Travel can be defined as a long journey, moving from place to place,
exploring, escaping, sightseeing, backpacking, etc..
In fact, travel can go deeper.
No matter where we go in the world, purpose, service, empowerment and mindfulness
innately sit at our feet, waiting to be taken above and beyond any adventure.
Deeper than our most anticipated destination lies our inner compass :
our guidance, our How-To and our consciousness to make our travels
as beneficial and rewarding as possible.
It's that first step of taking a risk to get out of our comfort and give back to the discomfort.
With an activated compass and an open-willing heart to give and receive, travel becomes our pencil for life's most special,
self-written handbook. After all, the essential gifts of life are always received while giving.
And the greatest thing is . . . it really is as easy as it sounds.
DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
Several weeks of high-speed city life and a heavy heart eventually called for peace.
Apart from living with other expats working abroad and having a community to go home to every night, much needed tranquility was restored at Krama Yoga. During my time off, I was free to explore the city and immerse myself more into the culture.
Riding a tuk-tuk is the safest way to get around, while motorcycle taxis are definitely the way to go if in a hurry or during rush hour. Luckily, the central area of the city isn't too big; however, most drivers don't know where they're taking you (unless you show them a map.) With that being said, expect to get lost. This creates space to turn frustration around and appreciate it for what it foreignly is.
Much of Cambodia's cultural identity was once rooted with Buddhist traditions and practices.
Unfortunately, once the Khmer Rouge took over, all forms of religion and civil society became outlawed. Monks were sentenced to death, and Wats and Pagodas were destroyed. A special, yet intense, day at The Killing Fields powerfully ensures the reality of which you're experiencing, while expanding your compassion for the re-awakened Khmer culture.
Despite the tragedies freshly engrained in their lives, many monuments are being reconstructed,
offering a sense of spirituality and hope reborn in Cambodia.
Suddenly a grounding sensation lead me into the presence of the moment.
To simply be, breathe and accept every mind-running thought for what it truly is.
A self-observation, interconnection between mind and body, Vipassana meditation at Wat Langka let my breath be my home.
I was greeted by a monk's gentle voice, briefly telling me the process of Vipassana. I took my shoes off, sat on a pre-arranged cushion on the floor and found myself embracing the solitude keeping me company for six months of journeying alone.
Food was another hit.
With an abundance of restaurants around Riverside and the Arts district, these two became my weekly spots:
Friends, my go-to for mouthwatering shakes, Asian tapas and wonderful ambiance. Many afternoons were also spent enjoying a good read, fresh food and baked goods on Daughters' lovely balcony. Both places employ former street youth, giving them a head start in the hospitality industry. Indulging on delicious eats while supporting a great cause.. talk about a sweet deal!
Weekends away from the city were a nice bonus after a long week.
Once Friday afternoon rolled around, it was likely we'd be en route to an adventure. Booking a seat for an overnight bus
to Siem Reap was a must - and man was it a bumpy, wild and sleepless ride. It was all worth it after waking up at 4am,
driving through forests into Angkor Wat and witnessing the sun appear over the ancient ruins.
Simply as magical as the view above the highest climb to the top. But don't forget your scarf or sarong!
In order to enter, most archaeological sites require appropriate attire in respect to their history. Khmer Empire's devotion for oriental art and architecture is evident in every detail and archetypal symbol carved into stone.
"Art is not work. It's our way of life. It's what we were raised to speak." Nothing made me happier to hear while admiring a young local boy painting the faces of Bayon. Alongside exploring the temples of Angkor and encountering my first monkey selfie,
we embraced the impactful Kompong Phluck floating village, ate fresh-caught crocodile,
and supported an awesome acrobatic show at Phare Cambodian Circus.
After four weeks of being away from the Pacific Ocean, it was time I reunited with the waves.
Luckily, I had a relatively easy escape route to the coast. One bumpy, 4-hour bus ride and too many stops later,
I arrived to Sihanoukville, a beach town along the Gulf of Thailand. Sadly, it's become a tourist trap, polluting the streets and beaches with rowdy days and nights. However, about 20 minutes South from Sihanoukville lies a hidden gem called Otres 2 Beach.
Surrounded by white sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets, you're guaranteed to stay at one of many charming beach accommodations and beach bum in complete peace. Otres Market on a Saturday night is the place to be. Where friends, strangers, artists and musicians from all over the world come together to connect, dance and have a lovely night.
What do you get when you put seven girlfriends on an 8-hour bus ride to the
Northern jungles of Cambodia? An epic and hysterical adventure.
The moment we were told about this incredible home-stay - waterfall trek adventure deep in the wilderness, we were sold.
Upon arriving to Mondulkiri, we dove straight into exploring and enjoyed a refreshing cool-off at the majestic Bou Sra waterfall. All smiles here! Our host then drove us through remote hut villages, arriving to his home in the middle of nowhere. His family of three warmly welcomed us with a home cooked dinner in the only room they had, their bedroom.
Once filled with appreciation, and various noodle dishes, we were ready to venture off into our "secluded sleep", as he would say.
Little did we know, "secluded sleep" meant walking a mile in the dark with all of our belongings to a vast land of nothing, where we pitched home in a lonely, wooden bungalow.
Waking up almost felt like a dream after freezing our bums off, then going outside and breathing in the beauty of the golden land. So off into the jungle we went - sleeping in hammocks under the full moon, no where to shower, just waterfall swimming and living off the sounds of nature felt just like home.
Cambodia's old capital, Oudong, is located in the ancient foothills North of Phnom Penh.
A very popular pilgrimage site for Khmers made for a unique day spent embracing their culture. Upon climbing to the
top of the mountain to reach the Pagodas, we were accompanied by young boys offering to cool us off with cardboard fans. Naturally, they asked for a dollar or two in exchange. Instead we bought them each a sugar cane drink. Works every time!
The mountain top Pagodas there are sacred and beautifully maintained, offering ancient history and panoramic views of the lush surroundings. After hammocking and enjoying an interesting fish and frog meal, we made our way to Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center. Here rested so much harmony and transformation.
Alongside Buddhas and monks, we were blessed and fortunate to have been touched by the holiness of Cambodia.
The holiness beaming from the roots of past tragedies and the power of now.
Well, the day had come..
The day I left the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, rode a bus for five hours and sailed the sea for two.. landing in a far away island named Koh Rong Samleom. Small, wooden boats swayed over turquoise waters as the tiny village became visible from afar.
It all seemed too dreamy. Once arriving to the only dock, and being welcomed by a local islander taking my shoes off, it certainly felt like a dream. My love for simplicity exploded as I walked through the dock, passing one convenient store, one restaurant and one home,
all built from wood and run by one family.
I easily felt their happiness.
A 5-minute walk through the village towards a jagged bridge lead me to my new home.
Eight bungalows and one main gazebo looking out into the ocean laid in front of my eyes, while hugs and hello's were received as everyone was finishing their last dive of the day.
Due to Cambodia's waterways being their main source of food, trade routes and livelihood for local fishing communities, drastic measures are forced to meet their needs. As the country grows, so does the destruction of marine life.
Unfortunately, the government doesn't have the resources to fund or enforce, putting Cambodia's rich marine habitats, resources and diverse species at major risk. Seahorses were once an abundant species in Cambodia until Asia discovered their magical
and medicinal qualities. These sensitive creatures are currently in risk of exploitation and extinction.
So, this is where we come in.
Three weeks of diving to research and survey seahorses? Yes please.
Thanks to Marine Conservation Cambodia, their mission makes others' possible to accomplish.
Waking up to roosters singing, morning light shining through bungalow wood and crashing wave-songs made for relaxing mornings.
I spent the first week on course for my diving certification, as well as studying the biology and behavior of the underwater world. Seahorses require thorough understanding for the threats they face, resulting in hours of research and exams. Five-year-old me always dreamed of being a marine biologist, or better yet a dolphin trainer, so you could say this was a slice of paradise. Depending on the assignments, we dove two or three times a day and sometimes snuck in a specialty navigation dive or magical night dives.
Breathing through the centers of my body naturally became a sixth sense.
Breathing balances every inch of ourselves, as well as challenges inner strengths in fighting strong currents and new depths.
It's easy to be so involved with our daily rhythms, that we sometimes forget to disconnect. The same passion which
diligently drives you, is the same energy available to reconnect with your stillness.
Feeling the Earth below and blessings within, reconnecting felt simple.
Free time on the island consisted of beach bumming, indulging on Ram Dass reads, swimming though coral reefs to the edge of the island, hammock naps, painting, writing, collecting trash, advocating a cleaner environment, and simply being.
Island life is about as simple as it gets.
Daily walks to the fruit stand and pancake lady occurred in between dives, while Thursday nights were filled with music and dancing at the only bar in the village. Nightly community dinners and weekly bonfires were organized before night swims amid bioluminescence. Somehow, we managed to stay clean by showering with buckets, as keeping the land clean became a part of our daily routines.
It's all we really needed.
Appreciating the natural surroundings, embracing the company of each other and the true necessities
of a healthy, happy life pretty much sums up life on the island.
Learning to mindfully live with only necessities is a beautiful test to humanity.
It's not bad to have a lot - we just need to give more.
From designing a life that gives and receives out of compassion, to nurturing ourselves with never ending journeys of empowerment,
happiness is purely reached from simplicity.