My first Southeast Asia experience came in 2010, only a couple months after I met Alexis. I remember this night very clearly — I was hanging out with Alexis in her dorm room when my cousin texted me and said, “Do you want to go to Cambodia?”
“Uhhh… yes?” I responded.
“I’m going with a volunteer group but my mom will only let me go if you come too. She’ll pay for you to come.”
That was all I needed. I was in.
A few weeks later, I had my bag packed and was set to head out on my first real international experience. Up until that point, I had only been to Mexico (Tijuana with my uncle who lives in San Diego) and The Bahamas on a cruise.
So by “my bag” I mean Alexis’ backpack. She was a seasoned traveler, having explored much of Europe during her study abroad year. I had nothing, but I was excited to start my journey as well.
I spent 10 days in Cambodia with the group forPEACE. We built 10 homes in a rural village outside Battambang in western Cambodia. The houses were modest, built on stilts with corrugated metal siding and wood plank floors. We worked side by side with the locals who would live in them. I had never done anything like that before, but the experience was truly enriching.
After the houses were built, we had a few days left in the country to explore the many temples of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat being the most famous. The beauty of the temple was awe-inspiring. The sheer size of it, the intricate details, the endless corridors… it was all incredible.
This particular shot of a female monk surrounded by the golden-clad Buddha and prayer flags is one of my favorites. Her smile was uplifting, if a little deranged as well. She seemed happy to the point of crazy. Perhaps it was enlightenment.
Regardless, it was a smile and experience I will never forget. You can see more pictures of Cambodia here.
P.S. I promise this will be my last Photo Friday guest post 🙂 The star of the show will return next week.