Whether you are called by the vibrant green rice paddies of Southeast Asia or the warm plains of West Africa, travelling with Where There Be Dragons is an inspiring and formative experience. In the summer of 2012 I went to Cambodia with a group of eleven other high school students and a team of three remarkable instructors who each possessed expertise about Cambodia’s culture, history, and development. Four years later, my best friend-whom I met on this trip—and I still speak with our instructors, now mentors, on a variety of topics. There is a sense of community cultivated on Dragon’s courses, which affords a lot of room for personal growth and self-discovery. I can so vividly remember the sparking light cascading though the cracks in my homestay family’s home positioned in a village near Penom Penh. I recall swinging awkwardly in the hammock on the first day, but laughing and cooking with this family by the end of the short week-long stay. Learning to dissolve cultural misunderstanding and see one another was a lesson in perspective that I continue to work on today. This course revealed to me ways of life that are much different from my own, comfortable midwestern lifestyle, but simultaneously, this course impressed upon me that we all share the same world. Cambodia is especially beautiful, fully of rice, iced coffee, wrinkled beetlenut stained smiles, incense, and saffron robes. However, it is also plagues with political vice, human rights violations, limited access to education, and a cruel past. The spirit of Cambodia is infectious—full of determination, kindness and potential. What I learned in and about Cambodia continue to translate into many aspects of my life.
In effort to mirror the lifestyle of Khmer people and fully delve into the beauty of Cambodia, this course is defined as rugged travel. There are times we see unparalleled beauty, but we also stay in modest accommodations. The 5/10 rating is not to deter one from travel, but only to convey a realistic picture of the journey.