In October 2013 I went to Cambodia for a week on a charity trip with Action Aid to help build a library for a small village outside Siam Reap. The trip was organised by my old company as part of their Giving Something Back initiative, so everyone on the trip was from the organisation. There is a lot of backstory for this one…
I decided to complete the trip because I realised I needed to get out of myself; I was spiralling a bit into self-absorption, and I wanted a way to focus myself outside of work/flat refurbishment and give myself a proper challenge. I had always wanted to complete one of the trips, but you had to raise £1,500 in sponsorship money, which I thought would be impossible. But after a conversation with a friend, we hit on a crazy idea – I would raise the money by auctioning off shaving my head. Her friend had done it, and the idea is that people pay the sponsorship money and say whether you have to shave your head or not. Her friend didn’t have to shave her head in the end, because she is surrounded by kind, loving people. Whereas all my friends (AND FAMILY) are apparently complete tw*ts because come the 18th August 2013…
But this was the push I was looking for… I’m not afraid of travelling, I’ve done it so much a trip to Cambodia with a tour company (plus a follow up holiday in Thailand for a week) wasn’t doing the trick. But having my head shaved in the office? I didn’t eat for 24 hours; I was sick the night before, and shaking so violently by the time it came to it that I had to sit on my hands so no-one would notice. Once it was over I was ravenous and ate two McDonalds back to back. But sometimes you need that type of fear; it electrifies you, reminds you what it means to be alive.
After that I dealt with the reality of having no hair (which is AMAZING, ladies I cannot recommend it enough – so freeing!) and got on with life. The finally came along in October, and we flew off to Cambodia, where I learned that:
- I had developed travel sickness. It was inevitable (my mum and sister have had it from birth, I knew eventually it would get me).
- Cambodia has developed a lot in 10 years – I went in 2004 and spent 8 hours in a knackered Merc on a dirt road from the Thai border to Siam Reap, slept in a crappy hostel and rode around 3 to a motorbike. This time I flew into a brand new airport, slept in a nice hotel and took a coach. I know which one I preferred to be honest, but it’s good news for the Cambodians.
- The Australian ladies from my company are bat-shit crazy, epic, wonderful ladies; we got on like a house on fire and they kindly gave me the subject of this blog post.
- You really can build the foundations for a library in a week, even if you are hindered by 15-odd incompetent office workers from the UK and Australia.
- Cambodian children are the cutest and I was fully prepared to steal one if I could have just lured them into my backpack.
- Angkor Wat is still amazing
- The crossing from Cambodia back to Thailand is still mental and long-winded and just unnecessarily bureaucratic… which I’m sure will form part of a future story 🙂