Over the past few months, I’ve met some wonderful people. It’s embarrassing to say, but I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people, and I let some of these wonderful people disappear from my life without a trace. As I continue trying to unplug (no podcasts or music) and practice my own brand of kinh hành, or walking meditation, before work and sometimes after work along the neon-lit streets of Lạc Long Quân, I think about these people and all they’ve given me. I feel a certain amount of guilt, which I try to let pass, because I feel as if I’ve taken from them more than I’ve given.
However, I’ve also mustered the strength to turn my back and walk away from other people who were simply toxic. People who reminded me of my old, bad habits. People who made me anxious to be around. If there’s one thing that dropping everything and moving to Vietnam has taught me, it’s to grow a bit of a spine, because academia made mine shrivel up like a salted slug.
When you travel abroad, especially when you travel alone, it’s always great to have a support system, because you’ll have so many different emotions assailing you on a daily basis that having a few people to talk to about both your frustrations and triumphs is, in my experience, an absolute life-saver. Strangely enough (if you know me well, that is), my support system developed out of my family (and many whom I consider de facto family). I see much of myself in my sister, and we share stories of our own travels.
And because I’m an incurable literary critic, my father and mother have taken on a sort of Id and Ego dynamic, and I know exactly when I need to talk with one or the other. I suppose if we want to simplify these terms, and make my father the base instinct and my mother the face of reality, I will become the Superego, the moral product of these two psycho-social influences.
I could truly dive down a terrible rabbit hole here, and I want to give this post credit where credit is due. I was inspired to write this after reading my colleague Huyen’s excellent blog: đi thoii (http://dithoii.com), and specifically, this blog post about traveling alone.
I seriously encourage you to copy and paste her articles, especially the traveling alone article, into Google Translate or just translate the page in Chrome, because she has some fantastic insight not only into the philosophy of travel, but travel advice for all of Southeast Asia. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
One thing that Google managed to translate from Huyen’s blog into something I could make sense of was actually quite beautiful: “So one of the pleasures of going alone is the fourfold friend. The accumulation of friends, clusters is the instinct of man, but when alone, the instinct is strong.”
The “four-fold friend;” it reminds me of Fight Club’s “single serving friends” Jack makes on planes. And I have to agree with Huyen- clustering is a human instinct- why else would I be questioning it now? And indeed, when alone, this instinct manifests even stronger- youmight even say fourfold. But what’s important to take away from what these quotes say in context is that you make some wonderful friends along the way, “a crowd of “guests” like dust” she calls them. People, in my eyes, who make you smile, like this:
She seems to have made great peace with this idea of traveling alone- so, I wonder, why haven’t I? I’m writing this blog to reach out to you, dear readers, in some attempt to connect. What I miss is sharing these experiences, in the moment, with someone else. I also miss having someone, like a character foil, who can direct the course of the ship from time to time, because it gets quite exhausting, being your own crew and captain.
I intend to explore this question further- I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and with those chances came so much positivity. Hell, in the past few weeks I’ve changed little by little. It’s important to ask these questions of yourself while traveling. Questions like the ones I asked myself in my more personal blog here. But I have to remember that whether or not I’m physically traveling with anyone, I’ll have those “fourfold friends,” a newfound appreciation for family, and of course, you, dear readers.
So Cheers to traveling alone, but never being lonely!