In the final installment of Sam McGoun's cross-Cambodian adventure, our hero -- whom over the past few weeks has had time to reflect on his epic adventure -- pens an open letter to his friends, family and supporters.
It is with the deepest heartfelt gratitude that I thank each and every one of you for supporting me and the students of Sala Bai Hotel & Restaurant School over these past several months. Your messages of encouragement gave me the strength to continue in my physical challenge, and both your time and financial contributions will power us forward well into the future.
As I reflect upon my journey across Cambodia to benefit the students of this special school, I am often overcome with emotion -- all very positive and all very powerful.
Today, as I will do for many days, weeks and months to come, I am attempting to process these emotions. That is, I am attempting to draw out the deeper meaning -- a conclusion or revelation, perhaps even a philosophy -- that I can use to help guide me going forward. As we all know, a profound life experience is often the best opportunity to learn and grow as an individual.
So what then, are the conclusions, revelations or philosophies that have resulted from my running, biking and swimming 670km across Cambodia to benefit the students of Sala Bai? There are many; below I share two.
True happiness requires a purpose and passion in life
From my perspective, the only definition of success is true happiness. And while true happiness eludes many of us, I am pleased to share that I’ve found it with the help of Sala Bai and its inspirational students. My true happiness is knowing that I have both a purpose and a passion in this life much bigger and far more important than me.
My purpose is helping others -- giving more in this world than I could possibly ever take. My passion is Sala Bai, and more specifically, giving young Cambodian women access to education and employment in the hospitality industry.
My true happiness, therefore, is the result of helping others, and in particular, the students of Sala Bai.
To be clear, there are other core ingredients required for true happiness -- ingredients that I am blessed to already have present in my own life: my health, my family and my friends. And indeed, while everyone is different, I feel confident that true happiness will continue to elude us if we
don't have a purpose or a passion or if we do not make these about other people or other things that benefit humanity overall. For me, this is eliminating poverty and fighting human trafficking by educating and employing the students of Sala Bai. For you, it may be raising your children with a value system that enables them to be good (and happy) adult human beings.
Two things are for certain: one’s purpose and one’s passion are individual choices, and these are two ingredients required for our own true happiness.
Smiles have no language barrier
Smiles are universal signs of welcome and respect. I speak exactly three words of Khmer (Cambodian). Most rural Cambodians speak about the same amount of English. Our ability to speak each other’s language has absolutely no bearing on our ability to welcome one another or show a simple sign of respect. Throughout my 670km journey, I was the beneficiary of literally hundreds of smiles. Little did I know that such a simple gesture could have such a profound and positive impact upon my own outlook.
Without a doubt, the smiles of Cambodian men, women and children gave me the motivation and strength to finish my days' physical commitments.
The reality is that most of the smiles I received during my journey came from people who earn less than USD$50 per month, who barely have enough food to survive, who work in harsh conditions more than 12 hours per day, who have little or no education and who have little or no access to even the most basic healthcare. These kind people welcomed me into their communities and respected me in the process with genuine smiles.
Truthfully, most days I’m so “busy” getting from point A to point B that I walk around with a blank facial expression that is so unwelcoming you’d think I didn’t have facial muscles to form a smile. What’s my excuse? Clearly, there isn’t one. Enough said.
It is time to smile. It will welcome others within your immediate surroundings and show them a sign of respect. And if you need another reason: I promise it will make you much happier in the process.
My journey has just begun
While I have completed the physical journey of crossing Cambodia to benefit the students of Sala Bai, the emotional journey and my lifelong commitment to fighting human trafficking with education and employment in hospitality has only just begun. You can follow and join this journey
by 'Liking' Touch Sala Bai on Facebook, by visiting the Touch Sala Bai website or by writing to me directly at email@example.com. We will ensure that you receive periodic updates from Touch Sala Bai about upcoming events, important developments on the fight against human trafficking and the progress of past, current and future Sala Bai students.
And while I have several more reflections that I look forward to sharing with you in the future, it's time to bring this chapter to a close.
I would like to thank the three people who have given a voice to this cross-Cambodia journey, and more importantly, the students of Sala Bai: Scott Woodward, Mike Rogers and Meghan Shea are the truly gifted professionals who lent their talents to giving voices to those individuals who do not have them. Through their still and moving images, they have told a story that connects not just our minds, but also our hearts, to something far more important than ourselves. Without them, none of this would have been possible. Scott, Mike and Meghan, thank you for following your own dreams -- you continue to inspire me, and others, to do the same.
And finally, on behalf of Jean-Paul and Emmanuelle
de Thomas, the students of Sala Bai and the members of Touch Sala Bai, I thank you all for making a difference.
To help celebrate Sam’s journey and to support the fight against human trafficking, please donate to Touch Sala Bai today. Donations to Sam's cross-Cambodian journey will close on Monday 7 May.
Did you miss our daily "Reports from the Road" during Sam's cross-Cambodian journey? Catch-up on all of Sam's adventures and experiences here.