One of the things I regret (and I really don’t have many regrets at all) is that I didn’t travel when I was younger. Instead of partying it up in the 80s, I should have back-packed my way around Asia slumming it in cheap and cheerful hostels, before moving to London or New York for a year or so to work. I know there are all sorts of parallel universe, Sliding Doors arguments as to why things have panned out as they have (my daughter, for one), but I do kick myself every now and then for not traipsing around the globe in my formative years, having passionate affairs with exotic-looking men.
Readers who follow my travel blog will know that Vietnam is one of my favourite places on Earth. I love the people, food, culture, architecture, landscape and history – even the traffic and the noise! I love how the Vietnamese people bear no grudges over The American War; how they are building a thriving country and economy, bristling with opportunity; and that all workers have dignity, and jobs have value because of their contribution to nation-building.
After I spent two weeks in Vietnam in 2010 – it was my first overseas trip EVER… and I know… I was a super late bloomer! – I vowed that one day I would go back and work there in some capacity. Since Christmas and New Year, I have felt a strong pull to return. I’m disenchanted with my current work (again!) and realise that I have nothing really holding me here (apart from my daughter, cat and friends who I love dearly, mind you). I am single, so don’t need to consider another person in this decision; my mortgage is minimal, and will easily be covered by my daughter for less than the board she currently pays; I don’t have a burning ambition to climb the corporate ladder, so have no fear of putting my career (such as it is) on hold; Vietnam is only a short flight (relatively speaking) from Australia, so I can fly home if I so choose, and my family and friends could visit me as often as they liked.
But why overseas? Why not just find work in another city or town in another state? The answer is: because I want to challenge myself. I want to fire up the neural networks in my brain, and force myself to go somewhere that is unfamiliar and where I don’t know a soul. I want to be uncomfortable and have to work things out. I want to navigate an alien environment and see how I cope with unexpected issues and problems and delights. I want to contribute to a country that has had its fair share of horrors, and is successfully rebuilding. Sure, I could do that in parts of Australia, but not at quite the same level of uneasiness I yearn for because I’d still be wrapped in a cocoon of familiarity. (And yes, I KNOW I wrote that I had found contentment on turning 50, and I have, it’s just that I’m really, really restless at the moment. It’s like I have an itch that needs to be scratched, and scratched hard.)
So, I’ve been checking Vietnamese job boards regularly, and also volunteering sites, and have found a number of jobs I can apply for. Who knew there were so many opportunities for someone with my skills and experience (training, learning and development and communications)? There are more opportunities in developing Vietnam than in my already established home town of dear old Adelaide, which I’m sad to say, is going through an economically tough time that doesn’t look like getting any better in the short term, even with an expected change of government.
But what happens if I apply for jobs and I’m not successful? What’s my Plan B? I’m contracted in my current job until June this year. That gives me four months to apply for roles (minus three weeks in April/May where I’m going to Japan). If I have no luck in the finding work department, I’m going to take three or four months leave without pay and just travel around Vietnam, writing and taking photographs. I may earn a living, I may not. But I feel an almost instinctive, primal urge to shake off the shackles of my fairly predictable, middle-class life and have an adventure, which may or may not include having a passionate affair with an exotic-looking man.
To paraphrase Jack Kerouac: I’ve got me a goddamn mountain to climb.
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