There's a spot in Vietnam, just outside Hoi An, where a narrow street that's not open to cars turns into a dirt path. The little path opens up to a quiet stretch of a long beach. Its shores are lined with traditional basket boats still used for fishing and the water carries endless waves.
In the spring of 2017, after a week in Ho Chi Minh City and a 20-hour overnight train, LJ ran excitedly down that little road.
When she hit the ocean, it was like every ounce of tension in her little six-year old body was washed away and replaced with a sense of freedom, excitement and ease. She sat in the sand with her legs in the water and took it all in, seemingly completely in her element.
It wasn't just her, the three of us instandly loved this little beach village in central Vietnam.
We loved the community and being close to the water. We loved our cute little cottage, driving a motor scooter through the rice fields to get to town, the old man who gave LJ a piece of gum every time we stopped for gas, eating mostly mangos and noodle soup, and especially the peaceful simplicity of life.
It was a week-long stop during a month-long tour of Vietnam and we quickly realized a week wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, we had pre-booked our trip to the northern part of the country so we had to say goodbye.
But, while in this tiny village we spent time with a family who was travelling Southeast Asia for a year. During that four-week trip we had also watched out daughter adapt to and thrive in a new environment and found ourselves more than capable of handling and even enjoying the ups and downs of longer-term travel. L and I had always wanted to spend some extended time overseas so all this got us thinking that maybe we too could travel for a year.
Two years later, we came back to An Bang Beach.
And this time, we were in month nine of a 12-month world tour. Vietnam was our 17th country.
When we set out on this adventure LJ insisted we return to Vietnam. She wanted to go back to An Bang and stay longer this time. So, we rented a small apartment steps from where we stayed before and quickly settled back into village life.
It felt a bit like coming home.
Even though Vietnam is oh so different than Canada, we were instantly comfortable there again. We ate at some of our favourite spots, chatted with some of the same shop owners and even did some things we missed the first time. LJ joined a local soccer team, tried her hand at weaving and pottery and took a cooking class. We drove our rented scooter to the Hindu temple ruins of My Son, got up early enough to watch the sunrise on the beach, did a self-guided food tour of Hoi An and even met up with friends we had made in India.
And this time, we met a father from New Zealand. He asked us to coffee, wanting to know more about our life as he was maybe looking to do something similar.
We chatted for a while and I hope, like us two years ago, he was inspired.
Vietnam also turned out to be the country in which we marked the third anniversary of my father’s death. His death was a huge catalyst for this trip and it seemed fitting (though admitingly not overly delicious) to toast him with a glass of Vietnamese red wine.
But alas, this country was to be the end of our Asia adventure. After three weeks in this true home away from home and more than five months on the continent, we started the long journey back to North America. Although we still have a while until get home to Ottawa; leaving Asia was bittersweet. We were excited about our spending a month in Mexico, but returning to our own continent put us in the final stretch and the thought of coming home brings many conflicting emotions – joy, excitement, sadness, fear…
That said, our plan this year was to go around the world. And although Vietnam is actually only about half way, being there again was kind of like coming full circle.