For the past few years I`ve been unsure if I did the right thing jumping straight into the world of graduate school and serious work and second guessing myself for not taking some kind of gap year or prolonging the English teacher period of my life.
That ends now.
So I`m in Vietnam in a kind of party hostel, in one of those places everyone tells you is amazing, and yet I`m here writing about how I have no regrets whatsoever for not taking a longer trip here.
The truth is, Vietnam is an incredible place, and there`s so much to see both on and off the beaten path. And the deeper truth is that while exploration and seeeing completely new things is great and can open your mind, the truth is that depth is more rewarding than breadth.
I`m happy to be here, seeing pagodas and things which I have some slight historical context for. I`m delighted at my horror with the War Remnants Museum and the impact my home country had on this country and region, and appalled that despite all the warnings about never again for various genocides and the seemingly perpetual emphasis on the Holocaust, so little breath was spared to educate me on the devastation wrought by my own country. More on that later.
But yeah, long story short, if I am not straining myself to bust physical limitations or deepening my existing historical and cultural awareness, I don`t think travel is as profound or transformative of an experience. The Banana Pancake trail can be a shallow experience- granted I have not followed the path in Thailand and Laos and there`s a lot yet to see in Vietnam, and I`ve only been travelling it for about 10 days. Like any experience, one can make of it what she or he will. If it`ssomeone`sfirst time leaving Western civilization and they are on their own for the first time, like so many of the young Brits and Dutch I have met, I am sure the feeling of mastery that comes with navigating a new country would be profound.
But I am a vacationer and not a long term traveller, I am spending slightly more to save time and energy, and the tourist infrastructure is well developed. This being said, I don`t think long bus journeys are a mark of self realization and I chose Vietnam because, as a solo traveller during the SE monsoon season, I thought it better to go to a place with more paved roads.
The region has changed a whole lot from when my cousins had a real scare here as a not gap year travellers but professionals who decided to take a break . I`m happy for that.
I`m also happy that Hoi An is a beautiful and romantic place, with an array of tourist goods and tourist prices in a country that has experienced so many difficulty things and had to work itself out of grinding poverty. I`m happy that this little escape from reality exists, and that I saw some Vietnamese tourists in a position to enjoy it, and that hopefully all the revenues of the slightly aggressive shopkeepers will have a multiplier effect in the country.
But one does like some things more andsome things less, and travelling wellon the tourist track with abundant opportunities to party with gap year kids is just not for me. Everytime I talk to them I am so glad I am nearly 30 and I have passed that stage of life. Far from thinking I want to go back, hit the reset button, and geta chance to wander aimlessly and possibly make different choices, I am actually excited to go back to work, to build this blog,to learn Russian, get fit, invest in the life I`m actually living instead of wondering if something`s better elsewhere, and just plan move forward without wondering what if. Yes, there are some amazing experiences one cn have only through long term travel, but there are a lot of benefits of being a flash packer on vacation going back to a life I do genuinely love even if there are some bits I am working on.
So TLDR fuck FOMO. as my friends tried to tell me, I did not miss out, my life is amazing.
I am grateful for this journey and what it taught me. Yes, travel isthe best therapy and it`s not more expensive.
Do the thing you`ve always wanted to do, and if you don`t like it, that`s also a wonderful gift.
I am however looking forward to the next stage of my life, to my next destinations in Vietnam and around the world, and to continue to travel but in a new way that makes more sense for what I truly value:
connection to others
deep understanding and appreciation of culture
connection to nature
immersive physical challenges
shattering preconceptions and shifting mindsets (ok i grant you that sometimes travelling to completely new destinations could be better fort this)
A toast to newly solidified passions and all that the old wanderlust has taught me.
I`m moving on, I`m growing up, and it`sa a beautiful thing.
Much more beautiful than Hoi An, even if it won`t get the same amount of likes on the `gram.