It Begins!


After a generous $150 kick start, our fundraising has well and truly begun and the reality that I will actually have to abseil is starting to sink in!

We still have $750 to raise though and we can’t do it without your support! Jump on to our MyCause page to give what you can! Pretty please?

You might be wondering, where will this money I give go? Well, I could write essays on the programs of This Life Cambodia, the systemic issues of poverty they address, the way they involve communities and individuals in the decisions that affect their lives and the way they use research to inform their programs and I probably will, some other time. For now, you can read all about it on their website.

Instead, I want to talk to you about where your money actually goes. Donated money goes directly towards the running costs of the programs TLC operates. While this includes things like educational materials and bicycles, electronic equipment and solar lamps in reality it also includes … administration costs.

Now administration costs aren’t things too many people like to see their money being used for. Generally, people would much rather pay for school fees or buy a bicycle. But without administration costs, programs simply can not run.

I’m not about to get into a debate about what percentage of donations should be spent on administration costs, but what I can tell you is that organisations, good organisations, try to keep their overheads as low as possible and focus their resources on the people they work with.

But if you want to run good programs, you need good staff. You want the best. You need the best. So you have to pay them accordingly. We all want to be compensated fairly for the work we do. It’s no different in a developing country.

You also need somewhere for your staff to work. And that usually means paying rent. It’s not sexy, but it’s important. From first hand experience it’s also important that this office space a) isn’t in an area prone to flooding and b) isn’t infested with termites.

That work space needs a few things – running water, electricity – that helps. In a country like Cambodia where electricity is exorbitantly expensive when compared to incomes, electricity can be a huge expense for organisations, but without it work just can’t happen.

Computers and printers are also handy. Preferably ones that work. They can be difficult to source and difficult and expensive to maintain.

Desks and chairs, stationery, a car or motorbikes to transport staff to the communities they work in, petrol; these things all cost money. And without them, programs and organisations just don’t run.

Administration costs aren’t sexy, but without them organisations just can’t do the work they do best. Which means they can’t help the people that need it most. Good organisations will also publish an annual report for their supporters and the general public. While this offers a great insight into the work achieved in a financial year, it should also include a financial breakdown so you can what money is being spent and where. You can access TLC’s most recent report on their website.

Don’t let administration costs be a barrier to giving what you can to an organisation or charity. By giving to TLC you will be helping kids get access to quality education. You will be helping minors in prison develop skills to help give them a shot at life once they are released. You will be contributing to making life better.

One Year.


Where does the time go?

It has been one year to the day since Tom and I finished up at This Life Cambodia (TLC).

How scary is that!?

While I’m feeling nostalgic for our time in the Kingdom of Wonder, I’m not feeling sad (surprisingly). Whether or not it has something to do with the water blessing we received from the cheery monk before we left or not, I don’t know. But, life is good. So good in fact that Tom and I have decided to do something crazy … abseil.

Yep, you read right. We are going to abseil. To raise money for TLC. TLC are taking part in Sydney’s City2Surf in August and we decided, instead of spending hundreds of dollars to get to Sydney and join in the run, we’d do something a little different. Something that would push us both out of our comfort zones in a way we haven’t been since we did some high ropes activities in Cambodia – over one year ago.

You should all know by now that not only do I adore the incredible work that TLC does, I also adore the wonderful people that work for TLC. Never in my life have I met a group of people who inspire me so much to do more. To be more. Instead of being a sad sack about how much time has passed and how much I miss them all, and how I’d much rather be in the tropical heat of Siem Reap instead of the wintry cold of Adelaide, I’m just going to send out a request.

We are aiming to raise $1000 for TLC. If we get to our magic number, we’ll abseil. Which is a huge deal because, well, we HATE heights. Both of us. It’s ridiculous. I’ll probably cry. But it’ll be worth it. Because you’ll be helping us support the work of an organisation that changes lives. It really does. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself, right here.

You can donate through our MyCause page: AbseilforTLC

$1000 can go so far in a country like Cambodia. So, so far.

So, please, help us out if you can. We’ll love you forever.

Roller Coasters and Dodgem Cars.


It was Ronan Keating who immortalised the concept of life being a roller coaster. Ok, immortalising may be a massive over statement, but I can’t get that damn song out of my head whenever I even think of a roller coaster.

In the words of whoever wrote the actual song: “life is a roller coaster just gotta ride it.”


But the words do have some truth to them. It’s a concept I’m familiar with (life taking twists and turns at unexpected rates of speed) however, I’ve got news for Ronan (in case he cares). I don’t cope well with roller coasters.

Ask anyone who knows me. Roller coasters and I do not mix.

The closest I’ve come to riding an actual roller coaster, I cursed like a sailor on leave at a decibel level I don’t even think they can measure. It was the Scooby Doo ride. A ride for children. I was 21.

I don’t understand why you would willingly throw yourself around under the guise of ‘having fun.’

So when my life starts to resemble the aforementioned Scooby Doo ride, complete with backwards dips before being propelled forward into darkness with no idea what lies ahead … I don’t cope.

Last week was a roller coaster. It was all up and down, a bit side to side, and really, just kind of crappy. The loss of a job before it even started knocked me around. Especially as I’d just started to come around to the idea of starting a new job after unceremoniously losing my last contract with no real explanation. All of a sudden my light, bright, carefree world started to look dark, scary and horrible. Just like the Scooby Doo ride.

Luckily, there was light at the end of that stupid tunnel, and there is now too. A couple of temp jobs have popped up and I’ve actually done the readings for my first week of uni – it’s not all bad. Plus I rediscovered that I have some awesome friends who’ll put up with me no matter what. They’ll eat Vietnamese food with me, Skype me from a far off country or just chill with me, not talking about the yuck, just letting us all be.

I’m more than happy to throw myself in to a random country, complete with new cultural norms, a different language and weird food. Because I’m in control of what happens then. Kind of like when you go on the dodgem cars. Even though you can get knocked around by external forces, you still have control over where you go; you can take charge and bump back. You get to choose how you respond. I like that.

But when life twists and turns like a roller coaster, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, or slow it down, I panic. And swear.

So I’ve decided that despite Mr Keating telling me so, my life isn’t a roller coaster and I don’t ‘just gotta ride it.’

I am in control of how I respond.

My life is a damn dodgem car – and I’ll happily ride that.

Seven Weeks.


Oh the difference seven weeks can make.

Let’s see what’s happened.

1. I got married. To the best person ever. It was pretty awesome. I had a great day, danced the night away, met new family, saw old friends and got to tell them all that I was committing my life to a pretty cool guy who, five and a half weeks in, hasn’t left me yet, so he must be alright.

2.We moved. My husband and I (note the use of the word husband for the first time on my blog) finally moved out of my parents’ house. After 4 months to the day we arrived home from our South East Asian adventure, we skedaddled back to Adelaide. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the generosity of my parents so for that we are so grateful and always will be … but boy are we glad to be out from under their roof – and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual.

3. I lost a job. I gained a job. I lost a job before I even started it. So now I’m unemployed. For now. Lucky for me I have two great organisations to help out and I’ve just enrolled to study part time. So I shouldn’t be bored. Just a bit broke. For now.

4. I climbed Mount Lofty. Twice. Now, I might have been slow. Very slow. But I bloody well did it – and I went back a second time, glutton for punishment that I am. It’s triggered a bit of a health kick that is a pain in the arse but it’s giving me a goal to work towards which is nice given that I now have way too much time on my hands to alternate between watching Ellen and Dr Phil.

5. I’ve ebbed and flowed with how I feel about being home. Sometimes great, sometimes not so. As always, the coming home part is harder than the living in a foreign country part. It’s the little things you miss; it’s the little things you take comfort in. Running water for example. It’s the realisation that even if you did go back it would never be the same, just as being home is not quite the same. Not bad, just different.

6. I’ve decided I want to be a teacher. Yep, get the giggles out of the way now. As always happens when I return from an overseas jaunt I’ve had a career change. But I think this one is it. In fact, I know this one is it. I’m currently studying the prerequisites I need to major in History and Social Science (apparently my two previous degrees don’t cut it). I already have what I need to minor in English as a Second Language – an option that will hopefully come in handy should I return overseas someday, as well as giving me the opportunity to engage with people from a whole range of backgrounds here in Australia. The thought of teaching some stuff that I love to young and impressionable minds equally excites and scares the shit out of me. But I’ve put it on my blog now, so I have to do it. Right?

7. I’ve farewelled one of my best friends back to the country she now calls home. I’ve hung out with old friends; reconnected. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. I’ve read books, I’ve watched TV, I’ve danced, drank, eaten and slept. I’ve lived. And before I knew it, there it was: seven weeks.



Miss: to notice the absence or loss of.

I miss Cambodia.

I miss planning adventures across a wonderful country and a spectacular region.

I miss public holidays every second week.

I miss 50 cent noodles at 60 road. I miss $1.50 Viva margaritas. I miss Miss Wong’s, Il Forno and Haven. I miss chicken at West Baray. I miss iced lattes at Cafe Central. I miss Cambodian lunches and afternoon jolts of condensed milk and coffee. I miss pancakes at Angkor Wat.

I miss my daily swim.

I miss riding the moto.

I miss Rany, Rachana, Rith, Mono, Se and all the other TLC crew. I miss Billy. I miss Natasha, Nelson, Catarina, Carolina, Shan and Jody. I miss Mel, Elysse, Kat and Shaye. I miss my land lady, Buntey and Leah.

I miss my Cambodian house, with my big, big bed and purple sheets from the market.

I even miss that bloody gecko Gary.

I miss blogging.

So I’m back. With a new year of unknown adventures to write about. 2012 was an incredible year. I met amazing people and saw incredible things. 2013 has a lot to live up to.

And it begins with a wedding. In 8 sleeps I’m lucky enough to be marrying my best friend. While it may not seem as exciting as tubing in Laos, or cycling through temples in Bagan, 2013 holds in store for us a new beginning as we navigate life as a married couple, as we find somewhere to live that isn’t my parent’s spare room, as we try to figure out our futures.

Stay tuned.



Home is a curious concept. What makes something feel like home? Is home people? Is it the bed you slept in as a child? The house you grew up in? Is it the comfort of familiarity? Can home be anywhere?

Charles Dickens wrote that “home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”

When far from home, often surrounded by sights, sounds and smells that leave one overwhelmed rather than enthused, that word, home, conjures a feeling like no other. A feeling of comfort, a feeling of safety. However, I have been far from the place I consider to be home and have felt at home. Sometimes I’ve even felt more at home out of my cultural depth than when I’ve been surrounded by familiarity.

And thus the curiousness sets in.

How is it possible to feel at home in more than one place?

For me, a sense of home is not only created by my physical surrounds but also by the people around me.

I have felt at home in the house I grew up in, with the comfort of parents and my childhood bed. I have felt at home in London, living in a musty flat, socialising, living and working with the people around me. I have felt at home in a Ugandan village (eventually) sleeping in a mosquito net covered bunk bed in a small house surrounded by smiling children, chickens and goats.

Most recently, I felt at home in Cambodia.  I lived in a house surrounded by friendly neighbours, laughing children and a vacant block filled with frogs and mango trees. I had an awesome set of comfy purple bed sheets. This place had it all. The physical comforts as well as the social ones. I felt at home.

In each place I have felt at home. I have felt safe. I have felt comfortable. Of course it took time for things to feel like home in these new places but despite moments of homesickness, the feeling of familiarity came to exist.

To leave Cambodia, almost 3 months ago now, was hard. There were tears. And then there was travel. A new place to see every couple of days. Exciting (and sometimes weird) food to eat. New beer to try. Buses to catch. Sights to see. And then it was time to come home.

Coming home was something that at times I longed for. Other times I dreaded the thought. Having had to come home before after a long stint away, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Some say home is where the heart is. But what happens when the heart is torn? When it doesn’t know whether or not it’s here, or there? What happens when a tiny piece of that heart is left behind? Does that diminish the sense of home one feels?

Some say you can never really go home again.

Right now, after 14 months of living and travelling overseas, I find myself back in my childhood home, with my parents. I’m part of that pesky generation that just can’t quite leave their parents alone – much to their delight, I’m sure.

While it’s the home I grew up in; a house full of memories and comforts, it’s not really my home any more. I moved away – a while ago. And now I’m back, with a fiancé in tow, cramping my parents’ style. The town I grew up in no longer feels quite like home. Sure, some of the faces and places are the same, but many are not. Home just doesn’t quite feel like home after so long away.

It’s not necessarily a bad feeling – and it is one that passes. Just as it took time for life in Siem Reap to feel like home, it will take time for this old home to feel familiar once again. It takes time for thoughts and feelings to catch up and shape a new reality – a new home in an old place. When it becomes familiar it will be a different kind of familiar to how it was before.

It has changed.

I have changed.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Maya Angelou, American author and poet.



I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about cash. Like politics and religion I think money is something else we aren’t really meant to talk about around the dinner table, but I’ll talk politics and religion until the cows come home so I might as well talk about money too!

I’m in Singapore now, have been for a few days. Before that I was in Kuala Lumpur. I always knew these two cities would be worlds apart from the streets of Yangon, or the countryside of Cambodia, but I wasn’t expecting just how much this difference would impact me.

KL wasn’t too confronting. We had a nice (but small) room in an area that the guy at reception apologised for, for being ‘a little bit dodgy’ (after Yangon we thought it was heaven … there were steps over the drains and the footpaths were flat!) Singapore however, well, that’s another story.

We came to Singapore with every intention of indulging in a bit of luxury. A nice hotel room – with a bath! Tickets to the F1 Grand Prix, high tea at Raffles. Indulging we are – and loving every second of it, don’t get me wrong. But after a year of living and travelling through developing countries a teensy bit of reverse culture shock has struck as I’m surrounded by an extravangence I haven’t seen for a while.

One of the things I love about travel is its ability to change my perspective on so many things. As I sit in my lovely hotel room in Singapore the perspective on my mind is that of luxury. What is luxury? What is ‘normal’? What I think is luxury, you might think is simple, or vice versa.

Let’s be clear, I lived a lovely lifestyle in Cambodia as I was able to afford things that at home I would consider luxury (I am going to miss $5 massages!) However, in general life has been much more simple over the last 14 months. To now come to a city that is so, so different to anything I’ve seen lately is blowing my mind.

I watched a woman throw half of her beer in the bin last night. A Tiger beer at the track costs $10. A Heineken is $12. That $2 difference is more than I’ve been spending on an entire beer for 14 months!

High tea in the beautiful Tiffin Room at Raffles hotel cost us a pricey $140. Champagne made especially for the hotel, mini eclairs and macarons, warm scones, dim sum, Victoria sponge, never ending pots of tea and so much more – it was worth every single cent! To put it in perspective however, $140 is 7 nights accommodation in SE Asia (our budget was $20 a night … and we very rarely spent $20 – more often in the $10-15 range). A bit of a shock to the system for sure!

I’ve watched parents drag their toddlers and babies around the F1 track and can’t for the life of me wonder why you would bother spending the money on bringing a child to an event they a) won’t really remember and b) don’t care about at all. I’ve watched people spend at least $60 each on official merchandise – a family of 6 sat in front of us at the Bananarama show last night, all kitted out in McLaren shirts – at least $360 right there.

Of course, we don’t know anyone’s circumstances – people might have been saving for years for this trip and working bloody hard to do it, and of course everyone is entitled to family holidays and nice things. Without a doubt. I have wondered how many people are enjoying this experience on credit though … It’s been an adjustment to realise that the family sitting near us has probably spent more for the 3 days of the race in Singapore than we spent in 9 weeks travelling, especially considering the cost of flights and accommodation as well.

As I said, I’m certainly enjoying myself and Tom is in seventh heaven, but the contrast between our lives in Cambodia and our recent travel is overwhelming.

It’s difficult to justify the expense, as we wrap our heads around what are actually ‘normal’ prices. It’s a conflicting feeling to feel guilty about what we now perceive as luxury, but to also just want to relax and enjoy it – and know that there is nothing wrong with relaxing and enjoying it.

At least the ridiculousness of Singapore is going to make little ol’ Adelaide and even littler ol’ Murray Bridge not such a shock to the system … I hope!