As most of you know, my phone is gone, which means I cannot take photos for the time being. (I don’t carry a camera with me.) Bummer… How can one travel not being able to take pictures? Little did I know what it feels like until I tried it today.
It was beautiful: amazing landscapes of rural Cambodia and sweet genuine smiles from locals on the way. What was even more beautiful is to ultimately dissolve in the present moment embracing every little shade of the scenery around me. So often we reach for the camera the moment we see something nice that we forget to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the reality. We start taking photos, at times trying quite hard to make this perfect instagram shot and we forget to appreciate the real image in front of us.
To be honest, I really liked not having a camera. Old habits die hard, and at the beginning of the day I was still trying to reach for my phone. But as the day progressed, I completely dissolved into the present always staying aware of what beauty I could witness. I paused very often; it felt as if my eyes needed that time to capture the image fully and store it in my memory.
So what did I see? I was exploring a small village of Koh Trong on a little island in Mekong River in Cambodia. Some foreigners make it to this island but it doesn’t feel touristy at all. There are only a few guesthouses and homestays there. Simple wooden and bamboo houses circle the island while in the middle there are vast rice paddies. It is as rural as it gets. The entire island feels really serene and peaceful, yet locals tend to their daily routine. I was lucky to witness a wedding ceremony on the island. Then there were so many adorable kids that could have made those “perfect instagram photos”.
Another thing captured in my memory is the island breed of cows. They are of a light beige color with very long legs and a hump right past their necks. Those cows are easily the most graceful ones I have ever seen. Locals use them for ploughing fields and carrying various things when a wooden cart is attached to the cows (in the same way as with horses)
Here comes the highlight of today’s trip: I have seen my first floating village. The sun just started going down, so the light was warm and soft. The village was off the shore of the island with houses literally floating on river waters. My guess is that they use bamboo platforms as a base and then erect huts over them. It was a stunning view that will forever remain with me.
The short boat ride across the river to the island and back was really picturesque too with quite a few charismatic personalities. But instead of building this invisible wall by pointing a camera at the “perfect-shot” people, I established a lovely connection with them by exchanging smiles and trying to converse in body language. Fair enough, that kind of connection can be easily established while taking photos or after, yet it creates this uncomfortable moment: Personally I feel like an intruder when I want to take a shot of a local going about their daily tasks. (Imagine yourself doing some mundane job of yours and then suddenly someone asks for your photo. How would it feel?)
Without a camera, I definitely felt much closer to the people around me. Instead of looking through the lens and clicking numerous photos, I spent my time actually observing all the little details and bonding with the people through direct eye contact. It was simply beautiful.
A photo is worth a thousand words. I take that. But usually making that photo involves quite a bit of work whereas pure beauty of the reality in front of the photographer slips away: it becomes secondary to the right light, framing, perspective, etc. Not having a camera, I realized this feeling of fully giving yourself away to the very present – completely indulging yourself into the special moment is priceless and it deserves to be appreciated again and again.
So tomorrow I am off to a new destination – Siem Rip with those gorgeous Khmer temples, the symbol of Cambodia. I am sorry to say, my dear friends who have been following me on Istangram or Facebook, but there won’t be any photos for some time. I would like to explore more what it is like travelling without a camera.
I say be selfish about immersing yourself completely into the present. Absorb fully all the landscapes, encounters, smiles and peculiarities. With no camera, the experience seems to be more intense. I will do my best to inspire through words =)