Remember that one time I raved about my time in Cambodia and vowed it was my favorite country, a place that left a special mark on my heart, especially the people? I guess it's pretty obvious that I met great people and solidified friendships when I could go back and visit them a year later, being welcomed with open arms. Aside from Dara and his family in Siem Reap/Kampong Cham, and Sa Ry in Kampot I had one more stop to make, this time a revisit to Battambang and my friend Moth.
Last year I spent a day with Moth as a paying guest on one of his increasingly popular bicycle tours, I didn't expect much to grow from this interaction but Facebook aided in proving differently. As my travels took me through other countries Facebook allowed me to view his growth (both in business and character) to which I sometimes offered support, suggestions or English editing services. When I re-entered the country it came to mind that I should notify him and was immediately welcomed and encouraged to revisit his city. Lucky for both of us Battambang is located on the exit route to Thailand so stopping over for a few days only made sense.
I asked for hostel recommendations but was told that would not be necessary as I could stay with him at the Butterfly Tour offices, which proved to helpful if not a bit problematic, but that's a different story. Moth told me to call him if he wasn't at the terminal when I arrived which was only a slight problem as I had no phone (yeah, still didn't bother replacing it). Much to my surprise one of the tuk-tuk drivers not only lent me his phone but took the time to put credit on it so I could do so, I must admit he looked a bit crestfallen when I confirmed my friend was, in fact, coming for me.
Over the next three days, I had little on my agenda and thus spent the majority of my time with Moth and his friends, either at the Butterfly office, Buffalo Alley (his second business) or one of the various restaurants in town. I had previously promised to help edit the content on both of Moth's websites which is how I found myself 'working' while Moth enjoyed naps, I was rewarded with free beers though, so everything worked out.
We had plans to go to the pool one day - but that fell through, a mountain on another - again didn't happen, but we did manage dinner and drinks on all occasions. Spending time with Moth and his friends was such a stark contrast from the company I kept in both Siem Reap and Kampot which served as a real eye-opener. This group was so driven, motivated and passionate about what they are doing, it was amazing to witness their drive and success. Moth has already opened a second, flourishing Butterfly office in Siem Reap and plans to open his third in Kampot this summer. We discussed running a business together, expanding the current operation while also reaching into neighboring countries, it was only towards the end of my stay that I realized he was quite serious...add another option to my "What should I do when I grow up?" list.
For now, I'm back home, writing this belatedly while reflecting on the time I spent in Cambodia and asking myself that "What's next?" question once again. My feet have the desire to step on new land, my taste buds want to explore new flavors and my mind wants to learn about new cultures, but then there's my heart. The part of me that keeps drawing me back to what I know, the places I created friendships, stored memories, completed firsts and left pieces of myself. I'm supposed to be in Europe right now, but I listened and my heart told me otherwise so here I am in Wisconsin enjoying some family time before the what's next. South America recently popped up on my radar and Europe is still waiting, but then there's always Asia. A Korea friend told me, "Wow you really love Asia, I think you should go somewhere different!" So there's the question, in a few months, time will my heart coincide with this suggestion or will it once again tell me otherwise? Only time will tell.
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.