has always had a way of grounding me. The comforts of the familiar faces that I’ve only seen in old fading photographs welcoming me back with open arms.
Traveling to Vietnam always feels like re-visiting a past world. The cities are beginning to develop against the shellshocked nation. Sky scrapers next to straw huts, newly paved sidewalks and asphalt covering the dirt roads next to lush rice paddy fields–but there’s still so much nostalgia left. There are still so many stories to be heard.
Though its far & expensive–my family has been trying to make visits back to Vietnam as frequent as possible as my grandma begins to age. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve returned and almost 13 years since my parents have and every time I go back I always come back with a new appreciation as well as a continuing respect of the locals there.
I don’t know where to start, I could rant for hours about our 3 weeks there. I brought a little leather journal, but since we hit the ground running it was hard to find any downtime or alone time in general to sit down with any of my thoughts.
We sang and danced on tops of the tallest skyscrapers in Saigon, walked through the rice paddy fields to pay tribute to my grandparents tombs in Long Xuyen, hopped on random motorbikes through the city, floated down the Mekong river, hiked up the green mountains and trekked through the sandy caves of Phong Nha-Ke, made new friends while drinking tea and watching water puppet shows in Hue, drank beer Saigon and road bikes and Xit lo’s through the lantern lit city of Hoi An, soaked in mud baths and then switchbacked to the tops of mountain tops in Da Nang, walked through memorials and seeing the remnants of the horrors of war. Bargained through Cho Banh Thanh and and even attended my aunt’s surprise wedding. Hiked through the fairy streams and had a near death experience not once but two twice–once ziplining through Vung Tau and second almost falling off a cliff riding an ATV off the white sand dunes in Mui Ne. We spent hours listening to my long lost uncles speak about the missing chapters of my parents’ lives. Tears always filled our eyes with every hello and goodbye.
I let the humidity soak into my skin, breathed in the morning dew and let the rain soak in my face. There was a tranquility about traveling without doing it for “the gram” or “facebook”–you tend to forget about all of that when you’re just struggling to find the nearest western bathroom or navigating yourself between back alleys and criss-crossed streets.
For once, I was in the moment. The beauty of traveling such an old country such as Vietnam is that it teaches you mindfulness–to look–to feel–to be. Here in America its so easy to get stuck in doing everything for the next best thing or dwelling on materialism and money. Vietnam came at a much needed time in my life..my boyfriend went into remission, my job became overbearing–I was on a brink of a mental break down. It was nice to take a walk away–to focus on traveling–to only worry about how I was going to get to the next place; or where our next adventure was going to take place. It was the light I needed. The trip was much of a soul search that I was fiending for–it showed me the true colors of the people I thought I knew, gave me a whirlwind of an identity crisis as I teetered between being a Vietnamese American & the daughter of a South Vietnamese exile.
My everyday burdens, my job, everyday conversations with friends and coworkers felt petty when I came back. It’s fueled my need for a change. It’s evoked the necessity of mindfulness and living in the moment. It validated the notion of home as place that I feel for not so much a physical location. There’s so much perspective that I’ve gained since coming back, I would hate to lose sight of it all. My daily humdrum has not been in tune with the life I would like to lead.
This revelation has been burning in the back of mind for quite some time–the trip only amplified my need for it. I’ve decided upon my return that this is the year I start acting on it–for my heart’s sake & for my sanity’s sake.
When I’m in need of some humbling–Vietnam will always be my sanctuary.
Here’s my recap of the magical trip captured on my GoPro