Hitchhiking Away my Fears in Cambodia
I was pushing it away from me. This moment. I never really wanted to do it but somehow it had to happen. Rocio (my wife) pushed me into it and I must say I will never regret it. Never regret! It’s always a challenge to go for something new and different. To lift that blanket and step out into the cold, away from that cozy, warm bed called comfort zone. But it will be rewarding at the end, I promise!
I was sitting on the back of a pick-up truck, one hand grabbing my backpack, the other hanging on to the steel railings. We just caught a hitch from the rural mountain province of Mondulkiri in Cambodia to our planned destination of Kratie along the Mekong River. Our first hitchhiking ride had begun.
But let’s start from the beginning…
My wife and I decided to quit our 9-5 grind jobs and travel. We wanted to explore Southeast Asia and commenced on a six-month journey to discover Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Planning to spend around one month per country, we were keen on exploring each destination as a traveler, not as a tourist. Taking our time, trying to escape the well-trotted tourist paths and indulge ourselves in local life.
We were three months into our travels as we took a bus ride from the city of Siem Reap to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Half-way down the road the bus stopped and picked up a foreign woman. She boarded the bus, had a quick chat with the driver and sat down a row behind us. Curious about the situation we engaged in a conversation with her, asking her how she ended up taking the bus here, in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that she is a traveler who solely travels around the world by hitchhiking and not spending a single dime on transportation!
Overwhelmed by this story and elevated by the thought of doing it herself, my wife immediately talked me into doing this with her.
“Sure…but can we just at least finish this bus ride and see how and where we can do this? Also, we never did this before and I am not sure if Cambodia is the best country to start our hitchhiking travels.”
I managed to control the flame a bit, knowing that this topic will arise sooner or later again. Anyhow, we eventually reached Phnom Penh and stayed in town for around two days (without hitchhiking) and eventually booked an official ride (another tough convincing act!) to the rural province of Mondulkiri to experience an amazing encounter with endangered Cambodian elephants. Three days past and we had our next journey coming up, leaving the forest behind, destined for a small town named Kratie along the Mekong river, roughly 200 kilometers away from where we were.
The time came. I could no longer postpone this and I knew it.
We packed our bags, walking down along the only road of the town and stopped a kilometer away. Positioning ourselves on the side of the road, my wife started her first shy attempts of sticking out a thumb at passing cars. The sun was high up in the sky, burning down hard on our heads as we waited.
I could not help but smile. I knew it, this was not such a great idea! How could I let myself get into this ridiculous situation? Standing on the side of a street in a tiny town in Cambodia, desperately waving down cars for a free ride.
But then it happened! A pick-up truck stopped.
We approached the driver and pointed out the direction we wanted to go on a map. No clue of each other’s languages we somehow found an agreement and jumped on the back of the car. Relieved, amazed and excited we made it to the next town and eventually ended up taking another ride all the way to Kratie.
I never thought I would say it but this was a starting point to an amazing journey and experience.
We proceeded with our trip across Southeast Asia, ending up traveling all through Cambodia and Myanmar as hitchhikers, traveling thousands of kilometers on the back of vans, cars and trucks. We met amazing people along the way, experienced local cultures and have stories to tell for a lifetime.
Don’t let fear dictate your actions, ever! Don’t let it keep you from experiencing new things and preventing you from taking on new adventures. Don’t let it stop you from moving on.
The experience I made were invaluable and helped me grow not only as a traveler but also as a human. I no longer overthink situations, I engage fear in a very different way and I believe this is the key in moving forward.
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