Nomadic Living From a Volcano Lake to the Plains of America

We added it up.  Since summer this year, our family has slept in over 40 different beds each!! We have been in 3 countries and will add France to that list by next week.  Nomadic living has taken us off the path and to many hidden jewels.  When we travel, we stop momentarily where the tourists go but always seem to steer off that path usually because its cheaper, more intimate with nationals, quieter, and it feels more like real life.

Last summer, we visited Ratanakiri to delve into a corner of the earth few get to travel.  Twelve different languages within 50 miles of each other! There is no other place like Ratanakiri Cambodia.  Closed to the world, except those willing to take a 2 day moto adventure through mud, until 2 years ago, many of these tribal areas remain untouched from outside influence.  We traveled 10 hours from capital Phnom Penh to arrive in this town and was surprised to find 3 great experiences including a volcano lake, a luxurious hotel with charm and excellent food, and a canoe ride to visit the villages whose language no one speaks except 200-500 people in the entire world.


Terres Rouges Lodge in Ratanakiri

Travel tip: We often book a nice hotel such as this on the second day of our trip.  We show up early and check out late.  Before and after, we stay at a hostel or backpackers place in order to save money.

Lake Yeak Laom

Located approximately 3 mi (4.8 km) from the provincial capital, Banlung, the beautiful lake occupies a 4,000-year-old volcanic crater. Due to the lake’s tremendous depth (157 ft or 48 m), its water is exceptionally clean and clear. The lake is almost perfectly round and measures 0.45 mi (0.72 km) in diameter. Large trees and rich, lush rain forest, the home of many exotic birds and parrots, surround the lake. The water has a mysterious viscous feel yet clear as glass. An unusual sight and feel with mysteries lying on the bottom such as unexploded bombs from Vietnam War and bodies of those who thought they could swim.

Tonle San River Ride

Driving an hour out of Ratanakiri town, we approached the shack, trash lined edge of the Tonle San river to arrange a canoe.  Waiting another hour, a man came running up ready to load.  We road the canoe down the river with our guide who is Chinese but lives in a village with about 200 other Chinese families who left China over 50 years ago.

Eli with Chinese/Khmer canoe driver and tour guide.

The sun was intense on our backs as it was midday with no shade on this 2 hour boat ride.  But, all of us were enthralled as we looked out to find children and adults on the edge of the river scantly dressed and bathing or washing clothes.  He explained that each of these people had their own language.  They were called the Khmer Loeu, Tampuan, Brou and others depending if you asked an outsider or Khmer.  Not much is known about many of them but a few have learned enough Khmer to interact with the outside world.  We stopped and visited the Jarai village of about 200 people.  No-one knows the history of how they got to this land but they have been there since they can remember.  Ancestors knew how to live on the forest alone but now they are employed by outside groups to cut down precious timber by the acres.  We watched as they bathed without clothing unashamed as a community in the river.

hot-on-a-canoe tribal-village-on-river

Recently, we reflected on this trip and other unusual adventures, over a coffee with friends when asked “what have you learned from living a nomadic life?” Here are some unique lessons that came from this conversation:

  1. The less we own, the less there is to stress about.
  2. What we give, God blesses us back. We give to the poor, and we receive from friends and family in America. Sometimes the blessing isn’t material but often joy, contentment, and peace fill our families lives.
  3. Our kids are different.  They don’t have a permament home and they don’t own many toys.  They never slept in a crib or have a bed to call their own.  But, the weird thing is this: they are happy and good (unless you give them American candy and tell them to share it).
  4. Adventure is in our blood.  At a young age, this meant rebellion.  In our adult life, its exploration. We were both made for this life. It’s unusual enough that we are both adventurers.
  5. Finally, it makes our family bonds even stronger and my kids are proud to say they are a ‘Hall”.
  6. Our family and friends in America get to learn these lessons with us as we give a window to life outside of America and outside the normal box.

Every life is unusual and unique.  Yours is too.  Share what is unusual about your life and what you have learned from that?


I’m Glad I’ve Suffered Because of Love

Suffering hurts but I am glad that I have suffered and wouldn’t change the bad things that happened to me.  I’d like to share why.

  1. Suffering has brought friendships deeper and surrounded me with the real friends who truly care and love me.
  2. Suffering taught me that we were created to heal.  That it has a beginning and end and this gives me hope.
  3. Suffering has changed me.  I will never reject a person for their faults or differences.  I have dropped my expectations of others and allowed them to be who they are. I will never allow others to feel rejected but I desire all around me to feel loved.
  4. Suffering helped me embrace everything my senses have to offer each day.  I realize the gift of stepping on soft grass, the smell of a fire, watching waterfalls flow for hours, tasting the sweet, and the pleasant gift of an orchestra.  I’ve come to appreciate all these are gifts to me everyday by the greatest artist of all time.
  5. Suffering strengthened my marriage.  It allowed me to be weak while he was strong.
  6. Finally, suffering made me realize that I was created to love and be loved and anything less was despicable.
Touching an albino porcupine as it slept on my lap.

Have you suffered?  Tell us the lessons you have learned. Are you suffering today? Tell me and I will pray for you.  So many are suffering beyond what I can comprehend and my hope today is to help lift anyone who feels as if it is all meaningless.  Everything about you is meaningful, grande, and important.  You are unique and have a beauty your own!

Goodbyes and Hellos With Adventures To Come!

We got our tickets today and head back to the place our kids call “home” Cambodia.  Mixed feelings fill our hearts.  Mostly joy but fear too. The love we feel from friends and family whose relationships seem to go on hold for another 3 years.  Don’t get us wrong, those 3 years will be a roller coaster of emotions such as joy and pain fighting the dark with light.
One of my favorite bands is Sleeping at Last.  The song “In The Embers” is my life song! My prayer! May my life be surrounded by darkness. May I be like a firework pulling apart the darkness around us.  Darkness of poverty, abuse, need, fear, hate, hopelessness.  Lyrics below:
“In The Embers”
We live and we die
Like fireworks
Our legacies hide
In the embers
May our stories catch fire
And burn bright enough
To catch God’s eye

We live and we die

Like fireworks
We pull apart the dark
Compete against the stars
With all of our hearts
Till our temporary brilliance turns to ash
We pull apart the darkness while we can

May we live and die
A valorous life
May we write it all down
In cursive light

So, I will write it all down with the best words that I can.  I will describe the pain, the joy, and the journey.  Will you come with us? Read our blogs. Comment, like, criticize! May we hear from you and no matter where our paths lead or how far from you we go, may we feel more close to you through sharing our stories and hearing yours!
See yourself as light today for your home, your family, your neighbors, your friends, and your enemies.  Surround yourself with dark and pull it apart with light.  There is no other life that I would live but the life and faith and love.  You can too and PLEASE share your journey with me.  I will always want to listen.
The Halls promise you this, we will continue to explore our world
and share our journeys with you!


Holiday Blues: Our Testimony of Sadness To Joy

It is full blown holiday season and for many a time of happiness, peace, and joy but for others this is not true! The stress of the season can pull many down.  The weather changes can cause darkness and cold decreasing outdoor activity. And often this is a time we feel the loss of loved ones gone or the struggle to bring family together that may not want to be together! But, for us the hardest part of the holidays was learning to enjoy the season without many of our loved ones and without the holiday culture that we had experienced in America.

Enjoying the holidays in a new location is a learning process!

I think this is the worst Santa pic ever! Check out Santa.

We have come a long way. This year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and will return overseas for Christmas.  We realized that we will not have time to do the traditional activities such as putting up the tree and opening presents so we found another solution.  We are planning a stop in Europe for Christmas where we can hopefully worship our Savior at The Cathedral of Notre Dame.  What a unique experience that would be.  Keep following the blog to see if it happens! But, how did a family with 4 kids come to celebrate the holidays with joy when the experiences are so nontraditional and far from those we love.

We want to share our advice for getting the most out of this holiday season!

The biggest drag is expectations! There is a book that helped me the most and not just at the holiday season.  I came to realize that my own expectations of what the holiday season should be were holding me back.  My own expectations of myself were also holding me back.  Expectations of the culture such as the number of gifts our kids get compared to others can also be a hindrance to joy. Lastly, was feeling as if there were expectations from others such as family and friends. It was freeing to realize the power of expectation on my emotions in many aspects of life, I realized that I had allowed these expectations to burden me instead of freely celebrating in a way that was mine and ours as a family. To learn more, read this book about expectations:

You’ve heard the saying:

Jump in With Both Feet!

And, this is true for experiencing the best holiday overseas.  I do not recommend family videoing their Christmas gathering and you watching that in a far location.  You might think that this would help you feel included and happy to be a part but what we have found is that this often leads to tears.  Maybe not at that moment but when the video is done and it is dark and quiet, sadness can creep in.  We have tried to share holidays back and forth with pictures, phone calls, and messages allowing a brief time of enjoying the holidays together but keeping in the present with both feet at the location you are.

Connect Where You Are!

Don’t Try Doing It Alone!

If your single, a couple, or with kids, anywhere you travel, you can find others ready to celebrate.  So join in and make friends where you are. You never know, sometimes these friendships can become as close as family.

Teaching a friend to make Christmas cookies.  Bringing in others who have never celebrated this holiday brings great joy.


Lastly,  Once the above is accomplished, you are free to make your own holiday plans and thats where the joy and excitement for the season begins! I will share some traditions that we have created but go with your own.  You may or may not have kids but holidays can be a joy whether you have 2 or 6!

  1. Before kids, we would often spend the holidays at a nice hotel that had holiday activities and lots of other couples.
  2. Many Thanksgiving holidays we’ve enjoyed cooking for other expats and Asians who wanted to join us. This created a busy and happy atmosphere leaving no room for tears!

3. Include nature in your celebration as being outdoors will lift your spirits. This can be a picnic, hike, or ocean view with holiday songs and reading.

4. For Christmas, we have celebrated the whole week before with daily activities such as making and decorating cookies, attempting a ginger bread house, writing cards to each other and opening them together, a night of singing and worship, and so on.  Some of these activities can be done no matter where we are.

Cambodians like to celebrate Christmas with curry and bread.  Here is the curry being cooked in my back yard and stirred with my broomstick!!

Reflecting back on our first Christmas with a child, we have realized how much our feeling of joy for the holidays has increased no matter where we celebrate.  The first Christmas, there were very few decorations.  We brought this baby tree from America and decorated it with lights we found sold at idol worshipping shops.  Strange, but we were able to create a sense of holiday.

Eli’s First Christmas in Cambodia


Be present this holiday season.  Whatever activities you get to enjoy, be there with your whole mind, all your thoughts, a grateful heart choosing joy.  Often your emotions will follow.  But, if you have a moment of tears, don’t feel guilty but get up the next morning ready to turn it around! Christmas was given as a gift to you in Gods special package and there were no lights on trees and malls to buy gifts on that day! So celebrate this season freely and I think you will realize that this joy is contagious!



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