The Places Writing Has Taken Me – Siem Reap, Cambodia 2019

I have been writing in a typed journal almost every single day since the start of this year. I have hundreds of thousands of words, compiled away. I use this typed journal for many reasons. Maybe, one day I can make a book out of it. However, it never began with that in mind. I began writing in a handwritten journal during my first proper trip to South East Asia in 2016 where I lived in a rural Thai village for one months, helping to look after elephants in a village. It was there where my interest in humanitarian work in third world countries grew. I started a hand written journal to document the events of that trip. After two months being away and documenting, I was back in Sydney and began to document my day to day life in hand writing. A time of depression and anxiety lead me to using the journal as a form of therapy. When I was in pain, I could sit on my couch or at a table for hours with the pen in my hand and the journal with me. Below is an entry I wrote earlier this year.

Journal Entry – 07/02/2019

Up at 7:30 am, I had to get my bicycle to the nearest hangout spot so my friend could pick it up. It was one of the many possessions I handed over to the friends who I was leaving behind in Siem Reap. I made my way to my favourite cafe where I said my goodbyes to the friends I had made there. A farewell coffee and the exchange of small gifts gave me a warm sense of comfort. Then, it was to the bus depot. My morning was structured and well planned. I guess, I had planned my exit from Siem Reap well because I knew if I hadn’t, I would put myself in a deeper state of emotional overwhelm.

About 4 hours later, we arrive in the town of Battambang and that is when the nerves began to really kick in. Having gone from a busy, tourist town like Siem Reap to a small country town like Battambang really threw me off. It wasn’t only the shock caused by the change of environment, but also the fact that I knew I was leaving behind a life that I have worked hard at building for the last 8 months. It was a life that took time, care and responsibility, as I had to fend for myself for the very first time in my life – survival wise.

I slept after a decent sized cambodian dish – beef curry. I thought, “maybe the pain will subside after a short nap”. It only intensified when I woke up. I spent 30 minutes on my bed, crying with a pillow over my face. I then took myself to the bathroom where I cried for another 20 minutes and then the deck chair by the pool where I just sat, lost looking at the reflection of the water – tears rolling down my eyes, profusely.

Why was I so emotional? What was it that I was feeling? I realised, it wasn’t fear, at all. It was grief. I was in a state of grief for the life in Siem Reap that I was leaving behind. So many memories were created there, so many deep connections and so much comfort was built and developed over time. Siem reap became my life. That shift in environment and lifestyle always throws you off. It’s the grief you experience for the old life you once clinged to. Everything becomes familiar and comforting.

It was around 9pm when I decided that I had released as much emotion as what was required, and it was time to move on with things. This journey will go on, and when things need to be left to the past, as hard as it is to let go, it is a must. With the help of a few whiskey and cokes, I felt relieved.

I promised myself I wouldn’t drink until I had surpassed the eye of the emotional storm in my sober state of mind. I didn’t want to numb my pain because that would truly defeat the purpose of all of this. I never embarked on this journey for the sake of experiencing pleasure, and only pleasure. I came here to embrace everything for what is.