Why Cambodia? Part 2
This is the second article in a two part series. If you haven't already, read the first part first!
So why Cambodia? Well, it wasn't an obvious choice. We tried on every option we came across, but there was no perfect fit. It's a strange situation to be in, moving away from something rather than towards something else. In truth we didn't have much direction at all. All I knew was that I was not going to spend another summer in Sydney.
We talked a lot to our friends during this time, and one option that kept on coming up was Tasmania. After spending time considering it as a serious possibility, and realising it was not only possible but actually one of the easier and more accessible alternatives to life in Sydney, we decided to take a trip down south to check it out. We liked it more than we'd been told we would and started planning the move before we got back to Sydney.
While pricing the move we considered putting everything in storage so we could rent furnished rooms in a few suburbs to get a feel for the place before committing to something more long term. And then we had a brain fart. Without the ridiculous financial burden that is rent in Sydney, long term travel became a real possibility. If we weren't paying over two thousand dollars a month for an apartment, we could work half the time and still have twice as much spare cash!
You might be thinking 'Duh', but here's the thing. Our priorities require us to live somewhere long term and have security with regards to our being able to come and go. We need to be somewhere on our own terms and wherever it is our being there absolutely cannot be tied to work or study obligations. It should be as cheap as possible so as to decrease the amount of paid work we have to do to sustain our lifestyle, but it has to be somewhere reasonably metropolitan, with access to technology, and amenities enough to support a social life outside of pubs and clubs.
This very particular set of requirements is already barebones and very much a compromise, but it already rules out almost every country on earth.
At the top of the list of countries that came close was Thailand, but the recent changes to the visa situation meant that staying more than nine months without being tied to a study or work schedule was impossible, and even staying that long was something of a gamble. There was a couple of other options but at the end of the day Cambodia won out, and in particular Phnom Penh.
Is Cambodia perfect? Far from it. If the visa situation in Thailand was a little better, it would have been the obvious choice. It's more developed and liberal than its neighbouring countries, but if we're going to invest ourselves in learning a language and culture we want to feel welcome and secure, and because all the long term visas had conditions attached, Thailand became an impossibility.
Cambodia fits our above requirements, but there are some issues. Like Thailand, the weather is far from my personal ideal. I'm British born and prefer cooler climates. Thankfully the price of an air conditioned western style apartment in Phnom Penh is less than a quarter the price of its equivalent in Sydney, and without being stuck to a strict schedule, we can arrange our days so we're inside when it's hottest out.
The more delicate issue is that we will have to alter our particular forms of expression. Mel spends most of her time pole dancing and I spend most of my time photographing nudes. Although both dance and photography are available as creative outlets in the Kingdom of Cambodia, the particularities of our practices are going to have to change.
On the surface it might seem like a lawless country, but Cambodia has some ambiguous legislation regarding the "protection of Khmer culture" that has been used to jail and deport a number of people. We don't want to be made an example of, so especially at first, we will be diverting our creative energy to something less controversial.
But it's not like we'll be wanting for things to do. On top of exploring our new city and country, meeting new people, and running this new website, we're also going to invest in our new language and culture. We've never learned a language before, but are going to do our best to learn Khmer. Mel will likely learn about Khmer dance, and although we've been to most of them before, we intend to return to Cambodia's cultural sites with an increased appetite for deeper understanding.
And that's not all! The plan so far is to base ourselves in Phnom Penh, but we will travel too. We've never been to Cambodia's islands or beaches, and we know little to nothing about the vast majority of the country. Although we're city slickers keen to live a metropolitan life in Cambodia's biggest city, we will be exploring the countryside too.
So why not Cambodia? We're finally living out a slightly modified version of a decade old dream, untangling ourselves from the ugly mess that is the western way of life, and having a bit of an adventure all at the same time. And although our naivety and enthusiasm are painting a more than rosy picture about Cambodian Us, we know there will be challenges and setback and disappointments. We know this because this process has already produced its fair share of them. More on that later.
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