Cambodia, Expat, lifestyle, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

The Best Coast.

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I’m sitting at my wonderful desk with my Panpuri diffuser wafting lemongrass into the air, the kittens are making their rounds about the apartment- mewing here and pawing there- and rapid fire video game noises and cliché phrases are overtaking the living room thanks to Call of Duty. There isn’t anything all that out of the ordinary. The smells are the same, the sounds are generally the same (although the headphones are about to go on for some Lana for some, you guessed it, West Coast)- but the general aura is different. How come?

Two of my best friends in the entire world, Luke (my nephew) and Jesse (my business partner at TEMPER), left this morning to head back to Seattle, Washington after a month-long journey traveling Southeast Asia by plane, train, and automobile. They fit in a lot of everything during their trip: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Koh Rong Samloem, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai…all scattered about and documented extremely well through both of their camera lenses. Keep an eye out for their images (instagram handles: lukemattson, jessemorrow) for they are a delight! They made new friends, some of mine and some of their own, explored business opportunities, did a lot of work together on various projects, trekked, biked, felt, and breathed in these countries and my happiness that Luke was able to come visit Asia for his first time and Jesse could return are difficult to express. It was a glimpse of the life that I’ve left for the time being and two bright beacons of love that were much needed.

I was immensely happy looking at the things they took photos of: the thousands of motos which I’m used to now, the monkeys running around the temples with nanners in their little cheeky mouths, the gorgeous ruins, the frenzy of tourists with selfie sticks in hand squinting into the sun under hibiscus printed visors, monks in their vibrant citrus robes billowing in the humid air, the wild array of various foods from juicy burgers to grilled frog legs. All of this wonderful cultural imagery along with product shots for various and awesome companies, moments that won’t be forgotten even without a digital copy, and their time venturing out into the wild blue (reddish, rather) yonder.

I was afraid that during their visit I would be so overcome missing them and having that connection to friends and family back home that a trip back to Seattle or Tacoma for good might be in the works after they departed, that I’d try to stowaway with them. I’m always worried about that. Or let’s say ‘was‘. Up until this point in time, I felt a fear that life back home was passing me by, that I was missing some of the most important moments in history and well, in some cases this is true…births and marriages between friends and family- pretty important). I do know though that I’ll see those little ones grow up through social media (my parent’s friends and family watched me grow from infant to toddler to little girl through home video) and I will get to visit my married friends and see their relationships blossom from afar. I don’t have to be there for that to happen.

By speaking with Luke and Jesse frankly and openly, I realized that time hasn’t stopped since I’ve left and that by even thinking so it was a bit ridiculously narcissistic. Friend circles have changed; the ties that bound one group to another have slackened, people move away and go to school and find jobs and get married and sometimes that leaves very little time for some of the shenanigans we used to get into.

Our talks opened my eyes to the fact that I need to live my life fully, freely, and vibrantly here and when the time comes to move elsewhere wherever that may be, then I’ll know. Releasing my grip on the past opens my hands for something to land in them, waiting to dazzle me. Living in years gone, in this constant state of nostalgia and fading memories- it isn’t healthy, it doesn’t allow room for new, beautiful things and even the heart wrenching, painful moments to enter my life to build me, to grow me.

I had some interesting conversations with both of the boys, each of them with very different opinions on travel, the United States as a whole, settling and settling down, growing up, and basically moving forward with our respective lives and what each of us wants. While I agreed with some points and strongly felt the opposite about others, my love for Washington- the West Coast, the best coast– never wavered. At one point Luke even scoffed in a moment of defense that I had previously said “I will never, ever move back to Washington.” I don’t ever recall saying this, and if I were to move back to the States Washington would have a strong pull because of family, its beauty, my ties to it, the unrivaled dizzying magic of the Northwest. But it hurt to think that Washington might not welcome me back. It hurt to think that the state I once called home, and probably always will to an extent, might be off limits for one reason or another- but then my senses took hold.

I have chosen to live a life abroad. I have chosen to explore different cultures. I have chosen to lead a life in a country that is beyond comfortable and where I feel luxurious, happy, and blessed. I have chosen a path that separates me from friends and family. I have chosen to expand my horizons through routes most of my peers back in the States can’t fathom. I have chosen to see beyond what the borders I had previously succumbed to have to offer. I choose to learn about the things that are ugly about my old home. I choose to learn about the things that are ugly about my new home. I have chosen to separate from a place that I love, but for the better of us both. These are choices that I am proud of, that I value, that I can understand now to an extent. These are choices that I may not have appreciated until sitting down with these boys years after I lifted off the rainy tarmac at the Seattle-Tacoma airport.

I’ve struggled, I’ve fought, I’ve achieved, I’ve triumphed, I’ve failed, I’ve been afraid, I’ve hated, I’ve loved, I’ve been stronger than ever before, I’ve been at some of my weakest points, I’ve been enraged, I’m been humbled- and while I could have felt these things in Washington, I’m feeling them in Phnom Penh. This is where I am. This is where I want to be. I’m not just repeating this as a mantra so that I’ll believe it: I feel it.

So yes, Washington, I miss you. I miss what you represent, I miss your Evergreens and seasons and Fall-time magic. I miss Bastille and Marrow and Smith. I miss my brilliant friends and my hilarious, ridiculous family. I miss your mountains, your waterfalls, your open highways, your ports, your greenery.

But I’ve found something here that has it’s own beauty. She’s no lush, buxom land for the most part- but even with her scars she’s strong, full of wonder, willful, and has so much to offer.

Jesse and I voguing.

Jesse and I voguing.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Coast.

  1. Greg Richards says:

    Beautiful, brave words, Anna. Wise and deep…beyond your years.
    Your writing is not simply words….it is life, and it is you. Thank you for sharing your gift….you…with all of us.

    Greg Richards

  2. Great post, Anna. I’m sure this place would welcome you back. Thanks for sharing your adventures overseas. You’re doing what many wish they could, and owning it! Take care

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