When you travel you are exposed to a great variety of people all experiencing entirely different trips. Some people go away for short breaks, some for longer adventures and some people seem to have traveled forever. It’s always interesting talking to people about where they’ve been, their favourite places and where they are heading next.
For my 25th birthday a group of volunteers from New Futures Organization and I piled into a mini van and headed south towards Kep. Two years earlier I’d spent a weekend on this little island and had a great time, so it seemed like the perfect weekend escape from Takeo, in rural Cambodia.
It’s a very basic island, with a few huts, bucket showers and bucket toilets. I warned everyone that it would be really simple and that there wasn’t much development on this island. There are a handful of restaurants on the beach serving simple but delicious seafood. In all honesty there’s not a lot to do there, but that’s part of the fun. Our days were spent alternating between laying on the beach, getting massages, enjoying the local seafood, lounging in a hammock and swimming with the glowing plankton. To say it was relaxing was a complete understatement.
The island is beautiful, but the sand isn’t white – it’s more of a browny golden colour. In true Cambodian fashion there’s a little bit of rubbish lying around, but I wouldn’t call it dirty. The main strip of sand is maybe a twenty-minute walk, so it’s small. There’s only electricity for three hours a day.
Of the 10 of us who went to Rabbit Island for the weekend, two people were unhappy. One was a slightly older lady who simply wanted her creature comforts, which was understandable. But the other girl was my age and was absolutely miserable on this island.
Sorely disappointed with this island, she exclaimed, “It’s just not Fiji” and then proceeded to hold her hand high and say “Fiji’s here” before lowering her hand dramatically and gesturing “Rabbit Island’s here”.
Somehow she’d managed to let slip the fact that we were here, on Rabbit Island.
It wasn’t Fiji, and really that was part of the charm of this island. It was only a two-hour drive and 20-minute boat ride away from rural Cambodia where we had been volunteering. Meals were cheap: ranging from $1 up to $7. Accommodation was a whopping $2.50 a night.
In the past I’ve been to numerous beaches that I’d rate more highly than Rabbit Island, including my top five favorite beaches, but my favoritism of these other beaches didn’t impair my ability to enjoy a weekend away on an island with friends. I arrived with a clean slate, open mind and was excited about what the weekend would hold.
This girl, on the other hand, arrived directly comparing it to a beach literally half a world away. Because Rabbit Island fell short of her expectations and her experiences, she couldn’t let herself enjoy it and instead was mopey. The two women who didn’t like Rabbit Island promptly left and went to Kep, before leaving early and returning to Takeo.
Those of us who stayed had an incredible weekend and it really felt like I was on holiday after volunteering for a month in Cambodia.
I’ve met a lot of people on the road who get so focused around finding the best beach, or the most beautiful temple that they cannot enjoy the beauty of the place they’re in. I’ve written about how important it is to live in the now and to really focus on what you have around you. Sometimes people who travel too much become spoiled and jaded.
I think it’s such a shame to let your adoration of somewhere else impair your ability to enjoy a perfectly wonderful place in the moment.