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Friendship and Love …

Today I woke up just after 3 am. I know, it is a bit crazy but that is what happens when when I relax. I sleep when I want and need to. Just around that time is when my friends in Sweden are getting ready for bed. That includes them checking on social media and therefor I get messages from back home around that time.

Life goes on. Everywhere. My life, my friends lives. Different shapes but pretty much same same. Good things happen, difficulties appear, solutions are presented. Life happens.

The worst part is when I can not be there for my friends. Being close makes a difference. Wether it is for support or consolation.

The best part is when I get a call from a friend and time just flies. Conversations that leave me with a smile on my face. I realised I made new friends back home while traveling. Perhaps it is the distance that has brought us together. A friend I proudly would call my sister.

My life in Mui Ne has been quite ordinary. I’ve done almost the same thing every day. Rise early, go and have coffee for hours, bikini on, go to the pool, have breakfast, take a swim, read a book, talk on the phone, have an early dinner, treat myself with a beer in the evening, go to bed. The best part about this is that I get to meet the same locals every day. We sort of get to know each other. The guy taking my breakfast order knows what I want and meeting him every morning makes it easy to have a conversation. We meet in the evening and make some small talk. I meet the same kids playing in the street every afternoon, men and women recognise me. We greet, talk about their children, about the weather. We become familiar to each other. My neighbourhood for a while.

Yes, this is also traveling. Taking it slow. Not going on all guided tours available, not rushing, just … living.

I have now finished my book. The one I’ve had in my bag for the past seven months. My stay in Mui Ne is complete. One more day here and I’m leaving for Ho Chi Minh City. It’s going to be two weeks meeting old friends, new friends and family. I can’t wait.

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Adventures starts where plans ends …

The adventure starts where your plan ends.

I received this line from a very wise young woman I know. I had just told her about my journey from Hanoi to Mui Ne.

When I stayed in Hanoi I had to change accomodation twice.  That means I stayed at 3 different hostels during 9 days. It wasn’t my choise movin. First place the bathroom was so moldy They had to close the dorm. Secon place had no door handles on the inside bathrooms and toilet so I ended up being locked in. Third place I stayed without anything happened. Hanoi me an accomodation adventure.

So I decided to find a beach down south and thought Mui Ne could be that place. Talked to the receptionist and she told me train would be a hustle. Furthermore I would have to go 35 kilometres from train station to hostel in Mui Ne. Bus would be easier she said. Ok, lets go for the bus. She booked and I payed. Easy. She also told me it would take two nights and one day to get there. Here is what really happened.

I got on the bus, a sleeper, and made myself comfortable. It really was comfortable. We were off and I did as I always do when I know the ride is going to be long. I get music in my ears and I go to sleep. Suddenly I was waken up told I had to get off. Turns out another bus company is taking over so we have to get another bus. Free transportation is arranged and we get to the bus office. We wait for a few hours and get on the second bus. Hours later I am awaken again told I have to get of to catch another bus. This time no transportations is arranged so a motorbike taxi takes me to the bus office. There I had to wait for 5 and a half hours before we get on next bus. And for the third time I am awaken told I have to get off. New bus station, new waiting, new bus to get on. Finally I get off in Mui Ne and I share a taxi with 2 german girls heading to the same hostel. What seemed to be an easy journey, the one I chose because it would be most comfortable one turned out to be the most challenging.

44 hours and 4 busses.

Not having control.

That is one of the things about traveling. Especially traveling on a budget. A lot of times you don’t have control. And trust me that is a good thing. It is a challange but rewarding. You learn how to cope in unpredicted situations. You learn that every problem has a solution and how resourceful we are if we let ourselves.

That is when you can stop planning and instead focus on the adventure. Ok, so I am on a special adventure now traveling for a longer period of time. But the adventure can actually take place in your every day life. Not planning for activities one day and decide what to do based on what you feel like doing that specific day. Or quitting the job you are miserable with without having a plan. Or taking the local transportation to the end station where you have never been before. Or  learning a hobby totally out of your comfort zone.

Your mind sets the limit. When we don’t let our fears and insecurity be our guides that is when the adventure starts.

I just talked to a woman my age traveling for 8 months. She told me her journey had taught her how indecisive she is. Realising that her focus on doing the right thing made her indecisive and therefor limited her. This is a paradox since we never can tell if a decision is the right one until afterwards. And even if we thought of every little detail we sometimes end up realising that decision wasn’t the best. But sometimes it is the best.

Not doing any planing is not realistic. But doing less planning and being more open to possibilities that might come our way is more rewarding.

The adventure starts where your plan ends.

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Hopefully …

Women around the world are struggling.

Today I was reminded how lucky and privileged I am being a woman living in Sweden. Don’t take me wrong, women in Sweden still have a lot of issues to fight against.   Sweden is in no way perfect but we have come far. It still is important not to get to comfy and think it’s good enough.

At breakfast one of the female receptionists sat down next to me. Eager to practice her English she starts with the usual questions like country, about my traveling, how I can do this, children and marital status. Divorced. She gives me a big sad sigh. No, I tell her, it was a good thing. So she tells med that couples who get a divorce here in Vietnam, always the woman is blamed, it is her fault, she must be the cause.

So we get from this casual chat to a very serious conversation. She opens her heart and tells me her story and the story of many young women in Vietnam. A story I believe she shares with many women around the world.

A story of being controlled, family making decisions on her life, being 23 and not aloud to go out after 9 pm, friends of her parents watching her every move and reporting to her parents, her parents constantly making her feel bad, telling her she is making them sad and and looking bad in other peoples eyes, not being good enough. She has dreams. I ask and she tells me but ends every sentence with … but I can not do that because my parents wouldn’t approve. On the question wether she think she would be given more freedom if she was a boy, she laughed out loud and said loud and clear Yes.

This has become a big problem for young women in China. Young unmarried women of the age of 25 -30+ are referred to as Leftover Women.  Being well educated with prosperous careers their families expects them to leave all this for marriage and family life. They struggle with the mental abuse from their parents, being seen as outcasts.

Education is good. That will always be the foundation on which societies will become better societies. Inspired and led by Malala’s example, the Malala Fund works to secure girls’ right to a minimum 12 years of quality education. This is one of many examples.

I remember when working as a volunteer in Kenya where I met at least 100 women from the Project Nikumbuke and we talked about how women and girls are treated. We talked about family planning and they told me that  this was a topic they talked to their girls about just before getting married. When do you talk with your sons about it I asked and they were all in chock. This was not a thing to talk with the sons about.

We will never get this right if, like in US, only men are present around the table deciding on women’s health, when Saudi Arabia is elected in to UN Women’s Rights Commission (since the rest of the world are so dependent on their oil), when Russia just recently legalised domestic abuse.

We will neither get it right if we don’t have male role models. And the best role models are still yet to come if we raise our sons teaching them good values. Furthermore we can not expect a change unless we elect people with good values into our governments. Values that poeople from  any gender would benefit from.

I have met so many young women struggling, trying to find their own path in a modern world with old values. A path that is never questioned when men goes there. There are no ads telling men which cream to use to get rid of those wrinkles, no spandex ads telling them to hide their love handles, and no one questions a man when he wants to do something challenging. What if women were to have the same freedom. What if.

Read what Corentin is writing in one of his posts on Instagram about life in remote villages in northern Vietnam  

So there we sit and talk. I see sadness in her face. I wish I could wipe that away and replace it with the face of hope. I planted a seed in her mind. Hopefully she will water it and let it grow. Hopefully one day …

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Sick in Hanoi …

I arrived to Hanoi 29 April. It had been a rough journey to get here and I was feeling very tied. I took a nap, went for a walk, slept a full night and several hours next day, full nights sleep again and that is when it happened.

I got a realy bad cold. This is so unlike me and how my body works. I am usually not affected, I don’t get sick. I am strong. But this is the second time during my now six months travel I get realy bad. There is only one explanation. I have pushed too hard. So what to do but rest.

This meant staying in bed a lot, catching up on sleeping and occasionally walking around the block to get some food. There most people Ive met have been travelers at the hostel or people I happened to meet at cafes or restaurants. Apart from my neighbourhood I haven’t seen anything of Hanoi. Might sound boring but I’ve become a regular at a couple places and that turned out to be a good thing. I will tell you about some of the amazing people I’ve met.

Sitting outside a cafe, because I only managed 500 meters walking, enjoying a ginger tea suddenly there comes a young lady. She starts looking at the fishes in the aquarium behind me. I couldn’t resist talking to this 4 year beauty. And there came her father. Alan and Lyra are on their way to meet wife/mother but took the time to sit drown and join me. We had the most inspiring and fun conversation I had in a very long time. They live in Ho Chi Min city and I have n invitation to visit when I get there. See you soon Alan, Lyra and smart wife. Looking forward to seeing you again.

Corentin Chailleux is a 23 year young man from French Caledonia He he’s been on the road for three and a half years. Such an inspiring man. Currently he is traveling with a Frenchman going to the northern parts of Vietnam on motorbike. To stay on the road for such a long time he has been doing WorkAway and Woofing and anything else you can imagine in exchange for a meal or two and accommodation. An impressive and wise young man. We talked about life, boxes, how we don’t have to be in boxes, karma and much much more. Bon voyage Corentin, you are an inspiration.

I wake up early in the mornings. Annoying but just to accept. So I sneak out of the dorm and go to my morning cafe at 6 am. The lady knows how I want my coffe now so I just have to say Good Morning and there it comes. At 7 am this beautiful couple arrives on their motorbike. He is 72 and she 60 something. Usually they bring some sort of breakfast to have with the tea they order. She speaks no english, he knows like 20 words. And still we have had wonderful conversations. Every day they order tea and always serve me a cup. So there we sit, talk and drink tea. This morning they brought breakfast for me too. We showed each other photos of our grandchildren, their grandchildren, we took selfies and everyone was looking at me when I tasted the Vietnamese breakfast. Thumbs up and everyone at the cafe smiled applauded in relief. Thank you Mr and Mrs for making my mornings so enjoyable.

Suddenly being sick turned into a pleasant happening. Thank you Hanoi for making these people come my way.


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I have missed this …

I have moved on. In many ways. Motving on is good. Staying in one place is also good. As long as one doesn’t stay there. Continue moving.

Yesterday I met a couple of young women, 18 and 119 years old, in the dorm where I’m staying. We talked for a long time about different things. Traveling, experiences and home. One of them is heading back home to Canada after been away for nearly a year and we talked about home.

Adjusting back, food, what we miss from home, what we would miss from the traveling, how we handle things, how we used to and a lot more.

I arrived to Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday. Another over night travel that drained me. Not enough sleep for two nights, awake a whole day, flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka delayed, no information, no plain, off to KL, waiting and finally Hanoi. Bus to city centre, walk to hostel, check in. Being high on being tired I just couldn’t rest so a first walk through the neighbourhood was the only thing to do.

That is when I realised how much I have missed this Asian culture. Street food everywhere, families living their lives in their shops, herbs and spices, ginger tea, the chopsticks, noodle soups and the transparency into peoples lives.

Walking the streets is like walking through a movie. You see people living their lives, doing their every day thing in public. Rising their children, having their meals, going out in the pyjamas to buy breakfast, preparing for or coming home from work and socialising. Living their lives.

I have missed the food. Having a good noodle soup and realising I can still master the chopsticks. The Vietnamese fresh spring rolls is a delight. And the ginger tea with lime soothes my tired body.

It took me two days to get back to normal. Lots of sleep helped. Now I’m ready for the hustle and the bustle of the big city.

Back home people are celebrating that spring has arrived with bon fires and parades and feasting. I read about it and remember the feeling of cool spring air, the joy when the temperature allowes you to skip the winter jacket and the feeling when going on a walk seeing all the new greens. Happy days. So far away.

The hostel I’m staying at is amazing. I have a bed in a 8 bed mixed dorm. Nothing fancy but clean and well organised. I pay 6 dollars a night and I get sheet, towel, wifi, knowledgeable and friendly staff, free beer every evening and meeting interesting co travellers whit whom I’ve had great conversations with. And there is the breakfast. There is actually a menu to chose from. I’ve been to 40plus countries and never experienced a hostel that good. For 6 dollars a night. Hanoi City Backpackers.

1 US dollar for a coffee, tea or a bear. 1-2 dollars for a meal that will keep you full for a whole day. And no one is trying to rip you off. This is a good place. I will stay and enjoy for a while. Having my morning coffee at my favourite place across the hostel, locals only, getting lost and exploring, having a late breakfast, taking a nap, going for dinner, another walk, having a beer, going for a walk watching the night life, sleep. And in between stopping for tea. Good days.

I’ve missed this.