Remember that time we….
The other night Henry and I got caught up in a conversation. It was celebratory and nostalgic.
It was a necessary moment of reflection. We have experienced so many new and different things since leaving home to go and travel the world. And I don’t think we had really taken a step back to appreciate them.
We each took a turn finishing this sentence… “Do you remember that time we….” This playful and nostalgic conversation went on for a while.
When one imagines what types of endings we came up with, you might think of things like, “Do you remember our time in Bali, it was so beautiful.” Or maybe, “Do you remember the time we got to see Angkor Wat”.
Well I hate to disappoint you if that’s what you wanted to hear. What we have realised is that it is not the destinations we remember. It is not the monuments or famous cities we hold onto in our hearts.
It is what happened in those places. The things we experienced trying to get there, or the moments we found ourselves forced to search for resilience. For familiarity.
Here are just some of the more memorable moments we’ve shared. So far…
We finished the sentence “Do you remember the time we…” with stories like these;
Do you remember that time we helped stitch up Andrea?
We had the amazing opportunity to stay at a Muay Thai, Boxing and MMA gym slash resort in Thailand for nearly two months.
We were helping them with videography and blogging in exchange for accommodation, meals and all the Muay Thai, Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga
or MMA training we wanted.
After going to watch one of our Muay Thai coach’s fights one night, we ended up spending a considerable amount of time in the dark and dingy back room after the fight. We were assisting the doctor with stitching up our coach. This was after he won.
Yeah, he won, and he still needed 29 stitches.
Muay Thai is a crazy and brutal sport we knew very little about before working and living at the gym. It was incredible to be in the local fighting arena of a sport as big as Muay Thai. In Thailand. The place of its birth.
Do you remember that time we were in an earthquake?
After eating some spoilt food and getting sick, I decided I could not climb the four flights of bamboo stairs to our bedroom each time I needed the shared bathroom on the ground floor.
We were staying at an eco-lodge in Bali. In a bamboo tower. Our bedroom was on the highest, fourth floor. The bathroom was on the ground. I knew I would need it a few more times that night, and climbing up and down those bamboo “stairs” was not easy or too much fun.
So, we ended up sleeping on the floor in the beautiful common area. It was quite nice. We were surrounded by rice paddies and fire flies. Only problem, we were woken up by an earthquake at 4am.”
An earthquake feels kind of different when your body has full contact with the earth quaking.
In the below video we made, you can see some drone footage of our bamboo tower and the eco lodge. (Not our drone though, sadly).
Do you remember the kids on the beach in Batukaras?
In a big city like Bangkok, a school teacher would probably never give this assignment: Go and find tourists who speak English, practice your English with them. Take a photo with them and give them a locally made gift.
This is an assignment school kids in the rural village of Batukaras were given. Pictured here are kids who came and asked us if they could please practice their English with us. They asked us a bunch of questions. Their English was not perfect and they had to read some of the questions from their notes.
But they tried hard and they were so sweet. Three groups ended up approaching us that day at the beach.
Each gave us a gift to say thank you. We received; locally made flip flip shoes, which I wore to death. Some local snacks of dried banana chips, and a bracelet which i still wear every day. It’s my favourite bracelet.
Bicycles and Flies
Do you remember that time we rode bicycles through Siem Reap’s backstreets?
As a South African, I haven’t ridden a bicycle through the streets since I was a very small kid. It is just not what we do there.
In Siem Reap, it is common for bicycles to fill the streets. Our first AirBnB in Siem Reap had bicycles you could take out for free each day.
We rode off into the back streets of the residential areas. Here, you get to see what very few see of Siem Reap. Poverty, flies and happiness.
Happy. Some of the poorest people I have ever seen. Happy. And I come from Africa. I have seen poverty. But here we saw joy intermingled with sorrow in a beautiful way.
You do not need much to be happy. This I know for sure.
Java, Indonesia was another place we saw so many happy people who had nothing.
Do you remember that time our scooter got a flat?
Motorbikes and scooters are everywhere in Asia. It has become quite common for us to rent a scooter for a week here and a week there.
There was one particular night in Thailand where we had to push our rented motorbike about 2kms down dark roads to find help after a flat tyre.
Row row row your boat
Do you remember that time we took a river boat through rural Cambodia?
Ever been stuck in a river? Yeah, I hadn’t either. That was until about a week ago. We took a river boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. It was an 8 hour journey up the Sanker River and across Tonlé Sap Lake.
Because it was dry season there were parts of the river that were so shallow, we ended up getting stuck. The fishing villages we drove through were so local and remote and rural. It was such an amazing journey. Even getting stuck!
We made a video about it which you can watch here:
Treehouses and keys
Do you remember that time we stayed in a Tree House and you lost our scooter keys on the beach?
Waking up in a treehouse is something I have never done before. We did it in a small coastal village called Batukaras.
Nothing can describe how this felt. And because it was in such a remote and local area, it cost us about $14 or R200 a night.
It wasn’t just a room in a tree, we had a big plot of land to ourselves, with our own gorgeous outdoor kitchen, complete with hammock. We had our own goats and cows. An outdoor bathroom and shower that was just so beautifully designed and put together.
Waking up in a treehouse surrounded by palm trees and rice paddies, almost unthinkable.
On our first full day, Henry wanted to go for a quick drive around the area to check it out. He left on the scooter and said he’d see me in 15 minutes.
30 minutes later, I looked at my watch for the first time. I chalked it up to Henry just losing track of time. An hour after he left, I was starting to get worried.
Our AirBnB host came by and said he got some phone call from Henry. Something was wrong but he couldn’t understand. The language barrier was there.
I had my phone, but Henry had the local sim card. We had no wifi. What was i supposed to do? Was he ok?
Turns out he had lost the scooter keys on the beach. After spending some time trying to find them, he had to run all the way back from the beach.
Two hours after his “disappearance” I saw him coming running through the forest. We had to get new keys cut for our AirBnB host, whose bike it was.
This is a final and urgent boarding announcement…
Do you remember that time we nearly missed our flight?
I have never so narrowly missed a flight before as the time Henry and I got so caught up in the lounge in Dubai that we were “last called” to our flight. The crew at the boarding gate and the cabin crew said to us. “Wow, you just made it”.
We ran so fast across the Dubai airport when we realized we had stuffed up. If you’ve ever been, you might know how big that airport is, We ran.
Do you remember the magic we unexpectedly found in George Town?
You might never have heard of George Town. We hadn’t. We went there on a whim based off of other traveler’s advice. And, we loved it. It’s those unexpected gems that stay with you.
George Town is an artistic city that celebrates street art like no other. Every time we walked the streets we saw something we didn’t see the day before. There were hidden bars and art everywhere you looked.
The history of the place is long and unexpected. The people and the food, world class.
It was not a major city we had been conditioned to know as a place to visit. It wasn’t Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. We went with other travellers, knew nothing about it… and it was tops.
We’ve been on the road for….
So, where is the magic in travel?
One thing we have learnt since starting to travel full-time is that, we are not alone. The world is a very small place today, and I wrote a little piece about it. It’s called “Tourist Trap. Looking for Authenticity“ It describes our experience of the top tourist destinations, and how I feel about tourism today.
You can read more about all the opinions I felt like writing down there, but they are just that, my opinion. Here I will just tell you that the realization we’ve had, has shaped how we want to change our travel style going forward.
Taking a step back to realize what moments we’ve shared that have truly stood out, it’s clear that it hasn’t been the Angkor Wats or the Great Walls. It hasn’t been a destination, it’s been an experience. It’s been the cities we have visited on a whim, or because someone else with a backpack told us it was worth a detour passed it.
It’s on the side streets and Muay Thai gyms that we have found our experience.
When you let go of the idea that you have to find a destination at the end of the road, you just appreciate the road.
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