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In Thailand, In Cambodia

The past six weeks have blown by! Back in the bustle of Bangkok, we are flipping through the photos in our memory-packed cameras, sorting through our backpacks to find the last clean T-shirt (or at least the one that smells the least) and communicating strictly through the use of looks and inside jokes. Over the last six weeks, 42 days exactly, we have been all over Thailand and Cambodia!

We explored the streets and markets in the mayhem of Bangkok. Spent a week living in a remote bamboo world with the Lahu tribes. We built a house and sacrificed a pig. We tried our hand at Thai massages and in the kitchen attempting to make spring rolls and curry. We chatted with monks, learned about Buddhism and walked silently around beautiful temples. Suffered through long bus rides, sun burns and upset stomachs. Explored the ancient ruins of the infamous Angkor Wat and learned about the genocide during the Pol Pot years through a visit to the killing fields and the S21 Prison. We threw a massive boat party on the Mekong, with a spoken word session and a breakdancing circle with our new friends at Tiny Toones. Cycling around the Mekong island with visits to silk factories, we’ve seen many sides of Cambodia. We spent a lot of time in the dumpling house and then made our way up to the dwindling jungles of Mondulkiri. We visited coffee and rubber plantations, waterfalls and local villages. Last but not least, elephants!!!

It’s gone by fast.

So what did we learn? We dared our participants to sum it all up in one line. Here’s what they came up with:

A great experience. Learned a lot about the culture and the history.”

“How to be a better traveler. I actually felt engaged with where we were and what we were doing.”

“A wicked balance between a party and a learning experience.”

“Showed me how similar we are, instead of focusing on the differences.”

“Learned a lot about a different world, but even more about myself.”

“I don’t have a one liner for this! I can’t sum it up in one line!

That’s the most important thing to remember.  An experience can’t be substituted for anything else.  You’ll try to describe it with a single sentence, an album of photographs, an incredibly engaging, hilarious story from your travels, or maybe an ongoing blog telling everyone what you’ve been up to for six weeks (Oops, caught us!) but nothing compares.  It will never be the same as the experience itself because you’ve got to come here and try it for yourself!  Over the past six weeks we haven’t traveled through these countries, we’ve experienced them.  Building a house or water tank, working with street kids, or feeding and bathing elephants, we’ve done it all and more.

So… what did we learn?

We’ve learned that we can break outside the boxes we live in and that sometimes change is slow, but staying positive is the only way to face a negative situation. There is no doubt that a little support can go a long way and that doing is much better than showing or telling. Perhaps most importantly, we learned that being friends is much better than being partners. And, above all, we learned that nothing can quite capture an experience than experiencing it first hand.

We come here with notions of changing the world, but more often than not, we end up changing ourselves. This is a step in the right direction.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best…

“We must be the change we want to see in the world.”

This summer, we did exactly that.

I challenge you to do the same.

Until next summer,
SEA Eco Crew

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