Some healing journeys start with a step into the past.
Have you ever breathed life into a dream to make it a reality? It can be daunting to pursue some aspirations beyond the pages of our journals and rich inner worlds, but for Allisa Lim, Cambodia - the birthplace of her roots - was a dream that kept calling her home. In 2022, she answered that call by boarding a plane, excited and unsure of all that awaited her on the other side. Living in Cambodia has since given Allisa a greater appreciation for where she comes from, and continues to inspire dreams that speak to the pride she takes in her roots. This is part of her story.
Leading up to her move, Allisa had sensed she needed to make a significant shift in her life. “Western living can be incredibly fast paced and I was on an all-time high with trying to have an abundant and balanced work and social life. This ultimately led me into burnout with moments of unhealed trauma.”
She yearned for space to breathe, reset, and heal - soon, the idea of travelling to Cambodia took root in her imagination. “I took the leap to travel and really learn how to love myself and love life again.”
Landmarks from history
For Allisa, the draw to this particular place was more personal than any other. Cambodia was simultaneously familiar and new to her in many ways.
“Though I was blessed to grow up in a Khmer household with food and language, I still wasn't clear of my history and what makes Cambodia so special. My entire family up to my grandparents were part of a deadly genocide and were able to survive and start life a new in Canada, but as with all painful memories, it was never easy to ask them what they went through.”
Allisa made sure that learning more about the Khmer Rouge was one of the first things she did when she arrived. As she also walked the sacred grounds of Angkor Wat and uncovered more of Cambodia’s history, she felt an overwhelming sense of pride and awe.
My long-distance boyfriend from Canada came to visit and we visited Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
“When I stepped foot onto each and every temple, I was rushed with emotion knowing that my own people created this beautiful landmark. People all around the world come to visit Cambodia to learn about us … Khmer people have come a long way since the Genocide.
An Apsara sculpture crafted into the walls of Angkor Wat
Rebuilding an entire nation - one family at a time - isn't easy. To see where we have come to with land development, culture and more - we're making history every year. This has really helped me understand my parents more. Who they are, why they are the way they are, and to show more compassion to them moving forward.”
Culture in living colour
In Canada, opportunities to connect with other Khmer people were often scarce. But upon each return to Cambodia after being away, Allisa feels an unmistakable sense of belonging.
“There is nothing better than Cambodia welcoming you back home onto motherland like a lost child finding home. Oftentimes, I hear "Welcome Back" from Khmer people, and I couldn't be more happy.”
Attending a wedding with my grandmother
Allisa had been raised celebrating traditions like Khmer New Year, but experiencing it in Cambodia itself also helped her feel connected on an even deeper level.
“Khmer New Year is a big tradition that we celebrate every year on April 14th. Growing up, we would get together with family and community to see Khmer traditional performances, beautiful clothing, eat good food and pay our respects to culture/buddhism/and those that had passed on before us. It’s a time to reset and pray for good luck, prosperity and health.
Extended family that welcomed me home
It was an incredible time to experience Khmer New Year here. All over Cambodia, people were purchasing water guns and baby powder to spray at each other for three days straight. You can walk, drive, sit on a Tuktuk or back of a truck, and spray everyone with complete joy and love for the new year. This celebration was a beauty to see as Khmer folks were just beaming with happiness.”
Dreams for the future
Allisa’s journey of self-discovery is far from over. As she contemplates the future and shares parts of her journey online, she dreams of shedding more light on Cambodia for others and even passing on the beauty of Khmer culture and language to her own children someday.
Representing at the SEA Games 2023 hosted in Cambodia - The South East Asian games
“I’d love to be able to become the role model my child needs when figuring out their identity as a half Khmer person … I want to be able to teach my own children part of their identity and to show them that it is incredible to be a proud Cambodian. That our country has gone through thick and thin, but never lost our traditions.
Ultimately, I’m looking forward to sharing with the world that even though Cambodia is small and sometimes goes unnoticed in people's South East Asia trip, you're missing out on one of the best experiences in the world.”
To follow along in Allisa’s footsteps as she uncovers more of her life and travels, we invite you to check out her Instagram @allisa.lim.
Has there been a trip or move that helped you reconnect with your own roots? Share in the comments below!
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