Thailand & Cambodia – Expect the unexpected


Keenan Hellyer – Frankston High

Close your eyes. Imagine this. You are walking down a street in Siam Reap, Cambodia. You see a man pedalling his push bike with a food cart attached to it. You see bustling markets, full of life and colour, fruits you’ve never seen before in your life. Before long, you are whisked into a tuk-tuk and traveling to an orphanage 15 minutes down the road. You meet some of the most amazing kids, kids that have gone through hardships that you cannot comprehend. You say goodbye, hop back into a tuk-tuk and travel back to the city centre. You find a cheap place to eat dinner, maybe $1 or $2 dollars for a main meal, you eat with your teammates, going over the day and the days to come before going to a night market to buy anything you want. This was one day on a World Challenge expedition.

My name is Keenan Hellyer and I was a Challenger in Team One of last year’s expedition. I’m not here to talk about the hike or the project you’ll do, I want to talk about things that you won’t expect, things at the time that seem small and insignificant, that you just pass them off. However, as time goes on and you arrive back to the day in, day out nature of school, you start to realise that the things we pass off as small and insignificant are the things we remember most. We all say to enjoy the little things in life and World Challenge is a thousand of these little things rolled into one of the greatest months you’ll ever experience. World Challenge is a way to make friends that will look back with you on these little things and a way to create experiences that you will never be able to forget.

The thing about World Challenge is that, no matter how much preparation do, how much you research, you will never know what’ll happen next. There’s nothing like sitting in the middle of Phnom Penh, eating noodles from a family food joint on the side of the road or staying the night in a Thai hill tribe village, before hiking 7-10 kilometres downhill the next day. There’s nothing like sitting around a fire with your entire team, playing cards or having half hour debates on where to eat breakfast. To you, these experiences may sound unexciting, but to me, these are the things I remember most, because these are the things I did not expect. These are the things that challenged me and these are the things that created special friendships. These are the things that made me a better person, these are the things that change our lives.

World Challenge doesn’t just widen our view on the world, it changes it completely.

World Challenge isn’t just about travel or hiking. It’s much more than that, it’s about teaching us to survive in the big bad world of ours, whether it’s booking accommodation for the next night, or finding a place to eat that doesn’t break the bank. There will be times that you are stressed and homesick, but you won’t care. You won’t care because the next day you’re going to do something you’ve never done before, whether it’s eating bugs, riding elephants or just sitting around talking for hours on end about who will win a fight out of Superman and Batman. You might find a great café you want to show everyone or help tend to banana fields at an orphanage. There’s going to be times where you’re going to hurt, but at the end of the day, you can wipe the sweat from your forehead, turn to your team and say ‘we did it’. When I look back through photos I keep repeating the same phrase.

‘We did that.’