Life in the Slow Lane

Temples in Cambodia are covered in intricate carvings.

Ride a motorbike through Cambodia, work as a climbing guide in Vietnam, then train for my next freediving certificate in Indonesia.  That was the plan for this adventure, but one month in and I am sat in a hostel, still in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Vietnam is now looking unlikely, and if I do go, it won’t be to work.  The plan is changing, evolving, and growing, and I’m beginning to realise that that is okay, too.

I arrived in Cambodia completely drained.  A two-day stop over in Bangkok with early morning flights both from the UK and Bangkok meant running on about five hours of sleep in 48.  I stepped off the plane into the searing heat of Cambodia, and jumped into a tuk-tuk with a local NGO worker.  The ride through town was probably my first real experience of a developing country and the absolute chaos on the roads combined with rubbish, heat, and huge noise was completely overwhelming.  I’m not entirely sure how I expected to find Cambodia, but this whole adventure was beginning to feel very real.  I got to the hostel and booked in an extra week, knowing that I needed space to adjust to this new environment.  I always knew that the plan was vague and that I would have to figure out a lot of logistics in-country, but now that I was here and doing it for real, it was turning out to be a lot more daunting.

The more space I gave myself to slow down the more I began to realise that my initial plan needed to change.  After the serious injuries from Project Iceland, and not having any consistency in my training for over six months, I am still in no way ready to be leading climbs.  It quickly dawned on me that,  I need consistency and time to regain some physical capability.

The first few days here passed fairly uneventfully.  With the time pressure lifted, I had space to wander around and take in Phnom Penh at my own pace, while looking for a motorbike.  It was on the fourth day in the city that I stumbled across Samai Distillery.  I decided to have a look inside, and within an hour had ended up agreeing on guest bartending for their open night that week.  I hadn’t planned to bartend, but it seemed like a fun night to get involved in.

Samai Distillery

I still hadn’t found a motorbike by the end of week one, so I took the bus to Siem Reap.  It was here that I found a bike and the plan felt back on track.  Riding back from Siem Reap was an adventure in itself, but I was really glad to not have all of my things with me, precariously strapped to the back of the bike.  As it turned out, my one small day bag was more than heavy enough to be painful to ride with for nine hours.

Missing the crowds at Angkor Wat to see the morning light at Bayon Temple
The temples, the main reason I came to Cambodia, left me absolutely awestruck.

Back in Phnom Penh, and after a week of growing slowly accustomed to the country, I have decided to stay around a while.  Instead of a long distance bike trip, I am planning several smaller trips to keep my load light and the ride more comfortable.  I will continue to work on getting back to a good level of climbing, but have also taken a job to give me some consistency and a home base.

Wild monkeys!

I learned during Project Iceland that focusing on rigid objectives is not always the best way to achieve what you are trying to do.  This time, by leaving space to slow down, I am realising that ultimately I am only accountable to myself for this adventure, and if the fine details change, that is okay.  The beauty of having a loose plan is that it is flexible and can change to adapt to whatever you find yourself doing.

People arriving at Angkor Wat pre-dawn.


Slow Down – Leave Space – Embrace the Journey

6 thoughts on “Life in the Slow Lane

  1. Hey James,
    Good to read about your next.. And hope the injuries from Iceland have healed!
    There is indeed a lot of life in the slow life.. Keep at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds great James, personally I think that having a base and soaking up the atmosphere of a small number of places is the best travel experience to have! Enjoy

    Liked by 1 person

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