The month of July 2014 was easily one of the best of my life.
I was in Cambodia and Thailand. I was traveling with my best friend. I was on lounging on white sand island beaches . I was dripping with sweat on some of the largest religious sites in the world. I was walking on dirt, teeth and bone fragments at one of the most powerful genocide memorials in the world. I was watching bubbles float past my face as I learned to breathe under water. I was slowly allowing my face to peel off after the worst sunburn of my life. I was befriending some of the funniest, smartest, most unique and rambunctious people I’ve ever met.
July was great. We were on leg two of our three-month journey. We weren’t newbs anymore, but we weren’t finishing up either. We weren’t relishing each and every moment as if it would be our last, but we weren’t missing things trying to get our footing. (We know we should have gone to Pai, Thailand!)
I would say we were our most reckless in July — in a good way, though.
We spent too much money. We ate too much. (The month of the toasties. Toasites are love. Toasties are life.) We stayed up too late. (I think I saw the most sunrises of my life in this month.) We said yes to as much as we could.
Yes, I’ll have another Chang. Yes, I will take that class. Yes, let’s get that appetizer. Yes, let’s rent motorbikes! Dance on this picnic table? Why not! Skip in a fire jump rope? Hell yes.
The most random friendships occurred during July. Brett — who I have written about before — was with us for most of the month. We met him at a bus stop from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukeville. We had finished our few weeks of culture (War Remnants museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Prison), and were on our way to a few days in paradise!
We stayed at a rad hostel (except Anna had her phone stolen by maids), where we met three Canadians, Kurtis, Jesse and Trevor; an awesomely-chill Dutch gal, Kim; and two Scottish ladies, Carly and Beth (who I obviously was obsessed with).
Together we headed to Koh Rong for the Fourth of July where we were meeting Ben and D.J., two American dudes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. We met the Midwest dudes because we overheard them discussing Chipotle. They had to be American.
On Koh Rong we heard some boisterous American accents — Cali boys Nick and Kevin — and gathered a group to roll in Independence Day. Add a few Canadians — Naomi and Christine — and an English chick — Sarah — and you roughly have our travel group for the next few weeks.
Travel groups are very porous, though. Aside from Brett, the group was always changing: said goodbye to some in Cambodia, met back up with others for the Full Moon Party, randomly saw some on Koh Tao while zipping by on a taxi, etc. We added more people at Palio Hostel — Glen, Stuart, Joel — and never saw some again.
Anna and I were never alone. Someone always wanted to grab a beer or check out the beach. There were always members of #TeamPalio around.
It wasn’t just being surrounded by bodies, though. These people were uniquely interesting and fun.
One night on Koh Tao, Nick and I were doing the typical traveler chat. We hadn’t really talked solo much before this, so we did the ‘how long are you traveling,’ ‘where else are you going,’ ‘what do you do back home,’ blah, blah, blah. We started talking about how you spend so much time with people, but sometimes only scratch the surface of who they are. We had been on the same track for two weeks now, but we hardly knew much about each other. We decided to fix it and actually get to know each other.
We joke that one ‘real-life’ day equals 10 traveler days. They are incredibly concentrated and the information you get from people is incredibly concentrated.
We actually spent time with Nick for a little less than three weeks (on and off), and I could tell you a lot about him. Way more than he was a film student at SCU. He is from Chicago but lives in LA. I can tell you his opinions on art and creativity or how much it actually excites him to discuss movies. I can tell you he named our cat Bernie Cat. (Anna, Nick and I adopted a cat in Koh Phi Phi.)
You always hear ‘it’s not where you go, but who you meet.’ ‘It’s not the places, it’s the people.’
Sometimes it can be the places — Anna and I have just as much fun when we travel alone — but for the most part it is the people.
It is Brett who made us feel surprisingly safer, even though he would dive across a room at the idea of a lizard jumping on him (Haha, sorry Brett!); who had the funniest dance move I’ve ever seen a man do; who weirdly I’ve seen play hockey in 2013 when the Blugolds were kicking ass!
It is Glen who I kind-of hate for slithering across the bed and hissing at me to spark my out-of-control, irrational fear of snakes; who shouted ‘DESTROY ME!’ when I wasn’t giving him a hard enough backrub.
With this on-and-off group we went from Sihanoukeville, Koh Rong, Siem Reap, Koh Phanagan, Koh Tao, Phuket and finally Koh Phi Phi where we our last pal left us — Nick — Anna and I were never alone.
But the month ended. We had to buy our plane tickets home (hello reality check!).
We had too much fun, danced too much (I have the bruises and scrapes to prove it), we spent seriously WAY too much money, but we don’t regret a thing. We vowed to not make friends for a few days to catch up on photos, videos, blogs, but then we realized we didn’t even know where to start making friends again!
Well it turns out that asking directions on a street corner in Kuala Lumpur can bloom into palship rather quickly.
It’s our last leg. August. Less than a month. We had Des and Maddy, Sasha, Rebecca and Felicia, and the slow-boat people in June. The Cambodia and Full Moon pals in July.
We can’t tell what August will bring, but we have high hopes!