I get a bit of writers block every time I try to write about a city. I have all of these pictures I want to share, and I have just had an incredible experience, so I sit down to write about it and …. nothing. Maybe that’s why I spent three weeks in Australia stuck on trying to write about crossing the border into Vietnam.
A close friend recently gave me a book of essays by A.A. Gill, a travel writer I have fallen completely in love with. His inscription was “Mindy, Always travel lightly.” It was perfect and I will keep it forever. Gill says the best advice he can give an aspiring writer is: “Never write with a view.” Think about that for a second. Okay, now start reading again… When you travel you need to live it- experience it. When Gill travels he doesn’t bother doing research beforehand. He doesn’t take notes during the trip, just collects bits: ticket stubs, maps, programs. When he comes home he sits down, faces a blank white wall, and writes.
Brian made a point a few days ago that I had never really noticed. He said I write better when things are going wrong. When I am sitting in a beautiful city, sipping an iced coffee, and gazing out at something wonderful- be it a beach, mountain range, or a bunch of kids rolling around in the dirt- words don’t come quickly… or easily. Put me in a dusty, dirty bus station in the middle of the night, with mosquitoes biting my ankles- and I can’t stop typing. I guess that’s my equivalent of a blank white wall.
Looking back, I probably should have waited to write about our journey to Vietnam. The experience was so vivid- so dramatic- so unforgettable. Nothing I wrote could have done it justice, but as I have told the story again and again, I think I have a better idea of how I should have written it. So I am done forcing stories about specific places (as you might have noticed). I am trying to embrace more of the “Write Here, Write Now” kind of thing. See what I did there?
There is so much more I can write about than what I’ve done in each city. I will still continue to write those as they come, but there might be a lot more in between. Who knows, I might still be writing about the amazing places I have seen on this trip for years- the way I have my European backpacking adventure five years ago. There will be fewer pictures in some of these entries… but the impact of this journey goes beyond what I’ve seen. My interactions and my forced acclimation to a world so shockingly different than my own has been the most life-changing. Yes, I loved all of the pointy hats (conical, if you want to get boringly technical) in Vietnam, and I adored the baby tigers in Thailand. I loved riding an elephant in Laos, and I’ll never forget the banyan trees at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But this trip has given me more than great photo ops. It has changed me fundamentally as a person.
When I was in high school, I remember sitting in my room painting intricate swirls and quotes onto an old bookshelf for weeks until it was “just right”. My favorite song at the time was “Drops of Jupiter” by Train- it’s still up there in my top 10. I think the song inspired the whimsical nature of the bookshelf. I think the bookshelf helped to inspire the whimsical nature of my life. Its fairytale-like theme was all about believing, hoping, dreaming… It was a fifteen year old interpretation of what I thought life should be about, and what I have tried to model my life after since.
On this trip, not only did a Thai wind sweep me off my feet, but I finally got the chance to dance along the light of day. Venus blew my mind on one hemisphere, and a few weeks later, the Southern Cross did too. I’ve sailed across the sun and fallen for shooting stars. Everything about these months has been the perfect soul vacation. I think I will always have drops of Asia in my hair. I hope I do.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.