Cambodia is calling

Facebook reminded me today that six years ago I took my first international trip by myself. I was 17, my family was living in Ecuador and I was coming to visit a college in the Chicago suburb of Bourbonnais.

It was a mild winter, but the snow on the ground was the first I had seen in five years. I think I slept in the winter coat I borrowed for the trip. Somehow, even with that experience, I still decided this was a good place to go to school and eventually stay.

After five years of living in “Chi-beria,” I’ve adapted to negative wind chills, multiple feet of snow and the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. from November to February.

And just about the time I’ve adapted (this winter I only used my winter coat a few days), I’m embarking on another solo international adventure: This time, I’m flying across the Pacific Ocean to the small Southeast Asian country of Cambodia.

Come Saturday about 1 a.m., I’ll be crossing the International Date Line. That’s 5 p.m., the day before, for us Chicago-landers. It’s a 22-hour total trip; the first flight is 14 hours long and the eighth-longest flight you can get out of O’Hare, according to

Which has me reflecting on how important it is to intentionally explore new places, cultures and ways of thinking.

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