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Getting Strange in Vietnam

1/17/2017

Welcome to our latest guest post!  This little diddy is from one of our favorite Strangers, Caitlin. Enjoy!

About a year ago, I decided to start saying yes. Because sometime between the yawns of everyday life I started playing good cop bad cop with my ingrained standards, interrogating my own uncertainties, and reevaluated what it means to live. I’ve tried and failed to put into words the feeling of near-weightlessness, a shift in gravity that changed my mentality. It was time to throw my life a little off balance, start trusting strangers a little more and give in to what the world has to offer. It was at that point I decided that I would put my life into 50 liter backpack and trek into a country where English is only found in my trusty phrasebook. I resolved to yes to getting weird, letting go of my ties, and redefining my life path. All I ever wanted was for things to slow down – long enough to take the detour because 50 km doesn’t seem like much farther when you get to see the ocean.

 

So, naturally, when the opportunity presented itself to buy motorbikes in a foreign country only to ride, slide, and brake my way up and down the unkempt roads of Vietnam, I said yes.

And here we were:

My little brother, Kyle, the intelligent introvert – known to drink coffee in all hours of the day and read a book a week. He learned how to ride, yes ride, for the very first time, a motorbike in the beast of a city they call Ho Chi Minh. He only crashed once. And for the record, I’ve saved his life twice, but I think he’s saved mine more than I can count.

Then there’s my dear English friend, Selim, whom I met in Italy last year. His participation played out like this:

 

Selim: hey I see, you’re traveling again, I hope you have fun!

Me: You should drop everything you are doing and come meet me on the other side of the world to ride motorbikes.

Selim: yeah okay, see you next week.

 But he’s more than a good follow through. Selim is the tea and biscuits on a sunny afternoon in Cat Ba and if you don’t know how that feels then imagine your warmest, most special moment and now imagine that moment is a person. We called ourselves the three musketeers because, as cliché as it is, let’s all just admit there’s no better way to describe a trio of fond humans who adventure together.

But let’s not forget, our charming lover, Vietnam. It was there, we found that pho is a breakfast food, not take out at 3am on a Saturday night (but let’s say both, kay?). We learned that rice wine was called “happy water” for a very good reason and that when you find a waterfall, you jump in it. That you will in fact scar from an exhaust burn (they call it the “Asian tattoo”) and that a decent game of charades is the only way to get your bike fixed. I realized that laughter is at the root of all good conversation, especially when you can’t speak the same language, and that gratitude is found across every ocean. The six of us (bikes and all) never really found our way out of that country. And this blog space cannot contain all of the amazingness that Vietnam is, but it can encompass what it means to careen into the unknown with only the most positive intentions. Vietnam woke me up to the beautiful reality of how to live a life ablaze. And how to keep the fire of freedom, unlimited with opportunity, burning behind the two tires we traveled with. We found a little more solace with each good turn, raining or not, cows in the road, honks in our ears, adventure in our soul and curiosity as our destination.

I wonder sometimes, why the world is so strange. But it was there, I learned to be a little bit stranger. Thanks Al, for a bikini that never made me question where I was going next.