It’s hard to believe its been a year since we sold our (meagre) possessions in Australia, annoyed our parents by moving our remaining stuff back in with them, and left for some unknown adventures overseas. Looking back, I can’t believe how perfectly everything has worked out. A lot of people questioned what we were doing – travelling around Asia with the vague notion of finding work somewhere, preferably with an NGO – and even we weren’t sure what we were doing. 12 months later, we now live in a beautiful apartment in Phnom Penh, we have dream-jobs at one of the best organisations i’ve ever heard of, and we are failing in love with Cambodia and life in the Kingdom of Wonder.
One of the best things about choosing South-East Asia as our new home is that we can go back to Australia when we need to, as its not too far away. We’ve had a lot of visitors over the last year – but we were definitely missing family and friends – so the opportunity to head home for Christmas, New Years Eve and a wedding of some close friends was brilliant.
Asha and I flew home separately, as I spent a week in Mildura and Asha spent a week in Brisbane, before meeting up for a week of partying, hanging out in the park and catching up with all our friends in Melbourne. The solo flight home was a good chance to reflect on how well 2012 worked out for us – and how exciting 2013 will be. Often I get to the year’s end and wonder “what did I actually do this year”. But after travelling around Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia for 6 months, and living and working in Phnom Penh for a further 6, I can barely remember all the wonderful things that have happened.
Our time back in Australia was exactly what we wanted and needed. Family and friends and quality time all compressed into an almost medicinal two-week dose. It left us recharged as we headed back to Phnom Penh and the year ahead.
The Highlights of our 2 Week Australia Adventure (aside from spending time with our families):
Bringing in the New Year in the Park
All I wanted was to bring in 2013 in the same fashion we brought in 2012 – in Edinbrough gardens, with my best mates (and 15,000 others), and no cops, taxis, or overcrowded bars. We did, and it was wonderful. We partied till the sun came up, and then dragged ourselves through the streets to bed. Perfect.
The Wedding of Beards
One of the big reasons we decided to head home for 2 weeks was because two of my best friends were getting married. The dress code “Neat dress, beards encouraged” was strongly adhered too. We loved being part of Nicki and Chris’s big day, and the party afterwards will be remembered for a long time. Highlight of the night was the crowd roaring along to Jimmy’s folk-punk version of “i’ve never had so much fun”, with Brenno going nuts on the lager phone.
Hearing Them Bruins on the Radio
Shortly after our arrival in Melbourne we had a very rock’n’roll moment with Asha’s brother Joel. We were drinking beer on a lovely sunny afternoon, playing ping-pong in the backyard, and generally feeling chuffed to be back in our favourite city. Someone tuned the radio to Triple J, and pretty much straight away, the first single from Joel’s band came on. Them Bruins had been played on the Australia-wide youth broadcaster before, but Joel had never heard it, so it was a pretty awesome moment for us all, rocking out in a backyard in Parkville and playing air-guitar on ping-pong bats.
Wine and Cheese and Women
On a 41 degree – which felt like opening an oven door compared to the humin heat of Cambodia – Asha decided to head out into the countryside with a couple of her gal pals. No boys allowed. Ok, i was invited, but sometimes you just know when to say no. After a whole year spent with me, a day of girl time was definately needed.
We absolutely love the food we get in Phnom Penh – but we also can’t get enough of the food on offer back home. Mostly the coffee. And the cheeses. Oh, and the meats.
Pubs and Bars
Apart from drinking out of the tap and eating lamb, the local corner pub is probably what we miss most living in Asia. I was amazed at how great every beer tasted out of those big cold pints. And cider continues to be everyone’s darling, with new brands and varieties popping up all over the place.
In our first day in Melbourne, we went out for breakfast to a great cafe in Brunswick, had backyard beers in the sun, drank cider and people watched at the “overly-trendy, overly-expensive” Collingwood Children’s market, hung out like locals in the beer garden at the Pinnacle where we yelled at much-missed friends over the hum of the band, and partied the night away at the Great Britain where Asha’s brother was playing a gig and where we we reunited with many faces we hadn’t seen for a year. Waking up the next morning, with a sore head from drinking and a sore throat from yelling and laughing, I realized that even if I only had that day in Melbourne, it was worth it. In one day, I had reminded myself of why Melbourne is my favourite part of Australia, or maybe even the world.