I’m Moving to Cambodia!

That’s right.  Aaron and I are moving to Cambodia!  More specifically, we are moving to the country’s up-and-coming capital city, Phnom Penh.  I am so beyond excited about our next move, so much so that I sometimes have to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

I'm Moving to Cambodia! - The Travel Lush

Cambodia happens to be one of my favorite Southeast Asian countries.  It has it all, from one of Southeast Asia’s best beaches to the ancient temples of Angkor to a happening capital city.  Cambodia is indeed a wonderful place to be.

If you’ll remember, Aaron and I traveled to Cambodia for a quick trip back in January.  We spent 10 blissful days beach hopping on Koh Rong and sightseeing in Phnom Penh.  At the time, we were completely unsure about what we were going to do after we left Jakarta (Aaron’s teaching contract was set to end in July).  It seemed like our only option would be to return to the U.S., but secretly I think both of us were hoping that we’d be able to stay abroad.

During that trip to Cambodia we had zero idea that moving to Phnom Penh was even a possibility.  But looking back on a post I wrote about my love affair with Cambodia the fact that this is happening is actually kind of surreal.  What I wished for actually came true…that never happens!

I'm Moving to Cambodia - The Travel Lush

In that post I go on and on about how, for the past eight years, both Aaron and I have daydreamed about living in Phnom Penh.

During our recent trip we had so many discussions of what it would be like if we were to live there.  We would live in one of the city’s narrow, Chinese shop houses.  He would teach at one of the universities while I would write for one of the city’s English language newspapers.  We would spend our evenings walking along the river, getting drinks at a hip rooftop bar or getting our culture fix at a local art exhibition.  And maybe, maybe we would finally buy a cat or two.  Life in Phnom Penh would be good.

I'm Moving to Cambodia! - The Travel Lush
These kitties totally wanted to come home with us!

I was so intoxicated by the city and the thought of living in it that I wrote this:

“We’re still dreaming up all sorts of plans to make living here a reality…Perhaps we’ll never have the chance to live here, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, we will take it in a heartbeat.”

And that’s exactly what we did.

A few weeks after I wrote that, Aaron came across a job listing at a university in Phnom Penh.  He had no idea what would come of it, but he applied instantly.  As often happens in academia, we heard nothing for some time and assumed that the application would never be looked at or responded to.

Then a couple of months ago, Aaron was asked to interview for the position.  A month later, he received a formal offer.  And that was that!

In a little less than two months we’ll say goodbye to Jakarta, a city that has only recently managed to worm its way into my heart.  Even still, my relationship with Jakarta is of the love-hate variety.  I’ve said this so many times, but Jakarta is a tough city to get to know and an even tougher one to love.  I feel confident that if I were to be based here permanently I could learn to love it the way so many other expats seem to.

It is weird to say goodbye so soon, but I feel like I’m ready to move on.

Living in Jakarta has been an eye opening, life changing and unforgettable experience.  But I feel confident that both Aaron and I will be happier and fit better in Phnom Penh.  The truth is…Phnom Penh is just more our flavor.

I'm Moving to Cambodia! - The Travel Lush
This city is spectacular…

I wrote a whole post, gushing about the many things I love about Phnom Penh.  But to sum it up, the city has a pretty amazing mix of expats and Cambodians.  There is no shortage of forward thinking artists, entrepreneurs, teachers and NGO workers.  Its architecture – with Khmer temples and French villas – and its riverside setting makes it an incredibly picturesque city.  And the Cambodian people are some of the friendliest I’ve met in all of my travels.  The city also seems to be booming right now, with trendy new restaurants and bars opening up every week.  If you ask me, Phnom Penh is an exciting place to be right now.

I’m under no illusions that everything will be perfect there.  The country has suffered an unfathomable history and the city itself is still incredibly rough around the edges.  And, of course, adjusting to a new culture and foreign city will inevitably have its challenges.

Aaron will be starting a new job, and starting a new job is always somewhat stressful.  As for me, I’ll be trying my best to make it as a freelance writer, which ended up working out fairly well for me here in Jakarta.  I love what I do but let’s face it, it’s not the easiest way to make a living.  I also plan to take this blog to the next level.  Now that I know I’ll be abroad for the foreseeable future, I’m definitely taking things more seriously this time around.  I still have a lot to learn, both about blogging and freelancing and I have a long way to go.  It’ll be a challenge but I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Despite any challenges, Aaron and I are so ready for this new adventure…and it will be an adventure!  We are both thrilled to be able to stay in Southeast Asia, a region that we have spent the majority of the past two years in.  This place seems to have a firm hold on us.

In terms of travel, there are still so many places that we want to visit in Asia.  Obviously, I have big plans to explore as much of Cambodia as humanly possible.  Given that Thailand is right next door, I’m sure I’ll be visiting at least a few times.  I’d really like to go to this year’s Yi Ping festival.  I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since I read this post by Alex over at Alex in Wanderland.  Aaron and I are also pretty hooked on the idea of visiting countries like Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka.

If you haven’t noticed by now, our plans always change.  So who knows where the next year will actually take us, but we are so happy to be based in Asia for another year so we can explore more of this quirky and amazing continent.

This summer we’ll be hopping from Indonesia to the Philippines to the U.S.  And in August we will fly from our home state of California to Phnom Penh to start the next chapter of our crazy expat journey.  I honestly still can’t believe this is my life…

I'm Moving to Cambodia! - The Travel Lush
Sweaty, disheveled and happy at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh.

As always, I’ll be writing about all of my adventures and inevitable freak outs right here.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Be sure to follow me on Instagram,Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with my summertime travels.  My first stop is Bali, where I am now!

Have you ever dreamed about living in another country?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

42 thoughts on “I’m Moving to Cambodia!

    1. Ha, well maybe you do know me a little because you’re absolutely right! I am so excited about the idea of living in Phnom Penh, whereas Jakarta was more of a necessity. I think it’ll be a great fit for the both of us.

  1. Oh, this is such exciting news! You know that I am not really a PP fan and Cambo is not one of my top places in SEA, but it’s always so wonderful seeing someone’s dreams come true! I know you said that things like this never happen, but I really believe if you send good energy out into the universe, it comes back to you in the best possible ways! I’ll be really interested read about your new expat experiences and I hope you have an amazing summer of travel.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…¿Say “Qué”? Adventures in Learning Spanish in Mexico

    1. Thanks Steph! It’s just so weird that we were just in Phnom Penh, daydreaming about living there and now it’s going to be a reality. It’s pretty cool 🙂 I feel like we kind of paid our dues in Jakarta and Phnom Penh is the payoff!

  2. Oh wow! Absolutely amazing news. I am so happy for you you. I have never been to Cambodia but I definitely think it sounds like a place you guys will love living in. Really looking forward to reading all about it once you get there!
    Joella recently posted…Rainy Days In Beautiful Kyoto

    1. Thanks Joella! We’re both so excited. Oh, you should really try to visit Cambodia one day. It’s an amazing place and you have a free place to stay in Phnom Penh 😉

    1. Thanks Christie! I am so thrilled about this new adventure. Congrats to your big move to Australia. That is really exciting. I’ve talked to so many people who have done the same and they LOVE it. Aaron and I have actually talked about the idea of moving there a lot. Hopefully someday 😉

  3. I am SO excited for you! God knows I relate to living in a city that’s tricky to love and I’m so excited that you now get to go live in a city you adore. I can’t wait to read about your adventures there. It seems like a fascinating city.
    Rebekah recently posted…Three Week Vietnam Itinerary

    1. Thanks Rebekah! I still can’t believe this is happening. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to get to know a city that I’ve been fascinated by for so many years. Hopefully you’ll make it there someday. It’s a wonderful city and Cambodia is a magical country 🙂

  4. so much fun! I have a friend who actually did the same thing – and he went on to write for an english newspaper for years. I’ve only visited P.P. and was mesmerized by it. Plus you have SE Asia surrounding you on all sides. Fantastic!
    Julie recently posted…Football is Life

    1. It’s great to hear that you loved Phnom Penh too. It seems like people either love it or hate it. I’m so excited about having the chance to get to know it on a deeper level. And being based in Southeast Asia will allow us to visit so many countries we have yet to visit. Yay!!

    1. It’s pretty cool, right? We feel very lucky to have this chance. Cambodia is such a fabulous country to visit. I can honestly say that visiting the Angkor temples is one of my top travel experiences. I hope you get the chance to visit soon Beth 🙂

  5. Woooow!!! This is so exciting! It’s crazy how you were talking about the possibility of moving to Cambodia, but always considered it a dream. Sometimes life really kicks ass! Congrats!

    1. Thanks, I’m really excited. Enjoy the time you have to travel…I really wish I could take some time to do some serious traveling. And I can’t wait to see where you end up. It’s exciting 🙂

  6. So exciting!! How amazing that everything just “came together” like that! It’s a sign that you’re truly supposed to be there and that it’s the right place for you. There are definitely things to learn when you struggle, but isn’t life so much better, when everything just works out 🙂 Look forward to reading all your posts about your new home!!
    Shelley recently posted…It’s Panda-monium! 1600 Pandas+ Occupy Korea

    1. Maybe it is a sign 🙂 A agree, when you struggle it is a huge learning process. But it’s nice not to always have to struggle. I’m hoping that Cambodia will be a smoother ride than Jakarta. I know it’ll have its ups and downs too, but I’m really, really excited about this opportunity!

    1. Do you know the name of the cinema? My boyfriend and I are super into film and we’re actually looking for places in Phnom Penh to screen films!

  7. Justine,
    Amazing and exciting news! I am very happy for you, especially because you are so happy about this move. I can’t wait to see more posts on Cambodia, I want to visit really badly, and I can’t wait to see what vegan options you find there. It seems as though you and I are getting closer in proximity, as I will be back in India in Nov, and potentially in SE Asia finally but let’s see, as I have a deep, mad love affair with India and can’t seem to leave 😉
    Katie
    Katie @worldwidevegetarian.com recently posted…Healthy Travel: Carrot, Cashew, Cranberry Salad

    1. Thanks Katie! I am really excited about Cambodia. I love what I’ve seen of it but I’m really excited about being able to discover new places to visit. I have also been doing so much research online about restaurants and food. There are quite a few vegan restaurants in Phnom Penh. The eating scene will be so much easier for me than it has been in Jakarta. I’ve even scoped out the Buddhist vendors that sell mock meats! I’m really excited about the idea of eating my way through Phnom Penh 🙂 I didn’t know you were going back to India in the fall. That’s so exciting. Are you planning on staying awhile? My boyfriend and I have been talking a lot about where we want to take our next lengthy trip and India is HIGH on that list. We might be headed there in the next year!

    1. Thanks Tammy. I’m really excited. There’s just so much going on in Phnom Penh and I am thrilled to be able to get to know the city better 🙂 I will definitely let you know if I need tips. I’m sure I will!

  8. Hi! Very, very cool blog!

    Just wondering what you are doing visa-wise as a freelancer? I’ve lived in Korea and Singapore which are both pretty strict about immigration but I have heard stories of people living in Vietnam visa-free for years.

    1. Hi Prianka! I just got here so the visa situation is something I need to figure out in the next couple of weeks. I hope it’s not going to be too difficult. But I can give you more info once I actually figure it out 😉

  9. How awesome! We’re currently looking for jobs with the idea we may move this Spring. Just trying to figure out how to support ourselves!

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