Surrounded by the buzzing motorcycles of night-time Battambang, we stood before a small, but appealing selection of ice cream. Although the land we stood on profoundly lacked familiarity, the flavors reminded us of our lives thousands of miles away. For just a moment, we forgot we were in Cambodia.
Even before this Dragons course, we knew of the small nation in Southeast Asia. Yet, looking at Cambodia from our flight, neither of us could say where Vietnam ended and Cambodia began. As we sat upon the scare mountain tops here in Battambang, neither of us knew where the Cambodian jungle became Thai villages. As we ate ice cream that night, neither of us could distinguish between the end of our home in the USA and the beginning of our adventure in Cambodia.
Where is Cambodia?
We are often lead to believe in strictly defined borders. The lines on the map cage our cultures and enforce our boundaries. These arbitrary borders, rearranged as the nations in power see fit, divide communities and ethnic groups. Before this Dragons course, Cambodia and the USA seemed worlds apart, countries with often intertwined, but wholly unique histories and cultures.
So, why, in a land as foreign as Cambodia, does the illusion of borders seem to fade?
As we gazed upon the striking oranges and reds of a setting sun from a van on a small Cambodian road, we came to realize truly how connected the world is. People across the planet marvel at the same sun and eat the same ice cream. Although the borders of the world exist, we should not allow ourselves to be divided by them. We are neither Americans nor Cambodians, but instead, humans. What we share transcends what makes us different, yet we oftentimes fail to see so. Violence and discrimination reinforce our divisions, but a steady heart and unwavering faith in one another can bring us together.
As we travel through Cambodia, the world, and back towards home, we seek to discover not how our cultures are different, but instead how we all are the same. This approach to travel may have its strengths and drawbacks: where do we draw the line between our instinctual need for unity and an understanding of how each culture maintains a singular identity? We may not yet know our answer to this question, but we hope that in due time our travels in this beautiful country will help us fully understand the borders that divide all of us.