I have spent the past few days traveling solo (my first time ever traveling internationally alone) across Central Vietnam. I have really just stayed in Hoi An and (by the time you are reading this) have taken an 8 hour motorbike journey to Hue.
I was really excited for this trip for a lot of reasons, namely because I have only heard great things about this part of the world. And all of my expectations have been met and exceeded on this trip. The people here are incredibly nice. The food is amazing. And everything (relatively) is super inexpensive.
More than just enjoying myself, I find I am actually learning a ton here.
And it has only been a few days.
So far, I am really happy with how I have spent my time here (alone). One morning, I did an 7-hour bicycle ride, food/culture tour. It was really good. The tour leader, Tram, was a local who had grown up her entire life in Hoi An. She was extremely energetic, happy and welcoming. She cracked jokes the entire time, but also taught me a lot about what it is like to grow up in this part of the world.
On the bicycle tour, I got to see a lot of the traditional villages that surround Hoi An. There, I interacted with locals, asked them questions and saw where they lived/what they worked on. It was surreal to see first hand – how boat makers make just $100/month (often less) for hours and hours a day of hard labor.
One interesting anecdote was just how badly the floods can be here – often resulting in water levels over 3 meters! Crazy?!? Once or so a year, the locals have to go stay in the attic for a few days. Afterwards, they must clean up their entire stores/homes (often resulting in tons of damaged property).
This is life here.
I also have spent a ton of time “getting lost” in the Ancient city of Hoi An, exploring the night markets and just wandering. People are generally nice (though I am always certain to be careful). Especially people that I have met at hostels and the hosts of them.
This area of the world is a very special place – a weird mix (in my mind) between Venice, Hawaii and parts of East Asia. Though I could not spend more than a few weeks here before wanting to switch things up (more movement), I am really happy I have come here.
I think – the biggest abstraction I can take from this is the relativity of life. People here are genuinely happy. They smile. They stand straight. They welcome you. And, of course, it is easy as a tourist to naively see this as the only reality. There is a lot of suffering, poverty, and tough times here.
But what I am constantly reminded of is that the world is what you make of it.
You can be happy anywhere. You can be the best version of yourself anywhere that you go.
Where you live. Who you are. That does not determine your ability to maximize your fullest potential.
Besides the fluffy stuff, it really is a cool city. The food is amazing. I recommend eating Pho and Banh Mi for every meal – I cannot get enough of it.
Anyways, excited for what is ahead here in Vietnam.