Why did we do this?
There really are so many reasons. I think the only time I’ve actually asked myself “What the f@&$ are we doing?” was just before we flew to Dili and I was having my “What the f@&$ are we doing?” crisis. I forgot about that pretty much as soon as we got off the plane and I haven’t been back there since. I’m confident I know why we’re doing this. How we’re going to do it is another question entirely.
We’ve been on the road for six and half months now. Two glorious months camping across our wide brown land and the rest tripping along less travelled roads or well worn paths through South East Asia. Each border crossing has taken us into lands of different languages, currencies, coffees, fabrics, cultures, customs. The girls have had their cheeks pinched, their corks popped and their limits tested. We were hot and inescapably sweaty for 4 months and loaded down with far too much literal (not metaphoric) baggage. We have had a journey line – a route I guess – and the excitement and newness of the adventure kept the energy up and the momentum high. We were moving forward, ever onwards toward the destination but focused on the journey.
And then we stopped. We stopped for very good reason and necessity. In Hanoi we needed to get our next three visas, we wanted to have some stability for a little while – a corner shop and a kitchen – and we had our wonderful Lynne. A few little side trips but coming back to the same place that we came to know. A pause. A breather of sorts.
Sometimes your legs cramp and your muscles stiffen when you have a breather.
We’re on the move again now, up in the hills, just the 5 of us. Farewelling Lynne we said to ourselves, “That will be us, jumping on a plane bound for Australia, this time next year.” Twelve months. Twelve months feels like a very long time sometimes. In the grand scheme of things I know it’s not. I also know that at the end of that Qantas flight from London in 12 months there will be, mostly, life as we knew it waiting to be resumed. It only takes one moment dwelling on that thought to shake any homesickness away. Life will be there, this will never come again.
Sometimes it takes more effort to get going again after a breather than it does to push through the fatigue and maintain the momentum.
Sitting in a cafe in Sapa, looking out to a complete misty whiteout shrouding what I know only from tourism advertising to be a spectacular valley, I wonder how to keep it up. All of us sharing a room, falling over each other, negotiating every “I don’t want to go out!”, breakfast crumbs on the floor, piles of clothes on every available surface – mostly the floor (wherever you go, that’s where you are!) – even the fog closing us in.
We’ve left home, we’ve learnt to travel as a unit, we’ve been out of our comfort zones. In fact we’ve spent so much time in unfamiliar territory, not knowing what’s next that ‘out of our comfort zone’ has become a place we feel pretty comfortable. The girls have grown and been stretched and all seem older than the six months it’s been since we left. Are we now just ‘doing the do’ in different locations? Have we lost some of the zip we had when the occupation of travelling was new and different, not just the places we were visiting?
Of course it’s not the places it’s us, and our chosen journey. Sustaining the level of ‘wow’ for 18 months will take energy and focus. And refocus. Remembering and reminding ourselves not to close our eyes. Slowing down is ok and necessary. Moving through without actually seeing is not.
I think there is a stiffness and cramping from the Hanoi breather that I just need to stretch out.
So I take a deep breath. Go for a long walk up the winding paths to the top. Watch the Red Dzao and Black H’mong women sew and sell their crafts, walking the streets in their beautiful multicoloured traditional dress. Catch a glimpse of a baby’s tiny fingers in a bundle on a young mother’s back and find again the awe and amazement in this place that is so different from our own.