Inspired by Humanity, Guided by Curiosity

Cambodia is undoubtedly a nation of great beauty.

The stunning historical monuments and remarkable culture motivate thousands of tourists to visit the country each year. It’s also a nation of great contradiction; its tragic and complex past never fails to astonish people. But in looking at the whole, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Cambodia is more than just a place of legend.

We travelled to Phonm Penh, Cambodia’s bustling capital, to work on a burgeoning long-form project. With some of us having been there only five years prior, it was startling to see how much the city had changed. The rapidly developing city, with its emerging middle class, is grossly contrasted against extreme poverty. Yet, the people are still as gentle, still as generous, still as beautiful.

As storytellers we love challenging ourselves. Finding stories in foreign places, when everything is new and unknown, often becomes a matter of letting our inherent curiosity and inquisitive nature guide us. Going on that journey of discovery lets us build our storytelling toolkit; the ability to listen to people, sometimes in another language, is one of the most critical skills a storyteller can have.

As our days in Phonm Penh progressed, we started to notice that the same local tuk tuk driver would stand out the front of our hotel, the Omana Hotel. Every day, without fail, he would arrive with his tuk tuk and wait for one of the hotel guests to approach him and ask for a ride. His commitment and patience were endearing, and we were intrigued by what motivated him to stand there, unimposing and silent, each day. The light bulbs of curiosity started flashing in our heads. Who was this man? What was his story?

With Rith, the concierge, as our translator and first assistant director, Mr. Oh, the steadfast tuk tuk driver, shared his story. Like many others in the city, Mr. Oh is from a rural village. He stays in the city purely to provide for his family. Supremely proud of the Cambodian capital, Mr. Oh took us everywhere; from the smallest hidden alleyways to the busiest intercity highways. We even sat down together for a beer at the end of the day; a thanks for the unprecedented experience we had just had. To meet someone so genuine, with such modest hopes and dreams, was humbling. It’s easy to take things for granted, and meeting Mr. Oh reminded us of how lucky we are.

Travelling is a privilege. We’re given the opportunity to connect with other human beings and share our stories. We’re given a chance to learn and to grow, both as storytellers and as individuals.

Every day is a journey, with a new story at every turn.