12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. There are many things you could accomplish in 12 months. You could pay off your debt (thankfully we don’t have any) get fit and healthy, buy a house, or start your own business.
We decided to buy a house!!!…… And then we changed our minds. “A house can wait” we both agreed. And 12 months later we are living in Thailand enjoying every minute of it. We can’t believe 1 year has passed so quickly.
Deciding to travel the world together has been the best decision we have ever made. We believe had we stayed home for the year and not traveled the world, we would still be happy and grateful people loving life. But what we have experienced in these last 12 months you can never learn at home in your comfort zone, at work, or in a book.
We have experienced true kindness and hospitality, rich history and culture, stress and aggravation, sadness and love, endless compassion, incredible fun, hard work, and an incredible appreciation for our circumstance and our first world problems.
We have been humbled by these last 12 months.
While in Egypt we decided to visit Tahrir Square, the site of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. People were welcoming and friendly. They wanted to share their stories with us. They fight for peace and freedom. These are things we don’t even think about at home. People are willing to die for this cause, and some have. It was a powerful, and memorable moment at the very beginning of our trip.
While in India we had the chance to celebrate Holi Festival. Holi is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus. Local shops sell perfumed coloured powder and everyone celebrates by covering eachother in a rainbow. People also celebrate with food and drinks. While walking back to our hostel we were invited into a home by some young women. They simply wanted to talk to us, and feed us savories and sweets. By the end of the day we were coated in colour, and our bellies were full. We had heard a lot of negative things about India, and even though it was a little mad, these moments are what stand out for us.
In June of 2012 we traveled to Cambodia. We loved it, and we loved the warm people. It is a beautiful country with a painful past.
From 1975 to 1979 Cambodia was ruled by a mad man. His name was Pol Pot. Pol Pot attempted to form a communist peasant farming society with brutal force and unimaginable violence. The country was shut off from the rest of the world.
All foreigners removed, religions were banned, businesses closed down, bicycles and radios were confiscated, and the use of money forbidden. Education was halted, parental authority was revoked, and healthcare was eliminated. All cities were evacuated and 2,000,000 Cambodians were forced by gunpoint, and on foot into the country side. They were forced into slave labor in Pol Pot’s “killing fields” where they began to suffer and die due to disease, malnutrition, and being overworked. Workdays would last 18 hours a day and people were fed a small tin of rice per person every two days.
Throughout Cambodia they began to eliminate remnants of the “old society”. Buddhist monks, the wealthy, police, artists, the educated, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and former government officials were all executed.
Anyone suspected of breach of trust, including many Khmer Rouge leaders was shot or bludgeoned with an ax.
In villages, unsupervised gatherings of more than two people were forbidden. Children were taken from their parents and placed in communals. They would later be married (unwillingly) in collective ceremonies. Up to 20,000 people were tortured into giving false confessions at Tuol Sleng, a school in Phnom Penh that was converted into a prison. At the killing fields there was a killing tree where babies were slammed head first so not to waste bullets.
This fanaticism and control resulted in over 2 million deaths. Lives have been torn apart and people are still picking up the pieces.
We can’t even begin to imagine going through something so devastatingly cruel. Yet with all of the hardships and misery they have endured, Cambodians are some of the most warm and welcoming people we have had the pleasure to meet. We look forward to returning.
Fast forward to today. We have been living/traveling/working in Thailand for 7 months. A one week volunteer adventure with elephants turned into 6 and a half months with Elephant Nature Park. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would have been caring for a new born baby elephant in which we got to spoon with and fall asleep beside. Or going on several private morning elephant walks with our friend Jodi, the resident elephant geek, and tattoo artist extraordinaire. Our experience with the elephants, caring for dogs that were rescued from the dog meat trade, and spending time with all of the other rescued animals at the park really woke us up. We realized that there is no difference between a dog and pig. That all life wants to live, and compassion is much much more important than ” that’s just the way it is” and gastronomical pleasures.
Every one of our experiences during these 12 months have changed us immensely. We think for the better.
We know for the better.
So if you’re thinking about doing it; Paying off your debt, quitting your job, buying a backpack and a one way ticket to who knows where. It will change you. If you are open to change.