Vietnam: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

How to start a new life abroad... in Vietnam

After living her entire life in Australia, Diane Lee had never lived or worked abroad... and wanted to. Taking a payout from her job in 2016, she decided to volunteer for three months at a social enterprise in Hanoi—a restaurant she visited for lunch while on tour in the capital in 2010. Three months turned into four years. This book is a memoir of her time in Vietnam, and tells the story, through essays and blog posts, of what it's like to be an older, single woman living in Asia—and all that that entails.

One expat woman's true tales of life abroad

For Diane, living abroad—in Vietnam—seemed like a good idea at the time. Starting a new life abroad involved more than just finding work and an apartment—and this book is a candid, brave and raw expose of life as an expat in a developing south east Asian country. From immigration woes to dating, to dealing with crippling anxiety to making friends to starting a company to moving back to Australia and repatriating her cat when coronavirus hit—this book has it all, and is sure to be a valuable guide for anyone looking to work in other countries, or considering it.

Part memoir, part saga, part travel journal

Landing in Hanoi in late autumn 2016, Diane was both exhilarated and nervous to be embarking on the new chapter of her life:

"My reasons for being here in Hanoi have been well documented, but for those of you who want the Reader's Digest version, it goes something like this: I visited Vietnam in 2010, and as part of the tour I was on, we ate lunch at KOTO Restaurant. I was so impressed with them that I vowed to come back one day and volunteer. That day is now. I also wanted to take my life in a different direction because I was stagnating and bored and undervalued and unappreciated in my job, and "running away" to Vietnam to volunteer seemed like the answer to the question I was asking myself the age old questions at the time: Surely there's more to life than this?"


From a few short weeks of living in Vietnam, I’ve come to understand that it’s difficult, if not impossible to carry out a vision to change the world if you aren’t at peace with yourself and your own situation. Recognising this is key: to be the change you want to see in the world, you must start with you. I don’t mean that in a self-absorbed way, but in the “put on your own oxygen mask first before you help others” kind of way. How can you even attempt to fix the world and all its complexities if you haven’t at least tried to fix yourself? Acknowledging that maybe you aren’t as well-adjusted or all-knowing as you thought you were, and that you have flaws and vulnerabilities and that there is a darkness in amongst the light doesn't make you weak. It makes you human. We are not perfect creatures, none of us are, but that doesn't mean we can't strive for perfection in the small deeds and actions that make up our days. Kindness. Empathy. Respect. Courage.


Understanding. Patience. Easier said than done. But endeavouring is honourable. To get up each day and say: Today I will try and make the world a better place by my actions, that's where the true power of one lies.



Included are short guides to travelling in Vietnam and visiting Hanoi:

  • How to get around Hanoi like a local
  • A guide to coffee and vegetarian food in Hanoi
  • The best photography spots in Hanoi
  • Where to eat in Hanoi if you are travelling solo.

Get your copy now. You won't be disappointed!