Debe Dene, Expat Explore TravellerDebe Dene is an entrepreneur, budding writer, creative soul, currently living in Los Angeles California (with dreams of living internationally). She loves to explore the world and also has a passion for the fashion and beauty industry. One of her favorite quotes is one by Rose Tremain: Life is not a dress rehearsal, live in the moment.


When I think of traveling, one word comes to mind – freedom; freedom I needed to explore, freedom to discover, to be adventurous without deadlines, daily routine or the typical limitations of my daily life when at home in the United States. After working in the corporate world for over 20 years, I hit a wall and needed to get far away from my everyday life and surroundings. In that moment, you realized that life is too short. It is about exploring the life we all work so hard to enjoy while we are still mentally and physically able to do so.

My first international trip was to the south of France in 2008. After that, I did not get to travel internationally for several years. During my travel hiatus, my mother unexpectedly passed away and I ended a long term relationship. The best way for me to deal with the loss was to travel, so I decided to book my second international trip in the summer of 2016. Italy was the destination and what an adventure! The journey started in the Eternal City, Rome. The best way to experience this beautiful city is on foot. I explored the ancient ruins and visited the Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and all the famous Piazza’s with each location more fascinating than the last.

In that moment, you realized that life is too short. It is about exploring the life we all work so hard to enjoy while we are still mentally and physically able to do so.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Me in front of the Royal Palace in Pnom Penh (Cambodia)

Since then I’ve been lucky to have traveled to 14 countries in just 3 years. Travel gives me the opportunity to learn more about the world and people that inhabit this planet. As large as it may seem geographically, we are really only separated by man-made borders. I’ve learned that despite the difference in cultures, customs or language, it all comes down to people seeking the same basic human needs and wants, love, acceptance and understanding.

One thing I normally take away from most of my travels is my ability to adapt. I acclimatize to every destination that I visit and I’m learning more and more not to sweat the small stuff.

In this I’m proud to say that I’ve now officially joined the group of wanderlusters that work to travel! My purchase habits have changed considerably. Instead of buying a particular item (that you don’t necessarily need), I instead put the money towards a plane ticket. Or I decide not to splurge on something knowing that it can cover the cost of a hotel for a night. When the email invite came to join the Discovery tour to Vietnam and Cambodia, I knew that I could not pass it up. I have a fascination to see all corners of the world. Having visited Italy, Egypt, Greece, Bali, Morocco and various other destinations, Vietnam and Cambodia were definitely on my bucket list with their rich history, culture and customs.

I was excited to join a Discovery tour with Expat Explore and be on a trip that had not yet been explored by the general public. I felt like I was part of breaking new ground! The team members of Expat Explore made the tour extremely enjoyable. It was my first time meeting and traveling with one of the owners, Carl, who is one of the most down-to-earth and humble business owners I’ve ever met. The Expat Explore team are geniuses at planning these tours; everything ran smoothly considering the size of the group, the number of destinations we traveled to and traveling with two tour buses. I also think we may have received some interesting extra perks being part of the first group exploring this destination with Expat Explore. It could not have been any better.

Left: Local market at a roadside stop (Cambodia) Right: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Vietnam)
Left: Local market at a roadside stop (Cambodia) Right: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Vietnam)

I’ve learned that despite the difference in cultures, customs or language, it all comes down to people seeking the same basic human needs and wants, love, acceptance and understanding.

My expectations of this tour was really to go with an open mind. I didn’t know what to expect and decided to let the experience speak for itself. The one thing I look forward to when traveling is the difference in the cultures; it allows me to mentally grow and experience something new. Even though I’m usually not adventurous when it comes to eating local delicacies, it was interesting to indulge in what the Vietnamese and Cambodian locals ate every day. It can be anything from ants, to tarantula and scorpions or, in some cases, drinking snake wine! Luckily I’m a plant-based eater and finding such delicacies was equally as easy. I think it also comes down to understanding that visiting a new country involves not having the comforts of home, nor what we are accustomed to in our everyday life; be it certain foods, the language barriers, or something as simple as smoothly paved roads. One thing I normally take away from most of my travels is my ability to adapt. I acclimatize to every destination that I visit and I’m learning more and more not to sweat the small stuff. I’m very much a go-with-the-flow type of traveler.

With locals on a river cruise in Ho Chi Minh City
With a couple of locals on a river cruise in Ho Chi Minh city (Vietnam)

The 15 days on this Vietnam and Cambodia tour were filled with tons to see and do. We explored well into the late afternoons or early evening hours. I have so many treasured memories . Each destination we visited, each temple we walked through, each restaurant that we dined in, the boat rides up the river. All of this combined was an incredibly memorable time for me.

The most sobering of the journey was walking through the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Cambodia. To think that such a happy country has such a dark recent history.  Hundreds and thousands of people died under the brutal Khmer Rouge,  followers of the communist party of Kampuchea (CPK).  Ethnic Vietnamese, Cham Muslims, rich, poor, anyone that was perceived to be the enemy, was violently tortured and executed.  Having grown up in Canada and the United States, a lot of what we know about is from text books and documentaries. It’s one thing to read about and watch the documentaries in the comfort of your home, but to physically walk the path that was taken by those that lead to their ultimate demise impacted me greatly. Seeing up-close remnants of bone fragments and human skulls made the tragedy that much more real. It was hard for me, but so necessary to get a better understanding of what actually happened.

This opportunity to see the atrocities that people were dealt gave me a whole new perspective. Physically walking on the very ground that thousands of children, men and women were tortured and lost their lives was solemn. The whole experience was a sobering reminder that something like that should never be repeated.

As with my writing, I’m fortunate to be able to travel so freely. In my life and travels, I hope to inspire those who also find themselves at a crossroads in life, and that they too can discover new passions and be adventurous.


The tour Debe went on is currently selling in our Vietnam & Cambodia promotion. Go here to find out more!

Questions & Comments