I thought I would start a series of posts called the ‘Phnom Penh Files’, which will be a monthly recap of my time in–you guessed it–Phnom Penh. The following is just a stream of consciousness, so please forgive my babbling.
In last month’s recap, I touched on how familiar ‘Phnom Penh’ had become. This month, I want to touch on habit, and how we are all ultimately creatures of habit. Suffice to say, my life has not changed that much since moving across to the humidity bubble that is South-East Asia. I still freelance, my main priority is still getting my daily caffeine fix, and I still feel like I never have enough time. Aside from the fact that I definitely indulge in more massages (oh, I’m going to miss these massages), I am still very much leading the life that I led back at home.
There is always an ‘ideal’ version of who we want to be, who we aspire to be, if only the right conditions presented themselves: an ideal ‘you’ that could emerge if only you had a certain job, or if you made x amount of dollars, or if you looked a certain way. At home, I was spending a lot of time working, and thinking about projects and working out how to grow my business, and the cogs in my brain wouldn’t stop turning. I didn’t give myself time to relax, and there was always a pervasive feeling of guilt when I did relax because I felt that I could be doing something more productive. Initially, I wanted to spend my time in South-East Asia relaxing and, more importantly, relaxing without feeling guilty. I wanted to spend more time reading and writing for myself, and pursuing creative pursuits such as this blog. But this hasn’t eventuated, and funnily enough I’m spending less time on my blog even though I’m doing more travelling.
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh, I made an effort to go out, meet people, attend events, and to get to know the city–as you do when you’re met with new stimuli. But as the months passed by, I’ve reverted to my usual self: a bit of a workaholic at times, happy to hermit at home, and always thinking about or planning something. In spite of my new surroundings, the cogs in my brain have kept turning. I had hoped to become more balanced, to find the time to stop and smell the roses, but maybe the truth of the matter is that I’m not that way inclined. I’ve always been serious about work, regardless of whether I was working for the big (wo)man or for myself; and I’ve always been introverted and happy to flutter about solo.
Once the novelty of change, and perhaps potential for change, that is brought about by an alternative setting wears off, habits return in full force because at the end of the day we are who we are. There is no ‘ideal’ you that will magically appear should you get that position at work, make x amount of dollars or look a certain way. And certainly there is no ‘ideal’ you that will materialise because you’ve landed in a rather than b, or vice versa.
The fact of the matter is that you take you with you.
I’ve been wondering, then, why I am so attracted to travel and being overseas and where this insatiable urge to be ‘somewhere else’ stems from? Why are there people who can’t seem to pin themselves down, whether physically or mentally, and others who will happily do so without any qualms? I saw this desire as an incompleteness of my self, my identity, but if we are really just creatures of habit, then this reasoning doesn’t stand. Another reason could be escape, but what could I possibly be escaping from…other than myself? In that case, the argument is still void as we’ve established that we bring ourselves wherever we go.
I wonder if it comes down to possibility. It’s easy to feel stymied or uninspired by everyday life–the known–to forget about potential in familiar surroundings and convince ourselves that what we are really seeking lies somewhere else in a distant and foreign land. In travel, in being elsewhere, there is potential, an unknown quantity, a promise of something that has yet to be defined. Even if we know that we are ultimately creatures of habit, destined to fall back into our daily rituals and routines, perhaps it is still comforting to think that there is the possibility that a better self might exist elsewhere, is lurking out there…if only we can find it.
Gee whiz, another heavy one. Sorry to go all existential crisis on you. Like I said, the cogs don’t stop turning!
In case you missed it, I returned to Tokyo for a brief week to meet up with one of my besties and to visit the Yayoi Kusama Museum, which was a whole lot of fun. Tokyo is one of my favourite cities, and I could return time and time again and never get bored. Due to a typhoon, there was incessant rain the entire time, except for the last day. Go figure. Despite the gloomy skies, I still had a brilliant time, although I’m a little bit bummed that I somehow managed to lose my Sailor Jupiter pin that I bought in Akihabara 🙁
Oh, I’ve booked flights back home to Perth! I’ll be heading back on 14 December and I absolutely can’t wait! Because I can see the finish line in sight, I’m getting particularly antsy to get back home again, which is something I’d never thought I’d say 😉 The last couple of months, I’ve fluctuated between feeling ready to come home, but also wanting to make the most of my time away, so navigating these two opposing states of mind has been a topsy-turvy roller-coaster–I’ll touch on this in my next and final post for the Phnom Penh series!