One post in to this blog, and I’m already creating an exception to my claim that all photos on this site are taken by me. The ones in this post were not.
These images were taken by my friend, Wyna, a citizen of Cambodia, a tour guide, tuk tuk driver, and all-around good human being.
As in most places, Cambodia has been hit hard by the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Unlike many places, the floor for families who are struggling in Cambodia is bowed and cracking, with a calamitous drop lying beneath.
When the tourists stopped traveling to places like Siem Reap, the money stopped circulating too. Suddenly the third largest industry in the entire nation vanished, and in the vacuum it left behind, tens of thousands of families are struggling to survive. Cambodia has little in the way of a social safety net and these are very hard times.
I’ve only spent a few days in Cambodia myself, but that short time left a deep imprint on me. I really fell in love with it. Not its government and politics, of course, but its people, its vibrant and ancient culture, and its adventurous relationship to food and all that the jungles, lakes and sea supply for sustaining human life and spirit.
I owe most of that appreciation to the introduction I received to the country from Wyna. He is everything one could want in a guide: kind and knowledgeable and amenable. But he is also, clearly, very deeply in love with his home.
In the days we spent together he took me and my friends to all of the places we expected to see and also off the main tourist routes to wondrous places of natural beauty and ancient history that we never even knew to ask about. We spent hours in the car talking about his country and how he spends his time when not driving tourists around. He spoke excitedly of “country parties” (which I would call a potluck) and the joy of gathering with family and friends over shared food, and we got damn near philosophical when we talked about fishing… The peace of being at a wild river, and the pride of reeling in a meal.
I’m always skeptical when I travel… Wary of anxious guides and crafty locals who know what tourists want to hear and make use of those biases to loosen one’s grip on their wallet. I don’t fault anyone for doing this… Tourism is a business and that business is very transactional and fleeting. And heavy traffic through a region takes a toll. Those who pass through do owe something to the communities they visit.
But still, there’s always that search for the “authentic” experience. And, whatever that may mean, the fleeting transactions of a holiday are usually not it.
But then there’s Wyna and the folks like him that I always hope to meet when I visit a new country. People who are prepared to meet you where you’re at, but also happy to share a part of themselves with you so they bring you along to where they live. After-all, that’s why you’ve traveled so far, is it not?
I cherish the short time I was able to spend with him on that journey. And am pleased to have maintained contact with him years after.
And now, through no fault of his own, he and his family are struggling. They’re struggling because circumstances prevent him from offering an experience as enlightening as the one he provided me to other people seeking the same.
I won’t stand for it.
I had planned to start this blog some time late in the year after spending the summer and fall collecting photos and stories to share here. But I’ve accelerated that schedule because I saw an opportunity to help in some small way.
From now through June 30th, 100% of the net income from all of the photos for sale on my store will go to Wyna and his family. Wyna has even included a small gallery of images he took himself that you can buy.
I’ve prepared a gallery of photos suitable for printing as well as images sized for computer and phone wallpapers. You can order prints directly through my store, or you can simply download the high resolution images and take them to the printing service of your choice.
I encourage you to buy as many of these images as you like knowing that the revenue will go to help a lovely family who could really use the support in this hard time.
May you and yours experience many happy journeys when the world is set to rights, and may you be so lucky as to encounter locals as wonderful as my friend Wyna!
(By the way, should you ever travel to Siem Reap or Battambang, please consider hiring Wyna as your guide. You can get in touch with him here.)