Reflections on Nam

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”- Albert Camus”

I can’t get enough of this quote. I interviewed this woman Anu for my Tri Swim Coach podcast, and she mentioned this quote towards the end of our chat, and it was really meaningful to me. I think this says a lot about my trip to Vietnam, and the way I want to live life.

Even this guy isn’t going to stop me!

So what happened? What was awesome? What did I learn? What sucked?

First, what was awesome?

  • Ok, I really loved the weather! I’m a fan of highs in the 90s and lows in the mid 70s. I was never cold (maybe a little chilly in Dalat when it dropped to like 64 at night), and I never had that miserable hot feeling (like in Thailand last year).
  • Vietnam, of all countries I’ve been to, really changes you. I think it is the wildness of it. Nothing is really predictable, nothing quite works right and every day is an adventure, even if you try to routinize your life.
A rooster balancing on a balcony
  • I only scratched the surface. I realize this. Even in south Vietnam, I didn’t get to do a ton of sight seeing. I was happy with what I did, anyway. I’m open to going back and focusing on the coast and the north next time. I got the feel for it and saw and experienced some awesome and shocking stuff, and tried some new foods.
  • In general, the people in Vietnam are cool- old and young folks. They are not overwhelmingly friendly, like in Bali, but once you interact with them, they tend to be really nice, helpful, and fun-loving (I loved when a couple of the tour guides were making fun of American accents with me!). Despite the fact that there are lots of scams, just like every Asian country, after I was there for a while I never felt like everyone around me saw dollar signs and wanted to scam me.
  • I like the city for a while, but I’m not a big city guy in the long term- and couldn’t see staying in Saigon for much longer than I did. So that part, I did just about right.
  • Two things worked out well as far as meeting people- My Dynamite Circle group, and OkCupid.com (much better and more low-key than in the US).
  • It’s cheap there. I wasn’t necessarily pinching pennies or trying to prove how much money I could save over there, but I ended up saving money anyway. Even with all my travel costs, I came out ahead of where I would have been had I simply stayed in San Diego (of course, renting out my place while I was gone was key).
  • My hotels. With the exception of the roach room and the stinky room, I had a great hotel experience. Really happy I rented out my place back home so I didn’t feel like I had to cut costs on lodging.
  • The food was pretty good but I’m giving Thailand the nod between the two. Noodles just aren’t exciting to me, but the meat varieties in Dalat definitely were!
Tea is served. Always such a nice presentation!

What sucked:

  • Not being able to easily get a snack. There were a couple of days where I burned around 90 minutes just walking around trying to find something to eat! One day I ended up buying an over-ripe avocado and threw half of it out. Other times it was near impossible just to find a Circle K to get some nuts (Circle K’s are EVERYWHERE in the other Asian countries I’ve been to…not in Nam!). Vietnamese don’t snack, they sit down for meals and that’s it (even at 2 a.m.).
  • Not being able to easily go for a jog. Ok I didn’t even bring my running shoes! But the city was impossible to really do a run, unless you do it at like 5am when the traffic is bearable. I felt a little trapped in that respect- there are parks but they are busy, and there’s not a ton of nature in the city otherwise.
  • The smog. It’s awful. I don’t know why nobody talks about this…but Saigon has a terrible pollution problem. The few times I rode on a motorbike, I finally realized why so many people wear those surgical masks- you’re forced to constantly breathe in exhaust from other bikes and cars. I can only take so much of that.
  • The bus ride to Dalat. I was so tired that day, but couldn’t sleep much on the bus due to excessive honking of the horn- and the “sleeper” seats meant for 5’7 Asians.
  • My flight back to the US. Ugh. I specifically booked a flight from Singapore to San Francisco because it was direct. There were plenty of other options where I would have to make a stop before going back to California. Even my ticket said “SIN to SFO”. But when I got on the plane, they announced that we were stopping in Hong Kong. This wouldn’t be so bad in itself, but in Hong Kong, they made everyone get off the plane, go through a 90 minute security line, lose our water bottles, then go through ANOTHER security checkpoint, before getting back on the plane. Not exactly pleasant…or with any kind of logic!
  • Jet lag. Yep, it was bad. It’s Monday, 8 days after my return and I’m FINALLY starting to feel normal. Not sure why it was extra bad this time, but it really seemed to kick my ass more than the last time around. I wonder if I had a regular 8-5 job if this wouldn’t be as much of an issue…as I would be forced to adjust faster?
  • My camera. It’s not a bad camera, really…but some of the pics have this white film look to them. This was from Bali last year, getting rain in the camera. Already got my new camera picked out that I will be ordering soon.

Re-adjusting back to life has been okay. The hardest thing besides the jet lag has been the COLD! I’m definitely ready for spring. I wonder if that groundhog saw his shadow anyway?

I don’t think this guy was paying attention!
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Kevin Koskella

Kevin is a podcaster and writer on living free, despite the crazy world we live in. Kevin travels full time and explores the world and how to achieve and maximize freedom in life.

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