The Exploration of Self in the Solo Traveler’s Eyes

If you have walked down quiet streets with only the infrequent tourist or car, you know that the moments lend themselves to quiet reflection. Walking down streets that sometimes I know I will never get back to like in Tokyo or Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City give an even greater sense of the impact of the solo traveler as I walk. Its like touching yet not touching. Feeling for a moment a kindred spirit with the quiet blocks or tree lined country road. We are not one yet we travel through and we know that the road remains but even if we returned nothing would be the same.

I could walk that same small street in Hiroshima or Osaka and it would be different each time. This is a power thing that walking cities has. Cities are dynamic and agents of change too. You just cross over their boundaries and district and neighborhood lines but its ephemeral as you cross.

Combining with a camera that is quick to focus like the FujiFilm X100F and you can capture the things but wonder. Even doing so and getting that image from the walk does it persist? If you returned again, would not all the things be different including you?

Travelers impact but I think are impacted by the places they see. I like cities and their spirits and souls. Each one is different. The spirit of Hue and Hanoi are different but I have to say there is nothing like the spirit of Ho Chi Minh City. Its like a huge force of life that touches down with skyscrapers and temples and parks and lets us see how it will be that one day.

So I gently walk and see and wonder what each day has to bring. The inevitable questions have you been to tourist attraction A, B or C? I gently explain that I’m here for a long time and those things will come. We each let the sights and sounds touch us differently. For another person they only have 5 days here and then board the bus or plane and have a memory of those 5 days. Its all good! For me, I have a few months here. There is nothing to gain to seeing a thing tomorrow when what I really want is to see the city itself and gauge it, find its people, see the small shops lining the alleyways with little neon signs.

I come to the fork in the road and I can bear left or right and I wonder. Does it really matter which way I go? What is to the left I may never see because many of the places I have no idea how to get back to. What is to the right if I take that direction may be shady trees and lined parks and small coffee shoppes with “Hellos” coming out as I go. I get many smiles and “Hellos” from the children. But I’m just crossing their boundaries and will likely never see their shining faces again.

And that’s good for both. Each of us have to be agents of change. The solo traveler can touch only so much and perhaps leaves. For me, my goal is to live longer in a place and experience its change. I get that sense each time and I also learn just a bit about the street I live on.

Movement and moments are always good. Agents of change that let us travel through them and see the ordinary and the remarkable and capture them. They may be there tomorrow but we shall not. Other places call my feet to explore and the lefts and rights are rich. Just like the places I see.

Wandering Country Roads – Thinking of Other Places

Sunday here in Da Lat so I went for a walk. I never quite know where I will end up but this time was so cool! I went down this road past the coffee shoppe I go to for late breakfast on Sundays. Just a small diversion though. While at the coffee shoppe, the manager sat down and we talked about Vietnam and the cities and his life for almost an hour. He told me about growing up in Hue and some of his goals early on. He started out wanting to open a coffee place in Hue but plans changed so he did other things. Then he moved to Da Lat and started working with the place I go on the weekends. We talked a lot about food and the cities of Vietnam. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are interesting to a lot of people but to him they are crowded, full of motorbikes that drive crazy, and the rush of a real commercial and market place. Hanoi is a bit less but its traffic seems to be even more focused.

Anyways, after talking for awhile, I embarked on the walk. Da Lat is on hills so you end up walking up and downhill quite a bit and it feels really good! I had not seen the country side around the city and the big roads slowly dissolve to small country roads. Less people walking and only the occasional car. It was quiet out there today and it gives a person time to reflect and consider while seeing these windy little roads and no horns blaring and city rush. I also took some pictures of the change between the city and the residential and almost country areas I had reached. Today, with its wondrous weather, cooler temperatures, and different sights to see creates a lot of the value I find in staying longer in places. Its not so much the rush to see the historic and tourist sights. Its more to see a city in its non tourist and native state. Quieter, more peaceful, lesser people. No cars and motorbikes. Just fun little country roads to walk. Here’s the latest photo album for Da Lat.

Now back in the hotel room with some cold water and the fan going, I’m left to speculate and wonder on a few things which have caught my attention reading the news this morning.

  1. Retiring in Colombia looks pretty interesting. Costs are very low and the retirement visa is pretty easy to get. I could easily qualify for the long term visa there. Its no big deal getting there from here for me. I just wonder whether I would find the same value at a few levels there as I find in Asia. My core values in Asia are the people, the culture, the food, the history and how the countries all touch. As an example in Asia, traveling between Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Lao is easy. Just a cheap airline or railroad ticket. I could easily go back to Hanoi and see some friends from anywhere and it would not really cause any problems for me.
  2. Infrastructure for the solo traveler in Asia is pretty established. I am not sure if its the same in Colombia. Here in Vietnam, simple things like getting a SIM card, finding restaurants, long stay guest houses or hotels is very easy. Traveling between countries and within is easy if sometimes a bit uncomfortable but flying trumps all here. Hopping on a Vietnam Airlines flight or AirAsia is cheap, easy, and quick.
  3. Visas look doable in Colombia and that’s a big deal to me. I don’t want to settle in a place where its a stretch to get a long term visa. Cambodia to me still wins out as far as ease and it meets the other criteria of travel between places I love, etc.

So with all the choices of going or staying, the feeling of freedom is huge! Would I leave Asia for Colombia? Maybe I would go for awhile. I have the rest of this year pretty well planned out and I started outlining next year to get an idea of what I would need to do.

Between the quiet country roads and the hotel room with the fan going and the cool temperatures, it feels like all needs are met. Its fun to consider another place and even do some research on it. Being so much a vagabond means that no country is a barrier to me. I can go as I please and stay longer in the cheaper places and shorter in the more expensive ones.

Life is good!

A short list of things I need when staying long

Here’s my continuing list of things to find when I stay longer in a place. Not exhaustive but these things seem to be what I need so I spend time looking around on Google Maps and walking to find them.

  1. Laundry services. I never saw washers and dryers like in the states. Instead you take your laundry to a service. In Hanoi, the place down the street did my laundry with 24 hour turn around for a few bucks a week. In Ho Chi Minh City, the homestay family did the laundry every other day so I just left outside my room. In Da Lat I found a nice place that does the same. The price was even cheaper.
  2. Coffee Shops and breakfast food. This was not so hard in Hanoi. My favorite bakery and coffee shop had an excellent selection of food. If you visit Hanoi try Joma Bakery in the old quarter. In Ho Chi Minh City, easy peasy! I had a few favorites and there was always Starbucks to fall back on. In Da Lat most coffee shops besides La Viet do not serve food. Find a local bakery! I found an excellent one that is 5 minutes walk and then I get fresh baked goods and go to the coffee shop I like right on the corner by my hotel.
  3. SIM card top ups. Depending on service you have, you really can just visit a local shop for this and pay for the top up. I use Viettel throughout Vietnam so I visit one of the chain cell phone shops that have the Viettel logo and they fix me up in about 5 minutes and activate the service.
  4. Grocery Store. Easy in all places. There are little neighborhood places on every block and I visited IntiMex in Hanoi for things I needed. Here in Da Lat, down the street is a place that has water, food, snacks, beer, tooth paste. Just about everything!
  5. Getting around in your new home. I include this because its linked to 3 above because nothing works as well for me as Google Maps for walking but you can also use Grab on your phone to order up service. I prefer walking most places since I want my daily walking and photography and I always see stuff worth remembering.
  6. Electronics and replacement cables. Be careful with this. Use a dedicated store that is a chain store is my best advice. You can buy elaborate or crummy fake things easily. I found a store I use for 3 above which is all over Vietnam. I bought lightning cables that worked flawlessly from them. Other places may not be so good. Thế Giới Di Động is the cell phone store I used for both 3 above and buying lightning cables. Not a lot of English spoken in some so have a good idea of what your want in a picture.
  7. Currency Exchange and ATM. If you have to do currency exchange, I would look up jewelry shops first off. They all provide the service. The best is to just get local currency in an ATM and you will pay whatever service charge but the idea is to get money, right? Local money is the best. Vietnamese stores will not take US dollars but some tour companies will. Sometimes a strange mix of needs. I had to go back to US dollars once in Hanoi. That takes a special place that I found 🙂
  8. Food. If you have problems finding food, something is wrong :-). If you want western or Italian or whatever food, I have never been limited. Have had bbq, pizza, Mexican, US food. I only do the US foods or whatever on occasion and end up eating at a few places around the hotel I have found that I like or going farther to new places to check out. The bowl of Pho is around the corner basically. Its so very cheap to eat the local food. Look for places where there are a lot of Vietnamese eating. Menus have pictures!

To me, the best way of doing things was to start exploring immediately on foot. You would be surprised at the things you can find around the hostel or hotel you are in with a little walking. The most confusing was in the old quarter in Hanoi.

There is not a thing I needed I could not find here in Vietnam besides T shirts. The sizes of T shirts, even super extra extra large are meant for smaller bodies. I pretty much just have someone like my ex-wife in the states mail me things every so often to some address. I expect things to take two weeks and for the box to be opened. My mail service will also send FEDex which takes much less. I got a package in Hanoi in 5 days using their service once. I have never had things stolen but the packages are opened and inspected routinely by customs.

I bet you have your list of things or basic needs. I did not include some but I know you will need them like pharmacies which are all over. You may need to find bus stations as well. Another thing which has come up on occasion is an escape. I found that Malls do this well. As a solo traveler, a mall or city market does wonders for me. Its not really the people but the sights and sounds I think.

Now get out there and travel. What you waiting for?

The Elusive Life of the Wanderer – Vagabonds will go!

I’ve felt that the true wonder with a life spent slowly vagabonding is that the places you stop take on a character. Each unique and colored with its new own experience. Moving slowly allows you to say “tomorrow” to things. Days slow down like now in a coffee shoppe in Da Lat. I can stay with the latte and kindle and look out the window at the daily life of the city. Scooters, vegetable carts, people old and young. All are there for the slow vagabond. Life itself slows down when you let it.

Maybe the faster pace works. The 30 countries in 45 days. Perhaps the escape is needed. Or perhaps you business travel and your time is not your destination. Maybe you are an expatriate or nomad. I met a few expats before. I’ve seen the nomads too. Life is at a different pace for both. Then there are the true wanderers. Those that move to no one else’s needs.

If travel is the goal and that’s what I read on Twitter these days with a new community I find myself in; life spins it’s chance wheel and perhaps you find the way and means. For every one vagabond I have met there are others leading those

lives of quiet desperation

as Thoreau would have said. How to find things of worth and then upvote them? Become another person because you secretly have the wanderlust. I fear many people that retire simply stop. Travel is an obsession but not a reality. It’s sad I think. Right when people are freed from the chains of work new limitations take hold.

But are there rules?

So what is this unhealthy fascination with rules? I think it all comes from the decades we spent in work and school. Work tells you that you have responsibility and accountability for things. School teaches you how to get there with easier steps. But soon you are indoctrinated with values and mores that you will need if you step in the workaday world. You know them.

  1. Be on time
  2. Be considerate
  3. Be responsible
  4. Be accountable
  5. Be modest
  6. Be there
  7. And there are more and you know them because you lived them

But after some dog years you figure out that work is not all its cracked up to be. I told my boss,

the tank is empty. I have no more to give

Our group VP asked me every day to reconsider. Age, he would say, is not an issue for someone like you. We trust you and want you to stay. Of course by that point I knew there was no way I would stay. I knew that life awaited out the door from Mountain View, down the street away from Program Management avenue and data centers and servers and misbehaving applications and cloud vendors.

Upon reaching that vaunted view, I found that this is not a rule free thing. There are rules that are there. Perhaps we agree so we move toward them willingly.

What are the few, if any rules, of wandering and vagabonding? I’ve figured out some and there are not many.

  1. Lodging. I cannot just trust to arriving at a place for 3 months and not having a firm grasp on lodging. I want a place that will take the longer stay and then get out of my way.
  2. Food. Well, food is important. I like food. I like to eat.
  3. Money. Without money you do not get the first two things but you have to be careful with this one.
  4. Connections. Do you need them when you wander? Family, friends, relationships?
  5. Possessions. All that stuff you have. What do you do with it?
  6. Closure. If you are going to leave forever, you have to have closure on things. You cannot leave a car, house, possessions behind. Close those things off before you go.
  7. Needs and Wants. Well, this is the superset. You have them. Do you need the first 5 to reach the sixth?
  8. Wandering itself. Do you ned to have all 6 to go?
  9. Solo or group mode. What’s your choice?

All of the other things like choosing a backpack, deciding on clothing, do you pack for a week if you are gone for years, do you want a simple or complex life? Check in or carry on? Blog or write a journal? Active on twitter or facebook? All of these may bring value or cause you pain and may do both. There are huge communities out there of expatriates that can help. Travel forum sites to help you learn. Nomads, vagabonds, RTW, gap year, whatever experts that can assist. The question always is do you need all that?

Here’s the final things if you are retired like me. Can you actually do it when you are old? Will all those younger backpackers make room for you? Are there places in the world where you can live cheaper and have more fun?

I’ll give you a hint on these. Yes to all. Being old has no real bearing on doing a thing. Perhaps you move slower. That’s okay. Backpackers and RTW and digital nomads and gapyear people are all after something too. Finally, here’s a hint on the places that are cheaper. You can live well in Vietnam on your retirement just with social security. Take my word for it. Your room in the hotel may not be 5 stars and your food may be street food except a night or two in a week when a burger and fries, Indian food, pizza, or whatever calls you. I started doing a budget in google docs for everything What a waste of time. If you want a real downer after a few beers out and a nice bowl of Pho or an expensive dinner in Hanoi Vietnam (expensive for Vietnam), then just get that spreadsheet out and ruin it by suddenly feeling the guilt. I can tell you that I have spent no more the last 7 nights than $3.00 for dinner and I get a lot of food. Forget the language barriers too. Menus have pictures. So, yes; you can go cheaper and have more fun and meet engaging and fun people from Vietnam.

Give it a shot if you are about to retire is my advice. What’s the worse that can happen? What’s the best?

How the Cities met the Mike – Observations and ideas

There is some difference I’ve thought to being a city wanderer. I love walking and wandering all day long in cities. They are like living, breathing organisms invested in colors, sights, smells, people. Children that run down the side street and I can hear their hello fading as they go much faster than me. Older people that smile and wave. Young people hurrying past for the afternoon coffee shop appointment. But the city remains even as they go. The gritty, sometimes dirty, often uplifting city with its concrete towers and bustling intersections. No matter where I’ve roamed in the last five months, the cities have been the thing that have gotten me. Taking pictures of city life or what they call street photography is that instantaneous gratification of the lives of things. Not just people though. To me, how people use and are used by things. Light rails and buses, cabs and motorbikes. Hurrying and at ease.

I’ve noticed that in the larger cities there is more manic action. Hanoi has this spirit of things which stretch across the Old Quarter. Its like a frenzied painting of colors, voices, street food, street people all vying for attention. Tokyo seems to have such a wide extreme of activity. Some sedate like at the Emperors Palace and then you have a place like Ginza or Shibuya or Akihabara. A force of urban nature. Then perhaps you get to Ho Chi Minh City. As I’ve said before, its a city of many cities even with its myriad districts. Each has its boundaries but cities really don’t respect the maps of a district. Human agency blares across those carefully drawn lines and people live.

Here in Da Lat I am fortunate to have all of it. There are busier streets with horns honking and voices blaring and the market selling day and night. Then there are the quiet side streets where thinking can be done and wonder achieved.

A quieter and more sedate view of usually bustling Vietnam. A smaller street where the life slows down and smaller businesses thrive and you can slow down and perhaps thrive a bit.

I love to walk outdoors and see the force of nature but I have to admit wandering in cities and doing that urban photography is a thing I truly love. Its like a crazy quilt of varied patterns and materials in Vietnam. I can walk for hours in any of the cities and feel that I’ve hardly scratched the surface. I can get tired and desire some water or an iced coffee or perhaps ice cream and speculate that these two old legs will carry me to a point in 40 some days where I’ve seen something. Will I ever be able to say I have seen Da Lat? No. But tour buses and cabs and motorbike tours cannot either. Those are carefully crafted left and right turns made to give you maximum views of what they feel are the tourist attractions. What about those side streets and the patchwork quilts of life there?

Not really touched so I must go forward. Because walking in a city is like being a part of that city for just a bit. Its highs and lows become yours and its industry becomes your passion.

Then the time is up and I will travel forward to Cambodia and other cities to question and walk and laugh and cry at. Cities are mystical and social and cultural things the extend beyond the boundaries. Culture and social life and values do not have districts or boundaries.

And that’s a good thing I think!

Solo Traveling – there is no book or tips or tricks. Sorry.

I think there is a single, solemn voice of the solo traveler or vagabonder. Sometimes when I’m out walking, I can barely hear it. Many believe that the solo traveler must reach lonely moments or times when all does not line up or things become desperate. This is true. But I want to discuss the other times. I think there are a few things the solo traveler gains by their travel.

  1. The sense of being there. There are no interruptions. In the coffee shoppe, eating a bowl of Pho; walking a street in Hanoi. You are there. There is a more immediate sense of being there without having to explain choices or rationalize the why and how of things to another person.
  2. The feeling of belonging. Yes I am only one but I belong. Not to a group of fellow travelers or backpackers. The bigger and wider thing lets me join. Its the world out there that perhaps welcomes me with either a raindrop or a change in plans.
  3. Changing things up or down. There is no one really to explain to when you want to change things up. The solo traveler can just make a change and perhaps reap the rewards or pay the disadvantages.
  4. Responsibility and Accountability. I don’t like those things much. I subscribe to the philosophy that the less responsibility I have the better I am. I also don’t like accountability. I don’t like owing another person something that may change the entire thing.
  5. Choosing not to. Sometimes the best choice is to choose not to. Not to do a thing which did not impress you or make you want more. Choosing not to is a big thing; but it leads to another…
  6. Choosing to. This is even bigger. Its like 3 above but with power. You have choice!

Finally, the big gorilla in the room is whether you are okay with solitude. If you are gregarious or fun loving or an extravert you may suffer when the road and its impact strikes. The road less traveled may become a hell on earth for you. If you need someone around a lot of the time; a hand to hold, lips to kiss, a meal to share; you may not be so good at this. Perhaps you will be though. Its hard to pronounce a sentence on anyone and say they would enjoy the solo movement instead of the group decision.

Give it some thought when you plan a trip or a backpack thing. Could you, would you do a solo trip? Perhaps a shorter one to see if its your cup of tea. Maybe you will find out you hate it that you need those lips to kiss and that hand to hold or that companionship to feel.

That’s okay too.

I’ve found that during the quiet times over a coffee or after two beers that a truth emerges for me. A thing I wondered about, cursed, hated, wondered about has had another element added. Its like a lens of a thing has opened and let you see it with a different filter. I must confess that I have never been good around a lot of people. I have done better being alone. So when I decided to retire and hit the road in Asia solitude was not one of the things that worried me. I did have some thing though and perhaps if you consider traveling solo these may be interesting.

I worried about money. Did I have enough money and what is enough money to keep my life going? My take is you worry about it you don’t have enough so after a few days I realized trying to keep a budget of meals and money spent on fun and travel and tours it was worthless. Getting rid of that elephant on my back was huge! It meant money could be dismissed.

I was concerned about the pace of my travel. Was I going too fast, too slow, just right? Since I’m by myself I have no one to satisfy but I have learned a thing abut this. There is no too fast or too slow. If you are uncomfortable with the speed you may be going too fast. Slow down! You will only remember the border crossings and visa permits and nothing in-between. I also arrived at meaningful pace of things which relates to the first thing. In places that are expensive like Japan or Singapore, I would spend limited time. In places that are more reasonable like Vietnam or Cambodia I would spend longer. Of course, Vietnam has a wondrous array of things to do across the country for those spending time.

I worried about choices I made of technology. Everything from the Mac laptop and iPhone to the backpack I’m carrying. What I found out with the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L backpack is that its perfect for what I do but I read a lot of reporting on different backpacks. Unfortunately, the only way you can find out a technology will work sometimes is by using it. Just be careful with electrical and USB things. Different countries use different voltages so be careful out there.

So, the $100 question is,

could I do this solo travel thing?

The answer is I don’t know. Sorry. Crystal ball does not show me what you may be scared about or excel at. You could do a shorter trip and be fine and hit the road for months and be weary of it. Let me ask you a question.

Do you talk to yourself or sing songs to yourself?

Its not important if you do or don’t. I do. I have sometimes longish discussions as I walk on a day or perhaps create new lyrics to some old rock song. If you don’t, no big deal.

Doesn’t help much define whether you would be good or even be able to do this, does it. Don’t believe the blogs that say just try a shorter trip as a solo traveler. There is nothing the same as a week in Colorado and a year crossing Southeast Asia. There are no books and no authors and no tricks and no tips.

Sorry but its the way it is to me. You may find out a month into it you are good! You may find out 4.5 months into it some loneliness or sadness and you need a coping mechanism. May I suggest ice cream in a mall or walking in a market in Hanoi? Its not the other people that will do it for you. At least not for me. It was the finding of a thing so different surrounded by new sights and smells and food that seemed to make the difference.

Final question,

should I try this solo travel thing?

Yes and No. Yes you may enjoy it. No. You may hate it.

Daily Da Lat

A day in the life of Da Lat and I. Maybe some day you will make it here. I’ve been here almost a week now. The main reason I came here is because every where I have been its been hot and humid. I would walk hours each day in Hanoi and the sweat would just stream off and I’d stop to get a 1.5 liter bottle of water and sit for awhile. Same in Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. I had read that Da Lat ran cooler but I kinda doubted it. Here’s the snapshot from Google Chrome when you ask about the weather in Da Lat.

Yeah. Well, that’s different than the weather in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City! Its running in the 30s in Ho Chi Minh City and it does not cool off that much. Here it cools off and you need a jacket at night. A jacket feels good! Of course, I did not have such a thing as a jacket so I went to the Da Lat Market and got one. I spent about $20.00 on one that works for me. Its actually hard to find sizes of certain things that fit but coats and jackets are in high demand here so they have good size choices.

Then there’s eating. Eating always is an adventure in Vietnam. I have been eating at Vietnamese restaurants the last few nights. Have spent on the average of about $2.00 for dinners. That is pretty darned good I think! Probably tomorrow will go elsewhere for perhaps Indian food.

Another thing are the scams or people trying to sell you things. Some of the predominant ones in most places are the irritating shoe shine guys, the scooter guys, and the cyclo guys. I do mean guys. I have rarely seen women doing this stuff. Here in Da Lat I have not seen a single shoe shine guy and there are no cyclos. What it means is that you can walk places like around the lake and not be warding off these guys all the time. Walking to a restaurant or coffee shop is a very peaceful type of thing too. Walking all around town is nice. My hotel is in more of a non touristy area so there are not even scooter guys out there. It makes being here much easier.

The other reasons I chose Da Lat was its history. It has this fascinating mix of building styles since it started as a French vacation town. Many of the buildings show the French architecture but buildings are also Swiss in color and shape. It makes taking photographs so much fun! Another reason is the different focus. Away from big tourist things and more to being outdoors, walking around the lake, taking in the sights.

So, all in all, Da Lat is a great final choice for me of a place to hunker down and stay in Vietnam for the end of my time here. I get to enjoy all the above things and see something quite different and not sweat day in and day out with the temperatures in the 30s. Yay!

I’ve been updating my Google Photo’s album so here’s some shots of the day to day stuff I’ve been seeing. The album gets updated at a lesser rate and the number of photographs I have been taking is leveling off to around 10 to 20 a day now.

Its beer in the evening time so I will partake!

Sunday Reflections on the Road – Not less traveled but more remembered…

I’ve been blogging and walking my way across a few places in Vietnam. Have walked and photographed Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Veng Tau, and now Da Lat. I toured also around many temples, burial sites, and took a boat on the fabulous Halong Bay. I was thinking today about how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I have less than 60 days left here so each day seems kinda special.

I’ve also answered questions on Quora a few times about how I did this, what it means to me to be doing it, how age is really no factor in fulfilling your dreams. Sometimes it just takes longer to realize the dream and then while you look at it, it all changes. After all, that’s how dreams are. A friend of mine, Mikka Luster, has started a blog post that is a prelude to his Camino pilgrimage. This is not just a hike from what I see. Its a finding of the way, of losing and gaining oneself in the process. You walk your allotted miles in a day and perhaps end at a hostel with others on the voyage. There is perhaps a sharing of ideas and ideals.

To me, its interesting because its not just a walk or even a vagabond from the city to the park or to the lake. I have never done the Camino and I doubt I will but my view of it is that people do this to find a thing, lose a thing, gain insight, lose for a moment or two the corporate vision. In other words, reboot and recycle. We all need this.

For some of us its the pilgrimage of the Camino and its Way. For others perhaps like me its the daily rambling and the feeling of the legs being tired, the camera battery low, the SD card with images I found along the way. The goal with all this is not to find a thing. Its not to reach some goal. Its the pilgrimage of the Camino and for folks like me its the walk in the city. Come rain, hail, wind we can all still put one foot in front of the other.

What It All Really Means (if anything)…

What it all means is that it has no meaning. I don’t do this to find meaning. I am convinced that if I did this only for meaning, I would have quit by now. Maybe there is truth beyond meaning. Maybe there is blogging because you love how words look next to each other. Perhaps you do photography not to become the next big image master but to explore and record the passages of a day with those steps. Its why I don’t shoot RAW and why come good or bad the images are mine. I also don’t edit photographs that are in RAW format. I want to get better but I want what the camera offers and its effects and limitations.

Kinda like my limitations and effects I guess. I’ve met a few people that are on the road for different reasons. Some of us do this because its the answer to a question never asked but always silently there; poking us in the ribs. Perhaps sullenly demanding we acknowledge its there. Others do this for other reasons. Perhaps financial or work or they have a travel pattern that works for them. Bravo! I say.

Remember as you put your feet in front of one another that others have walked the Camino and found their Way. Its a religious and spiritual thing as much as a physical one I believe. Perhaps you will hit the road and decide that there are things beyond your ken that silently demand you learn of them. Maybe you won’t.

I’ve become convinced that the life of the solo traveler is not lonely nor is it just being alone. I read once the difference between loneliness and solitude,

loneliness is being along and hating it. Solitude is being alone and loving it.

Perhaps you are not a solitary traveler. And that is okay. Maybe you are not a traveler at all and that is okay too. But when, at the end of the day, you ask this,

was today worth it?

There is an answer. It can be No.

Da Lat Exploration Begins – a Good Day One!

Day one in Da Lat was a great day! First off was coffee and a huge breakfast at La Viet coffee called the English breakfast. Couple of eggs, bacon, two kinds of sausage, and toast and two americanos. All of that for about $5.00. Yes!

I had decided to take a longer walk to the downtown and city centre area so I could see some of Da Lat. This city is so different and I am really liking it. Its slower paced, weather is a lot cooler. Reason to go to the city centre area was to go to Da Lat Market. I needed to get a coat. Yes a coat! Here in Da Lat it warms up to a nice 70 degrees and then cools off to about low 50s.

So I found the market which is pretty cool by itself. It has at least three levels which includes fresh fruit and veggies, a food court and then levels of clothing. Most of the stalls sell jackets and sweaters! The fresh vegetables are probably what Da Lat is known for. The coffee growing here is stupendous too. I may take a coffee tour with La Viet Coffee later since you start at their farm and they show you the whole process. Then its to their coffee shoppe and you see the beans being ground and the coffee being made.

I wandered around for a few hours today which was really nice and I think I am really gonna enjoy staying here for awhile. Tonight I am gonna spoil myself and go to a BBQ joint and have some beers and some kind of BBQ.

Da Lat is so very different than Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. I have not been to a place here that’s like it. Here’s some cool facts about its history. I also got really interested in the different things to see here. From the city centre with all shoppes and market to a beautiful lake to walk around. Coffee shoppes are all around the lake and there are fresh food stalls here and there.

I am going to be sharing the photo album more than posting individual photos. Here is the link to the album I am keeping of this adventure.

I’m off for dinner in a bit to a BBQ place. I have a hankering for some BBQ and heer tonight!

Bus Rides and Flights of Fancy

The Sinhtourist bus ride trip report.

We started right at 830am for the 7 hour ride to Da Lat. Its now almost 1130 and we have been going for three hours and one rest break. The bus has these seats and reclining areas most likely built for smaller asian bodies than US backpackers and tourists. Its not uncomfortable just smaller.

There is free wifi on the bus which I am on now with the Mac laptop. Its okay too. It does what its supposed to do just a bit slower. But its free! And its on a bus! What expectations? :-). I don’t have any.

The bus rides at about 60 kilometers an hour I would say and the ride is not too bad. It has some interesting sounding air breaks which tend to squeal and complain when the driver decides its time to slow down for a bigger vehicle.

We are up in the forests and hills between Saigon and Da Lat now and the country is so much different! Its really nice to see trees and open spaces instead of a vast city.

I am wondering if they are going to stop for lunch or we just go straight through. Not particularly hungry. Not used to doing lunches. As I walked this morning stopped at a coffee shop and got a little Banh Mi sandwich and an americano coffee.

At the last rest stop I got some potato chips and an extra water. We got a free water on the bus but it never hurts to have more. The rest stop was more like a fast food place with countless isles of all kinds of food. Prices were reasonable.

We stopped for lunch at this place called the Mandagui Forest Resort. It’s more than half way to Da Lat. Now we are back at it again. Here’s a little ditty for you:

I’m riding the bus the bus to Da Lat
I don’t pack much but what I have I’ve got
This solo travel takes me in the air, rails, and ground
Whatever way I go it’s the best way around

Now I sit back in my chair and watch time tick on
Second or minutes or hours don’t matter alone
This road that’s getting twisty and the bus slows down
Good thing for brakes as long as they’re still around

This poem is done because this is all I have got
On this little bus ride from Saigon to Da Lat

So, in the end, I arrived about an hour late. Taking a bus for 8 hours is interesting but really no more so than riding a train for 30 hours I guess. The bus was built for small bodies and it really chugged up the hills while the other buses sped by. I have two trips here but they are on other buses. Yay!

I also got to the hotel. I’ll be here for 30 days and then decided to move to another hotel. I’m going to think through what my minimal goals are here. I think I would like to slow it down a bit from the 30 days in Ho Chi Minh City.