Published on September 30th, 201212
Travelin’ Solo? Yup, Sometimes It’s Scary…
Lately I’ve been receiving quite a few notes from folks who question how I can be so upbeat all the time, and so brave to be bouncing ’round the globe all by myself. The truth is, I HAVE long cultivated a positive perspective – it ain’t always easy, but after all, we ever DO have a choice, yes? And brave? I prefer to think of it as simply taking calculated risks. And/or… weighing the risks against the sublime rewards of experiencing things many folks only ever dream of.
Besides, it’s not as if I’ve not had a bit of practice at this traveling thing – starting with bitty baby-steps more than 30 years ago. I mean, I didn’t start by jumping whole-hog off the comfy cliff of the U.S. to live on the the other side of the Planet (where I don’t know a soul, nor speak but a smidge of the language). Nope, I started with short little backpack trips with a pal to neighboring Mexico, then solo (w/ my two young daughters) to the (tres tourist-friendly) lands of Europe, and later fully solo to the sweet little (English-speaking) land of Belize (like a bazillion trips!)
In short, little-by-little I built up the confidence to explore the world ever further afield on my own. Each new step forward a test of my travelin’ mettle. And oh my – the exquisite feeling of satisfaction when I discovered that I CAN… figure out that gibberish train schedule, negotiate the price of a tuk-tuk down from the stratosphere, find my way to the blessed hostel down that dark Moroccan alley (uh, I could go on and on…)
Furthermore, as it turns out – why who knew? People all over the Planet are kind and helpful uh, just like our neighbors back in our hometown! Not everybody of course, but no more nasties in the jungles of Central America, in Africa, Asia, or Egypt than back in the warm-fuzzy town of Happy Days, U.S.A.
And with each new exploration, I learned how to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys (just as we do as children in our own hometowns). Indeed, it further turns out that – the “bad guys” in the rest of the world would seem tame (i.e. merely after your wallet) compared to the drive-by/schoolyard shootings, rapes, muggings and murders we enjoy amid the “safety” of America. Ah but I digress (all of the above, much fodder for several other posts).
But back to this “brave” thing. Yes, I suppose a traveling solo lass is a bit bold, but that’s only because solo travelers are presently fewer than those who travel w/ a pal constantly by their side. And solo traveling LASSES are sadly, even fewer. There’s really nothing more “brave” – nor the implied flip-side, more “dangerous” about traveling on your own. Just a matter of personal choice (and in my mind – there’s TONS of advantages to solo travel, not the least of which is – you don’t have to wait til a pal is available to take off for some exotic land, for starters).
Nonetheless, I won’t lie – even for a veteran solo travelin’ lass like me…
Sometimes it’s downright SCARY out here.
Towit (i.e. finally, we get to the heart of this post): Take me, here today, for example. So I’m honestly still drifting a foot off the ground with happiness at my decision to move here to dear, sweet, cool, green, flowery Dalat. And even more thrilled to have (I swear it’s a miracle!) found this wondrous little French B&B to call home (did I mention the profusion of flowers, and my view of the bitty lake?) Yes, yes, each and every day continues to be an exercise in utter enchantment. But…
It’s been two weeks now. And though much of that time I’ve been occupied with the not inconsiderable chores of simply settling into a new home – especially a home amid an entire nation that insists on speaking THEIR language, rather than mine (geez, what’s with THAT?)
(seriously, it’s jolly-well about time I got serious about learning Vietnamese, yes? YES!)
But meanwhile, there’s yet another – even more critical chore that I desperately need to tackle:
The T.E.R.R.I.F.Y.I.N.G prospect of learning to drive my own motorbike!
O.k. no doubt some might think it easy-peasy. And I DID once hop on my own bike (thanks to a kindly lad in Sumatra) leastwise for an hour. Oh, and did I mention – in a grassy playfield?
But now we’re talkin’ whizzing in TRAFFIC. In VIETNAMESE traffic. Vietnamese traffic where they whiz to ‘n fro like… veritable BEES. Uh, make that YELLOW-JACKETS – whizzing around hell-bent on KILLING ME!
Well o.k. maybe not DELIBERATELY maim me. And granted, here in Dalat – far fewer motorized yellow-jackets than the *4 MILLION* motorbikes in Saigon. But still…
The truth is, it’s not the silly motorbike, nor the crazy traffic that scares me so. But rather, as you might imagine – being a dodderin’ 60-something lass poses a smidge more risk than for youngsters who’s bones are more nimble. In short, the only thing that REALLY scares me is – breaking a leg, or heaven-forbid a SKULL – especially here in this (did I mention, F.O.R.E.I.G.N. country where I don’t speak the language?)
So here’s the thing. Even I can get mighty scared sometimes. And put off taking that next new leap of faith. That next new scarey challenge. And after two weeks puttsing around my lovely new home, exploring my new neighborhood on foot, or waving down a xe om (motorbike taxi) to whiz me up to Dalat’s central market, etc. it finally dawned on me that I could put off the inevitable no longer. No more procrastinating. Time to bite-the-bullet, and face-the-music. For if I am to ever truly call this wondrous country “home”, then I jolly-well best learn how to drive my own Vietnamese motorbike, already!
So there it is. My greatest fear, laid bare. Nothin’ left to do but practice what I so tiresomely preach here: “This ain’t a dress rehearsal, Dy – just DO IT!“
Thus – with my (usual) own private cheerleading squad ringing in my ears – I pushed past my fears, hied myself up to the town center and…
Long story short? I hired a young Vietnamese lad that speaks fairly good English (so as to be able to understand me when I scream “OMG how do I STOP this thing!“) to teach me how to drive the g-awful motorized contraption known as a simple motorbike. Oh, and make that an “automatic” while yer at it, kay?
So tune in manana to see how it goes. I’ll either have A. a bunch of pics (maybe even a bit of video) to share, plus a HUGE grin of satisfaction for pushing past my fears and taming yet another dragon, else B…
I’ll be texting a grim report from a Vietnamese hospital bed (with the fingers of my left – and only functioning, hand).
P.S. Next day’s update: I did it! I DID IT!!!! (And here’s the VIDEO to prove it!)