Cambodia – S21 and the Killing Fields

I sat down to write this post and I just couldn’t. I kept rewriting paragraphs trying to bring my feelings and thoughts out but I wasn’t ready. Sometimes after experiencing something you need sometime to process. That is exactly what happened during my trip to Cambodia.

On day 2 we visited the S-21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. To say these sites were moving doesn’t begin to cover it. In preparation for my trip I read “First They Killed My Father”. The book was enthralling, I highly recommend anyone traveling to Cambodia read it ahead of time. Even after all my research and prep for my trip I was not ready for the wave of emotion that hit me while visiting the S-21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields.

If you are visiting Cambodia set aside a day to visit both. I am a firm believer that you should always make an effort to learn the history of the places you travel. Learning about the atrocities that took place in Cambodia is upsetting, take your time as you make your way through the self guided tour, reflect on all that you learn. While at the Killing Fields I was a little unsettled, it was such a beautiful memorial but it was hard to reconcile the horrendous acts that took place there with the beautiful landscape there today. The original structures that stood at the Killing Fields during the time of the Khmer Rouge have been demolished.

There is so much to do and experience in Cambodia but it is important to take some time to learn about and pay your respects to the millions of people were killed. I had such an amazing trip in Cambodia, my visit to Angkor Wat was incredible and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity was life changing, I can’t wait to go back soon! 

PS: please be respectful when visiting these sites. I saw tons of people ignoring the no photography signs that were posted in certain areas.


Cambodia- Angkor Wat

If you went to Cambodia and didn’t visit Angkor Wat did you really go to Cambodia? In prep for my trip to Cambodia I read a lot of blog posts about what to do and what not to do. And everyone agreed you had to see Angkor Wat. Located in Siem Reap it is about 6 hours from Phnom Penh.

Aside from Angkor Wat, there is plenty to do and see in Siem Reap and I encourage you to spend a few days in the city exploring both the temples and the city. You can buy a 3 day pass to Angkor Wat, we only did one day and hired a guide but that was because we were tight on time.

If you’ve never been and are interested in the history of the temples look into hiring guide. There are so many temples and places to explore a guide can be really helpful. But be sure to leave sometime to explore on your own, there were definitely a few moments when I felt a little rushed by the guide and wished we had more exploring time. If you do a three day pass you shouldn’t have that issue though!

Do your research ahead of time, ladies knees and shoulders must be covered to enter certain parts of the temples. This is a sacred place so please always remain respectful, I am probably the worst with ‘do it for the Insta’ but don’t climb up on areas where it says no climbing. Be respectful and remember that these temples are thousands of years old and we need to be responsible for preserving them for the next generation.

My favorite temple was the Bayon Temple, the temple of the happy Buddha faces! The artistry and craftsmanship preserved in this temple is breathtaking! There is also Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. If you make the trip to Siem Reap make the most of it and see as many temples as possible!

In addition to touring the temples we visited the Siem Reap night market, where I paid to put my feet in a tank of fish and let them eat all the dead skin off my feet! Pros my feet have never been smoother and it only cost $2. Cons it felt super super weird! We had fun checking out the Siem Reap night life, I wished we had stayed a few more days because I definitely felt safer going out in Siem Reap than in Phnom Penh. Be smart, if you’re going to go out to bars and clubs go with a friend, never accept drinks from strangers, etc you know the deal. Traveling gives us the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone, take the opportunity to do things you would t do at home. Not only did I put my feet in a tank full of fish, I ate a cricket and a tarantula leg! So push yourself to try new things, I am a firm believer that you truly find out who you are in moments when you step out of your comfort zone.

Outfit details:

Pants- Lilly Pulitzer, Shoes- TOMS, t-shirt- Primark


Cambodia – Volunteering Abroad

The past two weeks I have been in Cambodia. We did a lot of sightseeing and also a project with Habitat for Humanity. It has been an incredible experience. Right before my departure I was experiencing a lot of anxiety about the trip but I honestly can’t remember the last time I had so much fun and laughed so hard. This is my second time volunteering abroad and I wanted to answer some of the most asked questions and share some of the photos from the job site.

What program do you do this through?

The first time I volunteered abroad in Jamaica was with my church in high school. This most recent trip to Cambodia was a part of the ‘Alternative Break’ Program at my university. A lot of schools have these programs so if you are interested on doing service during your break I highly recommend looking into it. Check with your advisor to see if your school offers any type of short term (or long term if you want) volunteer opportunities. If your university doesn’t offer anytime of opportunity check out Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program.

Is it expensive?

This depends greatly on who you do the program with and where you go. Going to Asia was much more expensive than going to the Caribbean. My school did offer scholarships to help some students cover the cost of the program. And while the upfront cost was a bit high, at my school it included our flights and all our meals and accommodations. I think performing service abroad is a great opportunity and well worth the cost of traveling.

Are the projects hard?

Construction in developing nations is definitely more involved than what you might be familiar with in the US. Instead of having a truck to mix cement for us we hand mixed cement throughout the day. It is physically a lot of work, but they will not give you anything you can’t do. You are building a house that someone will live in after you leave so it needs to be done right so there are plenty of people to help you through, give direction, and make corrections as needed.

What if I don’t speak the language?

Habitat did provide translators and some of the local workers we were working with spoke english. It was great to interact with the local people and learn about their lives. I made some incredible friends who I will never forget! And thanks to social media you can continue to keep in touch!

Should I volunteer abroad?

Absolutely! I think this is a great way to push yourself outside your comfort zone and experience new things. I feel that I have grown so much as a person this past week.

Overall my trip to Cambodia has been amazing. I can’t wait to go back and explore even more of South East Asia!


Packing for Cambodia

As 2017 comes to an end I am running around getting ready for my first trip of 2018. On January 2nd I leave for two weeks in Cambodia! I have never been to Asia before and I’m really excited but also anxious.

It’s a long flight and a long trip so I have been trying to get everything together the past two days. I love traveling but sometimes I get really stressed out right before a trip. So here is a check list of things I always go through when preparing to travel!

-I have my passport and have left a copy of my passport with my parents.

-I have all necessary travel visas

-Spoke with my doctor and have gotten all necessary shots and medicines

-I have all the hotel information

-I know ahead of time how I am getting from the airport to the hotel and back

-I always make a day to day itinerary so I can plan outfits

-I check the weather so I can be prepared for rain/snow/humidity etc.

-I have done my research about the place I am traveling

This may be a pretty boring list of things to do but they are important. I always write down everything I need to do before I leave and one by one check everything off my list. If you’re not a ‘list maker’ it is still a good tool for traveling. I am a major planner/list maker. I love to be organized but at the end of the day no matter how organized you are, not matter how well you have planned, sometimes things go wrong. A certain amount of flexibility is required when traveling.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to travel to a lot of different places. I have had some crazy things go awry. But I’ve always return in one pieces. Plan, don’t plan, make super organized lists, don’t write anything down, however you choose to travel (though I highly recommend the former) just enjoy it! Traveling is an amazing opportunity that not everyone gets all the time!