Recently, several people have asked some questions that have been difficult to answer, if answerable at all.
Why did you move to Cambodia?
Do you think I could live in Cambodia?
How long do you think you’ll stay there?
When are you coming home?
Do you like it?
In short, I moved here after visiting my mom in April of 2014. I explored not only the country, but also my own future and life. Living in Washington was not unpleasant, rather it was a wonderful place where my best friends lived (some still do) and every comfort was at hand. Still, I felt something pushing me to wander- to go forth. It definitely wasn’t leaving behind a serious relationship, my cats that I still love and had for years, my friends who are like blood to me; thick as thieves. But I knew that when the opportunity presented itself that turning my back on it would be a mistake I may regret forever and that was not something I was willing to risk.
Initially I had planned on living in Cambodia for one year, maximum. The thought of being away from what I knew, the people I loved, and the Western life I had over the past twenty or so years become happily content with was not something I’d intended on leaving behind for good. So I packed away my favorite pieces of decor, Wintry wardrobe items (a lot of which I wish I had now as sheesh, it’s a chilly 82 degrees), and got my Passport readied and stamped.
A year and a half later, I have no plans on leaving. It looks like it’ll probably be another 2 to 3 years before I decide to leave Phnom Penh- and even then don’t know if I’ll be returning to the States. I will go back to Washington this year and get my possessions and storage organized (thank you Leighton for safely housing my goods for the time being!) and then for now release my title as a resident of the good old US of A and continue to integrate slowly into Cambodia.
The one question I struggle most with is “do you like living in Cambodia?” Sure, I do. Actually I really enjoy it. I can live a lifestyle that some my age can only dream of as they pay off their student loans, juggle two or three jobs, and are forced to pay exorbitant amounts for healthcare, insurance, transport, and housing. The perks are incredible, the opportunity is here, and I only find myself moving forward rather than back- even when times get difficult. I have an incredible partner who supports me emotionally, understands the roller coaster of an emotional ride that life with me can be, and is one of the smartest, creative, most insightful people I have ever met. He would also chib anyone in a second if I were in trouble (there ya go, Scots!) Another fantastic aspect of life in the Charming City (or Siem Reap or wherever) is that there are always at least half a dozen business ideas or proposals that I want to get started- and here, they can actually come to life. If I truly put my mind and effort into it, things can be done. I’ve seen it happen all around me from talented, some talentless, individuals.
There are, however, things that make me want to pull out a Katana and get to slicing. Seriously. I know that sounds terrible- especially as a guest in this country, but a trip to the bank has me grinding my teeth to nubs and I am sure that if I do die at a young age, it will be from a heart attack at a “service provider’s” office. That and the traffic is hideous, I miss driving- and while I could drive a moto like the majority of my friends and peers, I still have yet to get over the fear of getting thrown 100 feet from my vehicle because of an idiot Range Rover driver and left in a pool of blood with my extremities scattered from one TELA station to the next. The government is beyond what you could even describe as “fucked”, and at this moment- I don’t really see much changing. I won’t even get into that at the risk of being a) wrong b) ignorant c) detained. Then there’s the whole “small city” thing. People always warned me what a small city Phnom Penh is but holy smokes, they didn’t mention the amount of crazies that inhabit it. So yes, you do have to once in a while swat away some seriously emotionally, mentally, and socially damaged expats but if you can wade through the immense amounts of bullshit that gets thrown around and find a core group of people you trust and enjoy- you’ll be fine.
Even with all the negative aspects of life in PP, there is one that cannot be replicated or replaced anywhere else in the world. I get to be with my mom. While this may not seem to be like a big deal to many out there (or may be something huge for others), I am blessed beyond belief to be living in this city with her. I feel like I bring her up in almost every entry I make- but that’s okay because she’s such an integral, important part of my life that I cannot imagine not seeing her at least once a week. Just today she called me right before lunch saying, “I really have the need to see you! I just want to see my daughter. Let’s get lunch.” And lunch we did, at the fantastic ALMA Cafe (if you haven’t had it, do. You’ll thank me later). Although only a quick forty five minutes together, they’re forty five minute I cherish because I know that one day- we won’t be able to have those same forty five minutes.
I know not everyone could live here. I’ve seen it happen, actually. Whether it be their dependence on a lifestyle or person from another place in the world, the inability to push forward to reaching goals and bettering themselves in unknown territory, letting the ease of leading an empty lifestyle drain them of any true happiness (hookers and booze, booze and hookers and the sceeeene!), simply disliking the country for a number of reasons from the smell to the city itself- not everyone loves to be here. In fact- some people absolutely hate it! And that’s cool too.
I do ask though, friends back home, if you have any inkling of wanting to expand your travel horizons and venture the world- Cambodia might be a good place to start, especially for the adventurous. I’m not out eating tarantulas or zip-lining or mountain trekking (you could do all those things if you want!), but I do have a pretty delicious life that I need to remember to savor every day. Try it on for size, you’re not stuck if you don’t like it and home is only a plane ride away.
Hell, if I can do it- anyone can.
You are a very impressive person, Anna! And I’m so glad that I get to see you in a few short weeks! As a mother, your feelings for your mom touch my heart deeply and leave me with tears in my eyes. And as a friend of your mother’s, I understand how easy it is to feel that way about Sheila. She is a keeper! And so are you!