When Traveling is Hard - This American Girl



Rain hails incessantly, transporting leftover scraps of meat, noodles, and egg along a grimy gutter river.

Chihuahuas hide under the eaves of brightly lit shops selling sunglasses, hats, and pajamas.

Motorbikes liberate opaque brown puddles.

Their masters fly clad in neon ponchos.


The typhoon inflicted its flooding chaos over Danang on the Central Coast two days ago. Now Hanoi inherits the aftermath.




I have been hiding here for the past few days afraid to venture further south into typhoon Nari, which caused hundreds of thousands of coastal dwellers to evacuate inland and took fifteen lives.


Today as the city becomes a polluted water park, I am hiding from Hanoi too.




It has been exactly ten days since I left Seattle for Vietnam

and as insensitive as this sounds considering the hardships of those hit by the typhoon

nothing has gone smoothly.


I lost my passport in the airport and recovered it moments before boarding.

I singed my leg, badly, my first time on the back of a motorbike.

I contracted a nasty cold despite traveling with and drinking water kefir daily.

When I hiked to the top of a national park, my camera broke.

My cards were restricted access when I attempted to buy another.

I lost my favorite pair of earrings on my camera-less walk home.


Traveling here, for me, is hard.

Much harder than I realized it would be.




Many times I have felt confused, scammed, ignored.

Lonely, awkward, insecure.

Anxious, afraid, discontent.


I have often questioned

is this what I am truly supposed to be doing?

Is this where I actually belong?

Have I made a huge mistake?




I miss conversing with locals in their native tongue.

I miss socializing in expat run restaurants and cafes.

I miss sinking my feet into the warm sand under the supremacy of the sun.


I miss Central America.




Should I have gone straight to Bali or Thailand to meditate, do yoga, and eat raw organic food?

To swim and surf in the land of expats, jungle, and sea?

To find a place with the comfort of Puerto Viejo in a far away land?


I’d rather drink a green smoothie than munch on chicken feet.

I’d rather move through asana than trudge down a dirty street.

I’d rather be in the jungle than surrounded by concrete.




But wait…

isn’t discomfort

in one sense

the point of travel?


To see and experience an unfamiliar way of life?

To venture beyond what feels like home?

To recognize where you do feel best

but learn how to feel better

no matter where you are?




Because despite these challenges, these differences

every day

I am exposed to incredible beauty.

I encounter respect and kindness.

I meet interesting people who are open to listen and to share.


Where I am does not feel natural or perfect

but I have the tools to reconnect with the limitless light that lives within me

and to see that everything is perfect if I let it be.





against hemp covered cushions

in Hanoi’s one and only health café

I am escaping the sounds, the smells, and the culture of Hanoi.


I am going inside of my cocoon

to become grounded


This American Girl


so that when I emerge

I can find calm in the chaos

I can find beauty in the disrepair

I can find myself

in Vietnam.


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