Up at 7:30 am, I had to get my bicycle to the nearest hangout spot so my friend could pick it up. It was one of the many possessions I handed over to the friends who I was leaving behind in Siem Reap. I made my way to my favorite cafe where I said my goodbyes to the friends I had made there. A farewell coffee and the exchange of small gifts gave me a warm sense of comfort. Then, it was to the bus depot. My morning was structured and well planned. I guess, I had planned my exit from Siem Reap well because I knew if I hadn’t, I would put myself in a deeper state of emotional overwhelm.
About 4 hours later, we arrive in the town of Battambang and that is when the nerves began to really kick in. Having gone from a busy, tourist town like Siem Reap to a small country town like Battambang really threw me off. It wasn’t only the shock caused by the change of environment, but also the fact that I knew I was leaving behind a life that I have worked hard at building for the last 8 months. It was a life that took time, care and responsibility, as I had to fend for myself for the very first time in my life – survival wise.
I slept after a decent sized cambodian dish – beef curry. I thought, “maybe the pain will subside after a short nap”. It only intensified when I woke up. I spent 30 minutes on my bed, crying with a pillow over my face. I then took myself to the bathroom where I cried for another 20 minutes and then the deck chair by the pool where I just sat, lost looking at the reflection of the water – tears rolling down my eyes, profusely.
Why was I so emotional? What was it that I was feeling? I realised, it wasn’t fear, at all. It was grief. I was in a state of grief for the life in Siem Reap that I was leaving behind. So many memories were created there, so many deep connections and so much comfort was built and developed over time. Siem reap became my life. That shift in environment and lifestyle always throws you off. It’s the grief you experience for the old life you once clinged to. Everything becomes familiar and comforting.
It was around 9pm when I decided that I had released as much emotion as what was required, and it was time to move on with things. This journey will go on, and when things need to be left to the past, as hard as it is to let go, it is a must. With the help of a few whiskey and cokes, I felt relieved. I promised myself I wouldn’t drink until I had surpassed the eye of the emotional storm in my sober state of mind. I didn’t want to numb my pain because that would truly defeat the purpose of all of this. I never embarked on this journey for the sake of experiencing pleasure, and only pleasure. I came here to embrace everything for what is.
At first, you waltz in ready to save the nation – guns
blazing, and all. You are a naive
rookie. You have no idea what goes on
here. Everything is romanticized. You are in this foreign new world, one that
you have been searching for a long time.
Your long search has come to an end; you have arrived at your
destination. What a feeling that
is. You are on top of the world.
After a while, things start to piss you off. Small things like the road rage that you have crippled yourself with must be contained because you know you are no longer at home. These rules aren’t yours to judge. Fuck, that is tough to navigate your way through. Thank fully, my defensive riding skills have kept me safe, but I won’t lie, there have been some close calls. Sorry, Mum.
Things that are completely unacceptable in Sydney are made
part of the norm on these roads. You
have people crossing big intersections, running through red lights and people
pulling out in front of you, completely unaware that you are cruising at
40km/h. They don’t even look back, so it’s
up to you to see them and dodge. If you don’t
take responsibility, you ruin the day for the both of you. As raged as I was at first, I had no choice
but to keep my composure and ride proactively.
Once the romance dies down, reality kicks in. There are no more big celebratory
nights. It’s basically just you and your
work colleagues. For me personally, I
love alone time. Alone time is my most
valued time of the day because I know if I give it to myself, I will be better
off for myself and for those around me. But, I was not expecting this type of alone
time. Alone time gets too much, so you
immerse yourself in work. It’s not an
issue for the first few months, if anything its enjoyable. It gives you something to do and when that
work involves your passions and your self-growth, you give it all the love in
the world. It’s an obsession more than
anything else. You get to a stage
however, where you begin to feel a little empty. You are happy and you love your work and you
feel as though you are on the right track, the track that you want to be on, but
then you start to wonder what else life may have to offer. I came to learn through my loneliness, that
there is a lot more to life than your work and your passions. That’s all part of the ego. I’m talking about love, connection, laughter
and support. These are far more profound
The upside to all of this is you now start to build new
social networks. They can’t be compared
to the ones back at home. However, they hold
a very valuable place in your heart.
When you are out here and life feels so intense on the inside and out,
it’s always good to know that you have good people around you. The friendships I have made here are nothing
but genuine, honest and supportive. I
have no time for anything else. If someone
shows genuine concern for me, I make sure I keep them close and I look after
them just as much as they look after me.
I have Australian friends here, I’ve met a fair few expats who live here
and I have a lot of Cambodian friends.
These are people who let me in their houses and the kitchens of their
restaurants. I’m part of the family and
I get invited to all family occasions.
After a while, you start to really settle in. You begin to learn the ins and outs well
enough to go into semi auto pilot. This
is one of the most interesting parts.
This is when reality really starts to hit home. You realize how rough life can be here. I never really understood what human
suffering in the third world was actually about. It’s interesting when I witness this type of
suffering and then I think back to the suffering back home.
After building connections with people, you start to become
emotionally invested in them. What went
from chaos in which I felt so detached from now becomes a personal. It’s as if, every time I hear about the
suffering that occurs here, I start to feel it in my bones. I feel it for the people and most of all, I have
started to feel the pain of my friends. It
hasn’t always been this way. In fact, I have
spent months trying to reconcile with the fact that seeing poverty has had no
real impact on me, emotionally. I have
met people personally who are living in some of the poorest conditions, yet
those moments were never enough to have me as emotionally invested as I am
now. I guess, being emotionally detached
can be a good thing out here. If you
break down and lose your composure, you will pay for it. For what you witness here, it requires a
strong stomach. There isn’t any time for
dwelling. It’s all about getting down to
Now days, my connections with certain people have become so
strong that I feel the pain. I witness
the everyday struggle and it has started to wear me down. I feel for my friends. This has become personal for me now. To be able to witness life here in the depth
at which I am witnessing it right now has been my fuel for achieving as much
peace as possible.
You can’t save the world – it’s that simple. Sometimes, that is the hardest thing to
accept. However, you begin to notice the
nuances. Something as simple as spending
a couple of hours mentoring someone can go a long way. Those moments of one on one mentoring have
been the most fulfilling yet. If you can
just make a small difference to someone’s life, then they can go on to do the
same for someone else.
People are so grateful for the fact that I have given my
time and energy to help them. I tell
them that it comes at a cost, however. That
cost involves using the knowledge that I have shared with them to bring someone
else up when the time is right. Ambitions
and aspirations of the young people are quite different here. It seems as though career goals have more to
do with helping the community rather than buying a beach front property with a
10 car garage. That’s the beautiful thing
about the people here. Never have I felt
a sense of community like this one before.
This is on another level, and I guess it has to be that way. It’s a matter of survival.
I had experienced some pretty good times throughout my
childhood and my early adulthood. When
we were 15 years old, I helped stage an amateur home video series. There were 6 of us embarking on an artistic
journey. We were a pure rip off of the
iconic ‘Jackass’. They were the dudes we
were looking up to at that age, and there still remains huge level of respect
for these guys. They created an empire
that spread across the masses.
By age 19, I was re-telling stories in a black journal that
I had purchased. I wanted to document
all of the stupid, crazy things that we got up to during our partying
years. I have considered burning that
book on multiple occasions. I think I
will be forced to one day, but I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts.
I took that trip to south East Asia at the end of 2016 and
before leaving, I made the commitment to journal every day of my trip. I stuck with it – I was impressed with
myself. I have never opened it. I feel as though the memories are far too
fresh. I don’t know when I will open it
– my intuition will tell me when the time is right. On returning from that trip, it was about a
month after getting back home when I had an ‘uh-huh’ moment after answering a
huge question that popped up in my head.
Why not write your whole life out?
So, I began journaling pretty much every single day. I have been doing so for 2 years now.
For me, it is an art form; however it tends to go much
deeper than that. Viewing from my lenses
of reality, although I’m painting paper with words, I am also painting time in
the present and the future. The habit of
journaling has completely transformed my approach to life. It’s like, all of my actions and decisions
are motivated by the fact that I know I have to come home and write about my
day. Moving abroad to embark on this
journey was inspired by this motivation to write a good story. If life is my blank canvas, than I want to
paint something inspiring.
Slowly, I’m learning more and more about the life as an
artist. There are obstacles and I’m
learning that it takes a tremendous amount of authenticity, courage and
resilience. It’s a tough game and it’s
so hard not to get caught up in all of the background noise. This requires deep work. Deep, deliberate work. Since reading the book, ‘The War of Art’ – by
Steven Pressfield, I have become aware of what some of these obstacles are; the
procrastination, the frustration, the gut wrenching fear.
A quote that has stuck with me since reading Steven
Pressfields, ‘The War of Art’ is, “If you were born to overthrow the order of
ignorance and injustice of the world, it’s our job to realize it and get down
to business”. Pressfield refers to the
artist as being one who has been given the responsibility of sharing their work
with the world. It is a reference to
this notion of self-sacrifice, responsibility and duty – a duty to serve others
with the work you have to offer.
If you have something to put out into the world, put it
out. I feel as though there is more to
this than just expressing oneself through good writing. There is an altruistic stance to be taken
here. If the expression of yourself,
your imagination, your visions, your ideas and your beliefs can pave way for
positive change, then you owe it to the rest of us to put your work out
It’s now time stop putting on the front in front of the
camera. I promised you that I would keep
this as real and as raw as possible.
I have been struggling with the thought of moving out to the
village. It is a thought that disturbs
me for many reasons, regardless of how much I want to do this. I moved to Siem Reap 8 months ago and it has
now become my everyday reality. I’ve developed
close friendships here, I have support and I have a lot of stimulation to keep
me busy. I’m about to move out after 8
months of trying to settle in to a town so foreign – a challenge in itself. I fear a lot of things right now. I fear the nostalgia I might feel after
leaving my new home, Siem Reap. The memories
I have made here are so close to my heart, they have become part of me, part of
my identity – that may be the issue. On
a journey like this, it’s important to remain as detached as possible. You don’t know where you are going to end up,
and becoming attached and comfortable with one thing or one place can lead to
I struggle with the thought of going to the village and
being bored and lonely. The taste of loneliness
I have experienced since being in Cambodia is unmatched compared to anything I have
ever felt. I can only imagine it will be
more intense once I move out to a rural region.
Ill lay it out for everyone straight up. I have been trying to overcome a particular obstacle that has crippled me my whole life – caring too much for what others think of me. Since starting ‘This is Philanthropy’, the thought of being in the public eye has caused some issues for me, personally. I fear putting my stuff out there and I get caught up in a vicious cycle of trying to perfect my work. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I will never produce perfection. I think any artist will tell you that striving for perfection is the biggest mistake one can make. This is an obstacle that I am trying to overcome with each day.
Slowly, I am coming to terms with everything and I am
preparing myself emotionally and mentally for what is to come. I would be lying if I told you it was all
pain. For the most part, I’m excited and
motivated to get this show on the road. This
is the life I have chosen, and I wouldn’t trade for a thing in the world. I guess, it’s a lesson learned here – that no
matter how much fear you feel, you should move in spite of it if what you are
chasing is something that has meaning to you.
I don’t think fear will ever be absent, especially in the pursuit of
artistic and entrepreneurial ventures.
I’ve found myself waking up during the early hours of each
morning feeling the nerves and the pressure.
I’ve had people tell me that they doubt I will last out in the
village. These comments add to that level
of pressure I feel. At the end of the
day, I have my eyes on the prize. As much
as this is for me, I try to stay in touch with the bigger picture. There is more to this journey than what my
ego would like to have me think. I have
decided to go out and serve both the people in the village and the people who
follow me online. When you seek to serve
those around you, you take on a huge responsibility. Adding value to the lives of those around you
is the main objective here.
One of the core ideas that I would like to explore and
expand on through my writing is the philosophy behind philanthropy. Although my content is based around the
documentation of my journey as a humanitarian worker, I believe there is more
to the conventional definition of philanthropy. The purpose here is to draw a bridge between
philanthropy as a job title, philanthropy as a prestigious label given to those who donate large sums of their
fortune, and the people who aren’t directly involved in any related field of
Through my attempt to bridge this gap, I am curious to see
how the development of a philanthropic philosophy, once adopted, can add value
to people’s lives by improving levels of fulfillment and overall quality of
Let’s begin with the story of Scott Harrison and ‘Charity
The story of Scott Harrison, founder of ‘Charity Water’ is
one that has captivated many people across the globe. Scott began his early career as a nightclub
promoter in Manhattan where he indulged in a life of self-orientated
pleasures. Hitting ultimate success as a
nightclub promoter, he found himself surrounded by fame, fortune and a long
list of dark vices which would later lead to him declaring spiritual, emotional
and moral bankruptcy.
Scott decided to take a turn, embarking on a journey as a
photojournalist on a hospital ship, where he spent 2 years off the coast of Liberia. Experiencing firsthand – the effects of dirty
water, Scott set back to New York on a new mission. Upon returning to NYC in 2006, Scott turned
his full attention to the global water crisis and since then, he has helped
raised $320 million and funded up to 30,000 water projects in 26
countries. On completion, these projects
will provide clean water for up to 8.4 million people.
What I found most interesting about Scott is the way he
hires employees for ‘Charity Water’. Scott
mentions having keen individuals who apply for jobs through ‘Charity Water’. The charity has had a long list of eager
applicants who are willing to “clean the toilets”, just as long as they can
join the mission. On the surface, this
may sound great, however Scott looks at this much differently. When hiring, Charity Water focuses on craft
and excellence before they consider the passion that the candidate may have
towards the mission.
Scott is always on the lookout to hire top performers from
companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft or Tesla who have spent years developing
skills in a particular field of work. It
is at ‘Charity Water’ where these highly skilled individuals get to experience a
new approach to their work, being able to use their expertise to serve others. Once these individuals jump on board, they
then get introduced to the mission behind Charity Water, and that is they get
to witness their skills being put towards significantly impactful philanthropic
This notion of living in service of others is something that
I would like to explore further. I
believe there is more to it than just an artificially compromised corporate
title. What makes it so unique is the
fact that this philosophy can be applied to almost anything in career or
When you look at the definition of philanthropy, you see something
quite different from the stereotypical image of the generous billionaire or the
Philanthropy is – the
desire to promote the welfare of others.
When a school teacher watches his or her students grow, this experience
triggers a positive emotional response. On a neurochemical level, the release
of endorphins invokes this ‘feel-good’ experience. Professions such as these are taken up by
individuals who value this emotional response, sometimes more than the value
they hold for monetary gain. The level
of fulfillment gained from these jobs is enough to sustain passion and perseverance
while performing their work.
So, how can this philanthropic
approach apply to people who work roles where promoting the welfare of others
isn’t a direct priority? This question
may require some outside of the box thinking.
If we can find ways where offering value that exceed the expectations of
those whom we seek to serve, then maybe, just maybe we can begin to make real