It’s amazing what a year can do to you.
Around this time last year, I traveled to Hanoi for my first solo trip. I didn’t know it then but in hindsight I have that trip to thank for for this journey that I am in now.
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It was in the busy city of Hanoi where I realized how empowering it is to be doing my own thing at my own pace. I spent a week soaking up the city’s joie de vivre and living with sans souci or no worries, getting pleasantly lost in the Old Quarter, reading Murakami by Hoan Kiem and eating slow meals.
It wasn’t all good stuff though. I remember arriving in the city at 2AM, riding with a cab driver who didn’t know English and who initially drove me to the wrong street. I didn’t have my roaming on, so I had no way to get in touch with my hotel or even to send a distressed message to my parents. I kept thinking you wanted this, so deal with it.
I thought I was being lured into some travel scam, with the driver handing my luggage to another stranger… Who apparently is the hotel staff in charge for the night. It’s definitely difficult trust strangers, especially when we’ve been brought up to avoid talking to them or looking them in the eyes. But because of that trip, I’ve learned to be less judgmental and be more open to strangers.
I even met a contestant from the Vietnamese franchise of MasterChef, a woman who fed me in her restaurant and coddled me a bit after learning I came from Manila. She and her German husband apparently lived in Manila during the early 90s before setting up shop in Hanoi. I also met two high school kids along Hoan Kiem, hoping to practice their English. They initially thought I was waiting for someone and was a bit surprised upon learning I was alone. They wanted to know more about where I came from, curious on why I chose to travel the way I do.
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So I went home after a week in Hanoi, returning to my normal. Despite being in a good place at work, I found myself spiraling into confusion and frustration. I became a sobbing, miserable mess of a girl until, nine months later, I finally took the leap and filed my resignation.
You know that famous quote, the one from Anaïs Nin that says:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
It was exactly that feeling, where I couldn’t escape what I really wanted, practicality be damned.
I wanted time for myself. I wanted to slow down, to walk away from my mentally and emotionally draining reality. I wanted to learn and discover what else I can do and how farther I can go, to put into words the ideas brewing in my head and the emotions in my heart. I wanted to read the growing amount of books waiting to be read and most of all, I wanted to travel. I wanted to step outside the norm and be on the road, to soak up the world as much as I can.
And I can’t do all of that if I’m tied to a corporate job where I’m granted only 15 days of vacation leave per year. Not when I’m expected to show up forty hours a week, to be on call for my clients and their demands. Not when I have to deliver pitches, send press releases or mount a product launch.
I’m lucky I have supportive parents who understand my need to do this and friends who believe in this kind of “insanity”. It sounds cliché, but it took a buzzing, crazy city for me get here and I had to drown in my personal chaos to see clearly. Isn’t life funny, the way it all works out in the end?