Driving on the Wrong Side, Developing Countries, Phnom Penh, and Funerals in Tana Toraja

This week on BootsnAll we’ve been focused deeply on the things people struggle with and the unexpected. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a challenge. Developing countries can be frustrating, there’s an art to traveling in them. Phnom Penh isn’t usually on a bucket list, but should it be? And funerals? Well, they’re hard in any culture, but they’re also a window into the way a people group sees the world.

Read on for what you may have missed!

Tips for Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

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No matter which side you’re used to, left, or right, the odds are good that if you travel long enough you’ll be called upon to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. There’s one simple trick for managing most of the difficulty: regardless of where you are and which side of the road is being driven on, always keep your body (as the driver) in the center of the road. That’s it! Of course that’s not it. Here are tips for managing the stress and differences when on the wrong side of the road.

“Before you venture out into the world, take a little test drive around the parking lot or around the block. Get used to having the gear shift and the parking brake on the wrong side. Make sure you know where to find your headlights, windshield wipers and horn. Find out now whether the accelerator or the brake is particularly sensitive or sluggish. You want to eliminate as many surprises as possible before you get out into traffic.”

The Art of Traveling in Developing Countries

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Developing countries can be some of the most rewarding to travel in. They are most likely to stretch your paradigm, challenge your comfort zone and teach you lessons that you would never learn (about yourself and the world) by staying in the “easy” first world countries. There is, however, an art to managing the chaos and learning to roll with the punches.

“Traveling in some of the world’s poorest countries is as challenging as it is rewarding, and planning your trip can be a balancing act: how to stay safe but still embrace the unknown; how to promote sustainable tourism when faced with heart-wrenching poverty; how to adopt local customs but maintain both your dignity and sanity; how not to end up with an extortionately-priced Persian carpet strapped to the back of your backpack.
It may all be part of the experience, but there are a few tricks to mastering the art of the unknown.”

11 Reasons to Travel to Phnom Penh

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I’ll admit that my first days in Phnom Penh were challenging. We arrived at night, in a monsoon. The whole place felt difficult after living in Thailand for many months, which has great infrastructure, and then traveling in Vietnam, which is (comparatively) a breeze. But the longer we stayed, the more it grew on me. It seems I’m not the only one:

“I’ll admit that I too was jaded to Phnom Penh’s charms (or lack thereof) despite living there for over 10 years. Sure, it was a great place to live and work ― my own backwards haven with wide orderly streets and little traffic ― but I dreaded any time friends or family would come because I’d have to rack my brain finding ways to engage visitors for a couple of days before bundling them off to their next destination. But having left the city that was my home for over a decade has totally changed my view. I miss Phnom Penh. In fact, a recent visit back actually made a (belated) believer out of me.
Here, in no particular order, are 11 must-do activities which should put Phnom Penh towards the top of every visitor’s SE Asia list:”

Attending a Local Funeral: Life & Death in Tana Toraja

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Indonesia is such a diverse country. It’s impossible to put it in a box. Most people’s experiences are limited to Jakarta and Bali. A few venture further afield. On the big K shaped island in the center of the country, Sulawesi, there’s a region called Tana Toraja, which is renowned for it’s fascinating belief system and practices around death. It’s a long trip to get there, and getting to participate is a matter of luck (and sometimes a good guide) but if you can manage it… it’s worth the trip.

“According to the ancient beliefs of the Torajan people, a baby who died before his first birthday must be buried in a tree. In this way, the baby could grow up and out through the tree. The babies were carefully wrapped and placed inside hollowed out spaces in the trunk of a growing tree and covered over with palm fiber doors. The hope being that their essence would become part of the tree. I like that thought. I like it a lot.”

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