You’re reading Chapter 6 of our #BestTravelStoryEver series, featuring adventures from our very own Flighties. This chapter is brought to you by Holly Graves of Flight Centre Groups Okanagan.
Catch up on other chapters here!
Before getting married, buying a house and starting our family, my husband packed our bags and took off for a year–long adventure (we actually flew back home the day our return plane tickets expired). In that year, we travelled to Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Australia.
One of the most memorable experiences for us was visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. This was back in 2002 when the ticket office to get into the temples was just a handful of booths. At times, we were the only people visiting a site because the world had not put the temples of Angkor on their bucket list. Our experience of Cambodia was full of relatively untouched temples, a quiet Siem Reap and the peaceful beaches of Sihanoukville. It was a really incredible experience.
After that trip, we did All The Things: started our careers, got married, started a family and then enjoyed taking Alexis on adventures we loved so much, like Mexico, Jamaica, Hawaii, Cuba, and Costa Rica. As she got older, we got a bit more adventurous and eventually started planning a return to Cambodia and Thailand. We knew it would be different this time.
Travel had given us so much, and this time, we wanted to give back. Happily, my job at Flight Centre opened up an opportunity.
I ended up working with some clients that had to change their usual winter getaway from Mexico to Cambodia and Thailand. They came into Flight Centre looking for advice. In our conversations and getting their trip all set up, I learned that they had a friend doing volunteer work at an orphanage outside Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Their friend spends half his year in Cambodia, taking dentists and hygienists to do volunteer work at a local orphanage.
My clients connected me with their friend, Peter, and over the next few months, I emailed him in Cambodia regularly. We got everything set up for our arrival in Phnom Penh and time in Cambodia. I then coordinated with my daughter, her teacher, classmates and school, our network of family and friends, and we put together eight bins of donations for the orphanage Peter volunteered with. It was a community effort filling these bins with school supplies, first aid supplies, soccer balls, some clothing and, of course, a container of bubbles.
So, after 22 hours of travel, we were picked up at the airport in Phnom Penh, where we were met by our new friends Peter and his colleague Thornin. All of our many, many suitcases arrived as well! After freshening up quickly at the hotel, we went straight to the orphanage just outside the city to deliver the supplies and to meet some of the incredible staff and volunteers who were doing exceptional things there. It was unbelievable.
During the rest of our trip, we saw such a change in the capital city. Siem Reap was hopping! The entrance to the Temples of Angkor was no longer a modest ticket booth but a grand information centre with a long row of ticket agents.
Change will happen. I am grateful for the opportunity we had to experience Angkor Wat before everyone else caught on, and for a chance to do something meaningful with our family trip.
I know that bringing supplies to a good organization is a little drop in the bucket. But my daughter has looked at our trips differently since then and wonders what we can do to benefit the place we are travelling to. So my little drop in the bucket has turned into two drops!