GUEST BLOGGER: Carlie Grob shares her experience of travel, adventure, human connection and motorcycle rides in this story about her time in Vietnam. Carlie has been working with Purposeful Nomad for two years as our yoga instructor and chef extraordinaire on our Dominican Republic: Rest & Renew trip.
In a warm house amidst a frigid Boston snow storm, as the New Year clock strikes midnight and the calendar year leaps ahead another digit, surrounded by a small group of friends with a glass of bubbles in my hand, I recall with reverence where I was this very moment 365 days ago.....
My nomadic wandering had brought me to Vietnam with a giant backpack and a lavish if not mildly reckless desire for adventure. I bought myself a used motorcycle and plotted a journey south from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Suffice it to say that the reckless part of the adventure entailed a failure to look into the approaching weather.
Less than half way through my journey southbound, fierce winds and torrential rains belonging to a typhoon blowing in from the Philippines had reached me full of force on my two wheels, the whole of my belongings strapped to the back of my 250 CC’s.
I had hoped to link up for New Years Eve with some fellow travelers I’d met on a boat in Hao Long Bay. It was in this state of water logged urgency to cover ground and arrive at the city of Hue, still a few hours south, that I found myself on the eve of the New Year. So pressing was my desire to make it that I blew past all semblances of town and livelihood until I found myself on an endless stretch of rural highway, the dusk engulfing me, endless sheets of rain and forceful winds trying their hardest to push me off my two wheeled stallion, my vision greatly obscured by the relentless weather and my moral sinking.
This was far from safe and I clearly wasn’t making it to my destination.
Slowing my ride, I peered through the darkness and rain on the road ahead and spied a single light, a beacon. I pulled off the road, and steered my bike under a tin awning. I’d already drawn the attention of everyone as well as a small woman who walked from a back room to inspect the newest sopping wet visitor. It takes me a good few minutes to untangle myself from the wet plastics bags I’m wrapped in. Then, I rile up my courage and approach the strangers on the porch. I butcher a hello in vietnamese and gesture to an empty table. The little woman quickly approaches and I pantomime my best charade for ‘hot soup and drink’, then sit in my soggy silence with my pruned fingers and begin to ponder some of life’s current dilemmas such as: ‘where in the world am I going to sleep tonight?’...
The little lady returns, sets down a bowl of steaming soup in front of me and takes a seat across the table. We sit in silence for some time, her watching me savor the delicious bowl of salty meaty broth. Finally, we attempt to exchange information, again mostly through gestures, giggles and raised eyebrows. Name? Age? Country of origin? Husband? Children? All alone?!?!?!?!
It takes very little time for this wide eyed sweet Vietnamese lady to let me know, not in the way of a question but rather a firm direction, that I am coming home with her.
Some moments later we pull up, still in the torrential rain, to a humble little home and she leads me inside. Two elderly women huddle around a tiny television in a dark corner while a small boy plays with a non functioning electronic gaming set. This is her son. She proceeds to boil several kettles of water and pour them into a bucket, then instructs me to bathe in a corner covered just barely with a thin curtain. I’m so wet, so cold, so tired, I do everything she instructs with utter gratitude in my weary bones.
Then she leads me to her room, four bare walls, a small bed and we crawl into thin cotton sheets with her little boy. It is perhaps 9 pm. I have never felt so deeply exhausted, so mystically right and safe and secure in my place, so full and so deeply and utterly grateful.
This is why I travel. To know the kindness of strangers. To share my light and my heart with those I chance to meet. To feel the love and compassion of humanity. And to learn time and again that across borders and languages and cultures and classes, we are all one family.
As this New Year dawns, I send my blessings to the little Vietnamese lady and her son. I hope that they are safe and happy and healthy, surrounded by family, by love. And may this New Year bring them, myself, and peoples all across this magical planet, abundance and ease, peace and incredible joy.
Happy New Year.