top of page
  • Writer's picturejohnny b

siem reap: cure the stir

thailand has come to an end. all two weeks of traveling through this temple-licious country, full of beautiful locals, fellow back packers, and elephants, inside and out. and now, time for the sand stone temples of angkor wat in siem reap, cambodia!

at this point of the trip, after diving deep into my soul, i began to recognize that i was subconsciously and habitually rewiring my brain. those insecurities that have come to light, those hesitations and fears that may have served a purpose for protection in the past, are now improperly guiding me through life. they are not healthy, so what is the best way to get rid of them?

we are creatures of habit as they say, right? habitually rewire the reaction, which is rooted in the insecurities that were developed in one's past.

the current anxiety that is frequently surfacing is my inability to let go, which in conjunction requires one to understand how to live in the now. (living in the now: not regretting the past, learning from every mistake. not worrying about the future, trusting one's decision making.) so. if it's not obvious. sometimes your insecurities and anxieties build on one another, hence the analogy, peeling layers of the onion in order to reach your core being.

"letting go" is consistently surfacing due to the new relationships being built on this trip, their inner workings, and situations at home that have yet to be resolved. the piece of "letting go" that is extremely important to be aware of, the lack of attaining what the mind wants. as human beings, it makes sense, we struggle with letting go of something that we can't have, when we truly desire it. a job, promotion, grade on an exam, a love interest, friendship, etc.

truthfully, there are three paths we may take when we are in a position of not getting what we want. 1. we let go. the most difficult path, which requires a lot of mental work and mental strength. an ability to live in the now which requires learning from the past and trusting yourself in regards to the future.

2. we continue to try and attain what we cannot have. i never say never, so this is a solid option at times when you don't get what you want. when you evaluate the reasoning behind your loss, are there actions which can be taken in order to allow your desire to be attainable? if so, then maybe an alternate path is the route one needs to select. if not, then this can get messy if you are not able to let go.

3. we stir. we play the victim game. "this isn't fair." "why does this always happen to me." "why did things not turn out the way i foresaw?" whoa. is. me. this is a harsh reality, a tough lesson to learn, but if you have ever sat in this realm, synonymous with being human, (which i did for god only knows how many years and will unfortunately fall back on at times) you will both not get what you want AND not be able to let go.

for me, in many avenues of my life back at home and some on this trip, i began to realize

that the first option was what i needed to work on more. i am a problem solver by nature so if there is another way, i already found it and tried it and failed or succeeded. so why am i still stirring? why am i still thinking that i can get what i cannot have? it has to be a security issue. if you are not secure with yourself and the world, you will rely on what is not healthy. you will lean on relationships, food, drugs, objects at large, etc. which provide comfort but not growth.

the more secure i have come to be with who i am mind, body and soul, the more secure i become with the world. the more self love i attain, the more i began to realize that there are some things i need to just let go of (these aforementioned processes within a relationship, relationships, objects, etc.). squeeze every ounce of juice that is left in order to learn from every drip...then let whatever it is fly high in the sky!

alright, so back to the backpacking world! speaking of skies, as i am getting to my seat for the next flight, i notice the burly, jolly, scruffy man who was assigned the window seat in my row. i describe my man robert like this, because, within two minutes of "where are you from? how about you? where are you traveling to? how about you?" i mentioned something alluding to my sexuality and he chimed in "ditto." as far as i'm aware, this will be the first fellow gay man that i have met on the trip. is that cause i'm living under a rock? not sure, but the next hour of soaring in the air was soaked up by constant conversation with my new found friend. robert is originally from slovakia and now lives in the states as an art professor. we shared stories of our coming out, family relationships, love interests, and travel adventures of past, present, and those to come.

an hour flight is really nothing, but when you're constantly chatting, enjoying the now with a fellow being, time flies ;P. as we exited the plane and into this stunning, extravagant, modern airport in the middle of cambodia, robert and i progressed through customs and waited for his tuk-tuk driver he had on call. the ride to siem reap from the airport took roughly 20 minutes and was shared with the driver's wife and child. we stopped at robert's hotel, and as i proceeded to get out i was offered a ride to my place, how nice! but i haven't picked my residence for the next few days...time to do what i love best. time to walk around and see what we're working with here. time to talk to some of the hotels/hostels and hand select my lodging. after walking around for 30 minutes and grabbing some fresh fruit juices for less than fifty cents usd, i quickly realized i was going to be spending that extra coin to get a hotel in this beautiful town. give me that a/c, private room, and private bathroom! all for a total of $15 usd per!

after lounging a bit to catch my breath, i met up with robert for dinner near pub street, the night life part of town. we grabbed some fish amok, special cambodian meal which reminded me of a glorified tuna salad. served hot, way more flavor, added juices. it was a pleasant surprise, served with sauteed bok choy and rice! we proceeded to walk around pub street and take it all in. the wannabe karaoke, whispers from street salesmen for drugs (not unique to siem reap), endless amount of boutique shops, souvenir stores, rolled ice cream booths, massage parlors with free wifi, bars, restaurants, and so much more. there was something common about siem reap but also a unique chill, fun loving, party scene if you want or not if you don't kind of vibe. definitely worth checking out, especially with the temple hopping to come.

waking up around 8 am the following day, it was time to conquer some khmer temples with my fellow tourist via bicycles! despite the heat and humidity, we decided to take the cardio route. we rented bikes and we were on our way around the 17 km (roughly 11 miles) trail. having already surpassed my expectations, because i for one thought i was only going to be seeing one temple which was called angkor wat, robert and i tackled the path with well over 20 temples (skipping some along the way of course). learning about the temples and all their glory, taking self-ies and us-ies, losing our body weight in water through our pores, robert and i had a successful day doing what i love most. being a tourist.

we headed back to our respective hotels, and i began to realize i was going to need to tackle the grand circuit of angkor wat tomorrow, via tuk-tuk, solo. it was nothing against the guy i just met, but something that was a need of mine. going on this trip was a move of development for me. there are obviously many things i wanted to work on, and many things i knew would surface in which i had not prepared for. in order to keep trucking in a healthy direction, i had to take time to socialize and also balance it with ensuring i was doing exactly what i wanted to do on this trip in every moment.

if i ever felt uncomfortable with something i could either push through and break the habit of discomfort, or realize that something was not for me and take the path that spoke to my truth. compromise is a necessity in life, there's no question, and sometimes that's what i need, what i choose. but on a solo backpacking trip, that choice to travel alone is made in order to feel freedom from your toes to your nose. and in this situation, i began to realize that there was stuff surfacing in my head that i needed to sit with by myself. i needed to hop from temple to temple at my own pace, reading about each temple, journaling when i found a relaxing spot to rest, reading when i needed a break.

my point in sharing. as hard as it is sometimes to tell people no. as difficult as it may be to say "hey, i need some space for a bit." if it is needed, then you must do it. the receiving party may feel a bit discomfort, or their feelings may get hurt, but that doesn't mean you made the wrong decision. on their end, it just means they may have a tender spot that a light is being shined on. they may not deal with rejection, or a lesser form of rejection but not sure what exactly to call it here. i'm not suggesting robert felt any of this. he seemed to understand as i would guess most backpackers would. but if he did, or in general, if the receiving party does feel discomfort, first off they are allowed to feel however they feel, but secondly it may require them to do some soul searching of their own.

we live in a world where some people (including my old self) constantly attempt to ensure others are comfortable and happy. while that is quite honorable, it ultimately does not challenge others to grow in their tender spots. that being said, when challenges occur we should be ready to assist the receiving party and guide them through. it would be a mistake to provide the challenge and then not be there at some capacity and at some point in time (even if at the finish line) to provide aid if needed. doing what was right for me, day two was all by myself...and my personal driver. being a

once in a lifetime opportunity i rose to the occasion at 5 am and chased the sunrise over the infamous angkor wat temple. pictures describe what i saw best, was well worth the extra yawning the early wakeup call provided to the rest of the day. after returning to the city for some breakfast and rest, i hit up the grand circuit starting at 9 am. the grand circuit is 26 km (roughly 16 miles) and if one would like, there are handful of temples off the beaten path which may take up to an additional 45 minutes to reach. knocking down temples left and right, while my driver patiently waited at each stop, i began to quickly realize i should have bought a professional camera. this thought has entered my mind in the weeks which have passed, but now more than ever being in constant sun light and so much beauty, as nature and man-made temples began to unite. it's not necessary, but it's necessary. especially in hindsight.

as they say, whoever "they" are, when you've seen one temple, you've seen them all. each khmer sandstone temple, built between the 10th and 13th centuries, really is unique and i enjoyed temple hopping. but this trip is definitely a two day trip for me. as i'm hitting the final turn of this astronomical lap, my driver drops a hint of checking out a temple that was a 45 min drive. he mentioned that the temple was a bit unique. it was built with red sandstone, which was more durable and therefore allowed the details of the temple to withstand the elements of nature and time. being that we were making great timing for the day, i took the joy ride through the countryside which was a nice additional bonus to the in-fact beautiful, red stone temple i had the pleasure of observing.

as we left one off the beaten path temple, i asked my driver to take me to a different one. i bought a guide book from a local earlier in the day, and for some crazy reason, which i really cannot remember, stumbled upon banteay samre temple. i don't know anything about it, except it looked cool and i happened to flip to it's informational page as i was looking to read about another.

according to what i have been told, it is currently monsoon season, and mother nature was ready to remind me of that. i was having an interesting sort of day, and as i'm typing this starting to realize that maybe what i'm about to share was my soul's way of telling me to tackle some time on my own, it's needed.

i was thinking about my ma today, a lot. in case you do not know, a story that really can't be described in one sentence is going to be attempted right now. my ma had recurrent uterine cancer in 2012, gracefully battled this demon from the corners of hell that very rarely surface, and passed away in 2016 as a phoenix, among the billions of us. when you spend time on your own, you may spend time thinking about pain from the past and this was the current situation for me. there were definitely other pains that surfaced today, things i needed to address, nurture myself through, and ultimately learn from, but the pain from the loss of my mother took the lead today.

while the clouds were pouring down on us, we stopped the tuk-tuk on and off again in order to stay a bit dry, if even possible. in this moment, throughout this ride, i began to seek evidence of my ma being with me. i just wanted some sort of confirmation that she was by my side. it's one thing to know, and believe. completely different to witness or feel.

as we got back on the road, and picked up speed, the rain proceeded to slow. and sure enough, we got a rainbow! was a nice "hi" from the lady i've been emotionally waving to for almost two years now. i'll be honest though, i kind of had an inkling that a rainbow was going to show. sooooooo, i pinched myself and ordered myself not to be picky, i just got what i was looking for!

as we pulled up to the next temple and the rain got close to a hault, i proceeded onward. i read in my guide book that the typical tourist entrance from the north should be bypassed in order to enter from the east. at the east entrance there is a road of sandstone bricks that was built during the construction of the temple and used by the citizens at the time as the main entrance. so why not do as the romans did and enter properly? welp, i'm glad i listened. i wanted something more than a rainbow, and i got something more than a rainbow.

as i approached the walkway i squinted my eyes to identify what the hell i was seeing.

because it was in the 90s, and it had just monsooned, the rain pounding on the stones

created what seemed to be an unending supply of steam. this steam, i kid you not, made everything appear to be in the clouds. imagine being about a thousand feet away from a sandstone temple built in the 12 century bc in the jungles of cambodia. as you approach the 10 steps to climb up to ground level, which have two large sandstone lions on each side guarding the buddhist temple behind, steam is being emitted from the ground and lingering up to 3 or 4 feet high. and it's not just one line of steam, it's whisking for a hundred feet into the distance. you can see the temple behind the steam pretty easily, but it's like you were entering a temple within the heavens.

i got teary eyed. i cried. i went back and forth, back and forth, through this entrance, not really thinking about anything. in utter awe. i have been working on living in the moment and there was no way out of this moment. i truly felt like i was in another dimension, connected with my ma. i didn't speak with her, i didn't see her. but i felt her. it's almost like it was her temple and i was dropping by to say hi.

shit. getting teary eyed writing this. pictures don't do it justice but i hope you get some sort of emotional response from reading this and seeing what i saw in the picture posted here.

so in regards to what else was being stimulated in my mind, what else was going on upstairs. there were some parts of my life that i was still preoccupied with that occurred prior to finding a sense of security with myself and the world. how am i supposed to handle these? how do i "cure the stir"?

nurture. we are all children til the day we die. i have begun to find the phrase "we need to treat him like a child" in regards to a friend, family member, coworker, etc. very interesting. typically it comes with a negative connotation, like the person is doing something embarrassing, or acting in a way that is inappropriate for one's age. and while this all may be true, i think the negative connotation needs to be removed. we are human beings. we all go through different modes and methods of development based on how the generations before us were developed by society and within our family. development can also be affected by financial variables, emotional variables, and much more.

so. we will all have emotional strengths and emotional weaknesses. we will all have tender spots and firmness. these tender spots which show up as insecurities, anxieties, inabilities, lack of understanding, lack of mental strength, etc. are areas which have not been well developed as a child and still not as an adult. so definitely. in order to help a friend, family member, coworker, etc. gain strength where one is underdeveloped, they must be treated liked a child. and. and with respect. we can't just assume that because one is in their 30s or 50s or 80s that they will just "get over it" or "stop being so emotional." we all need guidance and that's why we have each other.

in regards to nurturing, i'll share my technique. with things of the past that continue to surface and i'm struggling to let go, i am realizing it is because i used to subconsciously think "everything is not going to be ok." in gaining security through the assistance of my therapist in a way i have never felt, i realized that "everything is going to be ok." difference, no more "not."

so what do i do? when i'm struck with a repeat offender, i calm my preoccuppied mind, acknowledge the pain that is occurring and then tell myself "everything is going to be ok." and i do this on repeat. i need to nurture my way out of these sometimes very deep, dark, and scary pains.

so while it may seem silly. may seem difficult. may seem like it will take days, weeks, potentially months to overcome, i began to tell myself "everything is going to be ok" when pains of the past would surface. and to be honest, weeks after utilizing this technique, there are still some pains that recur. they still surface and i struggle. BUT, they are nowhere near as frequent or as painful. overtime they will become more life lessons, transitioning from pains to building blocks.

part of being able to let go, is operating through the compassion. part of operating with compassion is being able to forgive. and mark twain says it pretty nicely, "forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heels that crushed it."

seek assistance and find security from within. nurture yourself through the past pain. through compassion forgive, and then let go.

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page