Greetings from Cambodia, my friends!
While some of you may only know this country as the birthplace of it's most famous citizen, Maddox Jolie, Cambodia is a fascinating place with a rich cultural history. Twenty-five years since the demise of the Khmer Rouge, this peaceful land has been undergoing major changes recently and foreign investors are flocking here by the thousands to help the country enter the modern age. It’s fascinating to watch an entire country change before your very eyes.
According to the UN, there are 192 countries in the world. At last count, I'd visited 46 of them. Cambodia makes it 47. Before I die, it's my goal to become a member of the Traveler's Century Club.
This insane travel bug comes from my mother. She’s one of the few people I know who has been to more countries than I have and, at the age of 64, she's showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, part of the reason she became a teacher was so she could always have summers free to travel.
Obviously, this love of travel is one of the things I want to pass on to the Peanut. So far, all she's inherited from me are a big head and sweaty feet. Total bummer. I feel awful about that.
Anyway...I've always been amazed at how little Americans travel to other countries. I've got so many close friends with both the means and the free time to explore the world but instead spend every vacation sitting on one beach or another. Their definition of "roughing it" means staying at a resort without free wi-fi.
Traveling abroad isn't cheap and it's not often easy. Every time I discuss my travels here, I get a ton of e-mails from younger people asking me for advice on how to do it. It's easy. Spend a year abroad teaching English. Volunteer for the Peace Corps. Go on a religious mission. Transfer to a foreign branch of your company for a year. Check out last-minute travel deals and be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. If the passion is there, you’ll always find a way.
Life is short, my friends, and the world is a fascinating place. Try to see as much of it as you can before your time on the planet is up. It can change your entire perspective on life. As a friend of mine who just returned from his first trip to Asia said, “You forget that everywhere is just a plane ride away.”
In other travel-related news...
(1) I always forget that requesting a non-smoking room in a SE Asian hotel means that nobody is smoking in your room RIGHT NOW!
(2) Germans are great travelers. You find them everywhere. However, if the men would just leave those nut-hugging bikini bottoms at home, the world would be a much better place.
(3) From 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge killed 2.3 million Cambodians out of a population of 7 million. If any of you have seen The Killing Fields, you may be familiar with this tragic tale of genocide. Last night, I spent the evening talking to a man whose 10 siblings were executed in the killing fields and were forced to dig their own graves. Man’s ability to commit crimes against humanity never ceases to amaze me. Why have we not learned from the past to stop the atrocities currently happening in Darfur?
(4) Despite man’s ability for destruction, visiting places like Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat or the pyramids of Giza reminds you that man’s ability to create is equally awesome.
(5) Children here often walk 5 miles to school and study year-round. Many are fluent in 3 languages. If we don’t start taking education more seriously in the U.S., we’re all going to be working at call centers for Asian companies in 50 years.
(6) All toilet paper is not created equal.
(7) I downloaded the entire first season of Dexter onto my ipod and watched it on the flight over here. How come nobody ever told me what a great show it is? Michael C. Hall has to be the creepiest guy on television aside from Donald Trump!
(8) You can visit any karaoke bar anywhere on the planet and the only thing that's guaranteed is that you'll find "Take Me Home, Country Road" in the songbook. John Denver may be our country's most popular cultural export.
(9) Whenever I travel, I'm always questioned about life in America. Why is Paris Hilton famous? Do all the women in California look like Pamela Anderson? Yesterday, I met a local guy who is addicted to satellite television. He was bombarding me with a million questions when suddenly he paused for a moment, turned quite serious, and asked me, "What is wrong with Larry King?"
Dude, I have no fucking idea.
I’ve got a long journey ahead of me this week, my friends. Twenty-six hours of transit so I can make it home for Thanksgiving. Perfect opportunity for another MetroDad mailbag. We haven’t done one in awhile so e-mail me your questions or leave them in the comments. I've still got a few questions lined up from the last time we did this. However, as always, feel free to ask me whatever’s on your mind.
The reader with the most interesting question or the one that makes me laugh so hard I fart will win an amazing and very special souvenir from Cambodia. Fire away!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND ALL YOUR FAMILIES! MAY WE ALL TAKE SOME TIME TO REMEMBER HOW MUCH WE HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR.