I have heard people tell me “I love your life”, “Your life is exciting, so can I have yours?”, “I’m jealous.” Most of the time, I don’t know how to respond when friends confront me but keep pondering how. Maybe I’ve done something different from what my people have, but the fact is that I have been doing what I enjoy and pursuing what I yearn for.
I love my life, too.
When I started volunteering for events and writing for newspapers at the age of 19, I did it just because I wanted to be close to people I was so shy to communicate with. I was a very shy person, and you would have found me at a corner at an event. Striving days and nights to work and learn something new can feel awesome at the end.
I’ve come to a point of my life where I shoulder more responsibilities that people my age ever should. Five years back, when I was supposed to have some fun, hang out with friends and do what a teenage girl was supposed to do, I had to attend classes from morning to evening, teach English three hours a day to support myself and my family (make ends meet). I don’t normally go around and tell people this part of the life I’ve lived. It’s not so fun when you had to study and support a big family at the same time.
But that sure makes me feel stronger and become more responsible for my own life. I have owed gratitude to every experience that I’ve gathered over the years. I love independence, and it annoys me when girls tell me they cannot do this or that and that they want a piece of my life. I can say that a hundred times to other people as well, but I chose not to do that and fight for what I belong to.
In high school, I did have a curfew and a lot of restrictions imposed by my parents. Years of remaining in my room to study English by myself and turning it into a library, zero hanging out and spending money only on necessary things like books really taught me the value of strength gained through intra-personal communication.
This year has been a wonderful year with travel excursions. I didn’t travel abroad because I wanted to inspire anyone, but because I looked for knowledge and new ways of living and thinking. I got accepted to do a job as a social media consultant at an International organization and was lucky to see a lot of creativities existing in Cambodian society. My employer met me at a speaking event after he watched my video on TEDxPP. Loy9 is certainly an amazing youth project in Cambodia as it targets young people from 18 to 24 through multiple platforms such as TV, radio and the Internet. Check it out on Facebook and Youtube which I helped curate for nearly 6 months.
I travelled to Laos in March to meet some cool people there, co-organized the first Cambodia’s FilmCamp in Phnom Penh where nearly 500 young people turned up, and found an awesome opportunity with Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI) for three months as a consultant. Juggling freelance and full-time jobs simultaneously, I managed to travel to Singapore to speak at SiFT, Malaysia to meet a cute mother and daughter and India to see my boyfriend and South Africa (Cape Town) to cover Forum2012 in April.
I almost cried when I saw the sunset on a bus cruise in Cape Town. That was more like the first most moment of indescribable bliss in my life. The horizon and the ocean were perfectly close with the sun trying to fit in the middle. I saw otters, penguins, ostriches and the most southern point (Cape Point) in Africa.
In May, I attended WikiWomenCamp 2012 in Buenos Aires, the capitcal city of Argentina. After nearly two days of flying, I jumped with joy as soon as I arrived there. I only hoped that I could take a few months or years off to travel in South America to see differences and learn many things that schools don’t offer. In June, a German media expert recommended me for an event called “Global Media Forum” in Bonn, Germany, which opened my eyes to more possibilities and connections with educational experts and journalists from around the world.
And, I am now writing from Tver, Russia, where I have been covering the International Youth Forum Seliger 2012 for the past few days for the blog, Facebook and Youtube. It’s been awesome here. Nature, serenity, educational and recreational programs can be had by the campers from almost 93 countries. Nearly 800 international and more than 1,000 Russian young people attend this – the biggest event I’ve ever been to so far.
I don’t know if I am the only Cambodian young journalist who travels almost every month, but it is damn difficult for a Cambodian to travel to other countries like Africa, South America, North America and Europe because we have to get a lot of documents ready before approaching visa officials. Last but not least, we’re allowed only a short-period visa, take the USA visa as an example.
I understand that the visa thing is a mutual agreement between two countries and depends on how two countries are on diplomatic terms. Cambodia hasn’t much to offer besides the garments and agricultural crops. Life is getting harder every day for people who have lost their homes to forcible evictions throughout this country.
Back to the visa issue, the visas to South Africa and Argentina cost me arms and legs, not to mention the extra travel from Cambodia to neighbouring countries such as Vietnam or Thailand to apply for them. Some countries I’ve been to don’t have embassies in Cambodia at the moment. I know that I will have to write about each travel so that experiences that I’ve encountered can be passed on to other (Cambodians) travellers.
The Cambodian government needs to step up efforts to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, so that it’ll be a lot easier for Cambodians to travel around. But for now, Cambodians have to put up with a lot of trouble and the cost of the visas as well as the passport. I have to keep positive and keep traveling.