I remember the first weekend I arrived in Cambodia. My director Arun picked me up from the airport with a little white flower wreath in hand. Getting into the car, I remember thinking to myself, this is my first leap of faith into the unknown. For all I knew, Arun could have been kidnapped by all the crazy people I was warned about and this man with a sign saying, ‘Kayla Bradley’, could have been my death sentence. As we started to converse it became prevalent that there was no wool being pulled over my eyes, and yes this was the legendary Arun who proudly told me about his nine adopted children. As we drove towards the center of the city I stared out the window blindly in awe not having a clue how I ended up there or how mountains turned into temples with dragon heads. Suddenly we stopped, I was let into the guest house, and just like that I was left alone. A huge wave of emotion circled its way into my limbs, my toes, up to my ears, and tried to press through my eyes. I resisted having known prior to my departure that this was going to be one of the realest moments. You see I had made a choice. I knew I came for a purpose, that I in no way wanted to go back home, and so I prepared myself with a plan. I started making it home, I unpacked my assortment of pictures, put on music to ease my mind, and believe it or not went to sleep. It didn’t last long, the moment I saw daylight fluttering I had to know what 7,000 miles away from home looked like. I passed concrete lots filled with men loading their wagons full of coconuts. Women behind plastic wheeling carts, their faces encompassed with steam from their skillets. Little kids running around pantless. Shacks of people squeezed together watching a 6x6 T.V screen. I decided that breakfast would be a good goal, and with my mom’s advice in mind I searched for a place that looked relatively populated. I chose restaurant 294 with a group of old men sharing cigarettes and iced coffees. Relieved to sit down, I pulled out my journal and started documenting my first senses.
About five weeks down now, and I barely think twice before leaving the doors of my ‘Golden tour guest house’. All the stimulus that once overwhelmed me, is now very familiar. The people at my village who I could barely understand through their accents I have delightful in depth conversations with. The tuk-tuk drivers who’s prescence on the street once intimidated me now I cant imagine this place without them. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am amazed to find out how adaptable we are as human beings. I thought that it was going to be so hard to live this life outside of my comfort zone, but what I have come to find is a deeper understanding of an inept drive that continues people to challenge themselves to find more. It is like rock climbing, you start off looking at some man made wall that seems unmanageable and before you know it, your footing is easy. Soon your off seeking more wall, and you find yourself dangling thousands of feet in the air . It is the same with traveling. I started with my parents (bless them) learning the ropes of communication, transportation, cultural respect. Then I did a study abroad venturing from home without my family for the first time. And now I am here in Cambodia feeling like I want this place to challenge me more. For once it makes sense to me why people travel deep into the jungle where there are scary snakes that can eat you. Or try and hike to the top of Everest even though so many people die. Because once something becomes familiar there is no other choice then to see just how capable you are. To continue to get that taste for difference, to keep taking new steps. Maybe its just curiousity, but I also think it becomes a passion and a dream. I have about a month and a half left in Phnom Penh working at Sovann Komar. Although my surroundings are now familiar, Im still up to a daily challenge in making a difference in these kids lives. See, for me there is a huge difference between professional growth and personal growth. On professional level I could stay in Phnom Penh forever learning and helping, but on a personal level I think I have redefined the saying ‘catching the travel bug’. I guess now my best option is to find the happy medium, and that is not a bad place to be either. Until next time loved ones…. may you all be finding your own happy medium :)