Dear Friends & Family,
As I have shared with some of you since 2020, I have been talking about taking my first trip back to Vietnam. It has been almost 50 years (and feels like many lifetimes ago) since we left in the spring of 1975. I have been spending a lot of time researching everything about Vietnam, and watching many YouTube videos of Vietnam travel has become a favorite.
I have since learned that Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia's most popular travel destinations. I'm amazed to see so much beauty in our small country. I marvel at the breathtaking beaches, impressive mountains, rivers, streams, and rice terraces. Even the smog-filled, hustle bustle of the big cities of Sài Gòn and Hà Nội impact me in a hard-to-explain way. These videos play a part in my desire to experience Vietnam with good feelings and in a positive light. People who've been to Vietnam rave about its beauty and bountiful resources, the culture, tasty food, and, most of all, the people's friendliness and generosity. Vietnam has been growing by leaps and bounds, including the current population of almost 100 million. Many Vietnamese ex-pats from other Southeast Asia countries, Europe, and North America have returned to visit and share their successes or start their businesses in Vietnam. The younger generations have all moved on from the war, are living well, and working towards even better and brighter days ahead.
Since our sister Chánh's sudden passing, I have become acutely aware of how fragile life is. My freak accident in the early part of 2020 and the pandemic cemented my feelings of wanting to make the best out of however long I have left in this lifetime. In the depths of my existential crisis, Vietnam's calling was the loudest of all the voices. "You must go," has been a daily chant, for which my answer is an eager yes. "Yes! Yes, yes. I need to go. I want to go. I will go." I have no more fear, no more worries, only excitement, and anticipation. A longing to return to the motherland, understand our family's place in Vietnam's history, and find peace is finally going to be a reality for me.
Vietnam has changed so much and might as well be a different country. I probably wouldn't recognize any of these places even if they didn't change much. I do remember a few trips here and there to visit our sister Chánh in Sài Gòn and to the Mekong Delta, where Má's sister and her family lived. The war also limited our exposure to other parts of the country, and our family's circumstances did not allow for travel outside our village. Despite a very fast-paced growth, Vietnam is still developing, so there might be parts of the country that will remind me of the past. As I mentally and emotionally prepare myself, I feel I can deal with it all.
I plan to start my trip slowly by doing touristy things to get myself acclimated. Then, when I am comfortable and ready, I will try to immerse myself in the local's life. My goal is to visit our grandfather's burial site first, then look up all the old places we lived and frequented: our house, neighborhood, schools, markets, temples, churches, etc.
I know I had mentioned the trip and invited some of you to join me; the invitation is still open. But, deep in my heart, I know I would be better off going alone because the space I'm in now calls for a soul-awakening solo trip. It's been a long time, and I still envision and anticipate a very emotional return. I've been wondering how it will turn out. Is it going to be more than what my imagination has been working up? What will be my reactions? How will I be received? Am I going to be delighted or disappointed? I expect to experience all kinds of feelings and am excited about them.
I appreciate your support as I embark on this journey. I created this blog to share my experience and to keep in touch with you. I hope you check in often to see where I go, what I see, and how I feel.
Until next time...