Not As Free As I Thought

I spent another three days on the island before returning to the mainland. Having arranged to meet the two Irish guys and the English guy who had caught an earlier ferry, I located an internet café as soon as I arrived in Sihanoukville to find out where they were staying.

After spending some time trying to decipher a vaguely worded email, I was frustrated to discover that they had decided to spend an extra day in Sihanoukville and hadn’t bought the bus tickets to Kep for the following day like we discussed.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that keen on joining them. I’d enjoyed hanging out with them as part of a larger group and genuinely liked two of them but I found the third guy, Patrick, a bit grating. It was very clear that he had a thing for me and hopeless with money, he often complained about being broke.

Over the past couple of days, I’d made subtle hints that we travel separately and leave it up to chance whether or not we saw each other in Kep. But failing to pick up on my reluctance, Patrick continued to suggest that that I join them. Then it turned out we all planned to leave Koh Rong the same day – I’d made the decision to remain on the island an extra day, meaning our travel plans synced up perfectly.

Patrick was apologetic in his email, writing that if I wanted to, I could move onto Kep the next day and he would pay me the money he owed me that night. But this seemed like more trouble than it was worth. It was now late and neither one of us had credit to text each other. I told him we’d sort it out the next day and found my own hotel room for the night.

As much as I wanted to be laidback about it, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed. I was moody the following day when I saw him and didn’t try very hard to hide my annoyance. In fact, I don’t think I really snapped out of it until we were on the bus to Kep.

In retrospect, I probably needed the extra day to rest – my back was sunburnt and my legs were still sore from the jungle trek – but I guess I chose to direct all of my frustrations at him, which wasn’t fair.

Upon arriving in Kep, we found a guesthouse near the beach. We checked into our rooms and I checked my email. I discovered my sister had sent me a message a day ago. Because it had been a while since she last contacted me, I’d had a feeling that something was up and my suspicion proved to be correct. Our mother had had a serious fall, the email said, and was having trouble walking.

Rereading the email a few times, I composed myself enough to tell the guys to go for a walk around town without me. Then I tried to ring my sister several times without success.

After what seemed like an eternity, my sister texted me to let me know that they had just returned from the hospital. Our mother was fine. She was given some painkillers and the doctor said she would make a full recovery.

Gradually, I felt my panic subside. I was relieved that my mum was going to be okay and on a more selfish level, I was relieved that I could continue with my trip. But I also felt guilty about my strained relationship with my mum and decided to call her that afternoon. It was the first time I’d ever contacted her while overseas. Because my mum isn’t very supportive of my irresponsible lifestyle (as she sees it), it wasn’t an easy conversation but it was good to hear her voice.

Having convinced myself that I would have to fly home immediately to be with my family, I began to look at my trip in a different light. I realised that I’d spent the past few days getting irritated by small things when really, every day I got to do exactly what I wanted. I was completely free from most responsibilities and obligations – I never had to think more than a day ahead. My family was fine, I was fine. I couldn’t ask for more than that.


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