As if living in Vietnam was not already an adventure….after 3 and a half years, I have left Vietnam and am on my way, on the next epic journey. Those of you who know me know that I have done this several times before. And yet this time it feels different. Although I’m not sure how, and if it actually feels different, or if it’s just that it’s been a long time and I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be heading off into the unknown.
My last couple of weeks in Vietnam were a roller coaster.
Hectic, with the stress of having to clean out my entire three and a half years of accumulated existence from my apartment, the last few days of work, complete with ecstatic LAST essay marking, hurried gathering and organization of my documents and files, and one or two sad, lingering goodbyes.
Stressful, with uncertainty about what I was going to do with all my things, people coming to buy items that they then wouldn’t show up for, packing everything up, last minute banking and bureaucracy, and needing to have it all done by a certain date.
Exciting, planning a four month adventure that still has so much up in the air. There are just so many variables on this trip that could go one way or the other that very much actual planning and scheduling has been impossible. All I could do was focus on researching all the places I’d like to go and those random variables and keeping myself as well-informed about them as possible.
Emotional, with incredibly mixed feelings about leaving. I’d look at something or someone and realize that it was the last time I would see it or them, perhaps ever, and be overwhelmed with the feeling of just desperately wanting to stay put, in my comfortable little life, with the people and places I was by now so familiar with and I’d have to remind myself repeatedly that I CHOSE this. This is what I want. I want to travel and go see more of this huge world. I don’t want to stay in Vietnam forever, so sooner or later this had to happen. I would think about all the times I’d been cut off in traffic, or when people tried to rip me off, or the same old mistakes my students made that I was so very tired of correcting, just to make sure I knew WHY. I realize I should just be glad to have had the courage to leave while I still like the place, to not stay until I can’t stand it anymore. I can still look back up on it fondly as one of my many homes, and not some place that I couldn’t wait to escape.
It’s been a rough start. As soon as I left Hanoi, the stress was gone and I was able to relax with friends in Saigon for a weekend. But true to form, my body said ‘ahhhh, now we can be sick’ and I just about immediately got a sinus cold (it does this regularly when I’m stressed and then I get a holiday; I would often spend the first few days of a trip away from Hanoi feeling a bit crap), which only worsened while I went to stay in Hong Kong for a couple of days to get my Chinese visa, and got worse again while I stayed overnight in Bangkok.
Thus I found myself arriving in Ranong, Thailand, planning to enter Burma the very next day, feeling weak and shaky and tired and stuffed up, with my ears constantly plugging and popping from all the flights I’d just taken. I didn’t feel at all like I even wanted to move, never mind go about the hot, sweaty business of exploring a little-traveled area of a developing country.
Thankfully, there’s a beautiful island off the coast of Ranong, where no cars are allowed and there’s only electricity in the evenings. I got to Koh Phayam and found myself a little wooden beachside bungalow to stay in for a few days of recovery.
This is not at all how I’d planned to start my trip, and by now I should be in a small coastal town in Southern Myanmar, perhaps also close to a beach but requiring a fair bit more effort and expense than this place. But it was a good decision, and after a few days of relaxing in my hammock, sleeping a lot, swimming in the ocean, and eating delicious Thai food and fresh fruit, I can once again smell the pine trees next to the beach and have sufficient energy to move on. Burma, here I come!