Was it fate?

26 Apr

I’m one of those people who has the annoying habit of forever looking back and thinking ‘What if…?’ I spend a lot of time thinking about my trip to Hanoi in this context. Originally I was meant to be travelling to Nepal to do some volunteer work but ended up changing my mind because at the time there was a lot of violent protests happening and it wasn’t very safe for foreigners to be there. So I just picked Vietnam. No clue why. Just grabbed at it. I often think about that random decision and why I chose to travel somewhere I had previously had no interest in.

Another big decision I made was to change my plans and stay in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, rather than out in the suburbs where Morning Star centre was located. This choice haunts me a bit when I talk to other volunteers and travellers because I feel I took the ‘easy way out’ and this often leaves me embarrassed and ashamed. After spending my first few days in the Old Quarter (the centre of Hanoi, also the main tourist hub) I moved into a hotel in the suburbs. I lasted a week. And yeah, this is embarrassing. I was uncomfortable, nobody spoke english, there were constant power cuts. In the Old Quarter I knew where I was going, I could talk to people, and I felt safe. So I moved back.

In hindsight, I don’t regret this decision. Living in the Old Quarter for three months I made some amazing friends, experienced out of this world events, and really broadened my mind in a way I think living in the suburbs would not have allowed me to. But still I often think about it. Would my experience have been more ‘authentic’ if I had been away from the tourists? Would I have had a better experience, perhaps a more worthwhile one? I will never know. But I’ll definitely keep thinking on it.

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2 Responses to “Was it fate?”

  1. Elle April 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Very interesting to hear your views on Morning Star and the living arrangements, seeing as I volunteered there too in 2008. We were placed in a guest house a short walk away from Morning Star with an interesting family (no kids) who barely spoke a word of English. To be perfectly honest I spent the majority of my time there miserable. I felt completely alone and isolated and eventually resented the locals for staring and pointing at me when I ventured out to the shops or for a walk. I can completely understand your feelings of shame and regret as I often wonder how different my time would have been if I were brave enough to try to communicate with locals despite their lack of English. For example, I could have had a crack at learning Vietnamese! I think volunteers often face this dilemma of having the ‘authentic experience’ with locals or socialising with other foreigners which is undoubtedly easier. In short, there is no right experience! It doesn’t make you selfish or rude to spend time with other travellers as I think this is the natural thing to do. The best part is that next time you travel you can have whole new experience by immersing yourself more in the local lifestyle!

    • prupodum May 2, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      It sounds like it was a pretty intense time for you, how long were you there for? Did the negative feelings change in intensity or lessen towards the end?
      Thinking about India – when it got toward the end I felt any frustrations became minimal – maybe because I knew the days were numbered and this wasn’t my life/something that I would consistently deal with, so it kind of flipped and I appreciated it.
      Did the locals try to communicate or were they a bit shy (I don’t think shy is the right word..!)

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