It’s Christmas morning and I’ve come out to my office to write this inaugural Virtual Vacation blog post for my trip to Vietnam. Tonight, after Christmas dinner at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, I’m being picked up at 8 PM, by my friend Joanie, to head to the San Francisco airport for our 1 AM flight to Hanoi. Joanie and I are heading out three days before my partner Karyn (our yoga teacher), our two youngest kids (Yeah! They wanted to come!), our tour partners Judy and Surya, and the folks who signed up for this trip from Australia, Mexico, Canada and all over the US.
I wanted a chance to de-jetlag and get oriented in Hanoi before welcoming them all. And tonight is the night we depart.
Right now, I’m sitting in front of a glowing space heater in my unheated, uninsulated office, wearing a down coat over my jammies, along with a pair of worn, black Ugg boots. This will be my last time sitting in my writing space for the next three+ weeks.
In our living room, my four bags are packed and ready to go–a small purse with my passport, visa money, $80 in crisp new US ones for tipping; a large duffel bag full of clothes for three different climates (wet and dry; cool to sweltering); my c-pap machine, and a carry-on backpack with an empty metal water bottle, my electronics, power adapters and converters, my favorite black and white print travel pillow, the return-to-Vietnam memoir Catfish and Mandala, and a print-out of my teaching notes.
Still, the reality that I’m heading for Southeast Asia TONIGHT is completely unreal to me. Even though I dreamed up this trip more than a year ago and have been steadily working to make it a reality ever since, it still hasn’t hit me that it’s actually going to happen–TODAY!
How could it? I’ve been too busy preparing for it: applying for my Vietnam visa, choosing beautiful pictures of Southeast Asia for my website, crafting eight weeks of “X Weeks Till Vietnam” emails for the 16 people who’ve signed up for this adventure, researching the right electrical plugs for the countries I’ll be blogging from, digging through my clothes to find a skirt long enough to cover my knees when visiting the temples at Ankgor Wat, going to the hat store on the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz with my daughter so she could help me choose a hat that will protect my face from the sun without looking dorky. Calling Capitol One to tell them my travel plans so my credit cards will work. Putting a hold on our mail. Briefing our housesitter. Canceling my classes until January 20th. Setting up a vacation message on my email. These and a hundred other tasks have been dominating my to-do lists for months. Now they have all been crossed off.
That’s one thing I love about traveling. At a certain point, you can’t do anything else and everything that is undone goes on the list for “after the trip.” Today, there is nothing left on my list. The only thing in front of me is the unknown future that the next days and weeks will bring. Open space. New sights and sounds and smells. Air I’ve never breathed before. A different sky. New languages. People I have yet to meet. New brightly colored money in ridiculous denominations. Room for discovery and adventure. The fresh landscape of beginner’s mind.
I have never been to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia before. So I will be discovering these countries right along with my students, my family, and you.
I hope you enjoy taking this virtual vacation with me. I will blog as often as circumstances and wifi permit. (I have not-so-fond memories of writing blog posts in Bali and walking around in the night, getting bitten by mosquitoes, holding my laptop up in the air, hoping for a signal.)
In any case, as often as I manage to post, I hope you enjoy this Virtual Vacation.
I suppose the actual vacation won’t be real to me until I step off the plane in Hanoi.
In the spirit of adventure,