If you’re reading this, you probably know me quite well (hi, mom!). And if you know me quite well, you probably know that I can… shall we say ‘struggle’ with decision-making? Many times, it’s not that I don’t know what I want. It’s that I want it all. Cake to be eaten. Promptly. I want to have the comfort of home, but I also want to venture out. I want to make a meaningful contribution to society, but I also want to sit around and read books. I want to train to run another half marathon, but I also want to have leisurely coffee on my balcony as the temperature rises ten degrees above what anyone would consider good running weather.
This inability to make and stick with decisions has sometimes made me the bane of people’s existence. I get it. Some things never change…
A couple of months ago, I met a guy looking for trekking partners (that’s what they call hiking over here, i guess, as i can’t seem to get anyone to tell me how hiking and trekking might be different, a question i once asked a gal hiking hadrian’s wall, only to be looked at with disdain and to receive the “it’s just… trekking” condescending answer). I was finding myself in my typical decision-making pattern, going back and forth as to why I would or wouldn’t go trekking with him from Chambok.
- I love hiking, and I miss it tremendously.
- I also miss being out in nature, seeing green.
- I have been feeling a need to challenge my body, other than just running in heat.
- It’s hot as hell here in April. I mean, have I mentioned yet how I sweat nearly a liter every time I just sweep the floor? (yes, yes, i know i’ve mentioned this before)
- The expense was not something I had in my budget. While it really wasn’t that expensive for the services, it’s just that I’m not trying to completely and totally run out of cash while hanging out in Cambodia. I like my landlady A LOT (she gave me more beers the other day!!!) and would like to continue being able to give her rent money each month.
- I don’t really know this guy and he could be
- a serial killer, or
- just annoying as hell.
There was also more than a twinge of fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep up on the trek (this is founded in the reality of past hikes, like when trekking gorillas at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – you’d have to buy me a beer to tell you this whole story), but I was able to give fear a big F-U. Still, indecision.
I eventually messaged The Dane, my to-be hiking partner, saying I wasn’t going, citing monetary issues. While he expressed disappointment, I agreed to still meet up with him later in his trip, trading the use of my washing machine for a bottle of his homebrew. And I know I’m good at drinking beer, so no fear there.
But as it turns out The Dane is a hella persistent guy, and each time I met up with him here in PP before the planned trekking trip, he kept trying to convince me to go with him (all the while succeeding at convincing me he was neither a serial killer nor annoying as hell). But it was actually a TED talk by Ruth Chang about “How to Make Hard Choices” that made me fully change my mind. She talks about hard choices being those with no truly “better” answer, which is what this decision was – definite pros, definite cons. Here’s what Chang had to say:
“So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be? You might decide to be a pink sock-wearing, cereal-loving, country-living banker, and I might decide to be a black sock-wearing, urban, donut-loving artist. What we do in hard choices is very much up to each of us.
Now, people who don’t exercise their normative powers in hard choices are drifters. We all know people like that. I drifted into being a lawyer. I didn’t put my agency behind lawyering. I wasn’t for lawyering. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment — pats on the head, fear, the easiness of an option –to determine what they do. So the lesson of hard choices: reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person.”
Did I want to put my agency behind being a fiscally-responsible safety-seeker? Or did I want to be a slightly less financially viable, albeit sweaty as hell, experience-seeker?
I eventually caved, bought bus tickets, and joined him on an early Sunday-morning bus ride out of the city. Of course, everything was a great experience. We laughed (tons!), ate great food (also tons!), and got to see some of the culture of rural life in Cambodia (making rice wine, dancing and drinking beers for Khmer New Year, staying in a homestay, learning about medicines and foods from the forest, hearing the stories of the locals (ranging from stories of toasts made while drinking to stories of refugee camps), riding around on a tractor and bicycles…).
Okay, this is already TLDR, and I didn’t even talk about the trekking yet! Here, look at some pics of the whole trip (photo credit for half of these to the dane)…
Biking around the area:
Biking around Chambok
Finally got to drive a Jaguar.
Biking up to the Information Center
Just some of the delicious foods we had:
Our whole roast chicken (it arrived after we thought the meal was over and were STUFFED)
Sticky rice in bamboo
Bamboo sticky rice
Lunch (always three courses to start!)
Some of the sights and activities around town:
Beers at the dance party for KNY
Farmers growing morning glory
Lighting the rice wine on fire
Great swimming hole in town… if it weren’t for all the trash
Fancy packaging for the rice wine we bought in “town”
Where the rice wine is made (that’s the yeast starter in the blue barrel)
Gifts for the spirits for Khmer New Year, just outside of our room
Short day trek to Second and Third Waterfalls (where, as we were hiking down what our guide called an “adventure” path (read: most people don’t go this way), The Dane said, “If they want to expand their ecotourism, they’ll have to look at safety,” right before I completely bit it — my only fall this trip that left bruises):
This bridge gave me a little adrenaline bump
Third waterfalls (a short trek away)
Community member cleaning up trash
Amazing rock formations and trees outside of a bat cave
… And the big day trek from Chambok to Kirirom National Park:
A perfect, secluded swimming hole, complete with waterfall
Me, The Dane, and our amazing guide!
Reminder that time hasn’t distanced us *that* far from the war…
“Why does it feel like we just keep going up?” This is why.
Me following the guide (note the “trail” here, making a knowledgeable guide who grew up here a necessity)
Village in the distance
My feet weren’t pretty after the dusty 15k.
View from the top of our first big climb
Feeling gratitude for persistent Danes.
Next undertaking? Another vipassana course (like this one I did a few months ago, but in Kampong Cham). Glutton for punishment, but putting my agency behind, trying to be for meditation and self-improvement. Here’s hoping!