Gonna give this Weekly Photo Challenge thingie a try…I may be inherently lazy but my ego prevents me from ignoring a good challenge.
This week’s theme is “Reward.” The first visual that comes to mind when I think of this word is from a little over a year ago, during my first-ever completely solo trip. As any of you lone-wanderlusty types may know, you never forget your first time. Previously, the closest I had ever come to traveling alone was a day or two on my own before meeting up with friends. So, an unaccompanied adventure through Cambodia & Vietnam was kind of a big deal at the time.
On one of the legs of the trip, I took a night bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep to tour the ancient temples. I slept (or least attempted to) in a curtained 4′ x 6′ compartment on the floor level beside a complete stranger, packed like sardines with dozens of others above and around us. I was too confused/creeped out to comprehend that the random unannounced stops in the middle of the night (in the middle of nowhere) were the bathroom breaks. I popped a sleeping pill and attempted chill vibes. In the morning, a driver from the hotel I’d reserved was scheduled to fetch me from the bus stop (I’d decided to SPLURGE on the $30/night luxury hotel), but it slowly dawned on me after watching as all the other travelers vacated the depot that no one was coming for me. There was no pay phone in sight and brave, adventurous me had opted out of the international phone plan. After a bumpy, sleepless night of holding my pee & being considerably freaked out, being stranded at a Cambodian bus station with no foreseeable deliverance had me feeling pretttttty defeated (a situation only improved by the bus stop “bathroom” consisting of a bucket on the floor in the center of a feces-splattered room).
Anyhoo…after a while of pacing/panicking/troubleshooting/politely harassing strangers I managed to borrow a passer-by’s cell phone to dial the hotel number I’d thankfully saved. Turns out they’d mixed up my arrival time and soon sent rescue. Situation ameliorated, I was fetched and brought to my new digs. The first thing I saw, after being greeted with a cool towel and fresh juice, is what you see above (I took this snap on my otherwise-useless cell phone). In hindsight my overwhelming relief may seem a little pathetic, but I remember that moment in luminous clarity – the sheer cathartic joy experienced by sweaty, weary, scared, pee-needing me as I gazed upon that tranquil pool…thinking for the first time that hey, maybe there’s something pretty rewarding about this whole solo travel thing after all.
It rained that day but don’t think that stopped me from spending the whole day in that pool. Then I popped another pill and woke up at 4am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. WORTH IT.
Have you ever traveled alone? Tell me what it was like!