Day 6 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project, from BootsnAll
Prompt #6: FEAR
“Just as travel can be fun and exciting, it can also have its challenging, or even downright scary, moments. Being in a new place pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us face our fears. Tell about a time you had to face your fear when traveling, and what was the result.”
Coiled onto a stick, the shiny black snake looked like a lollipop. It bounced through the air as the giggling little girl ran by me. I stared at my beer. No one had mentioned hallucinogenics being added to Cambodian lager before. Perhaps I was an unwitting part of an experiment?
Then a family walked by, reaching into a bag and munching on black crickets like Americans would potato chips.
Definitely not hallucinating. Snakes and bugs everywhere—and all of them to eat.
After a day of amazement over the jungle-dominated city ruins of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat, a festival in Siem Reap seemed the perfect way to celebrate. It reminded me of state fairs back in the U.S.: giggling smiling children, families wandering and admiring, and, of course, fried food. Only instead of the usual American treats—fried butter on a stick, fried beer on a stick, fried fried friedness on a fried stick—the Cambodians munched on… fried bugs, fried snakes and fried grubs.
And I wondered. I’m a traveler. I’m a guest in their country. They can do it… but could I eat a bug?
We often define our travels by the boundaries we push. Many of us travel because we want to break out of our comfort zones, and see what we learn, good or bad. For some people, it’s wondering if they can talk to strangers. Some wonder if they can bungee jump. And some try to channel their own inner Anthony Bourdain, and eat things we might never have thought of as edible.
Sitting at a table with fellow travelers and locals, we talked about eating the bugs. We drank more beer. We talked about Angkor. We talked more about bugs.
I went for another beer, and as I wandered the fair I pondered bin after bin of fried snakes, bugs and grubs. Some shone black or beige; they filled their bins like candy in a candy store.
And I… I wussed out. I totally, completely failed to summon the cojones to eat crickets. There was no inner Anthony Bourdain for me to channel. The body was willing, but the mind said my mouth wasn’t going near anything with more than 4 legs.
I left Cambodia without eating bugs. Those crispy-fried, shiny-shelled little buggers scared the hell out of me, and to this day I’ve never tasted an insect. Yet I’ve also always felt like I let myself down that day. It was an adventure, one that the little children all around me certainly had no problem with. Yet I couldn’t do it. It bothers me still.
Recently my wife and I talked about how we want to travel in Asia together someday. I’ve told her about my bug near-adventure, and we laughed the laugh of combination grossness, excitement and anticipation.
I know it now: On my own, I’m really a wuss. But with my wife, and especially with our kids probably goading us on, you know what?
When we do go to Asia, this time I’m going to eat some damn bugs.
More like this: Urban Fantasy and Travel Stories from Rucksack Press »
What is the 30 days of indie travel?
Every day in November, the BootsnAll Travel Network is inviting bloggers from around the world to a daily blogging effort designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year (or whenever) have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as we like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on our own blogs. More information: Join the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project »