture, you’re not really experiencing all you can. Some people are not comfortable with that, and that’s okay, because they have their own lives to live, and they can live it how they like. So can you. I look forward to each and every post, and I hope you’ll be posting for many years to come – whether it be about travels, life’s insights or interiors – it’s all good! Stay true x

  45. Dont feel like you have to explain, or you are still not living this for yourself. I have been following you for a couple of years now and enjoy reading about your adventures. I love travel and immersion into other cultures. Many times my husband and I are embarassed to be known as Americans because we find so many of them rude and narrow-minded. “Rights and entitlement” dont necesarily exist in many parts of the world.
    Anyway, i have a friend that blogs and documents her life, and i often wonder, what is it like for her husband and children to know that their lives are constantly on display. How can you relax and enjoy life if you are writing a story for the world in your head all of the time and every picture taken is with others in mind, and how they will view it? I think this too has become a way of Western life, telling eveyone about our every move. It hasnt brought about more hapiness, only more anxiety. Do you see what i mean?
    Obviously this is a way to connect, and maybe even finance your adventures, but it sounds to me like you could just use some time not worrying about what you are gonna say, or others response. Just live it….maybe LATER, like in a year, reflect and update.
    I can almost guarantee you will experience things differntly if you leave us out of it for awhile!….but i’d miss the pics…what about a link to a photo box where no comments are taken? Hmmmm…

    Stay safe!

    1. Hi Michelle! It’s not about feeling the need to explain myself, it’s about wanting to make sure my thoughts are expressed and understood as intended by everyone reading. I am still living for myself, 100%, that won’t change whether I blog or not. You bring up an excellent point about writing a story for the world and not yourself, knowing others are reading and judging. I do not worry about what others will say, only that my message will be misunderstood. It’s hard to say how my journey would be influenced if I knew no one else was watching, however I feel like it’s actually impacted it for the better, if anything. I put myself out there more, dig a little deeper and aim for a more thorough understanding, so that I can share with others and be a positive influence… rather than living solely for myself, knowing I wouldn’t have to be held accountable for anything. To be honest, wen I was blogging about DIY/decorating, there were some moments of anxiety and it wasn’t always fun. But sharing my experiences here… I don’t feel that for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’m writing about what I’m truly passionate about and know to be true, so the judgment doesn’t affect me. Whew, that was a long winded explanation. Thank you for raising those points 🙂

  46. I would just add that the world benefits from those with open minds. As a curious person, I applaud your determination to experience life outside of a tidy perimeter. Wishing you continued health, safety and adventure!

  47. I’ve been ill for a long, long time. Unable to go on even a short errand some days. Your photos and the spirit of your journey is such a treat for me. For so many of us! This afternoon I woke from a nap & thought “I bet there is a new post from Jenna today” so I came as fast as I could to see! And there you are!! With more stunning photos and a continuing story that has captivated us. Your superior photography skills and enchanting dialog is your gift to us. While you are experiencing the amazing world out there we are coming along with you and it is so exciting to see these stunning photos and read your stories. I can’t wait for the next installment. You are a smart, capable young woman living her life the best way for YOU! When you are an old woman like me you will be so glad you did!!!!

    1. That means a lot, Jan. I’m so sorry to hear of your illness and I’m glad I can bring joy to your life in some form. A happy and positive mindset carries over into our physical health so I hope you can keep your spirits high and it can be healing for you in some way. Thank you for taking the time to comment <3

  48. I absolutely love your blog and look forward to every single post. You have a way with words that makes me feel like I’m going on this journey with you. Keep the blog posts coming and stay safe!

  49. I’m really enjoying reading about your travels! Perhaps it’s because i’ve traveled in the Middle East and Africa myself, but i can’t understand why anyone would be criticizing you. Your writing is refreshing and thought-provoking. And the photos — wow! Amazing!!!

  50. I love reading about your adventure as I am sure it’s one I’ll never have. I admire your courage to embrace a different culture so freely. I’m not a huge risk taker, but I’ve had my own kind of adventures. I think I’d love to read your book someday so I could live everything you have if only in my mind! Stay safe and keep sharing!

  51. Jenna,
    I’m saddened to think you are hearing from people that feel it’s their right to criticize or lecture. This is your voyage and I am so impressed with your ability to choose to follow the path you feel is most important for your life for now. I am so happy you are sharing this journey and I love the images and words you’ve shared with us.
    I hope you will continue to share and I feel confident you are a smart woman who can take care of yourself. I wish you safe travels and continued growth from your experiences.
    xo,
    Karen

  52. I’m so proud of you and support you all the way!! Love watching it all unfold and I am loving these posts more than anything. They are real and from the heart and inspiring. Higher vibes and level of consciousness. I love it!!!!

  53. I was surprised by this post, I had to go back to the last one to find out what made anyone cmoment negatively. I feel like any one of us can find ourselves in a bad/scary situation HERE in the US and for them to judge you and make comments about going to bars or the beach late at night is ridiculous , uh I have done that myself, here in Socal! My husband’s brother has traveled all over Asia and as a result has very good friends all over! Our daily lives here are work, eat, sleep, repeat. I for one barely know any of my neighbors and my natural instinct in daily life is to put my head down and avoid eye contact with people. Sad! You are experiencing a life most of us won’t get to ever experience for various reasons be it lack of funds, or just fear of new and unknown things. I have totally enjoyed all of your stories and think you are a pretty intelligent person and a grown woman and know what’s best for yourself. Your stories have started to push me out of my own shell….little by little I am doing things I never thought about doing and are enjoying them. Life can be short, why live it being a judgmental twit? Enjoy, experience and find what makes you happy. Thanks for sharing it! Xo!

  54. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us.
    Your travel blogging breathes new life into this wanderlust smitten heart if mine!

    Just, thank you!

  55. Jenna – I appreciate your post but you don’t need to defend yourself or any of the decisions you make. This is your journey and yours alone. If people don’t like it, I wish they would not read the blog then you know? Of course I pray for your safety but you are a grown woman and I choose to believe you make good decisions based on your circumstances. Who the heck am I to judge you? I pray this journey is what you need because it’s your journey, not ours. I will continue to read and learn – thank you for sharing.

  56. As someone who grew up in a 3rd world country, but is from the US – it’s so nice to read about someone wanting to learn from a culture other than our own. there is so much out there in the world. we only get to experience such a small part. also as someone who is recently divorced, i applaud you for following your gut! God bless you! Be careful. Have fun. :-0

  57. Like many of the posters above, I found your blog via design links. I enjoyed them and loved your work. But I did not truly become a follower until you left the country. I now eagerly await your posts. I read with excitement, disgust, delight, distaste…you name it, I think it. And THAT is what makes your blog so amazing! I see what you see and feel the emotions in your words. It goes without saying that I am in AWE of your photographic abilities. It’s a gift you have-the ability to utterly draw people in to your world. You “write ” a good picture Would I do what you do? Never. Would I worry if your were my daughter. Absolutely. Should that matter. NOT AT ALL. Go do your thing and continue to post using your God given talents!

  58. Jenna-

    I am sorry, I had to comment.

    I AM SO CONFUSED!! I never in a million years could have guessed this is what your post what going to be about. I can’t even wrap my head around people having such a visceral reaction to your last post. HUH?! WHAT?! You are on an adventure!! This is YOUR journey! How dare anyone have an expectation of how you should behave or what you should do. AND WHO IS THE PSYCHO TRACKING YOUR POST FREQUENCY AND PICTURE SUBJECT?!?!

    Sweetheart, I come here with fresh eyes, just like I imagine you do every morning these days. I just like to hear how you are doing and see what you have captured through your lens. (And of course to know you are alive.) There is just a purity to your posts these days. I hope you are finding healing and inspiration daily.

    Much love.

  59. I’ve followed little snippets of your journey, missed the hoopla about the last one, but simply wanted to chime in about how much I love Cambodia. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling and none of the places quite captured my heart like Cambodia. Enjoy it extra for me as I’m sitting at my office desk!
    You’re so right about the motorbikes too. Just a way of life. I’ve seen a family of 5 on one and another one carrying three adults with one HOLDING AN I.V. BAG for the guy in the middle. Completely different pace of life and standards, but life nonetheless.

  60. Dear Jenna,
    If you are ever in a situation that needs assistance beyond your own ability, please remember that the power of prayer really works. I know this is true and Grandma Louise knows this is true. I am glad to hear that you are going with your gut feeling.
    Many times that gut feeling is the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit.
    So many people are enjoying your writing…….and wow there is even more you cannot write—how intriguing!!
    I pray for your continued enjoyment and safty.
    Love you Sweet Girl.
    Aunt Janet

  61. I’m sorry that there are a few that have to be judgmental and think they know how people should live their lives. Blogland can get bizarre. When YHL decided to quit their blog, who could blame them? They had some harsh criticism, and they decided it was time to end it. MOST of us who commented only expressed sincere concern for your safety and to be cautious because we like you and have enjoyed following along. We didn’t want anything to happen to our Jenna Sue!! So please don’t let a few spoil the adventure for the rest of us. Believe me, there were days in my past where I partied too hard and didn’t always make the best choices. You had a few scary incidents and learned from them. You weren’t being an over-the-top party animal, you were just having a good time. And most of the time, you had a friend who was with you when problems did arise. So try to shake it off and move forward. I haven’t been to that many places, so I am learning about cultures and experiences that I find interesting and that will probably not happen in my lifetime. We all grow and develop in different ways. That’s a good thing in my eyes. How wonderful that we have the freedom to do so. Keep taking those amazing pictures and telling us your story! Take care, continue to live in a way that enriches your spirit, and bring us along for the ride!!

  62. I have never commented before on your blog, but I have been following you for quite some time and have loved every post. However, in full disclosure, I was bummed when your blog and life took a different turn and I had to adjust to not seeing your beautiful home and projects anymore. And doesn’t that sound ridiculous? I was more focused on the superficial and ignoring the possibility that you had a voice for real issues and struggles that had been there all along. Frankly, I look forward to reading about your adventures and mishaps in Southeast Asia, it is so refreshing that you are honest, candid and vulnerable in your writing, when so many others have a voice, but just not an authentic one. I am sure that the negativity doesn’t just roll off your shoulders easily, however “the strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.”

  63. So to sum it up, what everybody is saying is when we read about her knowingly and willfully putting herself in danger for the sake of truly experiencing the culture, we should NOT say anything if it will be considered negative, and we need to stop being judgemental, jealous, and ridiculous Americans, because she’s a grown woman on an adventure of a lifetime, and we should just wait and see if she posts another installment to let us know she survived? Duly noted! Did I miss anything?

    1. You got it, Lynne If you dont have have anything nice to say don’t say it all. Responding negatively after you know she is safe, and she’s reflecting on her decisions and situation, provides no value. This is her journey and if you don’t like her decisions, carry on.

  64. Hi Jenna!
    I thought, in the midst of some of the negative comments on your last post, that you might like to know I just discovered your blog. I happened to jump on as you were posting the boys room makeover, which was like 4 posts before you let the world in on the shift in your personal life and your plan to travel to SEA. Ever since your first post in Thailand I have found myself anticipating your next journal entry. Your photos are beautiful and the details you provide throughout your journey have been eye-opening. My husband and I enjoy traveling and pushing the limits. We went to Istanbul on our honeymoon and everyone around us thought we were crazy. I’ve always found the most real travel advice through trip-advisor forums and travel blogs. What’s crazy is that you totally put a bug in my ear and I started dropping some hints to my husband that I think our next trip should be to SEA. I mentioned to him that I was enjoying your posts and suggested he read a few. A couple mornings later (about a month ago) he woke me up and announced that he had booked us a roundtrip flight into Bangkok and out of Siem Reap. I really wanted you to know that it’s because of your posts. So please don’t stop. I haven’t been reading long enough to feel like I know you personally, but I can say that through your posts I feel like I’m there with you. Our lives are by no means parallel, but I have some obstacles that I’m struggling to overcome and I truly feel that I rely too much on my comfort zone. I thrive when I travel because I push my personal limits. It’s invigorating and while sometimes dangerous, my husband constantly reminds me that I can’t live my life missing out on adventure in fear of the unknown. I go into new situations with an open-mind but I know myself, and that guard isn’t going anywhere. It’s just a matter of trust in yourself. So thank you for writing so eloquently and letting the rest of the world in on your adventure, the ups and the downs. Too many bloggers just portray a fru-fru life of ice cream cones and kids in pumpkin patches. Your journey inspired us. We’re leaving for Thailand in three weeks (Nov 10th) and we’ll be in Cambodia for the second half of our trip and now that you’re there , I need to hear more! Please keep writing 🙂

    1. Ahhh I love this story! So glad I could be the catalyst for that trip and major props to him for taking initiative to just book it! You’ll absolutely love it here, and I hope it is life changing for you in all the right ways. I’ll be in Siem Reap next week and then back to Bangkok. I hope you can experience some of the same things I have while here… I think it will all start to make sense. Safe travels!

  65. You seem like a smart and capable woman – yes you were probably in danger but your quick actions and abilities got you out of it, that’s the important part. There’s danger everywhere, even in the U.S. , and predicting it is not a luxury anyone is offered. We are sheltered here in America, and I think it’s a hard thing for most people to fathom that in third world countries, you simply need to be quicker on your feet. I found this out too going to Nicaragua and not staying on the resorts. Yes, you are more of a target being both non-native and a woman, but trusting your instincts and physical strength is all anyone can do to survive no matter where you are.

    Also, the prints looked amazing at my wedding and they added that special touch! Thanks so much. I’m hanging them up in our bedroom as a reminder of our wedding day.

    Cheers!

  66. I find this post both intriguing and somewhat annoying. I’ve been following your posts so far because I am a travel junkie and you take beautiful photos. I am the same age as you and have traveled extensively in my life, to the same areas you’re currently in, plus others in different parts of the world. I’ve spent time in third world countries since I was a child. I like to travel off the beaten path as well.

    The intriguing part is how you mention there were “harsh comments” left on the last post. I went over to see what kinds of things people were saying and didn’t see much of anything that I’d personally describe as “harsh”. They all mostly just expressed concern over your well being. What’s harsh about that? Just the idea that people are judging your decisions when they’re not in your shoes? I can understand feeling aggravated that people are worrying when you feel you’re safe. But why not just let it roll of your back instead of ranting? They’re different people, they’re not in your shoes, so who cares? Just appreciate that people care.

    The annoying part is your verbose proclamation here that radiates an attitude of how worldly and culturally open you are now that you’ve finally been exposed to life outside the U.S., which all those “harsh” commenters couldn’t possibly relate to because they likely only travel in their own safety net. I realize this is how a lot of Americans actually do travel – closed off and safely within the comfort zone of their resort, but some of the comments actually came from people with experience who were well-traveled.

    It seems like this is your first real exposure to life outside the US. It’s awesome that you’re making an effort to be open and step outside your comfort zone. To me, you come across as kind of naive. “I want to go beyond the surface and assimilate into new cultures, learn from them, live how they live and feel what they feel. To actually understand them” – really? You think you can do this by flitting through town after town, all the while partying in bars with your backpacking band? Think again. You’re experiencing blissful happiness on this unfamiliar journey? Of course you are, you’re on an extended vacation having non-stop new experiences! Get over yourself and your overthinking and just enjoy it lol.

    As far as safety goes, being open to different experiences and trusting your intuition is good, but so is using common sense.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. To clarify on the harsh comments statement, I was referring more to the way things were worded rather than the sentiment behind it. Some were just a bit unnecessary I thought. But I do understand people’s concern, especially when they weren’t there and could only judge based on what was written. It makes sense.

      Re: your third paragraph, I wasn’t making that connection or speaking directly to those commenters. I don’t know their personal experiences, nor anyone who comments here for that matter. I apologize if it came off that way.

      I realize I’m moving through places quickly and can only learn and do so much within that time. Understanding new cultures is not the only reason I’m here, I fully admit that. I’m just taking any opportunity I can while also living for myself and doing what makes me happy. It’s a balancing act, and I’m doing the best I can.

      You’re right on about the blissful happiness stemming from new experiences… It scares me to think of what will happen when I’m back home and this is all just a memory. I hope I can take at least some part of this feeling with me and hold onto it. Otherwise I guess I’m stuck traveling forever 🙂 but that’s a new post for another time…

  67. Thanks for your reply and for elaborating on those points. On your last point – that’s the inherent pitfall of travel! It’s addictive for sure!!

    As well, I read your follow up to this post and just wanted to say that, as a reader, it’s refreshing to read about your resolve to being open-minded to criticism and not being defensive. I’m not a blogger, but I can imagine anonymous criticism can be difficult. However, I see this all the time on blogs – the blogger doesn’t agree with a comment, so the commenter is a “hater” and their remarks are dismissed, no matter how valid or constructive they might be. Not something I enjoy seeing as a reader, so kudos to you for acknowledging the issue and wanting to dispel it!

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