2012 TravelTravel ExperienceVietnam

Back from Halong Bay and a Surprise Meet

I didn’t know what to expect when I booked the trip to Halong Bay, Vietnam.  I figured it would just be another check in the list of “amazing” places people had to go see and experience.  The van picked Liam and I up to get us ready for a ride to Halong.  The ride was pretty uneventful having stopped at a stone carving station which was another one of those tourist traps.  Liam was knocked out from the night before slouching his head to sleep.  I was lost in thought just thinking about what I left at home.

But, this post isn’t so much about what I left at home but who I met along the way.

It’s nice meeting someone even for a short period of time and feeling some kind of connection one that you can’t explain but truly and completely enjoy.  I met these two guys, Nate and Sam, and we come from different parts of the US and different backgrounds but I felt akin to them and their journey.

At times traveling alone you feel a bit lost or lonely and you do spend a lot of your time in your head.  I find myself repeating my journey over and over again but in a way feeling great that you get to impart knowledge to other travelers.   There is something about meeting people while traveling that I get attached and that’s probably because that’s my personality and the fact that we are all walking similar paths.

I immediately gravitated towards them because they were both Americans and Thanksgiving was the following day.  I probably should have asked what they were doing but I think I might be headed south with Liam.  I am not entirely sure yet.

Earlier I had decided not to go to Monkey Island and just relax and go for a swim.  There were four of us (Sam, Nate, Bill from Africa and I) who walked from the hotel searching for the beach.  The walk was probably no more than a mile and we all got a chance to connect.  The two Americans just graduated college and backpacking through India and now SE Asia.  Both are medical students of some kind.  Bill worked in mining of a mineral. I want to say diamonds but that might be too cliche. He was originally from England but now works as a geologist for a mining company.  He decided it was time to go out and explore.

Something was different with these two guys and I know that I had to meet them to make me understand something that I needed to understand.  I know I get pretty philosophical with these posts.  On the trip back from Halong to Hanoi, I realized how I wasn’t myself with Danny.

Anyhow, the conversations I had with the travelers ranged from a variety of topics all of which made me smile.  We didn’t manage to get to the right beach but found a smaller beach then I said lets go for a walk around the coastline which in my mind would lead to a great view point or the beach we were looking for.  We kept talking on the short hike about everything – their dreams, aspirations, travel experiences and basically plans when the trip ended.

We finally went around a bend and saw the beach and met up with the two canadians, Bob (?) and Bronwin.  I remember her name cause it was really unique.  This couple was so relaxed and chill and they make you feel comfortable.  I love people like them who exude love for each other and others.  Bronwin has a bright smile that makes you smile and she’s energetic while Bob is laid back and cool.

Finally in the water, the conversations continued with Bill and the two guys.  I waded in the hip deep water asking myself is this true can you really have these cultural, spiritual, thoughtful discussions with random guys.  There was an immediate connection for me.  I looked and smiled not sure if they noticed as they were busy throwing rocks at a buoy. Unfortunately, both never managed to hit it.  For a moment, I know I was out of my head wondering what was special about them.

Maybe it was the youthful energy of being young and just graduating college and believing the world is yours.  Maybe it was the feeling like I am not alone and that similar minds do want to wander about the world.   I’ve met some really great people who’ve impacted me in more ways then imaginable.  But, I don’t know what it was about Nate.  Was it the way he couldn’t say his “r” that I thought was just ridiculously cute?  I forgot to mention I thought he was South African because of the way he spoke. I was drawn to him in a way I couldn’t explain probably more fascinated about his crabbing family and the fact I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska.  It could be the fact that he is freakishly smart.  But there is a warmth about him, a kindness.

As the sun began to se we started our walk back to the hotel.  Nate says, “This might sound strange but I feel so connected to you and I just met you.”  Not really sure if that’s what he said exactly but I told him something about traveling you immediately connect with people because its short, quick and you have one thing in common – you’re in the same situation experiencing something new and by virtue you create a bond.

I stopped to take a picture of the sunset and looked down and saw a lady who was drying fish on the concrete lake bank.  He stood there waiting for me remarking on how he loves his “purse.”  I chuckled because I bought a similar one for my niece and I said I am sure you got that at Sapa.

We continued talking while Bill and Sam was a few feet ahead of us.  I pointed at a puppy and Nate jumps and go “Aw he’s so cute.”  Something about a masculine athletic guy who isn’t afraid to say the word cute.  I could probably write a book of this entire experience that was less than a day so I’ll save everyone.

The day has ending and the ships have sailed on. I lay now in my guesthouse a bit saddened that the experience was short but knowing it was just perfect.  Meeting them helped me clear my mind.  It made me realize how a connection can happen anywhere, anyplace and with anyone.  It’s about the person and how they make you feel.  Nate made me feel happy and for that I’m grateful that 4 travel agencies later I booked the Halong Bay cruise and Sam and Nate ended up switching ships on the second day.

As I lay here looking through pictures, I’m asking myself why didn’t I take a picture with them? :/

Jason Vitug

Jason Vitug is a bestselling author, writer, producer, entrepreneur, and founder of The Smile Lifestyle Brands and the financial wellness marketplace, phroogal.com.

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