You know what a Month 5 Roundup means, right? It means I’ve officially reached the half year anniversary of leaving home for this crazy journey around the world. Sometimes it feels like a lifetimes since I wiped away tears, watching the lights of New York City at night disappear out the plane window. Then I skype with a girlfriend back home and it seems like just yesterday we were getting pedicures together in Brooklyn.
Month 5 was full of excitement and exhaustion because after two months of living the expat life in Koh Tao, we were back on the road exploring Cambodia. This was my second trip to Cambodia and Mark’s first, and I fell even harder that I did the first time around. Get ready for my longest list of highlights yet.
Where I’ve Been
• 7 nights in Koh Tao, packing up and preparing for our trip
• 5 nights in Siem Reap
• 2 nights in Battambang
• 5 nights in Phnom Penh
• 7 nights in Sihanoukville
• 3 nights on Cambodia’s islands
• I had this moment of pure, unadulterated joy as we were riding our bikes towards Angkor Wat. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a bike ride down a normal street. But it was the first day of our adventure in Cambodia, and I think the shining sun, the excitement, and the great company all combined to create the highest high I’ve had in ages.
• We ended up traveling with a group of friends from Koh Tao, and it was wonderful. Dancing the night away at Angkor What? bar, laughing at everything and anything- these are the benefits of getting to travel the world with friends who know and love you. Somehow, our group even made the miserable border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand into a laugh.
• Riding the bamboo train in Battambang was another moment of quiet happiness. The first half we were laughing, taking photos, and cheering along. On the way back we were quiet and reflective, and I thought about how lucky we were to be doing something so… different from life at home.
• Pretty much every moment I was in my beloved Phnom Penh was a highlight, but I think that might be cheating to say. One highlight of the highlights was enjoying the city’s nightlife. Lovely as beach bars may be, I’ve always loved me some urban nightlife like big clubs and trendy cocktail bars. Only in Cambodia you get to enjoy them at South East Asia prices!
• Just in case that previous bullet point made you think I was cool, I’ll neutralize that right now: my second Phnom Penh highlight was spending an evening watching movies, eating popcorn, and snuggling at the amazing Flicks movie theatre. There was something so comforting about doing something so familiar from home, but with an even better twist (did you see the beds on the floor?!)
• Sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling competitive with other bloggers/travelers. Am I having enough fun? Am I having a unique enough experience? Am I doing something CRAZY? The answer was yes to all three at Oktoberfest Phnom Penh. I’m a sucker for the random and the wacky, and I couldn’t get enough of this event.
• Getting to feed an elephant without all the guilt sometimes associated with elephant tourism was pretty darn amazing. I’m an animal addict through and through, and the moments I get to spend with them while traveling are always on the top of my list.
• The entire time I was in Koh Rong I just had this feeling that I was so incredible lucky- to be traveling, to have found that place, to be on that beach at that moment. It was a beautiful feeling.
• Our scuba trip to Koh Rong Samlom turned into one of the most fun dives I’ve ever had. I was just smiling and giggling the whole time- and it wasn’t nitrogen narcosis! We were just having a blast on our “sand safari.” Sometimes, travel is just pure fun.
• Six months after launching Alex in Wanderland and two years after starting my first blog, I got my first serious paid advertisement. This was just a great month, work-wise. See more in my “Budget” section below.
• Balancing work and travel was tricky this month. When I stayed inside working while my friends went out and did something fun, I cursed the universe’s bad timing. I was working miserable bar jobs for $3/hour a month ago, why couldn’t these freelancing jobs have shown up then?!
• Speaking of work and travel, I had to leave Koh Rong before we wanted to because I had a work deadline and there was no internet connection on the island. It was the first time I’ve felt that work has seriously altered my travel plans, and it sucked.
• Seeing the dark sides of tourism in Cambodia caused a lot of self reflection. I do think that the majority of tourists are doing more good then harm, but it’s hard not to have a negative effect in some way on such an impressionable country. It was heart-wrenching to see the kids on the streets in Phnom Penh and Sihanouville, knowing they have such a tough life ahead. And it was sad to know that the paradise we found in Koh Rong won’t last long, thanks to greedy developers.
• Getting stuck in a place we didn’t like for so long was seriously annoying. I can’t believe we spent 7 nights in Sihanoukville! Basically, we were experiencing the downside of doing “press trips,” and that is miscommunication and scheduling nightmares. Also, Mark got sick, which added two days to our total.
• My second smartphone of the trip was sent to a watery grave. I know I’m supposed to be totally zen and not care about material things, but this got me down for days. Everyone was all, “It’s okay! Accidents happen!” but I couldn’t really hear them through my sobs of self pity. See, my phone not only keeps me updated on work related things, it’s also my lifeline to home. And all you seasoned travelers may scoff at this, but I felt uneasy at times not having way to call for help in an emergency. But worst of all, my Dad was really disapointed in me. If you want to make an young adult woman cry, tell her she has disappointed her parents. (Don’t tell the pre-teen version. She’ll just high-five someone.)
• I felt pretty homesick spending Halloween, my best friend’s birthday, and my own birthday away from home. At the last minute I celebrated Halloween with new friends and send my bestie back home an indulgent gift from Sephora.com, which helped ease the pain. But I love Halloween in New York, and I love celebrating occasions like birthdays with my nearest and dearest, so it was still tough.
Well, I was feeling pretty darn good about my budget until just now when I checked how much I actually spent in Cambodia… Eeek! To the people that maintain the mythical $30 a day budget in South East Asia, I bow down to you. I love western food, expensive cocktails and frequent cheap massages way too much to make that happen.
But this was the first month I actively reached out to businesses in an attempt to exchange admissions and tours for reviews on this site. And it worked! (Check out some of my reviews). So I can only imagine how much worse things might have been, considering most of those activities I would have done anyway. On the upside, I had more online income this month from this website as well as my position editing for Lost Girls. I also picked up two major freelancing jobs which should keep me afloat in the coming months. Hooray for the location independent lifestyle!
After one last weekend in Phnom Penh, we were off to Vietnam for three weeks. Then back home to Thailand!
As always, I’m so grateful to have you all along for the journey. It means the world to me!
Stay tuned for more!