When I Finally Realized I Love Cambodia

love cambodia

foreign-correspondent badge finalWhen I first moved to Cambodia all of the expats that I met talked fondly of Phnom Penh and Cambodia–so fondly in fact, that I was mistrusting. I remember thinking things like, “Wow, when was the last time you were in a developed country?” or “Really, I think you’re completely nuts, but sure I’ll go with it” and at times, “Whatever you’re running away from must be pretty bad if you like Phnom Penh this much.”

I was skeptical because I felt the opposite; I was envious because I wanted to feel the same; I was scared because I didn’t know if I ever would. That was almost eight months ago, and now I seem to be one of those insane expats who is sky-high on this city and country.

There were countless moments in which I seriously wanted to get on a plane and head back home.

If you want to be casual with this country, it is really easy. It’s easy to brush over it and label it however you desire. But if you want to know this country and have a relationship with it, you have to put in the work and you have to be dedicated. There were countless moments in which I seriously wanted to get on a plane and head back home.

If you ask my friends and family, they will tell you about phone calls in which I asked them to reassure me about my crazy decision to move here, and consoling me when my homesickness was all-consuming. During one Facetime chat with my mom, I couldn’t even look at her because I knew I would start crying, which I did. I cried a lot, and I had so many conversations with myself, I could have easily been diagnosed with multiple personalities.

Those first six months after moving to Cambodia of confusion, excitement, sadness, frustration, and homesickness now seem so far away. Now Phnom Penh is my home. I know it is my home because when I leave town, I am excited to return and have my own bed, shower, and space. I feel comfortable walking around the streets, giving directions to motos and tuk-tuks, and I enjoy participating in everyday life here.

I have shown multiple friends around Phnom Penh and Cambodia, and have had people come out of the woodwork to ask my advice on traveling in Southeast Asia. One of my biggest connections to Phnom Penh is the serious love I have for my students and the friends that I have made here.

I cannot fully put my finger on what it is, but Cambodia, like a good ol’ fashioned pickpocket, took my heart without me even realizing it–and I just want to thank you.

I cannot fully put my finger on what it is, but Cambodia, like a good ol’ fashioned pickpocket, took my heart without me even realizing it–and I just want to thank you. You chewed me up and spat me out, but you left enough, allowing me to rebuild myself. Upon this reconstruction I was able to see the goodness and beauty that reside here, and for the first time, I was able to see what all of my expat friends see. The heat can stay here, but I will never regret or forget my sweat and tears that I invested in getting adjusted and feeling comfortable here.

Thank you Cambodia, for you are truly one-of-a-kind, and you have taught me more about myself than any other life experience thus far. Here’s to the past eight months and here’s to having the last five months be more amazing than I can imagine.

Travel Tip: Whether you are traveling or moving somewhere, bring something from home to comfort you during those rough bouts of homesickness. For example I brought my pillow and some cards that my family and friends gave me before I left. It is a huge comfort and it is wise to dedicate a small space in your luggage for that comfort from home.

Related Reading

Explore Cambodia by Bus
Facing Culture Shock in Cambodia
Living in Cambodia: 7 Reasons Why it’s Hard to Leave
Visiting Cambodia: 4 Days in the Country
Cambodia Travel: From Cambodia With Love

Have you traveled to Cambodia? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com to share your experience with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Caitlin Werd

Caitlin WerdCaitlin Werd, also known as Caitlin Seandel, is currently living out her life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. To date she has been there for a little over 8 months teaching, writing, and volunteering. She will travel throughout Southeast Asia before returning home. She enjoys the company of dream chasers and limit pushers, as she herself is one. She thanks you for taking the time to read her posts and hopes that you are either enjoying your current adventure or busy planning the next one. To see more of her work, please visit her website at thetravelingplankton.com.

3 thoughts on “When I Finally Realized I Love Cambodia

  1. Avatar
    Doug Werd
    May 17, 2014
    Reply

    A wonderful article. Can’t wait to read the next entry into your journal of life.
    Love,
    Dad

  2. Avatar
    Doug Werd
    May 17, 2014
    Reply

    A touching piece of writing. It sounds like you have rediscovered yourself and along the way have found a place you will hold fondly in your heart forever. You can’t beat either of those two things. Looking forward to seeing you when you come to your other home.
    Love,
    Dad

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