Tomorrow I will have reached 6 months on the road. I left California and work on 1 March and flew to Japan. I’ve been in Vietnam now for just shy of 6 months and have made my way from north to south starting in Hanoi. I have pretty much stayed a month in each place besides Hanoi where I spent three months. I did that to give a bit of stability to the traveling and to allow me to really see that sprawling, wondrous and captivating city where old and new battle each day. The old quarter ends in many directions and you see sedate bigger streets with government buildings, museums, shopping centers and wide sidewalks.
Traveling south I next went to Ho Chi Minh City for a month. I really loved it there. I stayed in a homestay and was treated like family with home cooked Vietnamese food for dinner, free beer and water bottles, ice cream, laundry service. I walked around all those days and pretty much feel I did not see a lot of the city because its so big. If you go to the Saigon Skydeck you can get an approximation about how massive the city truly is.
From there it was to Da Lat in the central highlands for cooler temperatures and the chance to visit waterfalls, coffee plantations, flower farms, and embroidery factories and artisans. I stayed in Da Lat for 30 days and had a great time there. Its a slower pace and there is not a traffic light in the whole city. Its also cooler and I needed a jacket for the evenings as it dipped down to the 15s and 16s temperature wise. It started raining more as my time was getting done. I departed for two nights back in Ho Chi Minh City because I had changed my plans to get to Da Nang to see among other things the Ba Na Hills and the fabulous Golden Bridge. I did those things and am on my last two weeks here in Da Nang. I have one more tour and then will get a Grab and go to the Marble Mountains for a day.
I also took side trips. While in Hanoi I went to Hoi An and Hue. In Saigon, I went to Vung Tau on the Saigon ferry for a few days. Finally while in Da Lat I went to Nha Trang for a few days. I’ve tried to do at least one side trip to a place each place I have spent the month or longer. Its worked out really well for me.
But now my time draws nigh and I am in my last two weeks in Vietnam. On 15 September I fly back to Ho Chi Minh City for one night and then the next day fly to Cambodia. I’ll be touring Cambodia for 4 months. A month in each place I want to visit. My plan is in February or so to fly to Thailand or Malaysia and tour around.
I will have a year long multiple entry retirement visa in Cambodia so I can use there as a home base and float out to other places while coming back every so often. Travel within the region is very cheap and the multiple flights I will want in February will run about $300 US for all of them.
A few things changed for me as my time in Vietnam has gone on. I have met some of the most wonderful, charming, gracious people here who are now my friends.
So the travel as a solo traveler has been very good! I have not felt depressed or anxious but did feel alone and lonely one time in HCMC. Ice cream and a mall helped out quite a bit. I’ve felt welcomed and accepted here for what I am. I am not a round the world traveler or a digital nomad or a reset or gap year person. I am just traveling to places I want to go at a very slow pace. I have nothing that requires my attention in any one place besides Vietnam. Nothing holds me or bars me going where I want. Each place has been a positive sum game for me and I have felt refreshed and invigorated from a rather stale 20 some years of doing IT and program management. The leaving and retiring has also meant that all debt and property not needed is gone. Not having debt is a huge thing given that for 10 years I was horribly in debt. Divorce came along and struck really hard and there were some years which were really horrible for me. The spirit though is indomitable and I guess through persistence, some luck, and a bit of help with the debt, I came out the other side in 2017. I knew then that I would retire and leave after one final frustrating project I did for the company. A 7 month project was condensed to only 3.5 months due to stakeholder requirements. We did that and met it but in the process having two service vendors and cloud data center providers, new identity management and security requirements, new load balancers, something that had never been done before using all those; left me completely wiped out. I told my group VP when he asked me almost daily to re-think my retirement it was no good. I was just burned out and the tank was empty.
Now I find myself on the cusp of another change. I’ll leave Vietnam and begin another chapter. A slow meandering chapter which will have me settle in Cambodia for a year. Do the things I love doing. I am not into how many visa stamps I can get or countries to visit. The
Asia has become home for me. Its what I expected and suspected before. Its a simpler life. Things cost less and sometimes things don’t work. Wireless access sometimes is hit or miss in some places. It does not matter. Its all there for me and the path slowly wanders and me, being the vagabond, sees how it turns and where it goes but its up to me to just follow or change it.
I hope you enjoy the next chapter of this thing. It will be interesting, fun, sometimes painful, and with plenty of good food and beer along the way. Its with a new camera now and less possessions since I minimized yet again and dropped down to half of what I had. Getting things like laundry done for $2.00 a week means I don’t need a lot of stuff.
So welcome and I hope you find a thing that fits and maybe as your time goes, you will see life on the road is not 45 countries and 3 continents. Its not a week in one place and then 20 others. At least for me, its not. For me, its that slow and gradual movement that gives me the best feeling. I don’t need more passport pages or visa stamps. What I really need I have found. The solo traveling has become the most important and then finding this select group of people that are there for me. That has been one of the nicest finds on this journey.
Perhaps you too will look at the road with yearning and take the path less traveled on and maybe that will make all the difference!