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The Eye of the Storm

Current Location: Nha Trang, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 87
°F (feels like 101°F)
Days Gone: 115
Days Remaining: 101

I am now past the halfway point in this seven month journey. The halfway point, an instant in time like any other. Yet it is a time that begs the past to be weighed against the future, and all the while I sit in the present holding the scales. I’ve seen giant waterfalls and caves and mountains and beaches. I’ve been part of the street-side mayhem in capital cities and I’ve enjoyed the serenity of nowhere. I can flag down a local bus, barter in local currency, and eat elbow to elbow and knee to knee with locals despite having only a smile in common. I can sleep peacefully with a giant spider in the room. I can bathe in the rain. I have excreted sweat in a greater volume in the last hundred days that I have in my entire life. I have suffered swollen feet and bug bites and conjunctivitis. I have eaten a great quantity of bugs. But I have looked into the eyes and minds and hearts of countless individuals, and I have seen truths that press laughter or pain or hope or fear directly into my soul.… Read More

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A City in the Clouds

Current Location: Sapa, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 70
°F (feels like winter to me)
Days Gone: 101
Days Remaining: 115

Not until Sapa has an offer of, “hey mate, ya wanna grab a beer,” escalated into such an eventful and multicultural experience. I had arrived in a daze at sunrise after taking a night train to Lao Cai (on the Chinese border) and then a minibus onward, so I passed out immediately upon finding a bed. After sleeping into the afternoon, I wandered to the open window to discover that Sapa truly was a City in the Clouds. Mist shrouded mountains descended into green waves of rice paddies, with spots of clouds floating both above and below. I wandered the town for a while to get my bearings and was followed all the while by a persistent entourage of ethnic minorities attempting to sell me handicrafts. When I returned to my hotel (which luckily offered an affordable dorm room) I met a dread-locked hippie who had been living in Sapa for two months. He was just heading out for a drink and invited me to join him. I soon found myself in the company of a handful of other foreigners who had found themselves “stuck” in the wondrous mountain frontier.… Read More

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How to Stop Time in the 4,000 Islands

Current Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Current  Weather: 90
°F (feels like 107°F)
Days Gone: 92
Days Remaining: 124

I have great difficulty doing nothing for extended periods of time. That is, stretches of inactivity almost always leave me anxious and craving some sort of creative outlet or physical exertion. I attribute this to the passing of time, which I’ve always seen as incredibly valuable, something not to be “wasted.” The longer I idle, the need for movement increases exponentially. But I found a place where time stands still. I idled for a full week on Don Det, one of the 4,000 Islands in Southern Laos, and during that time I craved nothing. The following is a passage I wrote while still on the island, outside of time’s grasp; perhaps it will help to explain the phenomenon.

My time here is spent reading, or thinking, or eating, or speaking. We do not multitask. Every morning begins with the croaking guffaw of a rooster, the giggles of children, the thudding of boat engines crawling up and downstream, pushing canoes of people with destinations. We do not feel the pull of time. Our daily decision is what to eat. Everything else is determined by the weather.Read More

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