Handcrafted adventures

Learning journeys

No two Ayana experiences are alike.

Instead of following a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, we take the time to custom design a bespoke itinerary for every group that we work with. For schools and universities looking for an introduction to Cambodia, we are happy to craft experiences that incorporate your specific needs and interests with key themes of enquiry.

We also have extensive expertise in building educational adventures with specific academic or learning goals in mind, with themes to date including social innovation and entrepreneurship, global health policy, humanitarian engineering, education and youth empowerment, and more. Cambodia offers diverse and rich learning opportunities, so please get in touch if you have curriculum criteria you need to meet!

As a taster, here are some examples of the ‘themes of enquiry ’ we most often design programs around…

Culture in Motion



Cambodia is home to a fascinating myriad of cultural traditions, from the captivating dances of the royal court, to the ancient mysticism of the indigenous hill tribes.

The introduction of ‘year zero’ in the 1970s saw many of these almost eradicated, and now young Khmer people find themselves balancing the vital preservation of sacred traditions with the birth of a dynamic, modern Cambodia.

Exploring the ways in which this balance can bring both tension and harmony, this itinerary invites students to examine the role ‘culture’ plays in communities, and consider themes of cultural heritage, conservation, and survival.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • What do we mean when we say ‘culture’?
  • Are some cultures inherently more valuable than others?
  • What challenges might we face when communicating across cultures, and how can we handle them?
  • Is it possible for traditional culture to survive in the modern world?
  • How important is cultural context to development work?
  • How did the Khmer Rouge period impact Cambodian culture?
  • How is Cambodian culture changing as the country experiences increased economic growth and modernisation?

Pathways to Peace



Following the regime referred to by the Khmer people as “3 years, 8 months, 20 days” (aka the Khmer Rouge regime), Cambodia has been on a long, complex journey towards peace and reconciliation.

This process has involved input from the global community – with many of the approaches throughout this period being world ‘firsts’ – whilst simultaneously striving to remain faithful to the specific Cambodian cultural context.

Exploring this journey allows students to meet change-agents, examine peace-building practices, and consider the many challenges faced by post-conflict societies.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • How did colonial rule impact Cambodia?
  • How might regional events have contributed to the rise of the Khmer Rouge?
  • How does the trauma of the 20th century impact present day Cambodia?
  • What efforts are taking place in Cambodia towards peace and reconciliation?
  • What is the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and what does it aim to achieve?
  • What does ‘justice’ mean, and who is able to decide what ‘justice’ means for the Cambodian people?
  • What comparisons might we make between the events of the Khmer Rouge and events happening in the world today?

Religion, Superstitions & Spirituality



95% of Cambodia’s population is Buddhist, and Theravada Buddhism plays a significant role in modern Khmer culture. Fascinatingly, many of the country ’s Buddhist practices are intertwined with traditions from Hinduism, Shivaism, and indigenous Animism, resulting in a uniquely Cambodian spirituality.

By exploring the turbulent history of Khmer Buddhism through the 20th century, learning about core teachings and practices, and encountering ‘socially engaged Buddhism’, students can consider the role of religion and spirituality in communities, and the potential for traditional beliefs to adapt and evolve.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • Where does Buddhism come from and what are the core philosophies?
  • Throughout its history, which faiths and religious practices have been present in Cambodia?
  • Is there a difference between Buddhism as a religion, culture, and philosophy, and if so what are those key differences in Cambodia?
  • What are Cambodia’s indigenous Animist beliefs, and to what extent are they still practiced in Cambodia?
  • What happened to Buddhism during the Khmer Rouge period, and why?
  • To what extent are the ‘sangha’ (monastic communities) involved in supporting development efforts in Cambodia?
  • How might Buddhism organisations be uniquely positioned to address social, environmental, and/or development issues in Cambodia?

Ethical Tourism



Cambodia’s popularity as a tourism destination has grown rapidly in recent decades, bringing both positive and negative impacts for the communities hosting the millions of travellers visiting the Kingdom every year.

Delving behind the scenes of Cambodia’s position on the tourist map unveils the complexities of issues faced by many ‘developing’ nations – including heritage management and UNESCO status, through to environmental conservation, cultural survival, and even child protection – and encourages students to consider their own impact as travellers and global citizens.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • What does ‘responsible tourism’ mean?
  • How might tourism positively impact a destination?
  • What challenges might mass tourism pose for a small community or ‘developing’ country?
  • What is the impact of UNESCO World Heritage status, particularly if this site is located in a ‘developing’ country?
  • How does mass tourism influence the host community ’s traditional culture?
  • How might the popularity of a tourism destination influence the behaviour of the local government?
  • What steps can travellers take to minimise any negative impact they may have?

Development Debates



In the years following the Khmer Rouge thousands of NGOs – both local and international – were established across Cambodia, to the extent that the Kingdom is now home to the world’s second highest number of NGOs per capita.

By examining the role of aid agencies in Cambodia and exploring increasing global criticisms of such work, students will begin to comprehend the complexities of ‘development’ that are often overlooked, gain valuable insights into the intricacies of such work – from a small-scale grassroots level right through to foreign aid agencies – and develop their own opinion on themes such as charity, aid, development, and international relations.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • What do terms like ‘International Development’ and ‘Foreign Aid’ mean?
  • What is the history of foreign intervention in developing nations? What about in Cambodia?
  • How do foreign aid efforts compare to locally-run and/or grassroots NGOs, both in terms of process and impact?
  • What are some of the key arguments for and against international development work and foreign aid?
  • Does receiving financial aid from ‘developed’ nations deter (or prevent) ‘developing’ nations from growing?
  • Whose responsibility is it to help ‘developing’ nations to ‘develop’?
  • Is sensationalism (e.g. ‘poverty porn’) and/or the over-simplification of complex issues acceptable if it results in donations that fund important development programs?

Service in Focus



Volunteering overseas is ever more popular, and Cambodia has found itself a key destination for so-called ‘voluntourists’ wanting to take part in international service projects.

This perhaps once unlikely cross-over between the tourism and development sectors was initially celebrated as a way for anyone to ‘give back’, but is now facing growing criticism from those questioning the motivations and management of international volunteer programs, and the long-term impacts for both volunteers and host communities.

Exploring this deeply complex issue in a real-life context gives students a unique opportunity to evaluate their own understanding of ‘service’, in both Cambodia and their own lives.

Possible themes of enquiry:

  • What is ‘voluntourism’, what is the history of this phenomenon, and why has it become such a popular way to travel?
  • What motivates people to volunteer abroad (rather than at home)?
  • What are some of the key arguments supporting and criticising voluntourism?
  • Do good intentions always equate to positive impacts?
  • Who gains more out of the traditional voluntourism model?
  • Should unskilled volunteers be allowed to engage in development work?
  • What are the impacts of voluntourism in Cambodia?
  • What is ‘orphanage tourism’, and how is it exploitative of vulnerable children? Why has Australia linked orphanage (volun)tourism to modern slavery and human trafficking?

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