Here we go!

March 29, 2008

So this is it, here we go.

I’m sitting on the plane on my way from Taipei to Phnom Penh. There’s about an hour to go until landing, and I’m feeling pretty well-rested, thanks to my trusty sleeping skills. I sometimes worry that my ability to sleep most anywhere, anytime verges on narcolepsy, but I can’t complain when the same ability allows me to sleep through a 14 hour flight.

I’m looking out the left side window near the front of the plane and can see a coastline, and the outlet of a river — perhaps the Mekong? We’re getting closer to landing and I’m getting a little more nervous — I still know so little about what to expect when I land; it’s scary, but also exhilarating to live so much in the moment, taking things one thing at a time.

Mum and dad dropped me off almost 20 hours ago at LAX. I have many friends and family to thank for their love and support in the past few weeks, but especially mum & dad for helping me get ready for this trip and being excited and proud for me to go off and try something a little off the wall.

After I woke up from my first mini-nap on the flight from LAX to Taipei, I started to panic a little:

“Wait, what?” I thought. “Where am I going? And why? I had a beautiful apartment in a city I love. I’m going away from a loving boyfriend, friends, family, and a well-paying job for what again? Am I running from something? Am I chasing a romantic notion, am I trying to prove something, and if so, what?”

I guess I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what I’m going to be doing, why I’m going away at all, and why to Cambodia in particular. I’ve thought a lot about it, and written about it a little, and I guess if this is going to be the start to a log of my adventures over the next few months, it makes sense to talk a little bit about the impetus for the whole crazy thing.

Here’s a little snippet from my original Fulbright application:

My whole life, I’ve excelled at things that were relatively familiar and comfortable. Google opened my eyes to what’s possible when you push the envelope and translate big ideas to action. Psychologists have shown that people can become addicted to success, and risk less because they are afraid of failure. I don’t want that to be me. Just applying for this grant has already pushed me in ways I’m not accustomed to – reaching out to strangers, independent study outside of a formal academic setting – and it’s not difficult to imagine how much more I would grow in 10 months.

As most of you know, I didn’t convince the Fulbright folks, but even so, I think this was the most sincere part of my application and the fundamental reason why I’m on this plane.

I could go on and on about my particular selfish reasons, but staying true to my nature, I’ll just write a couple down in a little list

– Want to do something I care about (e.g. education)
– General travelust — particularly, liking the feeling of being a foreigner in a place and the exhilaration (and exhaustedness) of learning everything over
– Want to test my boundaries; can I do this on my own?
– Find out what’s really important to me — what do I need to live? In the end, not much I think
– Like the idea of being somewhere where my skills and experience and time are relatively much more valuable
– Want to get a little closer to understanding what life can be like in a “so-called” developing country and try to understand more about this morass that is development
– Want time to think and not just be busy busy busy, without a real goal in mind
– Though it can be lonely, I like “starting over” in a place with no expectations of what kind of person I am, what I should do, who I should be

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