We thought we were missing something.
Almost everywhere we went after landing at the airport that day, we saw the same thing:
No matter what the situation:
- If we turned down a tuk-tuk driver…Smile.
- Saw someone sweeping the road (while also mothering their infant boy because they had no other choice)…Smile.
- Met a worker at the airport…Smile (when does this ever happen?)
…And it was infectious!
After a fairly miserable previous 10 days in Da Nang, Vietnam, we weren’t in the best of moods.
You see — we’d been stuck in a guesthouse for 9 days. For 8 of those days, the roof was barely able to cope with the torrential rain and one of the local rodents (I call them “The Others”) was scratching away above us. Not to mention the non-stop car horns everywhere we went. (Poor little us!)
But, after arriving in Cambodia, our mood instantly shifted.
So, I found myself reciprocating. Tipping more than usual. Laughing more than usual. And now, giving back more than usual.
Sometimes I need these gentle reminders. It’s one reason travel is so powerful. I’ve seen so much poverty. I’ve been so much more uncomfortable than usual. But, most of all, each and every day, I’m reminded how unbelievably, crazy lucky I am.
Sometimes we forget how extraordinarily lucky we are. That we weren’t born in a country ravaged by poverty, war. and disease, or one that limits free speech (although some of our countries are tinkering on this right now). I mean, we did nothing to decide that. We had zero input. Our hard work and intelligence has nothing to do with it (wealthier people will often cite this as the reason they are where they are today).
So, my experience in the last 4 months in SE Asia — coupled with this podcast has given me a much-needed kick in the backside. This could be one of the most important conversations you’ll hear:
It’s been longer than I would have liked, but I’ve acted and I hope you’ll join me. Last week, we donated to the Malaria Foundation (per GiveWell’s rankings) and this week Carly and I are helping to build a home for in a Cambodian village (the average family makes less than $2 a day!)
Oh, about that shipping container.
Yeah. The pinnacle of space efficiency. Seriously, this place is amazing! We’re only here for a week or so, but I thought you may get a kick from it.
Anyway, that’s all for now, old friend. I know this piece was a little disorganized. And I’m sorry I’ve neglected to keep in touch as of late. I promise to try and do better.
Happy new year! And may this quote stay at the forefront of our minds each day:
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”
— Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
Please help others become effective altruists. Share this. Thank you!
Siem Reap, Cambodia