top of page
  • Elisse Carma


I was a little anxious about taking our family to Cambodia... but shortly after arriving, Cambodia quickly became one of my favorite places in the world.

playing in the airport

We couldn't decide which two countries to see in Southeast Asia for our February trip this year, but we finally settled on Cambodia and Vietnam. Before the trip, Cambodia seemed other-worldly and dangerous to me, but Brad convinced me that we should take the kids and that from his research, we would be safe and fairly comfortable.

I also wasn't feeling well when we got on the plane, but I cranked up my allergy meds and hoped for the best.

riding in a tuk-tuk

Right away, we were enchanted--we all loved seeing the city in a tuk-tuk, our sole method of transportation that week. Once you get past the initial panic that you are flying down the street without carseats, seatbelts, or doors or anything to hold your children in place... you embrace the thrill, and start to look around and enjoy the buzz and the colors of the city.

talking to a monk in cambodia

Brad arranged a few tours for us, for which I will always be grateful. The tour of a poor village on our first day will forever stay with me. The tour, given by a company who uses their proceeds to help the villages they show, was led by a guide who taught us about the challenges the children face with education and nutrition. I was especially interested to learn about the difficulties women face as they get less education, are pushed into marriage, motherhood, often abuse, and then left without resources to provide for their children. Of course, this is not an issue unique to Cambodia, but seeing these young girls face to face really impacted me, knowing their future held much less opportunity and promise than their male counterparts and especially those of children from the places I've had the privilege to live.

touring the village and schools

I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the kind people who let us visit their village, see their homes and schools, make materials for roofs with them, cook with them, and learn about them. I didn't want them to feel like they were on display for us. I wanted somehow for them to know that I saw them as equals, that I wished I could spend more time learning about them, and that I hoped I and my family would learn from them. The gratitude I felt for them made it that much harder when I realized that my "allergies" were in fact proving to be something much more serious.

helping make roofs

Over the course of the morning I deteriorated quickly. Still determined to capture these moments, I took this picture above and then nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Our guide led us to the next home where I lay on a hard wooden plank bed in a hut with and old pillow under my head, sweating feverishly. Brad and the kids learned to make curry with the woman who lived there. Needless to say, our tour was cut short, and we donated more than we'd planned in hopes that it would help buy them medical care if my illness spread to the village. I knew what this was. It wasn't food poisoning, it wasn't a cold. It was influenza. I knew because my kids all had it before we left Japan. They'd been without fever or symptoms for about 10 days, so I'd been certain we were in the clear. Clearly... we weren't. And now I'd put in danger all of the people we'd flown with the day before and all of the people I'd talked to and touched in this village. It still pains me to think of what might have happened to any elderly or sickly people in this village, if they caught my flu. It's very difficult to travel to a doctor for most of these families. I shed a lot of tears lying on that wooden bed, begging the universe be fair to these generous and welcoming Cambodian people.

sleeping at the airbnb

I spent the next week mostly in bed. It was agonizing, sending Brad and the kids to explore Angkor Wat every day while I laid there sick. Finally we decided I needed to go to the international hospital. I was pretty certain I also had a sinus infection, and while the flu maybe couldn't be treated, at least that could.

the pool at the hotel

A few hours later we found out that I was right. Influenza and a sinus infection. Several medications and IVs later, after the nurse told me to stay overnight, we took another tuk-tuk ride to our airbnb. Near the end of the ride I passed out holding Skye and luckily Brad grabbed both her and me before we fell out. We made it back safely and decided to cancel our flights to Vietnam the next day so as not to spread influenza to yet another plane full of people and yet another foreign country.

etching illegally at Angkor Was

Thanks to the meds I started feeling better and was able to go with the kids to explore a few temples in Angkor Wat. It was well worth the wait.

jumping around at angkor wat

There just aren't words to describe Angkor Wat. It's like it's from another world. It's incredibly ancient, full of history and amazing architecture and beautiful earthy colors.

exploring the temple

There are countless temples within Angkor Wat to explore and the shear size of the place is jaw-droppingly impressive.

in awe of the temple

mom and kids exploring at angkor wat

Honestly, the pictures say it best, so I'll let them tell the rest.

mom and daughter kiss at Angkor Wat

Amelia runs towards the temple

Mom and daughter at Angkor Wat

Dean walks around at the temple

Dad and kids do incense at the temple

Skye walks around at the temple

Amelia at Angkor Wat

Skye holds her dress

Amelia looks around at the carvings

Skye checks out the temple

I am determined to make it back to Cambodia one day--healthy--and explore more temples in Angkor Wat. There is nothing like it in the world, truly a place I'd say should be on everyone's bucket list.

Mom and baby at Angkor Wat

Coming up next: Vietnam.

To read about our flu-pocalypse before this trip, click here.

bottom of page