Why Cambodia? Mel's Perspective

Looking back at emails between Lee and I it seems we have been thinking about moving overseas for longer than first thought. A conversation started in June 2015, but thinking back further, we had goals to leave Australia as far back as 2007.

So why has it taken until now to finally put things in place to go?

Responsibility, obligation, and debt all start to snowball when you ground yourself in one place for too long. I was grounded with my job, and was surprised to find I had stayed for 10 years, especially when it was only going to be a six month gig until Lee and disappeared to England. But we didn't go. We rented a house. And then another. Filling our world with possessions and hobbies and generally being 20 somethings and having a good time.

A 20 something enjoying life in Sydney. Photo © Lee Nutter

It's not like Sydney hasn't been good to us. Life flowed with good friends, moving houses, finding yoga and pole dance, Lee and I both deeply engaging with hobbies that satisfied our creative interest and desires for self expression. We got married in 2014. A year of planning, organising, saving, spending, and celebration. We filled our house with beautiful furniture that served the purpose of propping up Lee's models and making our space a warm and welcoming home. We enjoyed good food and good coffee, Sydney bringing culinary delights to our doorstep. But all for a price.

It was on our honeymoon (in Southeast Asia!) that I had a moment of awakening. The snowball effect of city living a few weeks behind us, and the space of sky and sea over Koh Pha Ngan opening my own eyes and mind.

I was now looking into an abyss. Our wedding was wonderful and I cannot imagine not having Lee in my life, but somehow the story that I had been telling myself for the last 28 years was only written up to this point. As a young girl, like everyone does, I imagined my future. A typical story of meet the man of my dreams, get married, have children, live happily ever after. The rest of fairy tale is never written, just a slow fade out on the big screen where everyone walks away with the warm and fuzzies.

Lee and I have made a conscious decision not to have children at this point in our lives, seeking to continue to engage with our creative desires. Having worked with children for the last 10 years, I feel no maternal lack in waiting a few more years either.

But what does that mean for my fairy tale - meet the man of my dreams, check. Get married, check.

BLANK. No fade out. No background music. Just me facing myself.

I'm not sure why it took two years since that realisation to really get to this point. You get back on that snowball really quickly - off the plane, back to work, 6am starts, wage in, rent out, waiting for Fridays, BAM, months and months fly by. Underneath it all, however, the question lingered, "what's next?"

It took me a while to really understand what taking that next step would mean. Quitting my job and selling our belongings. These were tokens of the last 12 years that so much of my identity was embedded in. It was not easy, but a necessary process of cleansing to prepare to close a chapter and start something new.

That something new is Cambodia. It would have been Thailand if visas allowed, a place Lee has felt akin with for many years, and the first stop on our honeymoon. But Lee's research and longing for Southeast Asia revealed Phnom Penh and surrounds as a welcoming place for expats, foreigners, digital nomads, and economic refugees.

Learning about Cambodia and its people has made it more of an exciting destination than we ever could have imagined. The youthful population are seeking inspiration. There are opportunities to create something and be part of an evolving community which makes Phnom Penh a city full of possibility. The low cost of living also makes these possibilities accessible, a contrast to the expense of everything in Sydney that constrains us to our routines and habits.

It's hard to say more about Cambodia at this stage. It is the first time I have had such openness and opportunity. The fairy tale is not pre-written, I have to go out and write it for myself. It is a space to be explored. A space of people and friends yet to be discovered. A space where Lee and I can grow and learn. It is a wide and as deep as our imaginations, and will no doubt give back as Lee and I put our energies in to it.

We turn the page on this chapter on the 29th of September.

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The True Cost of Having Nice Things

Why Cambodia? Part 2

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