10 Days in Vietnam: Just a Backpack and a Purse
What's a plan but a joke anyway, right? When thinking about my winter vacation back in November, I initially planned on going to Bali. But then there was this whole business about a volcano eruption and airport closures. I did not want to get caught in the middle of that, and I'd already been to Bali during my first encounter with Southeast Asia four years ago. I thought, let me go somewhere I've never been to, but that wouldn't be too expensive. Not exactly sure how Vietnam came to mind, but it did, and I'm damned glad for it. So, I planned to hit Da Nang and Hoi An during my solo trip (because somehow I rarely have existing friends on these excursions with me). So long to that plan! I actually ended up making an impromptu two-night journey to Hanoi (the country's capital) while in Vietnam. Generally, plans are good. They can save you money, time, and energy - if you can stick to them. Sometimes, though, loosening the reins and going with the flow (when you've got nothing holding you back) can result in a much richer outcome than expected. Those are the realizations that drive me; that make me look back, smile, and say: Nkem, that was a great decision.
So let's get into it, shall we?
I'll start by saying, I'm quite used to making little things a big deal. I'm just a highly responsive person and have had trouble not commenting on or reacting to every-likkle-ting. However, during this trip, I made a conscious effort (while sober, anyway) to let certain things blow away with the wind, or get washed down with the rain. This started well before I landed in Vietnam; it started with my packing. My entire time spent away from Korea was 12 days. Two were spent in Hong Kong at either end of the trip, and 10 were spent in the land of Phở (I really hope this is not offensive, because ate a looot of Phở while in Vietnam, so I'm just saying...). I packed only a regular backpack and a purse, and I still felt that I had too much with me. I recently heard the statement that to travel light is to travel far, and that stuck with me.
In my opinion, this 'less is more' approach leads you to being free to receive more of the culture, essence, and life of the country or city you're visiting. You don't have material things weighing you down, you're not worried about losing any of your stuff or any of it being stolen. You only have the essentials and are light and free - able to move, able to embrace, able to dance. Anything I may have forgotten at home didn't matter that much anyway, and anything I wanted to buy on my trip that I couldn't make space for didn't really hold that much significance. *Shruggs*
So, I went into this journey with that positive mentality of abundance, and I feel like all other things followed. I wasn't focused on possible flight delays or not being able to connect with the necessary people to get to my accommodations - I just knew everything would work out, and that's exactly what happened. I do think I was a tad too lax, though during my time in Hoi An, my first destination in Vietnam, and that played out in my vulnerability through the trip.
As true as the sky is blue, you know that I lived in hostels on this trip. To me, choosing the right hostel is the most important thing during a solo trip, but can be pretty difficult. I mean, you're basing your choice off of reviews of other travelers as well as pictures online. Some of it comes down to discernment and some of it comes down to luck. I definitely lucked out staying at Paddy's Hostel and Bar. They had such great features (like free breakfast, free beer, free dinner, awesome games to bring people together, a weird-looking but cute dog) and an amazing atmosphere. I spent most of my time at Paddy's, so I made the most connections there. In retrospect, I'm pretty damned surprised at the closeness I attained with some of these folks who I met and knew for less than two weeks - I'm not even that close with "friends" I've known for over 10 years! I (apparently) became so close with these people (or maybe my guard was so low because of the vitamin D finally entering my system after months) that I had a go0o0o0d cry sesh on my way out of town to my next location. I've mentioned to friends that I felt like I was going through a break up! I know that sounds intense, and probably a bit too dramatic, but that is truly how I felt.
Thankfully, that feeling didn't last forever. Remember when I said I took an impromptu trip to Hanoi, though I'd only planned on staying in Da Nang and Hoi An? Well, I actually ended up meeting with the core group I became close with in Hoi An! Crazy how a backpacker's life works out. I just embraced my emotions and let life play out as it was supposed to. In the end, I do feel massively fortunate to have connected with people so deeply in such a short amount of time. I know what it's like to be in relationships that I'm indifferent to losing. It'd been a looooong time since I felt the it's too soon to say goodbye sensation.
I won't sit here and chronicle my entire trip on this post - I'm getting bored with those type of stories, anyway. I'm more focused on what I learn through traveling, and if it sticks with me when I return to normal life. I will say that traveling always, always, always broadens my perspective. I know this feeling is not exclusive to me at all - I think everyone who takes a trip that puts them in some sort of discomfort or surprises them in any way feels stretched at the end of the trip. Not sure if it's because I'm, like, almost in my official mid-twenties (does this even mean anything, anyway?), or because I've had a lot of travel experiences in my short time on Earth, but now I come away from each trip with a deeper understanding of the world. In other words, when I took my first solo-trip, I can remember being appalled at the smallest notions of contrast between my world and the world I was in at the time; now, when I take a trip, I feel like I have a new sense that's opened up. I feel like I'm starting to see under the surface and really understand the interior of life. I also feel like I sound like I'm high. And I am... high on life, always!
That seems like a good place to end this post. Stay curious, my friends. Allow life to happen and let the magic unfold. :)