18 hours to Cambodia

posted by Lindsey Isaf

As I dreamily stare at the map of the world, seeing and remembering each of my adventures on various boundary-drawn landmasses that have inevitably shaped my current self, I cannot help but be drawn to those memories of Asia. The mystic landmarks, ancient structures, drastically different cultures and captivatingly devout religions, have mesmerized me from a young age. Therefore, it should have been no surprise that I would feel oddly at home, as I located Cambodia on the map and readied myself for my upcoming journey to its land. However, this is not what I found to be true.

Even after successfully proposing the idea of a study abroad to my parents and completing the application process, my “hypothetical” idea mindset continued to overshadow reality. Through Spring Semester I prepared by buying my plane ticket and setting summer plans into motion, but relentlessly Cambodia stood as an intangible destination as the week approached for departure. The drive to the airport additionally was clenched by the grasps of my surreal thoughts, and it was not until I waved goodbye to my loving parents and saw my gate, that I knew I was going somewhere.

As I looked out the gate’s massive windows out onto the runway, I saw the towering 747 plane that was soon going to embark to Seoul, South Korea with me onboard. Luckily for me, this ~13 hour flight has graced my life approximately three times (at least), so I felt as if I was prepared for the constriction and confusion that accompanies such long flights. In fact, flying has become the no-hassle part of my traveling because the remarkable amount of hours I have spent sitting in a plane over the last twenty-one years of life. That being said, I spent moments of the plane ride watching a movie, playing mini golf, and attempting to increase the number of “completed and read” pages in my required books. But, as any frequent flyer will tell you, sleep is what you should strive for. Following my father’s footsteps, I would not be surprised if my final count of hours slept equaled 8 hours. That, for me, is more than a normal night’s sleep and most likely made possible by the specifically calculated air pressure done to induce passengers into various levels of a lulled sleep.

I arrived at the Seoul airport unflustered and my six new companions and I happily trekked our way to our last gate, certainly the last “gateway” toward our destination. Now, if you didn’t know, Seoul’s airport resembles a swanky resort with various giddy giving activities. The pristine, glass window, and tech savvy structure is equipped with all the activities to fill your time: sleeping quarters, spa, casino, restaurants, cultural center, and mini golf. It was to my dismay that my two-hour layover meant no frolicking in this resort, as if I was a kid in an arcade, and additionally no chance to escape into the wonderful city of Seoul. But, nonetheless, my final destination kept me happily in my seat at gate 18.

The five-hour flight to Siem Reap was honestly a blur. Besides the thirty minutes that it took me to eat another airplane dinner and listen to a few minutes of worrying world news, I spent the remainder of my flight in amazing, drool worthy sleep. It was not until we had twenty minutes until landing that I sprung awake with each nerve in my body ready to intake the endorphin-type happiness that overtakes me each time I land in a new area of the world. The hours of neck aches, swollen feet, and continuous body shifts was worth it and I now found myself unbuckling my seatbelt as the passengers and flight attendants begun their usual departing protocol through the open airplane doors.

Stepping off the airplane, Cambodia seemed to greet me through all the senses. The smiling, dark people, the wafting smell of burning wood mixed with the smell, taste, and feeling that humidity and heat carry, told me that I was here. All my senses: eyes, ears, smell, and taste were synchronizing to greet Cambodia as it so did to me. After greetings from a few of our new Journeys Within family, the group of 8 trailed into the van, all sleepy-eyed and unsure of our surroundings in the darkness that accompanies 10:30pm. After a brief introduction in the lobby area of our new home, Kristy and I graciously unloaded our tired bodies and bags into Bungalow 3. And, although fully capable of some more sleep, I found myself letting my fingers flip through pages while letting my mind aimlessly wander in order to tire myself out for the night in which I hoped to sleep through. Everyone knows that the first morning after traveling is usually met with early morning wakeups and I was desperately hoping the sun would beat my waking eyes.


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