Hello friends!

I’m currently sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and looking out over the city; I’m feeling inspired. I’m writing this on the second to last day of my trip and I thought I would share with you my reflections and what I have learned.

Let me preface this by saying this is in no way a trashing of the way people live in first-world countries. I just now know how privileged and somewhat unappreciative we are of all that we have.

Throughout this trip, I have witnessed more poverty than I ever have before. With that being said, I have also witnessed the happiest people I have ever seen. A lot of the people of the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia have close to nothing and are happier than most Americans I know. These people are family-oriented, work jobs that allow them just enough to live, and do not complain (at least not that I could see).

This goes to show how different life is in America, or any other first-world country. People seem preoccupied with what is next. The next bill, the next buy, the next job. We focus so much on living in the future that we forget to live in the present. We forget to cherish the moments with our families and friends because we are so worried about what will happen tomorrow.

My uncle’s house in the Philippines is on a small street that overlooks the South China Sea. The majority of his neighbors live with extended family and have no complaints. Ages in a household can range from a newborn baby to an 80-year-old great grandfather. Every night the entire neighborhood, children and adults, all go outside to watch the sunset together. The kids will play basketball while the adults sit and talk to each other. What really got to me was the fact that they were all truly enjoying each other’s company. You could tell by how engaged they were with everyone and by the smiles that graced their faces. It was a sight to see and I’m glad I got to see it.

Walking the streets of Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand you get to witness families sitting on the floor together eating dinner. Every time that I have seen something like this, they are all laughing and smiling and enjoying each others presence. No matter what the activity, from playing a game to eating a meal, they seem happy to be doing it with the people they are doing it with. They will also welcome a stranger in need with open arms and that smile.

The lessons I learned in my time here in Southeast Asia that I will be taking home to America are to live in the present and never take what you have for granted. I am the type of person who stresses far too much about future endeavors. It does no good for my mental health and is completely unnecessary. It ruins my days before whatever the event is and causes me to not be present with whoever I’m around. Plan for the future, sure, but live in the present.

These are lessons for anybody. We live stressful lives; between deadlines and plans it is easy to get caught up in life and forget about getting caught up in the moment. Take a minute. Think about all of the blessings in your lives and everything you have to be thankful for. Remind yourself that no matter what is coming tomorrow, today is just as important. Don’t forget to appreciate the people and opportunities you are around every day.

Coming to third-world countries and seeing what I have seen is something I believe everyone should do at some point in their life. It has truly put things in perspective for me. I am beyond thankful to live in the country that I live in and to have the opportunities that I have. I know that is type of trip is not possible for everyone, which is why I started this blog. I hope that I can deliver the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had to all of you through my writing.

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Zoe Zbar

My name is Zoe and I'm a 22-year-old student at the University of South Florida. Join me as I document my journey through life. I'll write the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the funny, the sad, and everything in between. Don't be afraid to let me know what you think. Enjoy!

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