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.
Letting 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Goodnight from Cambodia,