“I was in Cambodia, fulfilling a lifelong dream”

posted by Kristy Densmore

I badgered my parents for two years to gain their permission and help to study abroad in Siem Reap, Cambodia. TWO YEARS.

I remember hearing a presentation from the creator, John Greenman, the first year the University of Georgia’s Cambodia Travel Writing program was initiated. Cambodia was on my list of top five countries to visit; I knew I had to go, no questions.

“Mom, please let me go!” I’d say. “Absolutely not, Kristy. It’s too dangerous there,” she’d respond. This conversation was repeated over, and over, and over. Danger, danger, danger. I hated that word for almost two years; every time I heard it, I associated it with the reason I couldn’t go to Cambodia.

After two years of perseverance  (I brought the trip up at least once or twice a week), my mom gave in. When my mom gave in, my dad did too- funny how that works out.

I received my acceptance to the Cambodia travel writing program on Monday, February 14, 2011 at roughly 1:20 p.m. Pretty exact, right? I checked my computer every ten minutes for a week, literally.

The idea of going to Cambodia was surreal, even the day I left.

My mom dropped me off on the curb at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Saturday, May 14, 2011 for my 1 p.m. flight. As I watched my mom pull away and I was alone, it hit me. I was about to fly halfway around the world. I repeated in my mind, “Cambodia, here I come,” as I walked into the airport.

I checked in at the Korean Air counter and breezed through security (surprising due to the large number of current global conflicts).

The plane ride from Atlanta, Ga. to Seoul, South Korea was a grueling 13.5 hours. I opened my class books to read and repeatedly felt my head falling as slumber crept through my body. Naturally, I put down the books for a nap. I couldn’t sleep- my body was playing cruel jokes on me.

I watched the map on my personal screen excessively, always curious where our plane was flying over next. The route didn’t make sense to me, but then again, I’m no pilot. I watched the virtual plan move from Atlanta, up to the arctic, down through Siberia, over eastern China, and finally, we flew through the Yellow Sea (avoiding North Korea) to Seoul.

Through 13.5 hours and countless countries that were tens of thousands of miles below me, I reflected on the opportunity ahead and how lucky I was. Exhaustion infiltrated my body, but it couldn’t stop the muscles in my face from flexing into a huge grin when I thought about my destination.

I arrived to one of the world’s greatest airports in Seoul, South Korea, complete with a luxury spa, casino, and bars. Too bad my layover was a mere two hours; I only experienced Caribou Coffee, a destination regular to my ventures in the United States.

Once I boarded the plane from Seoul to Siem Reap, I was done for. Luckily, the plane was empty. I passed out within thirty minutes with about four and a half hours to go. It was a small plane. There is no checklist of events. I slept, and it was glorious. My four hours of sleep was comparable to a dreamy trip to heaven and back by the time I woke up.

And the landing? Well, let’s just say I was in awe.

I walked off the plane; unlike the United States, I walked straight on to the runway. The smell of burning wood filled my nose, and I rejoiced in its natural essence within my body. It conduced a burning passion of knowledge that flowed through my veins,

I was in Cambodia, fulfilling a life long dream.

The journey had not yet begun, but a novel of culture and experience stood before me.

I was ready to tackle my goal. I wanted to know Siem Reap.


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