The more I look back at my first international trip to Cambodia the more I think about how special it was to visit to the local fish markets. Everyone can hit the same tourist spots to see the temples, the mountains, the iconic landmarks and you should! That’s part of the beauty of these countries. I’ll never tell someone to spend thousands of dollars to travel across the world and not spend some time taking in the icons and tourist attractions that probably made you want to visit in the first place. I only mean to point out the importance of finding at least one experience that is tourist free.
In this experience we traveled to Cambodia and found ourselves shopping in a fish market far from any tourist attractions. I’ll never forget pulling up to the market as my nose filled with the overwhelming sent of raw fish. There was a young man walking a large cow down the road like a dog and small children darted every which way playing outside the covered markets. Everyone was Cambodian and almost nobody spoke English. If you’ve read my previous blog then you’ll know that just a night or two before I had been in the midst of a mental breakdown as I second guessed my decision to travel abroad. But seeing these native people “in their element” doing what they do everyday was incredible and eye-opening. We made our way through the main market and watched as piles of fresh fish were carved and prepped for consumption. Villagers with old knives and no shoes or gloves worked hard all day to sell fish, fruit, and more.
These were also some of the nicest people that I have ever met. Everyone greeted us with a shy smile as they moved past. There were no concerned looks as obvious foreigners walked through their home markets. Everyone’s expressions were incredibly warm and welcoming. As we got to one end of the market we saw a woman sitting on the ground cutting and measuring a jack fruit. She happily let us try the fruit and was delighted when we decided to buy one. And right before we left we bought a bag of peanuts which had been roasted and fluffed in a way that I had never eaten before. So delicious!
Their gratitude from us buying the smallest, cheapest bags of food put so much into perspective as well. What seems to be pocket change for us, was greatly appreciated by them. I continuously ponder the happiness that everyone seemingly maintained throughout their day. I believe that expression of joy was due to the community that held the village and the markets together. Everyone selling or buying goods seemed to know everyone else, and the kids were accepting guidance from not just their parents but every adult around them. Everyone was responsible for the person next to them and the village failed or prospered together. That is an experience that I hope to live someday although I am not sure when I will have that opportunity. It completely transformed the way I view my own neighbors. Why not have more people over for dinner or commit to help out when someone is renovating their basement? These things I would never have thought twice about before this hot, humid, Cambodian experience. Getting out of our comfort zone for just a couple of hours proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of our trip and I would not hesitate to return!
Every country, every city will have both an experience that every tourist will have been to. But they will also be filled with endless locations where you can experience the local culture in a completely different manner. You will be challenged with communicating with others who do not speak your native language and that is totally ok! By putting yourself even further out of your comfort zone you will grow more than you would at any tourist location. It will give you the opportunity to really see what these different cultures have to offer and that’s what traveling is all about right!
I hope you were able to take something from this blog and if there’s any way you can get to a local market or a less touristy location during your next travel adventure I would highly recommend doing so. In my opinion it is the best way to grow and create lasting memories when you’re in a new location. So get out of your comfort zone and learn to embrace the experience!
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