This Expat Life: Month 14

After moving abroad I started compiling monthly roundup posts about life as an expat in Southeast Asia and all the nitty gritty that goes on behind the scenes here at Travel Lush. Head here to read Month 10, Month 11Month 12 & Month 13.

Let’s just get right down to it.  The month of September was not the best month for me…for a lot of reasons.  The majority of the last 30 days were defined by feelings of uncertainty.  I had days when I loved living in Phnom Penh and days where I totally questioned my decision to move here.  I had periods when I felt sheer excitement about my freelancing career and times when I felt utterly dejected.

Honestly, I was a mess last month.  But now that it’s officially October I’m trying my best to stay positive and move forward.  I’m excited for a new month and a fresh start.  After experiencing so many highs and lows since moving to Phnom Penh, I’m ready to embrace the future…however uncertain it might be.

This Expat Life: Month 14 - Travel Lush
I’m trying my best to adopt a zen attitude.

Living in Phnom Penh

The Bad

  • It is way too hot in Phnom Penh!  I mentioned this in a previous post, but after two months I still haven’t adjusted to the heat in this city.  I constantly feel like I’m overheating and I have no doubt that the heat has contributed to my lethargy and moodiness.
  • I’ve completely fallen out of any sort of exercise routine since arriving here.  The brutally hot days and monsoon-filled evenings have made jogging outside really unappealing.  And a membership at the local gym costs a whopping $1500 a year!  Not a price I’m able to pay at the moment.  But I need to stop with the excuses.  I realize though that the lack of exercise and feeling unhealthy is a large contributor to my mood.  And it’s something I plan to work on this month.
  • Construction noise drives me nuts but it seems like it’s inescapable in Phnom Penh.  It’s going on everywhere, especially around my apartment.  It starts as early as 4am and goes as late as 9pm.  But the real kicker is you never know when it’s going to start or how long it’s going to last.  It does however wake me up every day at obscenely early hours and the lack of regular sleep is kind of starting to take its toll.

The Good

  • I’m happy to report that I do still love Phnom Penh despite the fact that I’ve experienced a flurry of lows during the past two months.  I’ve still been having a great time exploring my new city and having all sorts of exciting experiences.
  • Last month I went to a comedy show headlined by Stevo over at Two Can Travel (I have fellow travel bloggers living in Phnom Penh!), which provided a much-needed evening of laughter.  I’ve also spent some time learning about a truly fascinating community located on Street 93.  I am a huge fan of street art and there are some amazing pieces there!  (I will be writing a full post about it because Street 93 is a must for anyone who is Phnom Penh bound.)

This Expat Life: Month 14 - Travel Lush

  • Being able to cook using a full stove is like a dream come true.  In Jakarta, Aaron and I basically only had two small burners to cook with.  So having a full on oven in Phnom Penh is amazing.  Being able to roast veggies and make homemade pizzas is awesome!
  • I’ve also discovered that you can get pretty much have anything delivered for little to no extra money.  I’ve had everything from falafel to pizza to Indian food brought to my door.  Did I mention I need to start exercising again?


Aside from exploring my new hometown, I did have the opportunity to go to Bangkok a few weeks ago to visit an old college friend.  I had such a blast meandering around the city’s sprawling markets, getting my drink on on Khao San Road and stuffing my face with Thai food.  Yes, I might have gotten food poisoning in the process, but I had a great time regardless!

It was so great to be back in the city and I couldn’t be more excited to be heading back next week for TBEX!

This Expat Life: Month 14 - Travel Lush
See ya soon Bangkok!


I’ve been doing a bit of freelancing but this is still something I’m really struggling with.  Similar to August, not having a steady income was the biggest source of stress for me last month.  I did, however, get paid for a bunch of work I did during the summer.  So getting a paycheck was a very welcome relief.  I’m still going to keep plugging away at the freelancing thing and I’m really hoping that I have more positive news on this front next month!


I set goals for my blog in September and actually exceeded them!  I really wanted to give my site a little boost before TBEX and while my blog is still tiny I feel a little bit better about pitching myself to brands and companies now.

I really have no idea what my blogging future looks like.  I’m still under no illusions that this site will ever be a huge money maker.  But I love blogging and I’m more excited than ever about attending TBEX!  A lot of people say that this conference is just one big blogger party but I’m a total nerd, so I plan to take notes and ask lots of questions.  And I’m really hoping to come away with some knowledge that I can apply to this blog and to my freelancing endeavors.

Most Popular Posts in September:

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta – This is still by far my most popular post!

The 5 Best Beaches in Southeast Asia – Thanks to some social media shares, this post received a bunch of views last month!

What I Wrote in September:

Going Mexican Food Crazy in San Diego

What to Pack When Moving to Southeast Asia

48 Hours in Bangkok: Food Poisoning and Photography

A Vegetarian’s Guide to Phnom Penh

This Expat Life: Month 13


Most Popular Instagram:

This is one of my favorite photos of the month too, so I’m glad you guys like it!

Thanks to all of you who are following me on Instagram and if you’re not on the bandwagon already what are you waiting for?! You can find me at thetravellush!

How did your September shape up?

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.

18 thoughts on “This Expat Life: Month 14

  1. Seriously, finally having a proper kitchen again is so amazing! I feel you on the work front (ugh) but it sounds like you have a pretty solid plan (more so than I do) so I’m sure it will work out eventually! That heat on the other hand…
    Silvia recently posted…Off the Path: Salalah, Oman

    1. Ha, I’m glad my plan is coming off as solid to other people. It’s not feeling so solid as of late. But I’m sure everything will get smoother at some point?

  2. The heat in PP is terrible, but this is actually the ‘cool’ season. April is the worst month from what I remember. I don’t think I ever got used to it completely, but it got a little better after a few months. Just don’t make the mistake of walking anywhere without stopping in air conditioned shops or cafes every now and then. 🙂

    You should check out the local gyms. They only cost about 1000-2000 Riel per session. You won’t have aircon, but there are usually fans. I only ever managed to stay for 20 minutes due to the heat, but better than nothing. These gyms are everywhere and I think mine was on 242 corner 111, but can’t remember exactly. I posted some pics of it here if you want to get an idea how well equipped they are:

    Alternatively maybe get a bike, as you will exercise using it and it is cooler than walking and cheaper than taking tuk tuks all the time. Just make sure you buy a helmet!

    I am glad you like it overall though. I am still struggling to adjust to live in Accra by the way and I have been here for 8 months now! It is much better than at the beginning, but last night when a cockroach crawled over my head, I was reminded how difficult life here can be. 🙂
    tammyonthemove recently posted…Getting away from Accra’s hustle and bustle in Aburi

    1. Yeah, I keep complaining about the heat and then everyone reminds me that I didn’t even arrive in the thick of it. Yes, I’ve heard April and May are downright intense. I traveled here in January and the weather was actually nice for Southeast Asia, so I’m really looking forward to this ‘cool’ season to kick in. I’m sure I will get a bike at some point. Right now the traffic is still a little too daunting for me 😉 Gosh, I imagine that life in Ghana has a lot of challenges. Yeah, I would flip out if a cockroach did that to me too!

  3. The heat sounds pretty crazy! The construction noise must be so annoying too. We had a similar thing in Beijing (not quite as bad as yours though). There were technically rules that said they couldn’t do construction before 8am, after 5 and not at all on weekends- but we were constantly being woken at 6am on the weekend (weekdays too but my alarm went off at 6am anyway). 4am must be unbearable! Ugh! I wonder if they have rules there but they just ignore them too, or if there are actually just no rules? I’m glad overall you still like it and hope everything moves in the right direction! Not long until TBEX. I’m so glad yours is first so you can fill me in ready for North America! 🙂
    Joella recently posted…Have you been to California’s 17 Mile Drive?

    1. Why is it so hot Joella?! Construction noise is a total pet peeve of mine. What bothers me might not bother others to the same extent. But if I’m sleeping or writing and I hear hamming or buzz saws I get really distracted and annoyed. Luckily I bought some really great earbuds in the States. So I usually just put those in, crank some music and I’m good to go! I don’t like being woken up in the a.m. though! I don’t think there are any rules here. Construction goes on every day of the week everywhere and at super random times. I can’t believe TBEX is next week. I’ll be sure to give you a VERY DETAILED report 😉

  4. I can’t even begin to imagine that kind of heat non-stop. Even during the summer time here, as soon as I got home from work, I’d just get straight into a pair of shorts and a tank top and sit in front of my air con, not wanting to do any running outside or any form of exercise.

    Don’t worry too much about having lows. And honestly? It makes me feel better too to know that I’m not the only expat feeling both highs and lows. I wish people would talk more openly about how hard it can be. Give yourself time to get adjusted though, hun. And let me know if you ever need to talk when you’re feeling crappy.

    I’m envious of two things you do have though – A real oven and food delivery! Ahh, I miss those so much.
    Ceri recently posted…18 months in Korea … The Highs & The Lows

    1. Aw, thanks Ceri. That’s so sweet of you. Yeah, I imagine we’re not the only expats out there who have had our struggles. It took about three months for me to really start getting into a groove in Jakarta. And there were still highs and lows even then. I’m sure it’ll just take time here. And I know that once the work situation figures itself out I will be way less stressed! Ha, my oven is my favorite thing ever. I feel really lucky that we even found an apartment with one 🙂

    1. Ugh, I haven’t really attempted to exercise. Ha, I’m sure that gym is super high end! But I’ve heard nice gyms are just really expensive here. Like Tammy said above, you can go to local gyms but the lack of AC makes it pretty unbearable…at least I imagine.

  5. Now I’m curious to find out how much hotter it is compared to Singapore..haha..but even so, we Singaporeans still complain about our weather all the time so wouldn’t be surprised that this is one of yours too! It must be the air here in SEA…:)

    Hope that you can keep staying positive and all will eventually work out..who knows, TBEX may turn out super awesome for you later. I wish I could go but I have an event at work on that Friday and so cannot make it…:(
    Sha recently posted…Goodbye September, HELLO October!

    1. I think it’s about the same actually, maybe a bit hotter in Singapore. It’s also really hot in my apartment, like hotter than outside (at least it feels that way). And because electricity is so expensive here I don’t run the AC during the day. So I never really cool off…

      I hope TBEX turns out to be good. I’m looking forward to it for sure! Too bad you weren’t able to make it. Maybe next year!!

    1. They seem to be heading in that direction. This one area of town is particularly cool. I’m going to write up a whole post on it soon. Are there any good places to see street art in Indonesia? That’s something I never did while living there…

  6. I went to some really lovely yoga classes in PP; now I will proceed to be super unhelpful and admit that I don’t remember where it was. Upstairs from a cafe if that helps at all. I sometimes find that when I make a date to go to a class that is an hour long it helps me to stick to my plan, and in that weather you get all the benefits of heated yoga without having to go to an official “hot yoga” class 🙂
    Jenny @ Till The Money Runs Out recently posted…Discovering the Cenotes Near Merida, Mexico

  7. I’m happy I found your blog and follow along your expat life. Seems like you are having a great time in Cambodia..even in the heat 😉 I live an expat life in Canada and have different problems, sometimes it is way to cold for me haha 🙂 But I still love it. No place is perfect. Staying positive and find new hobbies/interests always worked for me.
    Maya recently posted…Road Trip through Southern Alberta

    1. Hi Maya! I love reading about other people’s expat experiences too 🙂 Ha, I imagine yours is so different than mine. Canada would be way too cold for me too! Although a little cold would be kinda nice right about now 😉

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