Written By Sophie, Latitudes ’19 Cambodia
About three months ago I hopped on a plane for twenty-seven hours and eventually found myself in the tiny coastal community of Kep, Cambodia. Even though I was quite literally as far from New York as I could be, arriving in Kep and arriving at Vagabond Temple felt like I was arriving home. From the beginning, everyone welcomed me with open arms, and I began to understand exactly what community living meant. And with that, I spent the next two months laughing, dancing, doing yoga, and eating (all vegan, fresh meals) with my newfound family.
Before arriving in Kep, I worried that living at a place called “ Vagabond Temple “ would be a little too hippie. (esoteric?). Instead, what I found was straightforwardness where I needed it – I learned about a variety of yoga styles and about yogic philosophy – along with a gentle introduction to some more new-age philosophies. At its core, Vagabond Temple is just a community of people each trying to better themselves, trying to learn as much as they can – and you can feel it.
Besides yoga, philosophy, and other classes, I filled my days with teaching english.
One to three times a week, I would go down to a local pagoda and assist teaching the child monks living there. The pagoda is pretty small, poor, and there was no real adult supervision for the child monks. And so, along with english, we worked with them in life skills such as how to keep their place tidy and how to swim properly. It was incredibly rewarding to see their progress and how learning these skills can create real opportunities for them. They are some of the sweetest little boys you could ever meet, but don’t be fooled by their title as monks- they are still rowdy little boys. I’ll never forget how fast I had to run while playing tag, or the level of multitasking involved with trying to herd twelve energetic kids into a tuk-tuk!
A few times a week I would also teach english to VT staff. Through this, I also became quite close to some Khmer families, with whom I share some of my most treasured moments in Kep. I think my younger self would have been quite confused to see me belting “My Heart Will Go On” while <
My schedule afforded me plenty of time to explore the local culture, swim with the phytoplankton, and to pursue personal projects. This was wonderful for the few months I was in Kep, but as someone who is used to a fast-paced environment, I was excited and ready for the second part of my semester when the time came.
And so at the end of my seven weeks, I took a (relatively) painless bus ride up north to Siem Reap, Cambodia. There I had a few days to explore the other, urban side of Cambodian life, and then I started the second part of my semester– a 200 hour yoga teacher training! The course itself was located in a small garden/cafe/studio tucked away from the bustle of the city, while I stayed in a hostel down the road. The training schedule was quite opposite my schedule in Kep, starting six days a week at 6 am and ending at 9 pm. It was busy, physically demanding, but incredibly satisfying. I loved and respected my teachers, and I saw my yoga practice improve tenfold over those three weeks. Most importantly, I feel like I received a thorough and authentic education on yoga, yogic philosophy, and how to teach it.
After the training, I spent the next few days exploring the wonderful ruins of Angkor, and celebrating Khmer New Year (a huge water festival in the streets)!
My experience in Cambodia taught me more than I could have imagined about philosophy, life, relationships, and cultural nuances, and I know it’s just a matter of time before I’ll be back.