When you travel, you enjoy being lost. When you travel with a group, you enjoy being lost together.
It was a month ago that I had the pleasure of traveling around the cities of Thailand and Cambodia with my group. To be honest, I was initially concerned about how our group dynamic will develop throughout the trip. However, the thought of traveling with a group of students who were unfamiliar with each other and staffs who would toe between the line of being our friends and chaperones seemed interesting. Indeed, our trip turned out to be an interesting, amazing, and unforgettable adventure.
For most of us, this would be our first time setting foot in Thailand and Cambodia. Unfortunately for me, many locals would mistake me as Thai and Cambodian before realizing that I was just one of the clueless tourists. However, I did learn something from this experience: If you know how to say “yes” in their language, you’ll get far in any conversation.
Exploring for three weeks with these amazing and intellectual people definitely made the twenty-plus hours of plane ride worthwhile. For one, engaging on the issues that were quite literally happening in front of us made it easier to discuss things with the professors that would not come up in a 30-minute office hour. Even among the students ourselves, we would reflect on our journeys daily. There was no need for a classroom when you have hotel lobbies, swimming pools, and the back of a van to chat as much as you like.
There were so many moments that made us feel grateful for the trip. In fact, Dr. Datta did a great job of telling us to reflect on this feeling of gratefulness almost every day. Being greeted and toured around the temples by Mr. Hartanto was only the beginning. We visited the UN branch in Thailand, explored local markets, and met with NGOs that not only shared their mission and passion with us, but also allowed us to interact with the people that they serve.
With these beautiful memories, we also encountered things that were hard to swallow. In Thailand, the tall infrastructures and luxurious malls contrasted the beggars who often awaited us in every block. In Cambodia, after an afternoon of playing with kids being served by Love Without Boundaries, we passed by a dumpster site that some of the kids were forced to call their home. A veteran who was no longer supported by the government came up to us while we were eating and asked us to buy one of the books he was selling. These were not bad memories. Truthfully, I think it was necessary for us to see them during our travel. While the two countries have their specific issues, economic inequality, corruption, and forced labor are issues that I grew up hearing and witnessing in Indonesia. While living in the US, these issues became less of day-to-day experience and more of textbook information. Coming to this trip and seeing how uncomfortable the people in my group got, I realize how different a classroom discussion is to witnessing something with one’s own eyes. I believe that giving this kind of traveling experience to students are beneficial in many ways. You don’t only learn more of what you already know but realize another side of things that you thought you previously do.
As a closing note, I would like to thank the rest of my group for being so amazing and pushing through the three weeks with a smile on their face and a never-ending curiosity.
When you travel, you enjoy being lost. When you travel with a group, you enjoy being lost together. And when you’re lost, you explore, hopefully with an open mind.