For me, fear is a necessary, even desirable part of traveling. I love to wake up with adrenaline tying my stomach in knots--it reminds me that I'm alive, that I'm learning. Without this fear my life becomes stagnant.
November 18, 2009
First night in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, and I feel like crying. But by now I'm used to this feeling--it always happens on the first night of a big journey, but only when I've flown to a new place--something to do with the combination of a faraway place with jetlag with being alone. And besides, I only feel a little bit like crying and that is something of a victory and probably related to Elma, my Couchsurfing host. She picked me up from the airport in a black Lexus SUV, took me to what was essentially my own private apartment, then introduced me to her eight dogs and five cats, and to the city of Phnom Penh.
November 19, 2009
I spent the day on a borrowed bicycle, mixing it up with the swarm of motos on the right-hand side of the road, trying to avoid the big SUVs except when I used them as shields while I crossed a busy intersection. I didn't want to end up like the guy near the apartment who quite literally rode his bike into the siding of an SUV, leaving his front wheel smashed and misshapen and the car undamaged.
When I got back to the apartment, it was already dark. There I met Lulu, a fellow Couchsurfer from southern China. We introduced ourselves and we talked, or rather, she mainly talked. I realized that every time I meet a traveler and we share information about ourselves, it feels a bit (or so I imagine) like two insecure guys bragging about and comparing penis size. Like it's some kind of competition to see who is the more extreme traveler.
'Oh you've been on the road for ten months? I left home eleven months ago.' 'You hitchhike? Oh yes, I hitchhiked around Turkey and then around eastern Europe--alone!'
Why do I feel the need to convince people I am a 'real' traveler? What the hell does that even mean? In reality, I don't feel like an extreme traveler, or even an extreme person. I feel that the things I have done do not really match who I am, but I think they do match who I would like to be. I've learned that the people who do these seemingly extreme things (like hitchhike from Copenhagen to Syria or cycle around the world) do not need to be unlike me--they do not need to be brave every day or be completely unattached from all people. In fact they can often be scared and unsure and just take their travels one day at a time.
One day at a time; I can do that, truly I can. I just have to decide whether I want to or not.