Sleep is refreshing. When consumed by daily life, sleep can sometimes be the only way to put the mind at ease. We worry, we sleep, we wake up anew. But when living our mundane lives, do we really wake up anew?

On my journey to Southeast Asia, however, sleep really does bring a new beginning.

My blog begins in a quiet city along the mighty Mekong River in Laos. I opened my eyes just as the sun was rising. I had little time before our 8:00 am departure. I had little time to think. Our time in Pakbeng lasted less than 24 hours. I lugged my bag down the steep dirt road to the dock. Molly and I found a quiet spot on our massive riverboat and quickly fell back asleep. Our slow boat crept steadily toward Luang Prabang, and we laid there, our consciousness suspended, sound asleep.

The minutes bleed into hours. I woke up. I saw where I was. The shining river in the foreground bleed into the endless mountains in the background. We soon stopped at the Pak Ou caves, which, unlike any other caves I've seen, are covered in Buddha statues. This was not the mundane. This was truly new.

We arrived in Luang Prabang. We arrived at the guesthouse. We got some food. We packed for our trek. We went to sleep.

Another early morning. Once again, we spent less than 24 hours at our destination. Before I knew it I was in a van riding on the bumpiest, windiest roads I had ever come across.

At first, I fell asleep in the car, but it did not last long.

Stop, start, swerve, pothole, bounce.

This was not Minnesota. This was not America. This was truly new.

After roughly 3 hours, and a couple of stops, we arrived in the small backpacker city of Nong Khiaw. We ate lunch, split into two trekking groups and were on our way to the mountains by mid-afternoon.

Our guide, KD, took us straight uphill to a small Hmong village at the top of a mountain. I never really understood the term "culture shock" until we arrived in the village. It was so different. There was no bathroom.; if you had to go, you just picked a spot on the ground. There was no plumbing at all, just one small water spout for the whole village to do laundry, drink from, and shower in.

We settled in, ate dinner, hung out a bit and then went to bed. That day had been long and the next day was only going to be longer.

I woke up in the morning on a bamboo mat, next to 8 other people, in a wooden hut on the top of a mountain in Laos.

That next day was, indeed, much longer. We trekked for about 4 hours until we reached the next village. Our reward for the end of that days trek was reuniting with the rest of our group. We walked towards them and quickly began to review the past day. As we chatted and caught up, something felt very normal. The day was far from filled with the mundane, but it finally brought something familiar.

We ate, played with children and then looked at the stars at night. The next day would be another that was genuinely brand new. I couldn't wait to get to sleep.


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Author Quinn Carney Posted

Program Southeast Asia Departure Spring 2017