Cambodia…It surely is the road less traveled… Some call it the land of the wild and free… Me? I call it home. Home is, of course, where the heart is and Cambodia has got mine. I came here after being exhausted working for the mental health care system in the USA. I wanted to make a change and I wanted to build something I believed in rather than tearing down all the constraints and bureaucracy of the western world. This is a little story about how a two-year stent has turned into seven and I’m never going back!
I grew up in the beautiful US of A. California to be exact, which is not the kind of place that most people leave. But as much as I love it I always felt like there was something missing from my life. I always looked around and wondered about what everyone was really chasing and if they would actually ever get it. Satisfaction, I mean would they ever achieve it no matter what they had? I grew up in Los Angeles, home of the rich, famous, those just hustling enough to get by and those with a dream. We are raised with misconstrued values. I was always smart and knew that I could make it in that world, but something deep down just didn’t feel like I wanted to get lost in the game. I worked in mental health for seven years and when push came to shove, I had to get out of there! I was drowning trying to fight against a system that was way bigger than me and that would not be moved. I wanted to impact our education system, our mental health system and all the kids I met along the way. It’s much harder to make lasting impacts when everyone returns to their TVs and social media at the end of the day. I just felt that my power wasn’t being felt or utilized.
One thing led to another and I began to become intrigued with Cambodia. I started reading about the place, researching the current issues it faces and looking at pictures of a place that felt and was a world away. It was a big leap and it felt crazy to go ahead and move to Cambodia. There were so many fears, doubts and uncertainties about if I’d be able to make it and how I would be able to make it. But life is full of leaps and calculated risks… so, I had a spirit of adventure, a thirst for a new way of doing things and calling in my heart to have my influence felt in making the world a bit better. After much consideration about my passion and skill set, I thought I’d start a free education center in Cambodia in hopes to empower youth, share with people who are grateful and build something that I believe in. I thought I would go for two years and come back, but that’s not how it happened at all.
I came over here and I started looking for land. I met so many amazing and wonderful characters along the way that assured me I was on the right path. I’m talking about the kind of situations that leave you with goosebumps all over your body. I was in a flow of synchronicities and things were fitting together in a way I could’ve never planned. I was simply meeting the people I hoped to meet and they were offering the exact experiences that I was seeking to get my vision manifested. It was undeniable and though I was 1,000,000 miles from home I felt like I was right where I needed to be.
My interactions with the Cambodian people have changed the way I go about life. Every day I learn and am reminded about the simple pleasures of life and to stop and have a giggle or share a smile. Through the process of looking for land, buying land, figuring out customs, learning the local language and settling in, this became my new normal. A kind of normal where people don’t worry, yell or have huge expectations that ruin a beautiful day. It’s funny because whenever I get caught up in hurrying or trying to force something to happen, there is such a gentle innocence and wonder in the faces of the locals who don’t understand how a pressure could force someone to be so unreasonable and it’s just what I need to snap out of it. Where did rushing and worrying ever get me anyway?
Looking back, there were many parts of myself I wasn’t planning on facing, at the time I moved. But the powers that be have a wonderful way of putting the exact situations and people in our lives to help us become better versions of ourselves. The day-to-day adventures of exploring a new land were my medicine and my struggle was in looking at my thought patterns and relationships that I thought were based in truth. After I bravely got over here, many things I once believed in started to unravel and I was left to redefine myself without the familiarity of where I grew up. This was single-handedly one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I mean who are we really? Who are we when we don’t have all of our comforts, norms to relate to and contexts of society and class to define us?? Well, that is a question for the strong hearted that are willing to let those things painfully crumble in order to find a more rewarding and true perception. There were times I would see myself break down from my powerlessness in front of a curious Khmer face, that truly was befuddled by my emotion and would never even dream of thinking they had control over the type of situation I’d be stressing about. We are so used to having things how and when we want it, that we may forget maybe that’s not how it was meant to be.
The truth is, we are all exactly where we need to be right now. We don’t have to go out searching for lessons because the things that we need to learn are in the situations and relationships that are in our lives at this very moment. Things can become so scary because we are ingrained with this fear of scarcity that our needs won’t be met… But even in the worst of situations, it has always worked out and in some way my life has been benefited by personal growth and usually a change of direction that was much needed. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Cambodia had a weirdly wonderful way of challenging me to enjoy, become, explore and trust the process.
I’m a person that likes to control and get my way… It is a trait of many entrepreneurs. But where do you draw the line between creating what you want and letting the Energy of the Divine flow through your being like art? Balance is the beautiful thing that I crave and the place that I’m on my way to. I’m not saying that everything I do I do in the way of the Khmer locals but I will say the mix of how I was raised to perceive, mixed with this culture full of genuineness, innocence, acceptance and resilience has changed me from the inside out. I am forever grateful for Cambodia and it will always be a place I call home. Whenever I’m worrying about silly things, I take a ride out to the countryside, pull up at my school, The Red Road Foundation, and I shift my perspective. Being a part of a culture that is not influenced by Western society has taught me more than I could ever put into words and things that I am still figuring out how to speak about. What I know for sure is that my heart is grateful and I’m right where I’m meant to be.