We added it up. Since summer this year, our family has slept in over 40 different beds each!! We have been in 3 countries and will add France to that list by next week. Nomadic living has taken us off the path and to many hidden jewels. When we travel, we stop momentarily where the tourists go but always seem to steer off that path usually because its cheaper, more intimate with nationals, quieter, and it feels more like real life.
Last summer, we visited Ratanakiri to delve into a corner of the earth few get to travel. Twelve different languages within 50 miles of each other! There is no other place like Ratanakiri Cambodia. Closed to the world, except those willing to take a 2 day moto adventure through mud, until 2 years ago, many of these tribal areas remain untouched from outside influence. We traveled 10 hours from capital Phnom Penh to arrive in this town and was surprised to find 3 great experiences including a volcano lake, a luxurious hotel with charm and excellent food, and a canoe ride to visit the villages whose language no one speaks except 200-500 people in the entire world.
Terres Rouges Lodge in Ratanakiri
Travel tip: We often book a nice hotel such as this on the second day of our trip. We show up early and check out late. Before and after, we stay at a hostel or backpackers place in order to save money.
Lake Yeak Laom
Located approximately 3 mi (4.8 km) from the provincial capital, Banlung, the beautiful lake occupies a 4,000-year-old volcanic crater. Due to the lake’s tremendous depth (157 ft or 48 m), its water is exceptionally clean and clear. The lake is almost perfectly round and measures 0.45 mi (0.72 km) in diameter. Large trees and rich, lush rain forest, the home of many exotic birds and parrots, surround the lake. The water has a mysterious viscous feel yet clear as glass. An unusual sight and feel with mysteries lying on the bottom such as unexploded bombs from Vietnam War and bodies of those who thought they could swim.
Tonle San River Ride
Driving an hour out of Ratanakiri town, we approached the shack, trash lined edge of the Tonle San river to arrange a canoe. Waiting another hour, a man came running up ready to load. We road the canoe down the river with our guide who is Chinese but lives in a village with about 200 other Chinese families who left China over 50 years ago.
The sun was intense on our backs as it was midday with no shade on this 2 hour boat ride. But, all of us were enthralled as we looked out to find children and adults on the edge of the river scantly dressed and bathing or washing clothes. He explained that each of these people had their own language. They were called the Khmer Loeu, Tampuan, Brou and others depending if you asked an outsider or Khmer. Not much is known about many of them but a few have learned enough Khmer to interact with the outside world. We stopped and visited the Jarai village of about 200 people. No-one knows the history of how they got to this land but they have been there since they can remember. Ancestors knew how to live on the forest alone but now they are employed by outside groups to cut down precious timber by the acres. We watched as they bathed without clothing unashamed as a community in the river.
Recently, we reflected on this trip and other unusual adventures, over a coffee with friends when asked “what have you learned from living a nomadic life?” Here are some unique lessons that came from this conversation:
Every life is unusual and unique. Yours is too. Share what is unusual about your life and what you have learned from that?
Suffering hurts but I am glad that I have suffered and wouldn’t change the bad things that happened to me. I’d like to share why.
Have you suffered? Tell us the lessons you have learned. Are you suffering today? Tell me and I will pray for you. So many are suffering beyond what I can comprehend and my hope today is to help lift anyone who feels as if it is all meaningless. Everything about you is meaningful, grande, and important. You are unique and have a beauty your own!
“In The Embers”We live and we die
Our legacies hide
In the embers
May our stories catch fire
And burn bright enough
To catch God’s eye
We live and we die
We pull apart the dark
Compete against the stars
With all of our hearts
Till our temporary brilliance turns to ash
We pull apart the darkness while we can
May we live and die
A valorous life
May we write it all down
In cursive light
The Halls promise you this, we will continue to explore our worldand share our journeys with you!
It is full blown holiday season and for many a time of happiness, peace, and joy but for others this is not true! The stress of the season can pull many down. The weather changes can cause darkness and cold decreasing outdoor activity. And often this is a time we feel the loss of loved ones gone or the struggle to bring family together that may not want to be together! But, for us the hardest part of the holidays was learning to enjoy the season without many of our loved ones and without the holiday culture that we had experienced in America.
Enjoying the holidays in a new location is a learning process!
We have come a long way. This year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and will return overseas for Christmas. We realized that we will not have time to do the traditional activities such as putting up the tree and opening presents so we found another solution. We are planning a stop in Europe for Christmas where we can hopefully worship our Savior at The Cathedral of Notre Dame. What a unique experience that would be. Keep following the blog to see if it happens! But, how did a family with 4 kids come to celebrate the holidays with joy when the experiences are so nontraditional and far from those we love.
We want to share our advice for getting the most out of this holiday season!
The biggest drag is expectations! There is a book that helped me the most and not just at the holiday season. I came to realize that my own expectations of what the holiday season should be were holding me back. My own expectations of myself were also holding me back. Expectations of the culture such as the number of gifts our kids get compared to others can also be a hindrance to joy. Lastly, was feeling as if there were expectations from others such as family and friends. It was freeing to realize the power of expectation on my emotions in many aspects of life, I realized that I had allowed these expectations to burden me instead of freely celebrating in a way that was mine and ours as a family. To learn more, read this book about expectations:
You’ve heard the saying:
Jump in With Both Feet!
And, this is true for experiencing the best holiday overseas. I do not recommend family videoing their Christmas gathering and you watching that in a far location. You might think that this would help you feel included and happy to be a part but what we have found is that this often leads to tears. Maybe not at that moment but when the video is done and it is dark and quiet, sadness can creep in. We have tried to share holidays back and forth with pictures, phone calls, and messages allowing a brief time of enjoying the holidays together but keeping in the present with both feet at the location you are.
Connect Where You Are!
Don’t Try Doing It Alone!
If your single, a couple, or with kids, anywhere you travel, you can find others ready to celebrate. So join in and make friends where you are. You never know, sometimes these friendships can become as close as family.
Lastly, Once the above is accomplished, you are free to make your own holiday plans and thats where the joy and excitement for the season begins! I will share some traditions that we have created but go with your own. You may or may not have kids but holidays can be a joy whether you have 2 or 6!
3. Include nature in your celebration as being outdoors will lift your spirits. This can be a picnic, hike, or ocean view with holiday songs and reading.
4. For Christmas, we have celebrated the whole week before with daily activities such as making and decorating cookies, attempting a ginger bread house, writing cards to each other and opening them together, a night of singing and worship, and so on. Some of these activities can be done no matter where we are.
Reflecting back on our first Christmas with a child, we have realized how much our feeling of joy for the holidays has increased no matter where we celebrate. The first Christmas, there were very few decorations. We brought this baby tree from America and decorated it with lights we found sold at idol worshipping shops. Strange, but we were able to create a sense of holiday.
Be present this holiday season. Whatever activities you get to enjoy, be there with your whole mind, all your thoughts, a grateful heart choosing joy. Often your emotions will follow. But, if you have a moment of tears, don’t feel guilty but get up the next morning ready to turn it around! Christmas was given as a gift to you in Gods special package and there were no lights on trees and malls to buy gifts on that day! So celebrate this season freely and I think you will realize that this joy is contagious!