Bugs In My Hair? No Problem.
It’s my final night in Kampot, and bugs are falling into my hair. They’re tiny black beetles, each of them about a centimeter long, and soon the cream-colored sofa on which my friend Suzanne and I are sitting looks more or less polka-dotted.
But you know what?
I don’t care. I’m happy to be sitting outside, sipping sweetened lime juice and watching the river, and if bugs are falling into my hair, so be it!
Suzanne is one of the more interesting people I’ve met on the trip so far. She’s tall with short, spiky blonde hair, a nose ring, retro eyeglasses, and she rocks the hippie backpacker look like she’s been wearing it every day of her life.
Suzanne has a high-powered job at home in Dusseldorf, jet-setting all over Europe several times each month. And on her first week on the job, she asked her boss point-blank for three months off to travel Asia. Ballsy doesn’t even begin to describe her!
And on top of all that, she grew up on a farm in East Germany! The wall fell when she was 11 years old, and times were quite difficult for her family until then. She and her siblings would often go hungry.
“That’s why I don’t mind the bugs,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve lived through much worse than this.”
“I can understand that,” I reply.
“What about you?”
What about me? Had I been at home, I’d have been a drama queen about the whole ordeal, screaming every time a bug fell on me. (I won’t even tell you how I reacted when a bird landed on my head in a Boston park last summer.)
“I have no idea,” I confess. “I grew up camping, but that’s the best I’ve got.”
“Maybe you just have the ability to adjust well.”
“Maybe. I know my girlfriends wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff I’ve done here.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore and admire my girlfriends. But most of them would have booked a ticket home at the first sight of a squat toilet.
The more I think about it, the more I’m surprised at myself. I haven’t had a hot shower in a month. And I’m a girl who loves scaldingly hot showers. I keep sleeping on overnight buses, as uncomfortable as they are, and wearing the same clothes, day-in and day-out.
“Does backpacking turn you into a more easygoing person?” I wonder aloud. “Or are the only people who would consider a trip like this easygoing to begin with?”
“I think it’s both,” Suzanne replies. “You can’t do a trip like this without it changing you.”
I agree with that wholeheartedly.
The night goes on. I tell Suzanne about Si Phan Don, how there are more stars in the sky than you can imagine, and how the northern end of Don Det is more or less steeped in marijuana smoke. She tells me that she used to have her friends knock the wind out of her while she had her face pressed into a homemade bong before she discovered that she lacked the ability to react to THC.
I’m telling you, this is one of the craziest girls I’ve ever met.
I keep thinking of our conversation later, though. Since settling into travel mode, I’ve been so happy, and I still can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s because I don’t let little things bother me anymore.
Bugs falling into my hair? No problem.