Updated: Jan 8, 2022
Amidst the Chaos of Everyday Life, Find Your Place to Recharge
Life is tough and sometimes we just need a break. Amidst an intense period of constant struggles to reconcile work demands and travels with my own introverted personality, my coping skills had turned dark - excessive drinking and eating had become the norm. I was desperate to find a place far away from work. So, in between two hectic weeks of business meetings in the Far East, I threw caution, and my typical overplanning, to the wind and took refuge amongst the amazing history of ancient Cambodia.
Top: (L) Steep climb up Phnom Bakheng stairs after arrival in Siem Reap; (M) View from the top of Phnom Bakeng over the jungle tree tops; (R) Map of part of Angkor Wat
Bottom: (L) Another stop on my tour of ancient temples that were rediscovered after nearly 500 years of being hidden by a thick jungle blanket. Finally, these amazing sites were open to modern tourism after Cambodian Civil Wars and the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and '80s; (M) Cambodia's Great Lake - the Tonlé Sap; (R) map of Southeast Asia
When I exited the airport, I was met with several taxi invitations. One seemed a bit more personal, so I told him the name of my hotel. Once we got in his 1970s Toyota, he introduced himself as Cantu. He asked my plans for my stay. Normally, I’m quite reluctant to reveal such details for fear of some sinister intent. However, here and now, desperate for some relief, I could not muster the strength to properly assess options or risks. Once I shared my desire to see temple ruins, Cantu offered to chauffeur me around for my two days. The cost was only $25 US and I could pay when he returned me to the airport. Cautiously, I accepted this great deal.
“If you have time, sir, it is almost sunset. I can take you to the Phnom Bakeng Temple and you can climb to the top for the best view around. It is definitely amazing!”
I was all in at this point, so off we went. Once parked at the foot of the temple, I looked up at the hundreds of people and many hundreds of steps. I began the steep climb. The heat, compounded by my poor fitness, weighed me down and necessitated many stops to catch my breath.
Finally, I arrived at the top for a glorious view of the deep orange setting sun cutting over the bright green treetops from the jungle below. I sat down to absorb the splendor of the scene. So serene and peaceful. I scanned the diverse crowd of onlookers and journaled a bit in between gazes at the magnificent view.
Once the sun set, I watched some of the crowd—locals and travelers alike—begin to head down. As I eyed one visitor burdened with a heavy backpack, I realized Cantu—if that really was his name—was down below with all my luggage in the back of his car. He could take off and leave me stranded with nothing. Was that truly his big payoff? Was this a scam? My stomach twisted as I peered down, trying to find Cantu and his Toyota amongst the sea of matchbox cars. I could not.
I set aside my worries in order to find the best path down. Locals were offering elephant rides down a steep, winding path on the side of the temple. That sounded like a unique adventure with far less toll on my knees. However, the guide said I was too heavy for them to take me down. Too heavy for an elephant? Really?
Frustrated, I began the trudge down, step by step. As I neared the bottom, I anxiously scanned for Cantu, but to no avail. Panic returned. Were my fears now realized? Lost without my clothes and my work bag in Cambodia? Fleeting thoughts flashed through my head.
Suddenly, Cantu appeared in front of me. He saw the panic in my face and said, “Do not worry, sir. I just had to park to the side.” He pointed me back to the Toyota. Relieved, I thanked him for the suggested stop and we headed to the hotel.
Over the next couple of days, he showed me many other unique temples as well as Tonlé Sap Lake, containing dozens of elevated huts which served as houses, schools, and stores which in the summer rainy season were only accessible by water taxi.
After centuries of being cradled in the comfort of a warm, private blanket of overgrowth, Angkor Wat is now being revealed to the world. As with myself, I'm not sure these ruins were anxious to have all their secrets revealed, nor aptly prepared to handle the public onslaught. Yet for me, Angkor Wat provided me with a brief gift of respite, a beautiful silver lining in my long business travels.
Portions excerpted from In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Struggles with Addictive Behavior
Introvert's Call to Action
My work and travel stress overwhelmed me. Finding a bit of a reprieve from the chaos, whether in a jungle at Angkor Wat, in a park, at a coffee shop, or in your little nook at home is a critical part of our introvert survival kit.
NEXT WEEK- Introverts Are Leaders Too!: Generalist or Specialist