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3 things we can all learn from Vietnam

I have a lot of un-pho-gettable memories from Vietnam (I couldn’t help myself). It was a short and sweet trip lasting 6 days of continuous walking and exploring Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An and a glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City. I loved this part of the world, because it was beautiful yet it also shocked me in many ways – life for the Vietnamese is tough, but that’s what it is, life. Their determination to push on, their strength (even at the oldest of ages), their living conditions, all of these things will easily shut me up the next time I want to complain about space, transport, and rent etc. I’ve returned to Sydney appreciating my life even more, but there are 3 things that have really stuck with me from this trip.

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Make the best of what you have

There’s the breathtaking scenery in Ha Long Bay, there’s the beautiful dream town of Hoi An. There are tiny spaces, pollution, heavy traffic, questionable water and litter all over the streets. It can be a shock for the foreigner, but this is life for the locals in Vietnam. You see women and men in their 80s and 90s set up shop right next to the street serving Banh Mi for $1. You see people drinking coffee or beer, sitting on tiny tools next to open drainage and traffic, yet they continue with their conversations. Street food stalls are washing dishes and drinking water that would easily make any non-local sick. Of course we’d all aim for better things if we had a choice, but while we work towards them, we’ve still got to live life in whatever conditions we’re in. If these guys can do it, you can shut up and deal with your situation as well.

You can bargain, but you can’t stand up for yourself

Congratulations, you saved $2 bargaining over souvenirs at a market stall. Yet, you struggle to negotiate for the pay rise you deserve from a company or the treatment you deserve from a partner or a friend. Why is that? We’d fight for that extra $2, yet we struggle, day in, day out, realising our values and standing up for ourselves.

Take that first step

Here’s how you cross the street in Vietnam. You take one step onto the road. Then you take another. With a slow and steady pace, you maintain a calm expression and focus on a destination point on the other side of the road as you continue to walk. Did I mention that this is through oncoming traffic? There are no pedestrian crossings similar to ours in Australia. You simply have to wade through the traffic. I had to mentally give myself a pep talk every time I had to cross the road. There were times when I even had to run back to side A and try again. There were also times when I walked through and kept repeating to myself “fuck, fuck, oh God, please help me, fuck, holy shit.” I’m still alive, as you can see. Here’s what to take away from this – it’s crazy, but you have to do it. And then you realise, you did it. Now, whatever it is that you’ve always wanted to do, no matter how crazy or difficult it seems, go on and take the first step.