Its been 30 days that I’ve been traveling. I’ve traversed Vietnam, south to north. I’ve seen more than I thought I would. The big cities – Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi. I’ve motorbiked in the rural areas. I’ve been in the great caves in Phong Nha National Park. I’ve seen many beautiful waterfalls. Cruised at the gorgeous Halong Bay on a junk boat. Hiked through the scenic rice terraces of Sa Pa. It’s too much beauty to handle in a short amount of time. It’s overwhelming.
A high-class problem.
Spending no more than 2-3 days in one location, before catching a sleeper bus to the next major destination. Constantly moving, exploring, experiencing; the senses continuously fed, there is no habituating to any space. Every new place I see is like a weekend getaway; after this weekend is another; there are no weekdays in between my weekends. Constant pleasure! It may sound great, but…
I’m wading through the people of Vietnam, some who have never seen as much of Vietnam in their lifetimes as I have in 3 weeks. This could be a limitation of time, money, or just taking your own home for granted.
I ponder more on the people who don’t have the money. The people who I see on the street, hoping I’ll buy their bananas, water, books, or some other good. The families I see in the rural areas, living very simply, just getting by. It makes me feel guilty. Do I deserve this? It makes me think of their lives, my life. By some fate, I’ve been given the privilege of being relatively wealthy, having the freedom to travel on my savings. I imagine if the tables were turned; what if the people of Vietnam were tourists at my home? I could be the one selling goods on the streets to tourists.
I have a moment of gratitude, being thankful for my privilege. I make a Kiva loan to a Vietnamese woman, Hanh, who is trying to expand her inventory at her small electronics shop. Even though I never saw her, being in Vietnam made me feel more connected to her need.
At this point I move to feeling overwhelmed. After learning of the atrocities of war, and then seeing the people working hard to gain prosperity, it feels like life is a struggle for all of us. What’s the point of existence? What’s the point of this cosmic dance?
These people wake up everyday, trying to make a living. When I go back, I will need to do the same. Back home with some friends, we talk about finding your passion; but for many of the people just getting by, does the question of passion even arise, or is it even relevant?
This great TedTalk from Mike Rowe (20 mins) challenges the idea of finding a job based on passion. Then there’s an inspiring excerpt from Alan Watts that asks, “What would you like to do if money was no object?” (3 mins) And I must say, this video from Alan Watts contributed in some way to helping me decide to leave my job to go backpacking for a few months. It convinced me that experience matters more than money.
It leads me to the question, What makes you come alive? I’d like to find my passion. Or find a cause.
Luckily I know many others who have thought about this.
How will I help create a ripple in this world? My girlfriend Cherry describes how it starts by being a drop. And this does not have to be accomplished through your job – my friends Amit and Cat have written about this eloquently in their blogs.
So I’m in the mode of seeking. There is some pressure to find some deep meaning from this trip. I relieve the pressure by reminding myself that I shouldn’t have such an expectation; this trip may not give me the answer. I also remind myself that the journey is just as important as finding the answer.
You can see my thoughts are divergent at this point. There are a variety of emotions: excitement, guilt, emptiness, gratitude, fear. I feel uncomfortable asking such big questions at moments. But this is exactly the purpose of creating negative space – to be able to reflect on life and explore possibilities.
Feel free to share any blog posts or other links related to this subject in the comments. =)