Destination: Some Place Else

…to get away for if only a moment


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26. The Vietnamese right of passage

Worker bee’s swarm,
grinding their way through the daily slog.
Weaving in and out of obstacles,
all with fluid motion and purpose.
Each alleyway and road like the veins of the hive,
its pure energy, is its mother.
Foreigners stand nearby with fear and hesitation,
often finding solace by following the
footsteps of the locals surrounding.
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What I love most about travelling is to be challenged and put out of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I do adore chilling out on the comfort of a beach, partying in an overseas club or seeing beautiful architecture. But the trips where I have come away thinking, I have now grown as a person; well that is the definition of travel for me. It is a journey of space and time, of self discovery and learning about human nature. I have felt this is many places; Turkey, Cambodia, Bosnia, Japan, Peru –this list can go on. I never for a day will forget just how lucky I am to have travelled so much. It is a part of who I am now- a nomad at heart, an observer, a participant and a lover of all things different. As they say, life would be damn dull if we were all the same so why not embrace going to new places and experiencing that first hand.

When visiting Vietnam 6 years ago, that was my first thought. Whoa, this is so different to Melbourne. For if you have ever ventured to Ho Chi Mihn especially, you have to agree that their idea of safe driving practices, are just not held to the same standard as many other Western countries. I really can’t decide if the drivers there are amazing, the worst ever, absolutely crazy or a combination of the three. Not much has changed since then, as on my recent trip this month, though there may be slightly more traffic lights, there are even more drivers to compete for the dwindling space. But I have to say, I just love it. Their ability to navigate in and out of lanes with no sudden or erratic moves when coming head on into oncoming traffic still astounds me. It is pure chaos to the untrained eye, but for the Vietnamese, it just works and is beautiful to watch.

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I especially love just how much they can fit onto one motorbike or bicycle. Maybe it is a freestanding dog on the back, or an entire family (yes I saw 5 people on a motorbike) with babies squished between parents and siblings. I can’t even imagine what our road law officers would say if they saw this. There would surely be a citizen’s arrest if a fellow Melbournian witnessed a toddler standing up at the front of any moving vehicle, constantly swallowing down the mass of pollution from all the vehicles. Bicycles carrying other bicycles, cement, food supplies, your laundry, a mattress, you name it, they have probably tried getting it on there. Quite amazing really. Crossing the road as a foreigner is almost a rite of passage when visiting Vietnam. The first time I visited, I literally stood at a busy intersection for 5 minutes working out how on earth I would cross, as the cars just never stopped. But as a local crossed slowly but with purpose, I realised I would have to do the same. Sure enough, the vehicles did slow and move around me as if I was the parting the Red Sea.

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If you can peel you eyes away from this madness and follow the street corners, that is where you will notice the real magic of side stalls and shop owners, cyclo drivers, exotic fragrances wafting and enticing you’re your senses for the amazing Vietnamese dishes…..which moves me to my next favourite thing about travelling, the food!! My god, the food in Vietnam is so fresh and mouth watering. Part of the experience is to go crazy and try or the specialties as each region usually has one. For example, in Hoi An, it is Cao Lao, a pork and noodle dish that is famous as it uses is water from the oldest well in the town. No this does not equal, food poisoning either-it is beautiful. If you can go a little wild and venture to the street stalls, you will probably eat the best pho you’ve ever tried and mix with the locals (my other favourite thing). On this trip, I have to admit though, since I am carrying a certain little bebe, I had to contain myself just in case. Though there was never any shortage of choices to try out.

Part of travelling is to try different things too. Usually we go on some crazy tour-like the ghost tour in New Orleans, or we hiked the Inca trail in Peru, doing a cooking class or trying an exotic food like a scorpion….but again since we were trying to relax after a crazy year and since this was after all our honeymoon, one of things we tried was Tai Chi. Now many people would relate this to the oldies in the park on a Sunday morning, moving so slowly, that you can’t even imagine how they are getting the benefits of exercise. But right now, I can assure you, that this is not even remotely true.

We tried it on the windiest day, but it was actually perfect. We positioned ourselves in front of the beach and watched as our instructor, donning his white silk outfit, majestically maneuvered the most graceful of movements. I’d love to say that from the beginning, we copied these movements with the same ease and grace, but we looked damn awkward. Maybe it was his patience from all the years of practice that enabled him to show us slowly over and over again. These simple, delicate techniques that when watching a master, will transfix you. I now take my hat off to those oldies, practicing their Tai Chi as after an hour of repetition we were both depleted and my arms and hands were actually quite sore. I would definitely like to try it again….maybe just not in view of the other hotel patrons watching.

I always say to people who haven’t been able to travel much or at all, that if they ever get the chance, to seize it. For me, it has been the best education about life, history and people. I have worked three jobs just to save up enough to get me there, washing dishes, washing hair, whatever it took. I don’t want to say, I’ll wait till I have a mortgage and retire to travel, as how do I know I will make it that long. This is not me being morbid in any respect, far from it. It is me trying to live life in the moment, where I can. Yes, it is always important to also not be too reckless, to save for a house or a car if you want those things, or study for a brighter future. I just believe that any way you can expand your horizons is a good thing and something to wish for. You might realize that no one country has got it completely right too, they are all beautifully different. That like a good recipe, travel is full of wonderful flavours and variations and that by taking that first bite, you might realize you have found your favourite dish.

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25. A rad day…… From a former cynic

There are moments in life, where if you could hit the slow mo button, then you would. Not where you are all talking with a slow drawl and taking a really long, robotic time to get anywhere, but more like if you choose a moment that you could just hang out in when life gets a bit heavy, then that would be it.

Now if you had asked me many years ago, I would have said- oh I know, definitely that day we talked all day over that massive feast, or when we were out all night dancing up a storm, or even right now as I sit on a perfect beach in Phu Quoc, working on my tan. Never in a million years, did I think it would be my wedding day. Ok, this perfect beach is pretty amazing. Ok, and that night partying was super fun…well let’s just say, I have a catalogue. But as days would go, I think our wedding day was up there as the raddest day ever….and I’ve had some pretty rad days.

I was definitely never that little girl, dressing up her barbies in white frocks, picturing my dream wedding and the beautiful gown I would eventually get to wear myself. Instead, I was that tomboy playing with Lego and transformers, running round with no top on till way past the appropriate age. Back then, I didn’t think I was ever going to get married or even thought I would ever want to. I’m pretty sure due to my severe dislike in dresses till early/mid high school, my parents were just waiting for me to come out. But, time has a funny way of changing things.

My interest in boys toys, did eventually turn to dating boys, and as you date you have a series of firsts which can be beautiful, awkward and crushing. First playground crush where he hits you cause he likes you, leaving you uncertain about what love represents. The timid hand hold in the movie theatre, that sloppy first kiss where you keep bumping each other’s teeth and have to wipe your face afterwards, the first embarrassing boob grab where you are not sure if he is actually trying to grope your breast or rip it off. You know the other firsts, some you have tried to push to the back of your mind, some you are still reeling over (wow that was so hot! OR so not!), some we can now laugh about, some we are still experiencing. The list goes on.

But hopefully you find yourself in love or what you thought was your first and only love. Then you break up and think holy shit what was I thinking. Then you get older and things start to get more serious. You get your heart severely broken and you probably also really hurt someone else and either go on to make the same bad mistakes or learn to be different in the next time you put yourself out there. That is if you can scrape yourself back together and decide to date again. I know I’ve had moments of, seriously what is wrong with these men, and maybe that idea of being a lesbian, isn’t so bad…..but then ….I luckily found someone worth the wait.

I think a monumental part of my change was travelling overseas and having a good amount of single time, enjoying life and being free. I had the time to assess what I wanted from life, from a partner and get some carefree fun in too. Now I’m not saying you need to hike across the globe to go find yourself or be a raging slut. But I do think it’s important to know who you are, so when it comes time to settling down, you know you are also fine on your own, as well as in a relationship. When I first met Lewy I told him that for us to work, we had to have our own lives too, as that was something I once lost. I think that after nearly 7 years together, that is why we work so much…and he does everything I say.

Even after meeting Lewy, I was still sceptical about the idea of marriage, but that didn’t mean I loved him even less. I should have been fine with the idea as my parents are still happily married after 40 years, which is a pretty amazing feat in this day and age. I once read that over 50% of marriages end up in divorce, I’m not sure of the stats, but maybe that had been at the back of my mind. I always thought we are a great couple, we don’t need an piece of paper to warrant that. I still believe this. I never want the fact that now we are married means we change as a couple, or we forget how to respect and nurture each other. That just comes later when you have a baby doesn’t it?

I have plenty of friends who will never get married and that is their choice, or others that would love to, but our stupid laws about same sex marriage, forbids it (hopefully not for much longer), but whatever the decision is, every relationship is different and that is what makes it special to those involved. As more of my friends started to get married, it was never a matter of, wow that looks like a fun fad, let’s do that. I still went through moments of trepidation. I’m pretty sure I told Lewy on several occasions that I wasn’t ready or even sure I wanted to.

But then, something changed. Maybe it was the fact that I knew he really wanted to, maybe it was the pressure from my mum (just kidding, sort of), or maybe I was just finally ready. When Lewy proposed, for once, I had no doubt in my mind. Yes it was about the commitment to each other, but foremost we decided it was about having a party where we could celebrate our love for each other in a way that reflected us as individuals and as a couple. Something personal and intimate, fun and relaxing- so what better place than where Lewy grew up to have it, than in Little River at his parent’s pad. We had paella, hay bails, games, a band and we even camped. I think we can look back when we are old and wrinkly, and think we were once pretty cool.

In reflection though, it was much more than that. I look at every single thing that our loved ones did for us leading up to, on the day and afterwards and we will never forget it. It was truly a beautiful bonding experience for both our families and friends and amazing to know everything they did, was all for the love of us. You are not only joining each other, you are joining your families. There is never a time when you can bring two families together in such a loving environment. Only at a funeral, and there is certainly not the open hearted, warm spirit created. Especially over that amount of booze to get the guests there. I’ve got to say our wedding was an absolute love fest, even with the customary hook up between singles at the end of the night.

There is always ways to do it that won’t cost the end of the earth, or ways to do it that really reflects who you are. Some people opt to have all that taken care of and go to a venue, and there were definitely times when we were knee deep in making bunting for decorations when I thought, why did we start this. But on the day, when I looked around and took it all in, I have forever frozen that day in my mind. I also know that when I was walking towards Lewy, I have never felt more sure and happy about getting hitched than I did on that day!

Disclaimer: On the other side, eloping or not getting married will save you a lot of time, money and stress. But where is the fun and good times in that.