Probably the biggest lesson that has shown itself to my wife and me since our launch from material life into a wanderlust spin is, simply, peace. We thought we were setting out to explore the world and, on a deeper level, to shed attachments to the lives we had individually created, which were then brought into our new marriage. Not that those things haven’t happened. It’s just that the higher purpose seems to have been what Gandhi notoriously told us all to do: We are becoming the change that we wish to see in the world.
How exactly does one do that, you might wonder? Admittedly it’s a bit of a surprise for me as well. On my part, intentional traveling began by way of a solo trip to the jungles of South America – several months before my wife and I knew we even had something relationship-worthy. What I learned there culminated in a published memoir, and for some reason I thought that I had found “It”: The Holy Grail. It’s true enough that I found an inner peace unlike ever before, but that wasn’t deep enough apparently.
When I suddenly was yanked back, literally, from that journey it was apparently because I had an unknown travel partner back home. Like me, my soon-to-be wife was undergoing quite an inner transformation that was begging for her to set free of home soil. We quickly discovered that we were supposed to be doing this venture together, and so the universe helped her promptly sell her business, providing the open door for us to set free and discover the things that only world travel can produce.
Thanks to my free travel, courtesy of my U.S. military retirement benefits (don’t get too jealous, military planes aren’t always the most comfortable), we had an entire globe at our fingertips with some flexibility on locations and time. With Iceland on our radar, via a planned detour through Italy and Germany first, we boarded a large cargo plane and landed several days later in Singapore.
Yep, our flow took us quite a different direction; landing in SE Asia, our bags heavily loaded with snow gear. That’s when we knew something was amiss in our journey, and that’s when things became quite interesting.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves exploring Hindu caves in Malaysia, Buddhist Wats and Pagodas in Thailand, and ultimately building an almost fully eco-friendly earthship in Cambodia. We’ve shared a few of these stories on our blog Zen Monkees, which we created on inspiration after departing a mindful farm outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand (owned and operated by a former Buddhist monk). What happened over these weeks of experiences was perhaps what we knew we were seeking, but far more profound than we could have ever imagined.
Both of us have had pretty intense spiritual awareness in our lives, Awakenings even, but nothing could have prepared us for the amount of trials and tribulations that our first 3-4 months post-departure would bring. It could be said that we knew on a subconscious level what we were seeking: Peace. Yet we had no idea how visceral the experiences would be, and how quickly we would discover the most divine parts of existence. You could say that we were skeptical about world peace being possible.
That is, until we started to find it within ourselves.
Thanks to some very confusing, trying times for the first three months in SE Asia, we’ve slowly come to understand the bigger picture of why we diverted to the total opposite side of the world from where we intended. The frustrating moments we encountered by simply being in worlds far from our own stacked up so densely that at times we didn’t know if we would even remain together. Our heads were being ripped apart at the seams, and yet we hung in there until we could get to Cambodia – a place that had rather oddly appeared to us back in November when we wrapped up a two-month excursion living in our van.
If you know anything of border crossings into Cambodia, it wouldn’t be any surprise to you how that was almost the final straw for us in our Asian travels. For five days after arriving, we were teetering on heading to the nearest airport ASAP for a rapid exodus. But the universe still had secrets awaiting us, and was haste to show us some gentle options. It’s a good thing we both practice meditation.
Well, it was meditation that guided us to these lands to begin with. And it was meditation that urged us from Thailand to Cambodia, vice direct to Vietnam, among other things we’ve been gifted from silencing the minds during out-and-out chaos. Meditation of any sort is one of many keys to inner peace, something we weren’t necessarily maintaining once we left U.S. comforts. Because we returned to the practice during our last three weeks or so in Thailand (courtesy of that mindful farm excursion), we allowed ourselves to trust the wind to carry us as it needed to.
Landing back on our feet, sort of, a few days after we crossed the southwestern-most border of Thailand/Cambodia, we stumbled onto an NGO that has been doing some pretty incredible work for empowering the local poor children and their parents. We were so lovingly drawn to this venture and its amazingly angelic volunteers and staff that we could almost hear the writing on the wall; “peace is close”, it seemed to whisper.
Let me tell you something about this former genocide-torn country: if you are paying close enough attention, you can hear and see the heartbeat of the earth in the eyes of any Khmer. There is a thin veil between our Earth Mother and the people in this enchanted land. Once you can get past the corruption and what appears externally as an apathetic approach to life, you will see an inner desire to find peace and harmony…to find some sort of sense in how to live in a harsh world. Through all destruction is the hope of abundant creation, and Cambodia is the promise of that possibility.
We ended our five-month Asian journey at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. If you’ve been, you’ll understand the perfection of ending one leg of travel in such a sacred location. This 7th Wonder of the World will leave you speechless; there are no words. Three days of taking in the old-world mysticism of Angkor’s short loop (including being there “in the moment” with Tomb Raider memories) will take months, years perhaps, of inner journeys to completely comprehend. So much to absorb.
For us as seekers, this has transpired in an unfathomable open door to the world peace that we so strongly feel is thinkable on our beautiful planet today. How did we find this to be more reality than ideology? The answer is simple, and yet so complex: we have discovered the portal to our own inner peace.
So many perfect storms have brewed right in front of us over our months as vagabonds, and through surviving them we have been tossed onto a land of hope and promise. But the only way we could see those truths was by allowing our eyes to see through our hearts. That is where world peace lies, as it turns out; inside the individual. Through many individuals realizing this, we will slowly begin to fulfill what many before have told us is possible.
We owe the universe a debt of gratitude for our journey thus far. And if we can in turn inspire others to follow the flow of the silent mind? It would seem that our jobs here will also be fulfilled. Peace is at our very fingertips. Thank you Cambodia for showing this to us. And Universe…we are ready for the next adventure!