Hanoi, Vietnam – I find that one of the most exciting parts of traveling is the chance to meet new people. You never know who you might run into, what kind of experience(s) you will share, or for how long your paths will cross. Think about it, a life changing event or your future best friend could be out there somewhere, and all you have to do is get off the couch and start wandering until you find that person or experience.
Hanoi, Vietnam – In 1975 the ruthless communist dictator Pol Pot came to power in Cambodia, ushering in the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot’s vision was one of an agrarian society founded on equality and self sufficiency. To achieve his goal, Pol Pot exiled everyone from the cities, closed the country’s borders with land mines, disbanded modern institutions associated with education, medicine, free trade, and the media, and forced all people in Cambodia to move to collective farms (ie. work camps) throughout the Cambodian countryside. The mass migration from the cities tore families apart and forced people to leave all of their belongings behind, while the loss of all social institutions completely halted the Cambodian economy and led to great sickness and starvation.
Hanoi, Vietnam – Cambodia. The name conjures contrasting images and feelings – part sobering reality, part uplifting hope and humanity, and part organized chaos. Less than 20 years removed from their last coup d’etat, the country is going through massive change while continuing to heal from past wounds. At times it felt like I was in the Wild West – a place where anything goes – which can make traveling quite an adventure until you get used to the cadence of daily life. However, the people were very open and caring and helpful (and most spoke English very well) which made the adjustment as smooth and painless as possible – turning the uncomfortable into the thoroughly enjoyable.
On June 17, 2012 I leave for a 5 month trip around the world. Here’s the itinerary, which I think is insanely awesome. Since the question has already come up, I planned the whole trip myself and I’m using airline miles and hotel points wherever I can to cut down on cost (shameless plug: You can check out my travel resources page to see what sources I used to book everything). As for selecting the locations, it was a combination of where the volunteer programs are located, different small group trips I’ve wanted to take for awhile, and filling in the blanks with other locations and things I’ve always wanted to visit. My goal is write 2-3 blog posts per week to keep everyone updated on life on the road – and to let me parents know that I’m still alive. If anyone has suggestions on things to see and do along the way, feel free to share in the comments below.