Do you remember my Cambodian challenge? I had a crazy idea to walk across Cambodia all the way from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
To get some walking experience, to see some authentic sights of remote villages and to get some insights on challenging myself.
Now I share my most valuable inspiration with you from a challenge that failed!
Here I remind you word by word what I challenged myself to do.
While in Cambodia – no paid transport. If someone (e. g. Couchsurfing host, passing by car) takes me somewhere, it is OK. But I want to have a walking experience!
There are two exceptions:
1. I can take a bus from the border to Siem Reap. Why? I want to buy a map, telephone card, and other things before really traveling. I am introvert – I must prepare.
2. I can take transport to Phnom Penh airport. Why? I am afraid I can be late. I am introvert – I am cautious.
I want to draw your attention, that I was absolutely unprepared for anything about Cambodia. No route, no plan, anything. Just a hostel in Siem Reap, the location of Angkor Wat and an airplane ticket.
The result is that I failed to accomplish my challenge. My expenses for transport on average were even higher than those in Thailand, where I traveled long distances by trains and buses.
Why did this happen?
There are three main reasons.
1. I wanted a comfortable New Year Eve
I decided that I want to be able to write some messages to people important to me at New Year Eve and for this, I need a hotel with internet. Because of this want, I needed to take a bus and to go to the nearest city to find a hotel.
If there is some another “want” – too bad for the challenge. I must either sacrifice “want” or the challenge. Probably, achieving something is always about sacrifices.
So, the last day of 2014 I stayed in Kampong Cham, which I reached by bus from Kampong Thom.
Why didn’t I stay in Kampong Thom? There is another reason.
2. There was a must see place
While staying in Siem Reap, I read about Cambodia and did some planning. There I realized that the most remote Mondulkiri province surrounded by mountains and forests is the place to be. An absolute must for me – an introverted traveler enjoying remote places of nature.
Then I had to make a decision, which will I regret more – failing a challenge or not visiting Mondulkiri. The answer was obvious – I must visit Mondulkiri.
A bus to the capital of this amazing province left from Kampong Cham, so I needed to get there. This must see place required me to take three buses. Funny thing than on both routes back and forward the TV was showing the same movie – Apocalypto with English subtitles. So, I have seen this movie twice.
3. I trust people too much
Several times some passing by people took me by their transport. I even wanted to give the old man a dollar, because he took me quite a long distance with his quite slow and noisy vehicle. (That means of transport do not even have English name) Of course, giving a dollar would violate my challenge, but my heart was kind and soft at that moment. I considered it to be not paying for a transport but rather showing my gratefulness.
But the old man rejected my dollar.
My last trip on passing by transport was from some village to city of Kampong Thom. The distance was not far at all, just some 15 kilometers, so I was ready to walk. And that kind guy with passing by motorcycle later appeared to be a TAXI DRIVER! He was going to his job and offered to take me along. I agreed without any clue. And after arriving, of course, he asked me money. So I paid for the distance that was not critical to me at all, I did not intend to pay at all.
This was my fail. Other two cases were my decisions, but this one was a true fail!
Maybe I can add, that I did not need any transport to Phnom Penh airport. I walked all 9 kilometers on foot.
Insights about challenges and constraints
The challenge was about adding some constraints to my travel. Well, I do have a serious constraint – a budget, but this one was very specific.
No matter that I failed my challenge, most of the time I traveled like I wanted. I walked to Angkor Wat all the way and around, I walked to Tonle Sap lake and back, I walked from Siem Reap more than 100 kilometers and almost reached Kampong Thom. In Mondulkiri, I also walked everywhere. So, I still have some insights about it.
1. Constraints change the whole experience
Walking is absolutely different travel model.
Because of it, I must abandon all time constraints. There can be no hurrying or wanting to be at a certain place at a specific time. Even a hotel in the city at evening.
There cannot be many places must visit or must see. Just one or two, accessible within the available time limit.
The fun is walking itself, that what is done all the day.
The constraints changed my experience significantly from what I could have in another case. And maybe to the better – maybe I had better experiences more adventures and saw places no other tourists saw. That means, constraints are not always a bad thing, maybe sometimes they are to improve us and our experiences in life.
2. Constraints simplify planning
When I have all the means of transport at my disposition, I have myriads of options what to do and where to go. But now, everything becomes simple – because the only transport is my feet. I have limited speed, so the places I can go become very limited.
This simplifies planning significantly because many options now are eliminated. Choices become simple, like tea or coffee.
3. Challenge is about being in a doubt
All the time I had a doubt – why am I doing this? What for? I could take a bus right now and to go wherever I want.
And I needed to remind myself again and again, that I have no plan, I do not want to go anywhere. I want just to be where I am, walking in the countryside.
It is a good thing before accepting a challenge to write down WHY are you doing this and to read when hard times come.
Doubt was always with me.
4. Challenge gets attention
All the people I met were astonished that I am walking.
But … but why don’t you take a tuk tuk or motobye or bus???
Those people are motobye addicts, they cannot understand when someone enjoys walking. And probably they haven’t seen a foreign tourist in their life who refuses tuk tuk and wants to walk all the way to Angkor Wat.
Sometimes I explain to them that by taking some transport I will miss all the views on the way, all the feeling of the place, and all the experiences and adventures I could get. but sometimes I am too lazy for this.
One old couple even insisted me to take money from them and to go by bus. Usually, locals want to take money from a tourist, but those people wanted to GIVE me! What a kind people they are!
Some people took me by their motobyes for free. Even one tour bus took me some kilometers. Once some guys sitting in a strange overloaded vehicle invited me to come with them. But I, as a spoiled westerner, simply did not understand WHERE could I sit?
So, when I accept a challenge and am persistent with it, I get much attention, much attempts to bring me back to the right way, and … much support for what I am doing.
5. Challenge is training
I wanted to walk more, so I challenged myself to walk only. But if I want to walk more, maybe what I needed is just to walk more?
Life cannot be a constant challenge. The challenge is only for training and learning about myself. How traveling on foot looks like? Now I know and I am not sure if I want to do it like this all the time. Just to walk a little bit more, but not always.
Don’t think about formal challenges, don’t speak in terms of challenges. Better think what will you regret the most after 5 years. Failing to accomplish some challenge? Or failing to use an opportunity?
But a challenge is a good way to see your preferences: what you regret the most, what you miss the most. Try it. It is learning.
Later I managed to do this challenge in Taiwan. I walked across the island without paying for transport and even for accommodation. That was an amazing experience!