Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 81

After a cold  month in Europe, I flew to Thailand a week and a half ago yearning for sun and the soul penetrating joy I felt in Nepal. Instead, I was given Bangkok, a big city, skyscrapers and all, where my body is constantly sticky and heat isn't as enjoyable as I remember it being. Carts of street food cover the sidewalks with each dish spicier than the next. Pork is unavoidable, the one meat I told myself I would never try I have given in to, and it's disapointingly delicious. Thankfully, just a couple days later I escaped the pork crazed city for Vang Vieng, Laos. My friend, Aaron (who is studying abroad in Bangkok) and I got some of the last seats available (unbelievably uncomfortable plastic benches) on an overnight train to the Thai-Lao border. After many more hours of confusion and travel we made it to Vang Vieng, a small town among big mountains and a river flwoing with life. "This is exactly where I'm supposed to be," I thought. We spent our days exploring the river, the mountains, and local caves. I have never felt so happy and content to simply walk as I did then. Zig-zagging through the red dirt roads, I was greeted with smiles by every person I passed. We found an organic mulberry farm outside of town, run by a man named Mr. T, and we enjoyed his company for many meals of mulberry pancakes and starfruit wine. We also met a couple from London who are taking two years to tandem bike from New Zealand all the way back home. Wow they were so rad!! We talked with them a ton and the woman, Kat, said if she could do it, so could I, so hey maybe one day I'll do a bike trip too! (You can read more about what they're doing on their blog: When the time came to leave Vang Vieng we were all pretty sad. Looking back it almost feels like a dreamy paradise, I can't believe how lucky I am to have been there. Getting back to Bangkok was a bit of a fiasco, but we eventually found an overnight bus and all worked out (as it always does when you stay positive). And that same day I got on a plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia! To give a little background, I didn't realize that upon coming to Thailand  I would need a visa to stay longer than 30 days. A part of me even worried that I would get deported in the Bangkok airport. But of course that didn't happen, and I spent a day at Immigration to sort things out. The only option they gave me was to again fly into Thailand to renew my 30 days and then apply for a 7 day extension to cover my last week in April. So this is how I got to Cambodia, and wow am I so thankful for Thailand's crazy visa rules.
Getting on my plane that day was nothing short of terrifying. Many times now I've traveled from point A to point B on my own, but never before have I entered new and unknown territory without any sort of companion or a plan to guide me. The days ahead felt like eternity, how would I possibly keep myself busy? But getting off the plane in Siem Reap I knew I had done right. What was coming would be hard, the uncertainty felt scary, but at the same time so beautiful. All is in my hands! The next morning at 5 am I got on a motorcycle taxi to Angkor Wat, an ancient temple now in ruins. Riding with Poh, my motorcycle driver and guest house receptionist, I looked up at the stars and smiled so big. "Emily you are the cat's pajamas," I thought. I watched the sun rise over Angkor and then set off to explore. Poh would meet me at the end and drive me to the next temples. (These ten minute motorcycle stints every hour were crucial because it was so damn hot outside). I visited Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Phrom, and I highly suggest looking them up on google images because they're insanely beautiful and my iphone didn't take any good pictures. Wandering that morning I really enjoyed my solitude. I could go at my own pace, and let the beauty of my surroundings sink into my head without having to constantly express how beautiful it was to people around me. I talked to all the Cambodian kids begging tourists to buy their postcards and magnets. To distract them from their young entrepreneurship I would ask them their names, their ages, and what they liked to do for fun. The anthropologist/camp counselor in me had a great time. By noon I was sweaty and tired, and after the last temple we headed back to the guest house. A few hours later  I woke up from a nap feeling intensely lonely. It hit me that no one was waiting for me, no one was wondering where I was. It was just me. I tried to go on a walk but the city center of Siem Reap is so touristy that it wasn't really enjoyable. I started to get into a negative frame of mind, the hours were moving so slowly. I just wanted to cry (and I did), I've never felt so unhappy to be alone with myself. Thankfully, a few weeks ago my dad sent me a website called It's a resource of stories and tips for female travelers, and  I got on a computer to check it out for fun. I found a section on advice for solo traveling, and I came across this contribution:

"I am 68 and have travelled in my motorhome for months at a time, and I relish my solitude the most of all my treasures. Loneliness happens when my relationship to myself is incomplete, when I'm not my own best friend, when I talk in negatives to myself instead of appreciatively, and when I don't listen carefully to the quietness inside me. Thinking of being alone as lonely is very different from perceiving it as solitude. For starters, solitude is healing, restorative, and self nurturing. Therefore the experience of loneliness is an opportunity to get to know yourself better, deeper, more intimately. When this feels scary or impossible it is an extra special gift. How productive it is to sit quietly alone, empty your mind, listen for the whispers of your unconscious, your deeper self, your soul..." -anonymous journey woman warrior goddess

 These words could not be more true. As I read, I knew the cause of my struggle. These past couple of months I have undoubtedly gained some weight. I've eaten a lot of really good food but haven't kept up the exercise to balance things out. Growing up I never had any serious body issues beyond being a typical teenage girl, but now I feel more uncomfortable in my own skin than ever. And as a yogi, I'm used to feeling a connection to my body, in touch with my muscles and limbs and the pulse of my veins. But now I can recognize that that connection has been diminished. I keep saying I'll go on a run or practice yoga, but it's so hard when I haven't had a stable routine or comfortable space of my own in so many months. I know what it feels like to be my own best friend, and to speak to myself appreciatively rather than negatively. I just need to get back to that space, and I know I'm the only one who can make a change and get me there. So though these days on my own in Cambodia are scary at times, even a little daunting,  I know I'm here for a reason, to heal and restore my relationship to myself. This morning I took a yoga class at a studio nearby and I already feel like I'm headed in the right direction. As my teacher, Maria Cristina Jimenez, taught me, Om Namah Shivaya, I am divine and complete as I am. Thank you Thai visa rules for forcing me to come to Cambodia and spend these days with myself! 

my new heroes, The Tandem Turners!!!!!

Omen!!!! There were more butterflies than I've ever seen in Laos

Omen #2 on the wall of my room in Cambodia

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