What if your life took an entirely different direction…and you discovered options for living you never imagined before?
This is the great question we’ve been pondering as we meet Americans and Europeans who have utterly changed the how and where they live, and now find themselves in Cambodia or Laos. And we don’t mean retired people who opt to live in a different country because it’s less expensive, say, for they are not really shifting the whole arc of their lives. We mean those who have already chosen or are currently exploring paths less travelled by.
There was the 30-something dive instructor from Boston, like one we met in Costa Rica, that has followed his love of the ocean’s depths around the world including several years in Vietnam working different trades, then diving in Cambodia, and soon exploring the seas in the Dominican Republic.
Or the 40-something Austrian who found himself divorced, then losing a restaurant business and home to fire that his insurance didn’t end up covering, then trying another restaurant in Tenerife whose laws stymied him. Though he had a grown son back in Europe, something was telling him to return to this area, where he found a developing beach village off the main city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and set up an Austrian food restaurant where he has found success and connection to the local community. (His food was great by the way, though he himself was eating a Neapolitant pizza made by his restaurant pal up the street.)
Or the 60-something former foreign correspondent for a business magazine who was assigned to Phnom Penh, loved the area, and became part of the United Nations effort to stop the civil wars of the 90s. Originally a Californian, eight years ago he decided to open up what our guidebook said was the “best Mexican restaurant” in Cambodia (and which we guessed might be the only one as well). To our tastes, it could be more spicy but it’s very high quality and authentic, as he has worked hard to import the right beans, etc. from Mexico itself. He too has family back in the States, and visits often, but has successfully found his niche on the riverside quay of his adopted city
And the 40 year old woman from Los Angeles, who questions whether she wants to keep supplying rich people with home furnishings, and just decided to open up her horizons, and take the risk, by requesting a leave from her job, so she could travel on her own to Cambodia and Vietnam. She set up some options but keeps adapting her schedule as her interests vary. When we met, she was adding on a night’s stay at a bungalow on the diving island offshore from Sihanoukville in order to “think and meditate and relax” a bit more. Or the 28 year old woman who made a complete break from her well-paying job in Oregon to roam across Asia for a year on her own, because she felt that the life before her was too circumscribed and perhaps way too predictable.
So what if, by choice or by chance, we had other options for living opened up to us? Most of us can’t imagine getting off the track our culture lays for us, or jettisoning the received wisdom of our parents on how we’re supposed to live the good life. Perhaps, this sad global recession will be the spur to consider such things anew.
But that’s what’s so exciting about the younger travellers we meet – the couple from Yorkshire taking seven months to wander through Asia for the first time, the couple from South Africa and London taking a year to do the same (leaving good jobs aside), or the improvised trio from Russia and France and Czech Republic that is hitchhiking around Southeast Asia to find possibilities in the world. And then to choose.
At least, these wonderful adventurous people have raised the question about other potential lives. Some have chosen to change; some are considering what their experience now tells them. But it seems to us that NOT considering other lives you could lead means you may not really be choosing your life, but just moving along the track.