“Where I am from…? Hmmm, that is always a tricky one. I feel like the more I try to explain, the more complicated it gets. I was born and raised in Boston. I am ethnically Chinese but culturally Cambodian. I went to college in upstate New York and I currently live in Hong Kong. Phew! I think I finally got that one down.
I came from a very low income immigrant family so I knew I wanted a “better life”. I wanted to make something of myself and see as much of the world as possible. I knew with every ounce of my body that I would make it happen.
My first international trip was to India! I know! Out of all places. It was the best way for me to jump right in. It was the summer following my college graduation. I didn’t even have a passport until right before the trip. I was invited on a whim and I eagerly accepted. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. From the moment we stepped off the plane and my lungs filled with a thin layer of dirt from the air, I was like HOLY SHIT, I am really in India. I think that is when I got hooked.
I’ve been living in Hong Kong for two years now. There are so many things I love. My favorite part about the city is that it has the comforts of a Western country but also a very strong authentic culture. I love that I can easily slip into a restaurant or bar without having to speak a lick of Cantonese but vice versa in a dai pai dong where everything is hurried and they are shouting to me in Cantonese. It is such a great hub to so many countries in Asia. I also love that nature is so accessible. I often forget that I live on an island and that I don’t even need to leave the country to go to the beach or the mountains.
I’ve also lived in New York City and briefly, in Bangkok. Those two cities in their own right are spectacular. New York City always kept me on my toes. It was the first place I lived right after college. I loved how every day was different. I could break away from the hustle and bustle and stumble upon a little side street with hidden gems whether it was a cool boutique filled with curated design goods or the perfect patch of grass under the warm sunshine.
And then there is crazy, hectic, energetic Bangkok. I was only there for a few months but I loved every second of it. Thailand was really close to my SE Asian roots so I felt really comfortable with the language, the food, and the culture. The food alone won my heart.
I’ve always made sure that I have a very good work/life balance. It is something that is very important to me. I am fortunate that I have the ability to work from anywhere and that traveling is required for work. I’ve spent the last two years in branding in the hospitality industry. Our clientele was spread across Asia and Africa which brought me to amazing places along the way.
I travel solo quite often. When I first started backpacking, I absolutely loved it. I was 26 and fearless. I just threw myself into anything and everything. It was the most eye-opening experience ever. I learned a lot about myself and enjoyed great solitude. Then, I had a few friends join me on my trip and it was a different kind of incredible. It was nice to have someone to share the breathtaking moments, amazing eats, and genuine but sometimes very sketchy local experiences. So now, I need the best of both worlds; solo for parts of my trip and a like-minded soul for the other parts.
I hold such a special place in my heart for each place I’ve visited for such different reasons. Cambodia was by far the most unique experience in my lifetime. My family is from Cambodia so it has always been on the top of my list. I visited for the first time in December 2012, where I met my entire extended family for the very first time. I have been back three times since.
Japan. I was a little anxious about going. I knew it was going to be amazing but I had never been that far north in Asia. Southeast Asia was easy for me because it was how I was raised so I’ve always felt more comfortable even though I couldn’t speak the language. Japan was much more foreign to me; I didn’t know a lot about the history, language, and couldn’t really wrap my head around the culture. After spending a month there, I am completely in love. The people, the food, the nature, the art, and the efficiency all took me by surprise.
Thailand and Indonesia were scary because I exposed to the ‘life force energy’ idea. Coming from the West, this was a crazy concept but I found myself being in situations where I was more sensitive and susceptive to it and it freaked me out. This was when I was accidentally exposed to Reiki, learned more about chakras and it scared the hell out of me because I wasn’t able to fully understand everything at the moment.
I am a pretty bare minimum traveler but I always need my Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag, it has so many compartments so it helps me stay organized! I also usually carry around a coin purse, camera, lip balm, and headphones. Oh and my arm candy! I can’t travel without it, I usually add something as I go, it’s the only thing I really buy when I’m traveling.
WHERE TO NEXT?
I am spending the summer with my friends and family back in the States until I scheme up my next destination. I am thinking I should finally tackle parts of China!”
-as told by Look at the World Around You
Chhorvy Ly is a designer and art director living in Hong Kong. Follow her on Instagram @chhorvy.
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