I love travel photography.....not just love love....no, I loooooooovvvvvvveeeeee travel photography. Not just because of the new experience of traveling off to a world I have never seen before...nope...it is mostly because when traveling I get to take break from my regular life and push myself to be a more "adventurous" version of me.
Now don't get me wrong...I adore my regular life. I am beyond blessed and would never trade my everyday for anything. BUT.....life is not a stagnant thing...it changes...and if you let yourself change with it you get to explore all its depths and riches. Unfortunately for me I'm a person who is oh so comfortable with a pattern of routine, order and predictability...and I fight change with all I have in me. EXCEPT when I go traveling. So I know if I'm due for a big shake up in my life...if I need to freshen up my perspective and open myself to all that is new, I plan a trip to a country and a culture I am totally unfamilar with (insert "uncomfortable" here)...and then try and immerse myself in it (in my own Western way).
When I went to Cambodia I didn't go totally naive of the place. I read as much as I could about the cultural norms of various regions and the country's history (didn't want a Cambodian version of the Lower Antelope Canyon Incident). I also didn't back pack through the country as I had with Cuba...this time I decided to join a group of other photographers and a photography guide (Nathan Horton Photography - a great experience if you are considering it) for my travels.
The first day we were shooting, Nathan Horton stopped us all outside a market and taught us a few Khmer phrases to help us along with our photography adventures. Now, let me be clear, in my regular life I would never venture forth into a group of people I hardly know and try out a phrase in a totally foreign language....heaven forbid I be perceived as an idiot. But when I am traveling camera in hand, I'll do just about anything to get the image I want....so no shame...and no care for perceived idiocy.
The phrases he taught us worked well for me that first day with vendors at a street market laughing uproariously at my butchery of their lovely language. But being such an open and humor filled culture, the Khmer people were very quick to laugh and then gesture me over to capture the image I was asking for. It was an absolute blast.
Now Khmer isn't an easy language but I practiced over and over agan and despite the laughter the Cambodian people were oh so generous with themselves and let the crazy black lady take their picture.
On my second day in Cambodia Nathan took us to Silk Island. I found myself wandering off and run across this group of children who were as curious about me as I was about them...but they stood back smiling and waving, not approaching me. I figured, what the heck....I'm gonna try out the Khmer word for "SMILE" on them and see what they do. Lord knows the last time I said it I got a super puzzled look from this older gentleman and I was sure I must have said something atrocious. Apparently I got it right this time...."snamonhnhum" came out of my mouth and it must have been the cue the kids were looking for because I was rushed by a group of laughing smiling kids making peace signs with their fingers and was able to snap off 5 images before I succumbed to the kiddie pile up. Talk about positive reinforcement for stepping outside your comfort zone.