Are you a planner or a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person? I used to always think of myself as the latter, a free spirit who just goes with the flow. As I’ve gotten a bit older though, I’ve realized by desire to plan and have an idea of how things will work out. This is especially true when I travel. Because I want to see as much as humanly possible during my trips, it leads to planning, and sometimes over planning.

My recent trip to Cambodia was a wake up call for me. During my 10 day trip, I had planned to visit 4 cities, all in different parts of the country. In my limited time I wanted to see everything: city, jungle, temples and beaches. I managed to do it all, but in my time sitting on long bus rides, I had time to think and reflect on how I travel and live my life. I may not completely change the way I am, but I can keep these things in my mind and remind myself that no amount of planning will ever give you a real authentic experience.

Here are a few small things along my journey that were a sign from the universe that, plan as I might, I will never be able to plan everything and it’s sometimes the unplanned events that are the most memorable.

Nearly missed bus = getting on the wrong bus

I was in the capital city of Phnom Phen and decided to visit the royal palace before setting out to the Eastern province of Mondulkiri. When I was finished with my visit, my tuk tuk driver was nowhere to be found, along with my bag. I walked around the streets for 15 minutes before getting another driver to contact the guesthouse I had stayed at to call the driver and have him bring my bags to the bus station. The other driver took me to the bus station and my bag arrived shortly after. I just made my bus and breathed a sigh of relief after taking my seat safely with all of my belongings.

A half hour outside of the city, the driver turns around to ask me my destination. Once I tell him, he shakes his head. I had gotten on the wrong bus! In the midst of my panic in missing my bus, I hadn’t double checked to make sure I got on the right one. Luckily, the bus I had gotten on was going in the same general direction so they were able to take a slightly different route to drop me off at my destination. This mishap taught me to relax and stay calm when things don’t go according to my plan.

Biking the countryside in Siem Reap

I had been in Siem Reap for two full days already and seen all of the temples that I wanted to. I was tired of the sightseeing and tourist laden strip of the town center so I decided to escape for the day. I rented a bike and started on the road that led out of town. I decided to keep going until I got tired. The busy road turned to a dusty dirt path winding through open fields with cows munching on grass.  An hour into my ride, I saw a sign for a lotus farm and decided to stop. It was the workshop of an eco fashion brand creating fabric and clothing out of lotus stems. In the workshop, I got to see the women processing the stems to extract the fibers and then weave them into fabric. This company called Samatoa was brought to the area to create jobs and empower women in the village. A bit later down the road, I came across the farm where they grow and harvest the lotus. I got to walk around and see the operation.

This was such an interesting and unique experience, probably one of my favorites from the trip. It is not something I could have planned or found on Trip Advisor. Sometimes you have to venture off the beaten path to find the truly interesting and beautiful things.

Dancing in jungle till sunrise

Sometimes, even when you do make a plan, things go awry. It was my last night in Cambodia and I had reserved a room at a guesthouse on the beach. After a day on the island and a delayed and very rough ferry ride, I was ready for a much needed shower and some relaxing time. I arrived at the guesthouse to a surprise though. There had been a glitch in their online system which resulted in overbooking. She didn’t have any rooms available. The owner was so kind and offered her showers and beach chairs to me for the evening. This wasn’t what I had in mind, so I set out to find another place that might have availability.

My search proved to be fruitless and I was back to square one. I went back to the first place to take her up on her offer of using her showers and beach chair for the evening. While I was at the bar having a few drinks, I overheard people taking about a big party later that evening. We began talking and they invited me to join them. An hour later, me and five new friends were on our way into the jungle. When we arrived, we were greeted with pumping music, a huge stage, carnival rides and fire dancers. It was a feast for the senses! We danced until the wee hours of the morning, leaving just before the sun came up. It was certainly not something I had planned, but I had a blast and am glad I was open to the experience.

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