When you travel slowly, there comes a point in every location when you reach The Hump.
Suddenly, you realize your rendezvous has crossed the line. You’ve gone from casually seeing each other, to being in a real relationship. Shit. Maybe you haven’t discussed it or made things official on Facebook, but it’s obvious you’ve been spending way too much time together. There is no choice left but to step up or move on.
I reached that point with Cambodia after spending three weeks in Siem Reap. I’d originally intended to head back to Thailand after a week or two, but instead, I had stayed and made local friends, found my own Cheers (a place where everyone knew my name), befriended a tuk-tuk driver, and learned how to navigate without a map.
In Thailand, I had felt socially isolated. Moving around with the company and often staying in rural locations was really difficult, and made it impossible to make stable friends, or stay in touch with people back home. I’m a modern girl and I need e-mail access, dammit!
Cambodia was automatically warm and welcoming. There is a vibrant expat community there, and locals love the opportunity to meet travelers. It was so nice to be on my own. It helped that staying in Cambodia is also insanely cheap. Private rooms in guest houses are as low as $6 per night, and meals are $1-3. I lived like a Queen for less than $20 per day.
I started to feel extremely familiar with the city. I ran into people I knew around town, befriended the cashier at the corner store, and the girl at my favorite food cart memorized my order. I began considering staying in Cambodia long term.
The real test came when a friend told me about an apartment for rent right behind his shop, for $50 per month. Yes, seriously. 50 DOLLARS.
I felt nervous butterflies when I thought about making a commitment (oh, 20s, you are silly)… but I went to see the apartment anyway, and it wasn’t bad at all!
Air conditioning optional, fully furnished, 1 bedroom, 1 bath. Utilities $5-8 per month. Nothing glamorous, but for $50 per month, you could stick me in the back of a van.
So, of course I thought, “Wow! I could live on next to nothing, spend my days volunteering and reading, and take my time planning my next step!”
Staying in Cambodia was a real possibility.
For a few days.
Ultimately, I wasn’t ready to settle anywhere yet. A strong believer in intuition, I trusted my gut feeling — that no, I couldn’t stay in Siem Reap, even if I wanted to. I felt the ache for home and familiarity, but I didn’t want to stop somewhere until I felt sure. My adventure had just begun!
Within days I headed to the beautiful coast of Cambodia, which sits along the Gulf of Thailand, and began making plans to leave the country.