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Far From Generic: Southeast Asia OG-Style

Written by Amanda Martin and Samnang Pak, 2014 Southeast Asia: Cities & Sanctuaries Program Leaders.

We’re back in Bangkok and the gang’s all here, except for Marie, who has continued her travels in southern Thailand and is now a bad ass scuba-diver. They have survived Independent Travel Time as they wandered around the islands and mountains, bargained for transit, and explored street food of their own volition! Our mighty crew also discovered how kick ass they are and that NOBODY has travelled Cambodia like them. The past six weeks flew by! It’s shocking how quickly the weeks pass, while simultaneously feeling like we’ve been traveling together forever. Time runs at a different pace for the traveller. Now, sadly, it’s time to part ways.

Six weeks ago, we met as strangers in Bangkok, Thailand. We learned about the elephant-pant uniforms of the backpackers in Southeast Asia and how to behave around monks. We learned not to fear street food and that penicillin can kill all forms of bacterial infections. We built a waste management site and new sinks for a primary school. We explored Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 6.27.29 PMancient ruins reclaimed by the jungle and those possessed by tour groups. We planted over 300 trees, befriended cows, and had campfires with the community forestry police. We learnt about genocide, the Khmer Rouge, and the legacy of land mines they left behind. We met with permaculture farmers reclaiming the lands and bee farmers who fed us fresh honey comb. We learned how to embrace the monsoon rains, allowing them to only dampen all of our belongings, but not our spirits. Lastly, we spent several amazing days on the beach with thirteen amazing kids from Tiny Toones! They love you and hope to “weet” you again.

Many tourists come to Southeast Asia every year, but very few get an opportunity to connect with the local community and people the way we did these past few weeks. It’s true that air con and a pizza are amazing. It’s also amazing to meet other backpackers from all over the world at different bars and guesthouses that look and feel like home, but serve Angkor or Chang Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 6.28.44 PMbeer for 50 cents. But it is nowhere near as epic as sharing in the first time a child sees the ocean or learns to plant a tree. Or jumping into the back of a tractor to try harvesting rice. Experiencing a country, while playing a role in making it a more beautiful place by simply traveling mindfully makes it more than a vacation, but rather a lifestyle.

These last couple of weeks have been far from the “generic” backpacker experience. Mission accomplished.

Stay golden. Stand tall. Push your boundaries. Keep laughing. Clean your sinks. Develop your hidden talents. Eat lots of watermelon! And when the world gives you dead jelly fish, make a disco light!

We will miss all of you. You always have a home in Cambodia!
All our love,
Mob Mom and #suckitsamnang

P.S. Apologies to Nina’s family for recruiting her to the amazing country of Cambodia to teach young minds. It’s just the beginning! Not only for Nina, but for all of you! Good luck in whatever your next step will be.

what are you waiting for?