6:30 a.m., Kampot, Cambodia.
When I was little, my parents would take us on summer holidays to Santa Barbara. We would stay at the University, in Isla Vista, and counselors at a family summer camp would look after us while our parents played tennis and talked to other adults. For some reason, construction crews were always doing work on the roads when we were there, and I started associating the smell of hot tar with perfect weather, riding bicycles, playing tennis, and a rare form of freedom. To this day, whenever I pass a road crew working with melted tar, I always take a deep breath in and remember sea breezes coming in over the cliffs, and eucalyptus trees, and beautiful youth.
And looking at this photograph, I can still smell the well-used cooking oil heating in the fried food cart, and the sharp scent of motorbike exhaust, and the odor of open sewers every twenty meters or so, and I suddenly realized that while I wrinkled my nose at those smells on this morning on this street, I miss all of those smells now – just because for six months they were so strongly associated with such beautiful experiences and people and places.