I sat down to write this post almost a month ago. As I began to write, I couldn’t quite pinpoint the theme for my month in Vietman. I kept coming back to the words “hectic” and “chaos” but I felt that the culmination of this growth phase was still to come, so I couldn’t quite explain what I was feeling or why. Now, as I prepare to leave Thailand four weeks later, it’s all become clear.
Several months back I began to feel a squeeze. I was still in the first quarter of my Remote Year and caught up in all the excitement and activity of it all. I knew I had to prepare my taxes before April and as things slowed down at work, I knew I needed to start looking for new projects. For a while my broken ankle slowed me down not only physically, but professionally and personally as well. I was overwhelmed by the prospect of starting any new projects when I was already navigating foreign hospitals, learning to use crutches and facing daily exhaustion. Once my ankle healed, my newfound mobility led to a desire to do and be a part of everything. I’d been limited for two months, so I wanted to get out there and make up for lost time.
When I got to Vietnam I started planning side trips and hobbling around Hanoi, eager to explore the neighborhood in a way I hadn’t been able to in Santiago and Mexico City. Everything was so incredibly cheap in Vietnam! I could buy a two-hour massage for $25 and eat an extravagant meal for $10. I couldn’t believe it. When a few women in my community planned a luxury trip to Siem Reap, I said “what the hell” and hopped onboard. I’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat and thought I could splurge a bit. I’d earned some pampering, hadn’t I? My personal theme for the month was self-care. I was on the road to recovery, so I wanted to treat myself and optimize my health and wellbeing.
The chaos of Hanoi is a great metaphor for the reckless abandon with which I threw myself into Month 5. Hanoi is a messy, bustling city. The sidewalks are covered with parked motorbikes and small tables and chairs set-up outside cafes and restaurants. The streets are full of scooters and some cars and there really aren’t many rules as people weave through lanes and create their own flow of traffic to get to where they’re going. I was grateful I hadn’t broken my ankle in Vietnam, as this urban environment would have been nearly impossible to navigate on crutches. The constant adjustment from uneven sidewalk to potholed street was a unique form of PT for my healing ankle. The weather was hot and extremely humid and mostly overcast, with occasional rain, basically ensuring we were constantly soaked. This was my home base for the month and I loved it.
Early in the month I visited Nha Trang, a touristy resort town where Sam and I spent a weekend. And at the end of the month my friend Karly visited for ten days, so we headed south to quaint Hoi An and picturesque Halong Bay. Karly and I have known each other since childhood. In fact, I believe when I was two years old, she may have been the first baby I’d ever held. We had a great time traveling together and I was glad for the excuse to play tourist and see several spots across the country, but toward the end of her visit, my fantasy life came crashing down around me.
Since I’d put off my taxes until the last minute, at the end of May I was still working with my CPA to get them filed. As I planned trip after trip and spent money on hundreds of “cheap” transactions, I hadn’t thought about what I’d owe the government when the bill finally came. Although I should have spent the month looking for work, instead I took advantage of my reduced work hours and pretended that I was on vacation. When I finally sat down to review my financials, I was appalled at the damage I’d done.
I had seen this train coming as far back as March, but had chosen not to be proactive in avoiding it. I kept saying I had time to figure it all out, that I just couldn’t focus on it with everything else I was dealing with, but once those excuses were no longer valid, I’d booked my schedule so full I just kept digging myself deeper into the hole instead of working to fill it.
I left for Thailand at the end of May determined to focus on a different sort of self-care. Instead of pampering myself in vacation-like indulgence, I’d tighten my belt, explore the free or cheap delights that Chiang Mai had to offer and take advantage of my studio apartment and the privacy it offered as I’d be focused on finding work and cultivating calm. Month 6 in Thailand would be all about re-centering myself and returning to the goals and objectives I’d set before heading off on this adventure. I’ve realized it’s easy to forget that this year of travel is not a vacation. In order to sustain this lifestyle I need to slow down and live within my means. I’m thankful this reality check came when it did as I prepare to move into the second half of 2019. So here’s to the incredible, indulgent month I had and the life lessons and growth opportunities that came out of it.