What I love about international travel is that it makes you step way outside of your boundaries. What it also does is make you realize what your boundaries actually are. On my recent trip to Cambodia, I had just the experience that made me understand where I truly draw the line on what I’m willing and not willing to do.
I was traveling with my tour group from Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia) to Siem Reap (where the famous temple complex Angkor Wat is located). On our way we stopped at a small, roadside town called Skuon. I had never heard of this place before, but was luckily forewarned about what makes this otherwise random place quite popular: tarantulas.
Not only do the farmer’s crops in the area provide a thriving environment for this specific species of non-poisonous tarantulas, but here is the kicker; the locals consider these little creatures a delicacy. Yes, they eat tarantula and they fry them up and serve it with a little fried onion on top. Please don’t get ahead of yourself and think that I have crossed over to the dark-side and am no longer a vegetarian and that I eat tarantulas…..ohhhh, my stomach turns just thinking about it. Nope, I didn’t eat them. Actually, I could barely look at them. And I definitely realized I wanted nothing to do with them.
We had the opportunity to do the touristy thing and have a tarantula crawl on our arm and get a picture with it. Our tour guide Sam pleaded with me to do it because he didn’t want me to regret this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As I stood there and watched my brave tour mates have the fuzzy critter crawl up their arm I was having an inner monologue with myself; “Should I do it? Would I create a spectacle if I went through with it but then freaked out after a few seconds? What was I missing if I didn’t do it? Would I finally get over my fear of insects and bugs if I faced this head on?” I felt Sam pull me towards him and pick up a tarantula from my friend Kat’s arm and turn to put it on my arm. From the shriek I let out and the full on resistance I put up towards Sam, we pretty much had our answer. Nope, no way in hell was that tarantula going to have anything to do with me.
While back on our bus and making our way out of tarantula-land, I started to realize that I had no regrets about this incident (and I still don’t). What I learned in this case is that while I already knew I don’t like insects, bugs, spiders etc, I’m just not willing to always do something because it is “cool” and a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. While I do tend to be that person who wants to experience the culture and off the beaten path adventures while out traveling the world, I’ve come to understand there will be times and incidents where I am, and need to be, ok with passing things up. And that, I am.
As I am feeling good about my decision and this realization, we were just pulling into a gas station to make a quick pit stop. I went inside to get a cold drink because it was hot as a mother outside (and my body temperature seemed extra high from nearly having a tarantula placed on my arm). I picked up what looked like the Cambodian version of lemon flavored Lipton Iced Tea, called Oishi.
Not expecting this to be much different than the US version, it was not at all what I expected and WAY better. It was a very light jasmine green tea with a subtle lemon flavor and sweet honey taste. What was great about it was that the lemon wasn’t the nasty artificial taste like the Lipton version here and the honey wasn’t as sugary either. What I loved most though was the jasmine flavor that was such a unique twist on the typical iced tea.
So, what started out as sort of an overwhelming day for me turned out quite nice in the end when I not only learned a little about myself, but also uncovered a new go-to while in Cambodia. From that day on, I had an Oishi almost every day while I sweat my way through the country.