And That’s A Wrap!

Well this is it, the very last day of my trip. It almost seems surreal that it’s almost over. I think back to everything that has happened over the past 6 months and at times it feels like I’ve been gone for ages and at other times it feels like I just began.

Since I’ve left many things have happened on an international level. There was the polar vortex with the freezing cold temperatures in the United States, the Olympics, the fighting between Ukraine and Russia, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines, the death of Seymour Hoffman, the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria, the sinking of a civilian boat in Korea, the World Cup, and most recently the fighting in the Gaza strip. When I think of all those things…….yes I have been gone for a while!

My experiences are something that I will cherish forever and thankfully I have this blog to look back on or else I probably would’ve forgotten about many things that I’ve seen and people I’ve met. In 6 and a half months I have seen 10 countries (although my passport reflects 11 with that little mishap in Malaysia), have met hundreds of new friends, tasted foods that I never even knew existed, saw stunning beaches, jaw-dropping sunsets, dramatic coastlines, majestic mountain ranges, soul-quenching sunrises, deserted deserts, and enough full-moons to last a lifetime. I’ve traveled thousands of miles by boat, train, plane, camel, car, tuk-tuk, elephant and moped (sometimes all in the same day). I’ve met the poorest people with the kindest souls, and children that stole my heart just by their smiles.

There were definitely some challenging moments that tested my limits both physically and mentally: party-hostels, bungee jumping, dangerous car rides in the middle of the night, flying black-listed airlines, being surrounded by a boat of people getting seasick with my phobia of puke, getting deathly ill in India, mice in my sleeping quarters, hiking uphill at top speed for many hours in Nepal, roughing it on camping trips with no heat, negotiating prices, getting completely lost, knowing I had no control over certain situations and being ok with it, staying awake for over 30 hours from long flights and being so tired from jetlag I honestly didn’t know if I would make it to my hotel.

I’ve also learned a few new things that I never even thought about before this trip. I can now tell the difference between British and Australian accents and the difference between Hindu and Buddist temples. At last I can finally easily convert measurements of kilos in to pounds, meters in to feet, and Celsius in to Fahrenheit. I’ve learned to sleep comfortably without AC in temperatures of 90 degrees or more and realized that a gecko on your wall actually won’t kill you when you are sleeping!! Who would’ve thought? I’ve mastered the “look of death” to a hawker that approaches me so he knows not to take another step closer because I AM NOT INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU HAVE TO SELL! I’m now a pro at using Asian squat toilettes consisting of a hole in the ground and 2 slots for your feet all while holding my bags. It also turns out that 7/11, Subway and KFC are much bigger companies than I thought, they were in EVERY SINGLE country I visited! I have learned to pack up my (19 kilo or 40lb) backpack in 6 minutes flat and how to carry all three of my bags at once, it is an art form! First goes my cross-over purse over my right shoulder, my “mother” of all backpacks next and then my small backpack strapped to the my front chest last. In this process I have also learned that I will not be packing that thing again for a very long time. I think I’m just more of a suitcase kinda gal. Completely OVER this whole backpack thing !

But most importantly, I learned how to be human again, to appreciate the small things, open my heart, be patient, and have true feelings. It’s now easier for me to go with the flow and simply let things go (ok I said it’s easier but not easy)! I am connecting with people again, smiling at strangers and striking up conversations with people I don’t know. I’ve learned how important it is not to judge or pre-judge someone, no one knows what these people live. I think I’m still a dreamer verse a realist and I still haven’t decided if thats a good thing or a bad thing but I would prefer to try for things that may seem impossible then not try at all.

To me a good trip must include; adventure, time spent with locals, challenging moments, learning something new, sprinting through an airport to catch a flight, both joy and sadness, one heart-break and being scared for your life at least once. This trip has had that and so much more. I’m trying not to be sad that it’s over but happy that I was lucky enough to experience it all, both good and bad. Thanks for reading everyone and more updates soon on what it’s like to be back home!!



End Of The Road

I’ve met literally hundreds of travelers during this trip taking personal journeys like myself. At times I would come across some at the end of their travels with only one or two weeks left to go. When they told me this, in my heart, I would breath a huge sigh of relief that that wasn’t me and that I still had many months to go. But six months left turned into four months left, then three, then one and now here I am returning in a few days. I am now one of those travelers and I don’t know how I feel about it. I have so many mixed emotions that fluctuate day to day and I feel like I’ve been on an emotional roller-coster for the past 2 weeks with the highest of highs and the deep darkest of lows that I thought I’d never come out of. I’m excited to see my family and friends but I’m also sad that this journey is over. This trip has been the center of my life for over a year and now that it’s over I’m feeling lost.

I have no idea what I want to do when I go back home or where I see myself moving. The plan for now is Chicago but who knows where I’ll end up. I’ve experienced so many things during this trip, I’m not sure what it will be like when I go home and if I can go back to the life I had before. Going back to the corporate world completely terrifies me but then again I feel that once my money runs out maybe I’ll be forced to go back there? I have discovered a love for writing during this trip and it has not only become a true passion but also very therapeutic. In a perfect world I would love to write a book but I don’t even know where to begin. Any ideas?

This trip has changed me, thats for sure, and I wonder how I will be able to assimalte once I get back home. Will I have the same things in common with my friends and family? Will things that are important to me now be important to them? I look at certain situations, past experiences and people now and at times I feel sad about things that never effected me before. Will people understand me or will I have to learn to live with these feelings alone? It’s the end of the road for my trip but I think I have a very long new road ahead of me………



Happiness

Has anyone ever asked you, “what was the best year of your life”? It’s a difficult question to answer. When I have been asked this question before, I always used to say, 2001, the year I lived in France for the first time. I always immediately answered with that response without any hesitation! At times I would question what it was about that year that made me enjoy it so much. Was it because I was young and had no responsibilities, was it the traveling to other countries in Europe, was it because my parents were still supporting me, was it because I wasn’t working in the real world yet or was it really just France itself? I’ve been asking myself this question for years and years and never found the answer…..until now.

I now know that it wasn’t France at all. It was actually ME and who I was as a person during that year. I was adventurous, open-minded, energetic, free-spirited, maybe a little naive, confident but most importantly optimistic about life. I challenged myself, was not consumed by money or material things, had a mind of my own, I welcomed change, solved my own problems, yearned for new experiences and was interested in meeting people that were different from me. I trusted people with no skepticism about their intentions, I had an open heart and was not afraid of getting hurt. I was a dreamer and happy just because! Sure, I didn’t have much money but that didn’t even cross my mind.

That’s why it was the best year of my life because it was who I was as a person and nothing else, I was alive and truly living.

These past sux months have lit a fire inside me and slowly all of these qualities started to come back. I forgot what many of these qualities felt like and that I even used to possess them at one time. For the past 15 years I started to lose who I was. I wasn’t passionate about things anymore and let everything I love, hobbies and interests take a backseat. Priorities changed and meaningless things became the focus of my universe. Life simply got in the way, of me being happy as funny as that sounds.

Last year I discovered a new band, thanks to my brother Adam. Whenever I would listen to one song in particular from them, I would always get choked up because it described me so perfectly, it’s as if the song was written about me. The song talks about greed and always wanting more and how the singer doesn’t like the person he has become. That was me, nothing satisfied me. I wanted the perfect apartment, a job that made me rich, the perfect body and all the latest and greatest electronics and clothes. I thought material things would make me happy and no matter how much I bought, no matter how much I went to the gym, how hard I worked or how hard I scrubbed my apartment clean, I was never satisfied. Nothing was good enough. I was waiting for happiness to knock at my door.

This year I have lived out of a backpack for 6 months; wearing the exact same clothes, the exact same shoes and using only one purse. I haven’t stayed at the nicest places, I’ve worn dingy jeans and T-shirts for days at a time (in Paris out of all places), haven’t been to a hair salon in months and have bought a quarter of material things that have caught my eye in the hundreds of stores I’ve stepped foot in. Since January, I’ve lived a life that is completely different from the lifestyle that I grew accustom to, and lived in way that I thought would never satisfy me or be good enough. Yet through all of this, I found happiness. And I found it all on my own. Sometimes it was strange to feel so happy when I was sharing it with no one else except me, myself and I. Now I won’t say that life is perfect and that I see “la vie en rose” because there are still some things that are missing, but hopefully one day I’ll get there. I listen to the song, “ill with want” from the Avett Brothers now and I am no longer sad when I hear it. In fact, I’m relieved when I hear it because that song is no longer about me.

Here is a link to this beautiful song.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0KyGZG3ZyJg

I like the person I am now, for the most part. After a lot of soul-searching, reflection and digging deep inside she is back. Ok so maybe I had to quit my job and be alone on my own for 6 months but at least I found the person I was and who I want to be. I didn’t originally start out on this journey for that reason, I just needed to take a break and wanted to see the world but some how this has been the outcome. I now know that what I need in life is not material things, a beautiful apartment, a high-power job, perfect looks, designer shoes or a ton of money; its to appreciate simple and beautiful things and have meaningful relationships with people. And I experienced that and so much more during this trip. I’m not saying that it is wrong to have or want any of these things but it is naive to think that they will eventually bring you happiness.

The the real challenge now, is seeing how to stay like this once I go back to real life. But as the saying goes only you can make yourself happy; no job, person or thing is responsible for your happiness, it comes from within.


I Need Your Help!

I need your help! I am curious to know how many people read this blog. Many people say that they are keeping up with it but it doesn’t show that I have many followers on my account. The only way for me to know is if you sign up to follow me. I promise you won’t get junk mail from tumblr. It’s just a way for me to see who reads this. My goal is to get 100 followers before I go home which is very soon! I’m thinking about creating a website and I would like to get some actual numbers before I go ahead and do it. I will also be offering some services on this new website. Will keep you posted and give you the new link as soon as it ups and running. Thanks so much for your help!


Couch Surfing!

France was a last minute add-on to my trip so as you can imagine, by the time I got here my funds were running low. I had heard about a website called “couch-surfing” in the past and decided to check it out. Couch-surfing is a site where people open their houses up to strangers and one can stay there for free. It’s a way to meet locals! I was hesitant at first but I honestly couldn’t afford accomodations for 2 weeks when rooms in dingy hotels cost a minimum of $80 bucks a night.

I first began reaching out to people in Paris. I was strategic in my search and was only comfortable in staying with girls or couples. I messaged a few people but I didn’t get any responses and had started to look into paid accommodations with Airbnb.

After I few days, I finally got a response….YES!! It was from a girl who looked really nice and sweet in her picture. So it turns out she lived with her boyfriend but that was not a problem for me. She started off by saying, we are free to host you. Awesome!! She then went on to say that both her and her boyfriend thought that I was pretty. “Ok….that’s odd”, I thought. She then continued by saying, “we want you to know that we are an “open” couple and if you stay we may ask you to join us in the bedroom and we wanted you to know in advance so you weren’t surprised”. OK….WHAT THE HECK!!! This is not the response I was expecting. I wrote back a few days later and thanked them for the offer but that I had already found a place to stay. In fact I had, I ended up using “airbnb”, I had to pay but considering my options I was ok with that. Only me!

Fortunately I had better luck in Besancon. Besancon is the first city I ever lived in in France in 2001. I got a response right a way from a girl named Anaiick and it turns out that she is a french girl that is completely inlove with America. This was a first! Very rarely have I ever met a French person who adored my country. Annaiick picked me up at the train station with my big old back-pack and I stayed at her apartment for 4 days. She cooked me french food, we went out, I met her friends and had the best time with her! I was majorly down in the dumps when I met her for a variety of things, one of them being that it was the end of my trip and it was a blessing in disguise that I was staying with someone to talk to instead of in a hotel room alone. It turns out that she is the same age as me and we had so much in common. Some things were so similiar it’s like we were living parallel lives just in seperate countries. She is a new friend and I will be returning the favor to her when she comes to America next summer! We’ve already planned a few things we are going to do “ensemble”!

Although it started off as a strange experience, I would recommend “couchsurfing” to those that are interested in meeting new people and having a true local experience. Just be sure in advance that the people you are staying with aren’t “swingers”!

Besancon, the city that made me fall inlove with France.

My old apartment on Rue de la Republique

Annaick


Tours, France

In 2003 after I graduated from college I went to live in France for the second time and found myself living in Tours, about an hour and a half south of Paris. I decided to take a day trip there while I was in Paris and didn’t know what to expect. A friend of mine, who also used to lived in Tours kept telling me that it would probably be emotional to go back but I couldn’t see why it would be.

My train pulled up to the station and as soon as I walked out it hit me, like someone had thrown a giant bowling ball into my stomach. It was surreal to be back after 10 years. The streets were exactly the same besides a few new stores that had popped up but I was SUCH a different person. Back then, I had just graduated college and the world was at my fingertips, I had no idea where life would lead me.

Now being back it was really crazy to think how much I had changed from the last time I was there. I had made new friends, had multiple jobs in NYC during my 9 years there, dated a few different people and had quit everything to travel these past 6 months. And although I was a different person it was ironic to think that I was also in the exact same boat now as I was then, because I have no idea where life will take me next. Yes he was right, it was certainly an emotional experience. Without noticing, I found myself walking towards my old apartment. I passed the cafes, patisseries, bars and bakeries that I used to frequent. Memories came flooding back of funny stories and good friends that I met while I was there. Tours will always hold a special place in my heart because I met 2 of my very best friends in the world here. We all came from different parts of America and when we said goodbye we each knew that we would probably never see each other again. A year later though, we all found ourselves in NYC! Both Mike and Carrie have been amazing friends and there for me through thick and thin. Carrie is getting married this September and I’m actually going to be in her wedding. Some friendships really are meant to be!

It’s kind of a funny story on how I ended up living in Tours. After college, I went back to France to teach french in a middle school. The city that I was assigned to was called Vendome and it was in the middle of nowhere. I stayed there a few months but was miserable because there was absolutely nothing to do and no one my age to hang out with. One of the teachers at my school told me that I should visit Tours one weekend because it was only an hour away and it would help me get out of Vendome. When I arrived and stepped out of the train station for the first time, I literally heard a choir of angels singing in my head. This city was beautiful and I needed to move their ASAP! I walked into the first store I saw and bought a ton of newspapers to see if there were any apartments for rent. At the time my french was not the best but it was do or die time, I needed to live here and I needed to find something before my train left to go back to Vendome later that afternoon. “Survival of the fittest” at it’s best!

I sat down in a cafe, ordered a cafe au lait and started to dial a list of numbers in my broken french. It was so intimidating and scary to say the least. Speaking in a second language was already a challenge but speaking over the phone in your second language is even worse! Every number I called told me that they had just released the apartment to someone else. I was feeling hopeless but continued on. I had one number left on the list and crossed my fingers and dialed. An old lady picked up and I asked her if her apartment was still available. She told me that it had just been leased out but I think she sensed my disappointed from the tone of my voice and felt bad for me. “I’ll tell you what”, she said, “why don’t you come to my apartment and we can discuss some options, I think I have an idea for you.” An hour later, I was in a beautiful apartment of a complete stranger. She told me that a landlord friend of hers had mentioned a few days ago that he was going to put one of his studio apartments up for rent and that it was completely furnished. She didn’t know if he had found someone yet but she was willing to call him for me.

The man met me that afternoon and took me to the apartment on the very top floor of a 3 story walkup (which really means 4 stories in France since they count the first floor as 0, the second floor as 1, the third floor as 2 and so on and so on). It was a tiny studio with just a little window sticking out from the top of the roof, it was filthy because the current tenants were still there. The bathroom was in the hallway and shared with the other 2 neighbors and my kitchen and shower were in a separate room across the hall that needed to be locked at all times. Yes, a shower and a kitchen in the same room!

The top floor of old apartments in France are called “chambres de bonnes” and they were originally used as the maid’s quarters, so this explains the setup. I looked around and within 30 seconds I turned to him and said, “I’ll take it”. The next weekend I moved in and started commuting to work an hour away. I only worked 3 days a week at the time so it really wasn’t a problem and it turns out that many of the other teachers at my school also lived in Tours so I would take the bus with them or they would drive me.

To this day, whenever someone asks me, “what was one of your biggest accomplishments up until now”…..I always think back to this moment. It may sound small but being in a foreign country, barely speaking french and having to call up people to try and find an apartment all on my own within a span of 5 hours still makes me smile and think, I can’t believe I did that!
Love this picture! Could it be any more French?!

My apartment at the very top with the black window!



La Vie est Belle in Paris!

After Montpellier, I headed north to the city of lights! I stayed in a “jolie” apartement in the 11ieme arrondissement and it was just perfect with a spectacular view. I was with a friend, and although it was cold and rainy (and I mean freezing, we’re talking 45 degrees) it was still fun even though I was frozen to the bone the entire time!

It was amazing to see Paris with someone that actually knows the city. After 6 months of traveling it was a nice break to not have to get out my map every time I wanted to go somewhere. We went to “Pere Lachaise” the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf are buried, Pont des Arts, the iconic bridge where lovers go to hang locks and through out the keys, we drank beer and cafe au laits in outdoor cafes, ate amazing food and went to a beautiful park that looked over Paris. We also went salsa dancing and although it’s been many years I now remember why I fell inlove with salsa.

It’s strange to think that just a week before, I was on a remote island with people just trying to survive and make ends meet and then the next week I was in Paris, going to salsa clubs and speaking to artists with creative souls. How drastic fro one extreme to another. This was living. I’m one lucky girl!

View from the apartment I stayed at!

Pere Lachaise
Hotel de Ville
I don’t think the next few need an explanation!
Pont des Arts my favorite thing I saw in Paris and a first for me. The bridge is literally lined with locks on both sides. Small sections are taken down every 6 months because the locks are so heavy the bridge will break. I don’t know why but that is disheartening to me, lovers come here to “mettre” their lock of love and then they are taken down. But the new sections are filled to the brim with locks again within days.


France

I am back in the western world, where there are pedestrian crossings on busy streets, garbage cans on every street corner, hooks in public toilettes to hang your bags and last but CERTAINLY not least, where prices are exactly the same for locals and tourists!

I thought it would be weird to be back in a first world country after all these months but it wasn’t so bad in fact, probably because it’s still quite different from the States. What I did notice though is that everyone was so much bigger. You know you’ve been in developing countries for a while when even the french look a little bit chubby!

My first stop was Montpellier in the south. I was here back in 2007 with family friends who brought me here to be their translator during their trip to France. It was nice to be back and just how I remembered it. There is a certain charm about the south of France that will never get old.

The first thing I did when I arrived to France was eat a pain au chocolate and drink a cafe creme!
Street performers
My favorite drink in France is called a Monaco. It’s beer, lemonade and grenadine. May sound bizarre but so good!


By The Grace Of God!

A few days before I left Bangkok I decided to have a look at the itinerary of my out-going flight. I will say that during this whole trip I never looked at my itinerary more than 24-hours in advance but for some reason something told me to have a look. When I bought my ticket to France back in December, I had originally planned to be in Phuket, but as you know my plans changed and I returned to Indonesia instead of going to the south islands in Thailand. I never thought about this and when I booked my ticket from Indonesia back to Thailand, I naturally booked it back to Bangkok. I called the airline to see if they could change my flight to leave out of Bangkok and they told me that unfortunately I would have to buy a new ticket and it would cost $800!! This was not an option, I simply didn’t have that money. I looked at my outbound ticket out of Phuket and it was in the evening so I decided to buy a ticket from Bangkok to Phuket in the morning and wait for my outbound flight in the airport. Problem solved!

When I arrived at the Bangkok airport to take my flight to Phuket, I was informed that my flight was majorly delayed. “How delayed”, I asked? It turns out that it was so late that I would only be arriving 1 hour before my outgoing international flight. Not only was that a problem, but my outgoing flight to Paris was with a different airline so if my original flight didn’t get in on time, I would completely forfeit that ticket.

I expressed my concern to the ticket agent and she said that it would be fine. “Um, no it wasn’t fine, if there is one thing I’m a pro at, it’s with flying and I knew for a fact, that one hour was not enough time to get my bags in Phuket, and re-check them onto an international flight and go through customs within one hour.” They start to board international flights one hour in advance for gosh sakes, this was not going to work. She sensed my frustration and said that she would make some phone calls to see what she could do.

My flight to Paris was out of Phuket but I had a 3 hour lay-over in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and then it went direct to Paris. After a 10 minute phone call she hung up and said that since the flight from Bangkok to Phuket was delayed, and that it was their fault they were willing to fly me straight to Kuala Lumpur and from there I would pick up the last leg of my journey to Paris. She even said that my bags would be routed all the way through. Any other person would have been ecstatic with this news…..except for me!! I knew from past experience that if you don’t show up for the first leg of a flight, you are considered a “no-show” and your entire ticket gets cancelled in the system. I explained this to her and she explained over and over again to me that they were making an exception for me. All I had to do was find a transfer agent in Kuala Lumpur, and pick up my boarding pass for the direct flight to Paris. I told her multiple times that I was not comfortable with this and that I had never heard of such a thing. She began to get annoyed with me and said that it was my only option and that everything would be fine. She even gave me a ticket for my bags and it showed a tracking number AND that they were being routed directly to Charles De Gaulle airport. Once I saw the tracking number for my bags I felt a little bit more confident and decided to go for it.

I finally arrived to Kuala Lumpur and I had 3 hours before my flight left. I casually made my way to a ticket counter in the airport and told them that I need to get a boarding pass printed. She asked for my name and began to search the system. It took her a little bit longer than usual and I could see that something was not right by the look on her face. She finally looked up and said, I’m sorry Miss but you are not in the system. You have been bumped from your flight to Paris because you did not show up for your first leg of the flight and unfortunately there is not one spot left on this flight…..it is completely booked!!! I KNEW IT!!!! I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN! I explained to her my situation and how I was promised that I would be on that flight and she said, I”m sorry there is simply nothing I can do. She suggested that I go to the check-in counter at the airport and see if someone could help me. Check-in counter?? That means that I would have to clear customs in Kuala Lumpur, did I really have the time? Her response was, “well you better hurry”. I started to run through the airport. I had to take a shuttle to another terminal and then I had to wait in line at customs. From there they questioned me on how long I would be in Kuala Lumpur and my reasons for entering. I explained to them that I wasn’t even supposed to be here and that I just needed to speak with a check-in agent. The man at customs gave me a suspicious look, took my finger prints, stamped “entry” into my passport and let me go through.

Thirty minutes later I got to the ticket counter that was just closing because it was already 10pm at night and there were no more outbound flights that day. The lady asked what she could do for me and the tears just started flowing. I couldn’t get a word out, I was sobbing. She was so patient and told me to settle down and try to get it out. I told her the entire story, and she told me that she would have to find a manager to help me. She brought me into a tiny office and 5 minutes later, a manager by the name of Richi Chong, came to help me. I re-explained the story for the third time and in the most confident voice he said, “Amanda do not worry, we will figure this out, it’s really not a big problem”. That was the first time I took a breath within an hour.

He started typing all these codes into his computer screen and his smile soon turned in to a frown. “What”, I said…….”what is going on?” “Well, this flight is really really booked Amanda, there is not one free seat left.” The tears started to flow again, I was trying to hold back but I couldn’t help it. I was tired and I was at my wits end. He looked at me and gave me this look like, I am going to help this poor girl. He made a call, and by the grace of God, 15 minutes later I had a boarding pass in hand.

"How did you do this," I asked, through my tears. He smiled at me and said, actually I can’t talk about it because I will probably loose my job but the most important thing is that you are on this flight now you better hurry up and go back through customs. I had no Malaysian currency on me but I remember that I had bought a pair of earings in the Bangkok airport with the last of my Baht and I saw he was wearing a wedding ring. I pulled them out of my bag and put them on his desk and said, "please take this for your wife". I have no money on me but THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your help. He was unwilling to take it but I would not take them back and left them on his desk as I rushed out.

I ran back to customs, waited 30 minutes in line, where they stamped “departure” in my passport, then took a shuttle to the next terminal and got to my gate right as my flight was boarding. I got on my flight and looked for my seat. I was in a middle seat!! The “queen of flying” and first class travel was in a middle seat for a 12 hour flight. AHHH- my biggest fear, but I have to say, I didn’t mind one bit that day!


Stay Tuned………

Next Steps
While I was in Cambodia, I met two new friends who were affected by Cambodia’s history just as much as I was. Deo is from Holland and Natasha is from New Zealand. After we parted ways we have stayed been in touch regularly and have started to brainstorm on ways that we could give back; especially to the tuk-tuk drivers that we had met during our time there.

In the meantime, I’ve had some people reach out to me after reading my posts about Cambodia saying that they too, would like to help out in some way. Was there a way that we could some how buy a tuk-tuk for a driver? It may seem far fetched and small but just helping one person is a start. At the moment, there are numerous charities in Cambodia set up to help children in orphanages; some of the kids that live there aren’t real orphans but their families are not able to provide for them so they send them there. However, there isn’t much out there to help the middle-aged citizens. And unfortunately, since everyone with any sort of education was killed during the Pol-Pot years this country is literally starting from scratch. If we could help the people around 30-40 years old, to have sustainable jobs, they in return, would be able to provide for their children and hopefully give them an opportunity to succeed in life.

What we learned during our trip, and what I mentioned in a previous post, is that most tuk-tuk drivers rent their tuk-tuks. After paying for the rental and gas, they only make a few dollars each day. A tuk-tuk in Cambodia costs around $1,800 dollars which is absolutely nothing to us in the western world, heck I spend almost that much on a whim when I want to buy a plane ticket to an exotic country. What if there was a way that we could somehow create a charity to provide tuk-tuks to drivers so that they could make a good living for their families?

It just so happens that Deo is a web designer and is doing an internship in Bangkok. So when I was there, we decided to meet up and brainstorm some more ideas. While we are hesitant on how this could all work out, we are optimistic that we can find some way to help and give back to the beautiful people of Cambodia.

At the moment, I have no idea how many people read this blog. I can only see how many people “follow” it if they have signed up. But I know that there are definitely more than the 77 people reading this (which is what it shows on my blog site). If there is anyone that is reading this that has any ideas we are open to suggestions. Hoping to turn this dream into a reality. Stay tuned……..

Brainstorming on the rooftop of the Sofitel Bangkok


Bangkok

Bangkok
From Indonesia, I flew to Bangkok because I was originally supposed to end up there and had a ticket to fly out 4 days later. I arrived and the city was absolutely chaotic. It was then that I started to notice that this trip had definitely changed me. Not only did a big city like Bangkok overwhelm me but I was also out of facecream and ended up buying one for $10 bucks. What a big change from La Prairie!

The temperature was steaming and all I wanted to do is sit in my hotel room, in AC, not move and be alone out of the mayhem. I did eventually force myself out and saw a few sights in Bangkok and was happy I did.
Boat ride on the canals
When I was in Bangkok I ran out of deodorant. All of them claimed to have whitening properties. Why anyone cares if their underarms are white or not is still beyond me!


Rich Experiences

What made my experience on Gili Meno so rich is my relationship with the people of the island. They let me in to their lives and I saw the many personal things that most tourists don’t get to see. They let down their their bar and treated me like their sister, inviting me to eat with them and sharing daily stories, yes there is drama even on small islands. While I was part of their family in the end, I was still observing everything as an outsider and for me, no amount of money in the world could have bought that.

Resting before cooling off from a volleyball match

My going away party!

Linda and Oompung. Oompung lost both of his front teeth in a moped accident. He never smiles because he is embarrassed but that night he said that he would smile for my picture since I was leaving.

My favorite thing to eat on Gili Meno was called Lalapan. It was fried chicken with rice, a small salad and a spicy red sauce called cimbal. My very last day the owners finally charged me the local price! I was elated, they finally thought of me as a local!

View from above, Gili Meno is the middle island.