Debrief on a Life Changing Sabbatical

We’ve been home 3 months now and the dust has settled enough for some reflection on what turned out to be a life changing sabbatical.

Multi tasking Beau

Multi tasking Beau

Cambodia in its rawness and resilience seeped into my bones.

And called me to point.

I’ve banged on about the educational and cultural pluses of upping sticks to a foreign land, especially one that is starkly different from one’s own. The way it calls into question what you value and shows you a compassion that’s often dormant under the wear/tear of daily life. I was drawn to Cambodia ever since my first visit in 1999, where my senses were alive with flashing images of religious reverence (imagination gone wild with thoughts of monks walking the same footprints since 12th Century) at Angkor Wat. It took me quite by surprise, the depth of feeling. And years later, to have the fortune of returning there with a faint inner voice that whispered

throw light into the shadows

I am a believer in following your intuition. And boy does it lead you in some bizarre directions sometimes, but maybe it is alerting us to the need for change or adjustment or dare I say even risk taking.

And that’s what Tim, Quinn, Beau and I did.

The mandatory Chicken Run

The mandatory Chicken Run

It was hard on the kids at times. There is a definite intensity about the place. Both boys got off the plane in Sydney declaring they were never going back to Cambodia;  Quinn sang ‘Advance Australia Fair’ at full tilt with a fist in the air at the baggage carousel and said in his most blokey Okka accent ‘G’day mate’ to the racist Customs officer.

I’m pleased to report that the kids’ memories have softened to all the good bits though. The ‘x-box’ at local restaurant gets a mention as well as Ian the owner who loved to lose hours playing it with them. The irony is not lost- I thought we’d take them and have less screen time but with the heat, humidity and intensity of the place, screens were a VERY necessary part of our routine. Quinn remembers going next door to 11 year old Sim’s place, only the brickwork done with no doors and windows and a concrete floor, they would sit and eat apple cakes made on the open fire that Sim’s sarong clad mum would sell at the local market. With 5 common words between them, ‘Super Man, ‘Hello’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Bye’, they would ride bikes, joust and play lego. I’d catch them sometimes sitting in the quiet silence of companionship, something I felt was kinda sacred to witness.

Sim and Quinn with Christmas wreaths that Narnie made

Sim and Quinn with Christmas wreaths that Narnie made

I suspect our boys’ll be heading back eagerly one day with a backpack. We Skype Quinn’s mate Waitya and his family who are dearly missed. It would be a wonderful thought to one day welcome them here. Quinn asked if we could Skype Sim- and then he realised we couldn’t because they don’t have electricity. An overriding benefit of the trip for our tear-aways is a definite understanding of what it means to live simply, not some Western concept of simplifying the excess, but out of necessity. A friend told me that Quinn delivered a lecture at a recent sleepover. Beau may have been too young to fully comprehend but at 7, Quinn got it and hopefully a lifelong empathy with it. (too much to ask??). He still loves K-Mart but showed uncharacteristic restraint when reminded why he couldn’t have more than one toy (!) by his Aunty when he was last there.

Our lives look different now. Tim described it as living in a ‘parallel universe’. The reverse cultural shock has been coupled with the fact that Tim and I are living separately. We are looking honestly at the footings that hold up our family structure. Years whiz by, extensions made for children and the extra loading bearing that comes with that, a relationship is put under strain. We all know this. And sometimes when you stop and come up for air, your partner has become all fuzzy around the edges or maybe you can’t clearly see their face anymore.

And this is terrifying.

This is what I meant by having my heart cracked open. And all I can do is keep walking towards the light and my truth amidst the rubble, taking one step at a time.

A Life Defining Gift even if it worked in ways I didn’t expect or necessarily want.

It’s time to honour all the people in our lives that made this possible:

Firstly, we wouldn’t have got out our front door without the support of Tim’s folks, Gwennie and Harrie who looked after our precious Patrick Swayze; our tenants and all the extra necessary admin that comes with jumping ship for awhile. You both have huge hearts.

And to all our wonderful family and friends who all were part of the cause: from purchasing Tim’s art, to organising and coming to our farewell fundraiser, to sending loving and empowering thoughts, and following this blog, these were all felt and helped us on our journey.

And to the NGO we worked with as self funded volunteers which initially I thought should involve some payback. It’s funny that word- but what I mean is – you think someone owes you something especially when none of your expenses are covered.  But once we arrived and rolled up our sleeves, surrounded by such a dedicated, ethical and giving bunch of people, you realise that giving without conditions is easy to do and has its own unlimited rewards.


Huge love to all who’ve followed our journey. The learning never stops, doesn’t it?


3 thoughts on “Debrief on a Life Changing Sabbatical

  1. Beautiful – Amy, the journey of life, showing things we never expect, taking us places within ourselves that rock our core, thank you for sharing this most amazing path. M x


  2. Incredibly honest, beautiful writing and wonderful photos to bring meaning to your words. Amy you have been on such an incredible journey. I can identify with much of your experience, and much I can’t. We miss you still. XXXX


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