Why Cambodia? Why anywhere?

Wat Ounalom, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, mango seller

Yeah, why would anyone want to come here?

“Cambodia? Why would you want to go there?” asked a surprising number of people. The question baffled me at first, after all, one need not know very much about the country to understand its appeal. I assumed that was the answer, that the people asking the question had somehow never heard of Angkor Wat, or the Khmer Rouge, each a blazing demand to be witnessed, albeit on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.


But even without its chapter heading draws, Cambodia would still be undeniably worth visiting. Because it’s a place. They’re all worth visiting. (Okay fine, except Fresno.) So that’s the question they’re really asking. “Travel? Why would you do that?”


Reading list on a Phnom Penh street. Looks good to me.

Reading list on a Phnom Penh street. Looks good to me.

This is a perennial question to the vagabond castes, and one I’ve mentioned before. But that’s fine because there are endless reasons, endless answers. Travel means different things to people at different times, and often simultaneously, to ever have a standardized rationale.


Last month was hard. Old burdens of childhood pain showed up for the holidays as they always do, their customary anxiety now equipped with the depression of too much time alone in my silent apartment, often in a queasy sauce of purposelessness, as the dream occupation of last year continues to stonewall me, and the newer dream occupation 2.0 wavers in the face of extremist violence. I’m left with a desire to punch everything in the face, balanced by a fatigue that just wants to sleep, but is scared to try.


So a trip to Anywhere sounded pretty fucking fantastic to me.


Change of pace

Change of pace

Travel can be an escape. A refugee flight. I’m well aware of that. That’s what it was for me, for a long time, though I resisted admitting it. I have to laugh at the odds that I’m repeating that denial in the next sentence….but I really don’t think so…


Because I don’t think this was that. I wasn’t running away in Cambodia. But I did happily take a break. A change of scenery, temperature, and temperament. I gratefully lay back in the easy purpose of choosing where to go and making it happen.


Angkor Wat_vibrant2But I came back. Fleeing one’s life takes longer than 11 days, and this ticket was round-trip from the get-go.


I don’t know where I’m going with this. I don’t have a tidy conclusion. Those are in short supply these days, when my inner landscape is rather roiled, and the world at large seems dominated by deterioration, where the intelligent voices are defining the problems, but the responses seem dominated by the asinine braying of lunatics and extremists.


Ready to go anywhere, I started listing countries, and when both y’all illustrious readers and Lydia jumped on Cambodia, I bought the ticket without pause. Was I driven by intuition, wisdom, or cowardice? I had to go to find out.