Mindful travel in Cambodia

Amy McLoughlin
Jul 23, 2023

Cambodia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travellers with over 5 million international tourists arriving in Cambodia in 2016. We're excited to have recently partnered with Ayana Journeys in Cambodia to offer GOOD travellers the opportunity to explore Cambodia whilst having a positive impact on the local community, economy and environment. In this article, Amy McLoughlin, Co-Founder of Ayana Journeys shares some key issues to think about for GOOD travellers planning a trip to Cambodia. 

‍Responsible Travel

It is all too easy to be distracted by the undeniable excitement of a new environment, and forget that the choices you make as a visitor may affect the country, culture, and community in which you’re travelling long after your visa has expired.

Being considerate of the natural environment is an easy way to incorporate mindfulness into your travels. Cambodia currently faces challenges with heavy single-use plastic consumption, only exacerbated by limited recycling opportunities. Bringing a reusable tote bag with you will save using carrier bags - or consider buying an ethical tote bag from Ayana Journeys! Bringing a refillable water bottle with you will also mean you don’t have to buy plastic ones. There are a huge number of hotels, cafes, and other businesses around Cambodia that will happily replenish reusable water bottles at no cost, with a full list available at refillcambodia.com

Opting to rent a bicycle or e-bike instead of a tuktuk or moto will also minimise the impact of your adventures on the local environment.

Spending power

Mindful travel is not limited to being conscious of your environmental footprint, but also incorporates the way in which you spend your money. Many visitors to the world famous Angkor Archaeological Park, for example, choose to buy postcards and souvenirs from children working in and around the temples. While this may appear to be a supportive gesture to someone in need, child protection and responsible tourism experts alike warn that buying from – or giving money to – children incentivises them to leave school in favour of making money from tourists. For more information, visit thinkchildsafe.org.

Similarly, while Siem Reap is the Kingdom’s busiest tourism ‘hub’ it remains one of the country’s poorest provinces, with very little of tourism revenue trickling down to the local population. Consider staying in locally owned accommodation and eating at locally owned restaurants to ensure your money is benefitting the community that is hosting you. The Angkor Visitor Code of Conduct also provides some important dos and don'ts for you to be aware of when visiting the temples of Angkor Wat.

Tourism dollars speak volumes, and taking a moment to research the impact of your spending can be an important step in committing to responsible, mindful tourism practices.

Social Enterprise

The social enterprise scene has blossomed throughout Cambodia in recent years, and there are now a wide variety of ways in which visitors can support local causes while they explore and enjoy the Kingdom. Hospitality training restaurants such as Haven, Spoons, Friends, and Romdeng, for example, offer vulnerable young adults the opportunity to develop professional skills whilst serving up delicious dishes to visitors from around the world.

If you’re interested in picking up mementos of your trip, there are also plenty of social enterprise shopping opportunities. Examples include Friends ‘n’ Stuff – funky accessories from recycled materials – Artisans Angkor – beautifully hand-made traditional crafts – and Dorsu – ethically produced clothing.

For more recommendations of social enterprises to support during your travels in Cambodia, see http://ayanajourneys.com/social-business-recommendations/

Inner Journeys

Travel provides unique potential for personal discovery, and there are plenty of opportunities throughout Cambodia to explore mindfulness of the self. If you’re interested in engaging both mind and body a yoga retreat – of which there are numerous available – may be great way to embrace both physical and mental balance. For a moment of deep relaxation and reflection there are many spas offering massages using traditional techniques, as well as natural and spiritual healing sessions at the Purple Mango Wellness Centre in Siem Reap.

If you have a little more time to spare and are interested in a journey of personal discovery as well as an exploration of Cambodia’s spiritual landscape, Ayana Journeys runs spiritual tours of varying lengths, from half day introductions to two week immersions. Theravada Buddhism is a cornerstone of Cambodia’s culture, and exploring this peaceful philosophy will give you a deeper insight into the Kingdom and its people.

For more information on being a GOOD traveller in Cambodia, we recommend contacting Ayana Journeys, reading the Ayana Journeys pre-departure pack or purchasing a copy of the Responsible Travel Guide Cambodia.

July 23, 2023
5 min read