In 3 days, after a little over two years, our stay in Cambodia comes to an end. It is difficult to know where to begin to sum up what our experience has been like. The fact we came here for six months and then stayed for 26 tells its own brief story. But in this case brevity would do Cambodia an injustice as it would mean failing to point out what it is that makes this country so special.

During our time here we learned how to cross the chaotic streets without getting killed; realised that motos are not just there for transporting people; had breakfast with ‘Angelina Jolie’ at Angkor Wat; and even ate a tarantula. We also fell utterly in love with the country’s beautiful landscape which ranges from picturesque rural villages nestled amongst seemingly endless rice-fields, to some of the most idyllic tropical islands you could ever wish to set bare-foot upon.

tammycountryside

Me during a work field trip in the beautiful Cambodian countryside

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chris

Chris making new friends (or not) during a work field trip

But for us, by far our overriding memory of Cambodia will be the people. During our time here Chris and I have been fortunate enough to travel across this small, heart-shaped country working on a range of social justice issues and wherever we’ve been and with whomever we’ve worked, we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and warmth that has been shown to us.

community

We’ve had the honor of working with people who – despite, or perhaps sometimes because of, what has happened to them and their country in the past – have turned over their entire lives to the service of others, educating indigenous communities about their rights, enhancing access to education and political participation for women and girls, and helping protect those human rights defenders who have been imprisoned not in the defense of their own rights, but in the defense of others’. It has been humbling to momentarily cross paths with such people and to a very minor extent fleetingly tread their path. In two short years it is unlikely that we’ve achieved anything but in failing to do so we at least hope we’ve been tolerable company.

TAF

Our wonderful colleagues

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My lovely colleagues at Youth Star

In any event we leave Cambodia with a huge sense of optimism about its future. In part this is due to the fact that small step by small step, women and girls are increasingly able to play a role in Cambodian society, helping to un-tap the enourmous potential bound up in 50% of the country’s population. But it is also due to huge transformative potential which young Cambodians have increasingly grasped in recent years. Nowhere was this more evident than during this year’s national elections which proved that with enough persistence, determination, and courage, social change is possible and in Cambodia’s case, firmly within reach.

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A rural youth club I met that was determined to achieve social change through various advocacy campaigns

The most important lesson we learned was that going to Cambodia was not an escape, but a calling and as sad as we are to leave Cambodia, we leave with our hearts and minds greatly enriched, determined to share what we’ve learned in our short time here as we continue our adventures around the world, and with a promise that the friendly smiles, warm hearts, and indomitable spirits of those we have met will serve as a guide and inspiration for us always…

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

34 Thoughts on “Goodbye Cambodia

  1. This was so touching. Small towns deserve more credit and I’m glad you had some wonderful experiences these past two years. Rest assured, there’s more to come! (And you can always return. =] )
    Sally recently posted…Photoessay: Korea’s Jeju IslandMy Profile

  2. Brilliant post Tammy! I can’t wait to see what you do next.
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted…Road Trip Tips: Visiting the Grand Canyon from Las VegasMy Profile

  3. 6 months sound like a long time so I guess you had a lot of adventures and met amazing people. I agree with what you’re saying about Khmer people. They are very modest and simple people, but extremely kind-hearted and friendly. They would give you more than they have and that’s so touching!
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    • Tammyonthemove on December 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm said:

      That is so true Agness. I have never been touched by people as much as I have in Cambodia. I have been so lucky to get to know so many lovely, courageous and warm people!

  4. This is a very touching post. It’s amazing how experiences like the one you’ve just had in Cambodia can enrich you so much. Traveling does amazing things to us. Looking forward to know what you’re up to next, in the mean time enjoy a white and cold Christmas in Germany 🙂
    Franca recently posted…How Munich Changed My Christmas MoodMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on December 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm said:

      Thank you Franca, that is a lovely compliment! I think temperature-wise it will be a bit of a shock to the system, but I am really looking forward to seeing my family again in Germany!

  5. It’s so sad that you have to leave. I’m glad that you’re looking at it so positively though, and I’m certain you’ll love South America! 🙂
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  6. Great article! Makes me want to get to Cambodia NOW, but will have to wait 20 more days!!
    Hannah @ GettingStamped recently posted…3-2-1 JUMP! Skydiving in New Zealand 12,000ft high above the mountains!My Profile

  7. Although we spent far less time in Cambodia, its people also had a great impact on us. It was our first time in SE Asia, and we marveled at everybody’s openness – and youth! We could never tell how old anyone was! But what mattered most were the small encounters, suffused with the smiles and the inner strength of a resilient people. Lovely piece here, kudos. Good luck and safe travels!
    Lunaguava recently posted…Glimpses of Guatemala CityMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on December 12, 2013 at 8:23 am said:

      I know what you mean. There is something magical about this place, isn’t it? Oh and I need to find out how Khmers remain looking so youthful. Still haven’t figured that out yet.

  8. Gerard Bischof on December 11, 2013 at 11:16 pm said:

    An amazingly written account, which reflects some of my very own experiences of my short visit to Cambodia in 2008. It is the humbleness and kindness of the Cambodians which has instilled a desire to return to this country. I wish you both the very best for your next adventure and continue to applaud you both for your courage and passion to make a difference.

    Your friend from Dallas,

    Gérard.

  9. Wow 26 months stay! It is always initially saddening to leave something that you have become accustomed to, glad you had a good time. I plan on travelling to neighbouring Myanmar soon.

  10. Lovely post! It reminds me of how I felt when we left Thailand. I love traveling, but I’m also grateful to have the chance to be an expat in some of these amazing countries – it’s such a different relationship.
    Jessica recently posted…How to Drink in JapanMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on December 13, 2013 at 10:44 am said:

      I completely agree Jess. If you are an expat it just gives you a completely different picture of a country as you get to meet and befriend more locals and understand social issues much better.

  11. Love all the smiles! Good luck on your next adventure =)
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  12. It’s bittersweet isn’t it? Saying goodbye to a place you’ve grown to love.
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  13. Sounds like you guys had a great time in Cambodia – I know it’s hard to say goodbye, but you’re off to see other great things! Hopefully you’ll go back soon 🙂
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  14. Tammy,

    6 months converted to 26. Well, that speaks volumes about the place. Vid and I are headed to Cambodia in January, but only for a few weeks. At least we know what to expect 🙂 Vid grew up in Singapore, so he anyway has a soft spot for South East Asia, but these pictures just make us want to go there right about now.

    Good luck with the move and your next adventures in South America

    Cheers!
    Savi recently posted…Offbeat Spain – The Malaga Feria, One For Your Bucket ListMy Profile

  15. It’s easy to understand how you guys wanted to stay in Cambodia for long.
    I spent there about a month and could easily picture myself staying for longer. People are so friendly, the kids are adorable and, despite such tragic recent history, people have a strength and positivity towards life not often found around the world. This country is proof that you can be move on no matter what, that you can make do with what you have and that, ultimately, happiness is a state of mind. Love Cambodia!
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    • Tammyonthemove on December 26, 2013 at 8:17 pm said:

      You are so right Zara. I couldn’t have put it any better. If there is one thing I learned in Cambodia then it is that I don’t need many possessions to be happy in life.

  16. Good luck on your new ventures and adventures!

  17. Reading this just warms my heart. Cambodia is a country that I’ve loved traveling in and always wanted to live in. I’m actually moving to Phnom Penh (which I am thrilled about!) so I seriously need to scour all of your old posts! It sounds like you had a truly amazing experience and it also sounds like you did some great work!
    Justine recently posted…A Girl’s Survival Guide to Traveling to JakartaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on June 18, 2015 at 5:57 am said:

      That’s great Justine! You will love living in Cambodia. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line and I can give you some tips if you like.

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