vietnam

I'm back by Bree von Bradsky

Hello. It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog, and for that I apologize.

I moved abroad in November of 2016 with the intent of traveling alone for however long I could financially and emotionally support myself. I wanted to emphasize and share with others that women can and do travel to the far ends of the earth. Despite my lack of posting, I want everyone reading this to know that the former statement is a capital t Truth. Over the past year or so I have made tremendous friendships with incredible women from all over the world, each with their own inspiring story.  

When I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on December 4th, 2016, I did not think I’d still be here come the 26th of March 2018. The fact is, is that I still remain in this beautifully chaotic cultural hub and it overjoys me. Last year during Tet Holiday, I went on vacation to Laos with my best friend and housemate, Alyssa. At this point in my travels I had been away from home for three months and I wasn’t sure if I should stay in Hanoi for a bit longer, move on to another country, or even, go home. I really did not know what to do; I wasn’t happy, a lot people weren’t. Trump had just been inaugurated, I wasn’t able to attend any women’s march, and I had been waking up each morning to the news alerts reporting on the egregious events that happened during his first week in office. In a lot of people’s lives this was a tough time. I didn’t know where my place was in the protest if I couldn’t physically be in the US to march for the cause (s). In a conversation with an old college professor of mine, she told me it was important to be abroad; to share with others that Americans can be good. Since then I’ve changed my method of protest to that, well that and writing postcards to my legislatures every once in a while, to tell them what’s up.   

Looking back to my journal I kept in Laos, my internal struggle and I wrote a new list every day: things I need to accomplish before going home, pros of leaving, cons of leaving, places to travel, food to eat, this list of lists could go on. In the end my lists did not bring me any closer to an answer, what did, was spending two weeks in Laos getting reacquainted with the travel bug. This two-week, plan as we went, trip ultimately led me to realize my time abroad was not over. Living in Hanoi is what you make of it, and I came back with a refreshed sense of adventure ready to take on life abroad and I’m so happy I did. Two weeks later I met my, now, partner who allowed me to experience Hanoi again with fresh eyes and so I stayed.

Well, here I am, one year, two months, and twenty-two days later, sitting on the couch of the apartment I share with Coly (my partner), inspired to write again. Not necessarily about the nomadic solo life abroad I originally made this blog about, but about finding a home in a place so far away from my roots, observing the world around me, the projects I'm working on, and of course, the wonderful people I meet.  

Stay tuned for my next update on what I’ve been doing and working on this past year. xx

 

Resisting Comfort in Ha Noi by Bree von Bradsky

I’m afraid I’ve returned to my comfort zone, and for that, I must plan my escape.

For the past two years, I have dreamed about nothing but returning to Ha Noi. The food, the people, and the café culture are all things that have made going back to Ha Noi irresistible. I wanted to live here, start a life; make friends; find a job and become a regular. I truly believed that’s what I wanted. Turns out, I’m already going stir crazy in the city, yearning for the countryside. I’ve been swept into the life of a foreigner living abroad at ease in a large city and I’m not sure that is what I came here for.

Life here is wonderful and I am not complaining. I love Ha Noi; Ha Noi feels like home. Ha Noi has everything I need to live happily and it certainly doesn’t hurt that I was welcomed back with open arms. Vietnamese friends that I made two years ago have reached out, spent time with me at cafés, taught me how to ride a semi-automatic motorbike, taken me to new food joints, tutored me in the Vietnamese language, and have comforted me in moments of doubt.  In my first week in Viet Nam, I had two interviews, found a house, and made new friends with people from India, Egypt, Brazil and South Africa. I used the Vietnamese language. I bargained. I ate many meals alone. I roamed back alleys, busy streets, and parks. Three weeks later, I’m living in Ba Dinh, a district of Ha Noi that is new to me. I have an egg lady, a pineapple lady, and a tea lady. I found a great place for Bun Cha and many Pho “restaurants”. I’ve returned to the same café on my motorbike almost daily, and have been recognized by other locals as someone living in Ha Noi rather than a tourist. This what I wanted, right?

 

As a result of retreating back to Ha Noi and starting a life quite successfully, I feel comfortable. If you know me at all, comfortability and stability scare me.

This past Friday, December 23, I met a South African man with a relaxed demeanor, wild hair and glitter all over his face for holiday spirit.   While we talked outside the ‘expat’ bar, sitting in a circle with other foreigners until 3 am, he explained his life as a hitchhiker. He “hitched” from Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, and Laos to Vietnam and is now in Ha Noi. He's teaching English to make some money while contemplating his next move north to China, Mongolia, and Russia. I admired his adventurous spirit.

Unable to get the stories of his daring travels out of my head, I began to doubt my own experience these past three weeks in Ha Noi. Thinking back to my term abroad, I am reminded of some of the most influential experiences I had… and the majority seem to have taken place in the North. In a month, I plan to go on a two-week holiday to Laos with a housemate of mine during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, but upon my arrival back to Ha Noi in February, I will pursue moving north. 

In the meantime, I'll explore the city of Ha Noi further with the intent for the city to remain my home base.