There’s something about hoisting on a 25lb backpack that, regardless of whether you have any idea what you’re doing, makes you feel legit.
The alarm went off at 6am the morning we left Honolulu for Vietnam. We were mentally preparing for a long day of travel - over 10 hours to Seoul before another 5 hours to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh.
Stoked, scared, excited, and anxious are all appropriate adjectives to describe our state of mind as we leave to explore the world. It feels like we’ve been planning this trip forever, but in reality it’s been just over six months. What started as a list of places we’ve both dreamed of visiting morphed into a lengthy “to do” list taped to our fridge, a savings plan on our kitchen chalk board, and a spreadsheet with tabs titled ‘country costs’, ‘R+M packing list’, and ‘stuff to sell’.
Not surprisingly, a lot goes in to planning a trip this big. We’ve both left our jobs (never thought we’d have a retirement party in our early 30’s), our cottage on Maui, and sold nearly everything we own. We’ve taken passport photos, arranged visa letters, and have Ziploc bags full of medication for everything from diarrhea to bird flu and malaria (vaccinations are surprisingly expensive!).
Less than three hours in to our first flight and we’ve lost a day we’ll never get back in our journey west (see: International Date Line), attempted to sleep during a simulated nighttime by Asiana Airlines, and have learned that we need to sit up straight when meals are served. We manage to stay awake long enough to catch our next flight and (finally) arrive in Ho Chi Minh at 10:40pm, 24 hours after leaving the hotel in O’ahu.
It’s a balmy 85-degrees in the middle of the night in Saigon. Even though it’s late, the energy is palpable. Hundreds of people wait outside the airport and there’s a sea of taxis and motor scooters. We find a taxi that doesn’t try to rip us off and speed through a bustling city to Ms Yang’s, our homestay for the next three nights. A garage door that shields the entrance from the street is lifted and we are greeted by Ms Yang, where we remove our shoes and head upstairs to our room.