I feel a tap on my shoulder. I wake up and open my eyes to a stewardess smiling at me as she hands me a box of food. I smile back and say thank you. Then I look out the window and there it is, Cambodia. And I get that feeling that I live for again. Wanderlust bliss chills shooting up my spine and reverberating throughout my whole body like golden light echoing through my soul.
Some time later the plane descends, then I find myself on red earth.
I started in Siem Reap. I worked for the first couple of days, writing, editing photos, creating social media content, exploring around town in between and doing my best to keeps a good balance of work and exploration.
Then I meet Tom, a fellow wanderer hailing from New York, who was just fresh off the dust from a little motorbike adventure that started in Vietnam and ended in Cambodia. He invites me to go see Angkor Wat with him the next day. We share a tuktuk, walk around in the scorching heat. We wander and speak in depth, sharing our beliefs in intelligent beings playing a big hidden piece of the puzzle in history and the mysticism beneath it.
It’s a surreal feeling when you’re in the ruins and you find the stillness. I run my fingers through the intricately carved stoned walls and think of all the possibilities of how this magical place came to be. May we keep our minds open to the possibilities that lie within our planet and beyond the cosmos. We are, after all, earthlings pulled by the gravity of a rock floating like a mote of dust in a universe that stretches out through infinity. Possibilities are endless.
God I love ruins. In my head I’d picture ancient times. I’d think about the humans and other beings that created all of this, the many possibilities of how it all materialized into the physical realm, collecting the puzzle pieces together. I delve deeply into these thoughts as I look around and let its essence envelope into my own.
A beautiful stranger wanders around the ruins.
Rewind to over a year ago. I was part of a motivational retreat set in the mountains of Big Bear, California. One of our workshops was an eye-gazing meditation. The facilitator told us to pick someone out of a group and gaze into their eyes for 15 minutes. Somehow, Philip and I found each other. I can’t even begin to explain the depths of gazing into someone’s eyes. I was at this meditation gathering a couple years before that when I tried eye gazing with strangers for the first time. We would walk around the room and pick anyone who we’re drawn to. It’s as if their flesh and bones dissolved and they were stripped down to their soul and their soul was stripped down to the core of the universe. And when I tried it again with Philip in the mountains, I cried. We both has tears in our eyes. I saw his pain and his love and his light and I felt like I was becoming him, or we were becoming each other and it was the most overwhelmingly beautiful feeling, the eyes really are a portal to the universe itself. After the retreat, a lot of us had realizations, ground-breaking insights and epiphanies. Philip’s was to sell most of his things back in his home in Minneapolis, quit his job, and travel the world for a year. About five months before I took off for my trip to Asia, he sent me a message saying “I will absolutely be meeting you in Asia. You just let me know and I’ll be there!”
Our paths would continue to run parallel to each other until there we were, standing in the hall of our hostel. Big, warm hugs thrown around, I was happy to be reunited with my wonderful friend. For next couple days we would venture together along with my traveling sister Adi, and our new friend Yemmie, exploring more temple ruins, stone carvings, jungles and waterfalls as we consume the magic vibrating all around us.
Before I left, Philip shared his humbling thoughts with me. During that retreat in California, we reflected upon our eye-gazing experience. I had told him then that I saw and felt such intense pain just gazing into his eyes. He told me that back then he thought, “What pain? I don’t have any deep pain”, then he said the look in my eyes after the meditation and my words haunted him. He said that I saw straight through his barriers and told him “a truth that would churn his inner pain like bad street food and force him to puke it up, bit by bit.” and he thanked me for mirroring that to him. And that he’s learning to acknowledge and accept pain instead of hiding it under dust. Teary eyed, I thanked him for sharing that with me. I told him that it was such a beautiful insight and I gave him another warm hug.
The next day, I had to leave for six days to go to a yoga & meditation retreat called Hariharalaya. I said my goodbyes and see-you-laters to my wandering friends. When I came back, I was completely rejuvenated from those magical six days. Then on that same day Adi, Sienna (one of the lovely girls I met at the retreat) and I took a minibus to Phnom Penh.
During the ride I look to my right and Adi’s bobbing around, trying to get some shuteye. We’re all getting thrown around each other as our minibus swerves and zips through the crazy bumpy road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. About six hours of this. I laugh as the driver flies through the big dips, dodging the onrush of trucks, headlights and silhouettes, as we wildly bounce around our seats. This would probably be a good time to have seatbelts. The sunlight hits the dust creeping through the windows. I wrap my sarong around my face to breathe. I close my eyes, get lost to the music flooding my ears and find some stillness. Then I open my eyes and watch the sun beautifully disappear into the darkness.
It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, this marriage I have with the road. But it can do whatever the hell it wants to me and I’ll still love it madly.
I wanted to avoid this, honestly. Before I went to Cambodia I didn’t want to see the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. I didn’t want to feel the heartbreak, until I arrived and experienced the beauty of this country and its people. The more I explored the country, the more I wanted to know why. It’s only been three decades since this happened. It’s so recent. So fresh. When you walk around the Killing Fields you can still see their bones protruding the earth. You can still see the bloodstains on the floors of the prison cells. My heart felt heavier and heavier as I walked around. Tears flooded my eyes. I couldn’t believe how much hate can generate from your own kind.
Then time healed them and nature grew over their pain. You can sense this country’s resilience. Death and rebirth, the cycle continues. I appreciate its beauty so much more now that I have seen its darkness.
Because to not want to see a country’s sad parts is like not loving a human being because of their struggles. That’s what makes it worth being human, after all.
“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver