She found herself – alone, in Vietnam…

halong bay

I am leaving for Vietnam in 23 days. I’ll be travelling solo into an entirely new and different landscape, soundscape, smellscape.  I am excited and nervous and eager and anxious all at once. I want to strike a comfortable balance between seeing and experiencing as much as I can AND… relaxing, enjoying and taking in experiences as they present themselves to me.

I’m trying not to plan this trip. I know roughly what I’d really love to see and do but I am not booking or planning anything beyond my first two nights’ accommodations. I’m not sure if that is wise or pure folly but it feels right to me somehow. When I arrive in Hanoi, I’ll check into my gorgeous hotel and delight in the fact that my daughter was there last spring… I’ll love having that shared experience. I’m going to love knowing that my youngest daughter and I are in the same time zone, as she is travelling SE Asia on her own with her friend. We won’t meet up, but I’ll feel close… close-ish?

Travelling solo is something I had never really planned. I mean I’ve done solo trips to attend conferences and so on but not… travelling, alone. I’ll be carrying a backpack… like a kid. Me, my degenerative discs and a backpack full of Advil… ! I’m an absolute novice at this. I did travel through Mexico a few times as a young’un with the same kind of planning scheme; knowing where I’d stay the first and last nights, winging it the rest of the time, but that was (ahem) some time ago.

I’m kind of proud of myself…either that or I’m certain I’m foolhardy . My own sweetie states categorically that he wouldn’t do what I’m doing. I asked if he meant going to Vietnam or travelling alone… he said Yes.

But hey… it’s easy to be proud of myself ahead of the fact; booking a plane ticket takes no bionic cohones, after all. It’s the actual follow through that will be the test. It’s going to be me, a hotel reservation and a guidebook downloaded to my kindle app. I’ve got a few blog posts saved and the names of a few tour companies, cruise operators and trekking guides. I know of a few interesting places to visit in the middle part of the country… beaches & mud baths. I am sure I want to trek through the northern rice terraces and spend time on Catba island, spelunk a few caves and kayak up to a lady selling cold beer from a raft in a floating village beside the karsts in Halong Bay. But who knows. Worst case scenario? I get freaked out and hunker down in Hanoi or I get myself to a beach and stay there for 2 weeks. Not so bad…

Oy. What have I done?! I wish I could approach this with only exhilarated anticipation but there is an element of fear. Maybe that’s good. I made a list for myself of the things I wanted for 2016. It’s a list of challenges…more than any resolutions I’ve ever made, I want to keep these:

2016     Travel… OFTEN! Big trips, small trips, overnight escapes or camping  Do it. Just GO.   Purge… excess! Go through cupboards and closets and get rid of it. GET RID OF IT.  Minimize… expenses. Spend less to TRAVEL MORE!   Explore… my own limits. Try things I’ve never tried, go where I’ve never gone. Dare.  Laugh… A LOT! Relax and let go of how I think things should be and enjoy the comical, farcical nature of life as it is. Spend time with people who laugh…they lift me.  Nurture… FRIENDSHIPS, myself, those I care for. Take time to be with friends, make time for easy and challenging relationships. Make that time important.  Have Courage… FIND IT! Do what scares me. Be alone, travel alone, push my own boundaries, go places, say what I feel, own my shit.  

Life is short. Life is stupidly, terrifyingly short. Don’t waste it! GO!!

And so I’ve had my immunizations, I’ve borrowed a backpack and I’m getting myself ready in so many ways. In October I went rappelling… canyoneering in Zion National Park. I’d never done that before. I guess I should have been scared but somehow, it was what I’d been waiting for. I’m ready now, for this new adventure. Kind of. I’m kind of ready for this adventure.

I chose Vietnam, this trip, because it is so many miles outside my comfort zone you can’t even SEE my comfort zone. I’ll be out of my depth. I won’t have any familiar points of reference, anyone to lean on or anyone to blame. All. Me. Make or break, it’s going to be on me.

Here goes…!

Body Armor and Good Shoes

Image

Today I am dressed for work. Really dressed for work; black pencil skirt, lovely drapey blouse, suit jacket, neutral pumps (understated and professional with a good dash of sexy). My hair is short and styled, my makeup is appropriate and my accessories complement without distracting. Pearls, actually.

If you look a bit closer at the outfit, the shoes, the hair and the look you’ll see the hidden rivets. The seams where the metal  of the breastplate meets the tasset show the dents of the club hammer and the effort that went into its construction. Those good shoes… they’re really a modern sabaton; protection, baby.

Don’t think for a moment that I woke up this morning and decided to dress like this because heels feel awesome, because I love panty-hose. These earrings were chosen mindfully and the necklace too. My clothes are my armor.

There are things in my life right now that demand my full attention. My energy has to be rationed and my strength shored up. I am not up to the challenge in jeans and a t -shirt; I need something external to let me know I can handle what I must handle. I need to look in the mirror and see someone who is competent, strong, determined and certain. At the moment I’m none of those things, so for that, I need a disguise. I need a costume. I need armor.

A friend observed that often when women separate from their partners they begin to dress better than they used to. He seemed to believe it to be a peacock preening kind of thing; a desire to strut, to appear attractive. I’m offering another possible explanation; it’s fear. It’s fear, dressed up to look like courage. It’s armor.

Look at me… I look great. I look strong. I look like I know what I’m doing.

I’m a jelly fish. A jelly fish in really good shoes.

Life is short, and all that.

ImageSo what’s it going to be for you? The thing you will most regret, lying on your deathbed, breathing your last? Will it be the trips you didn’t take, the book you didn’t write? Maybe the bucket list items that never got checked off?

Not me. No, I’ll have lots of trips not taken, books not written and all that, but that’s probably not what I’m going to regret. At least it’s not what I fear I’ll regret. I’m afraid I’m going to regret not living enough. Not loving enough, not laughing enough, not making the most out of the friendships and relationships that matter to me. Not having enough sex, not getting my hands and feet dirty often enough, worrying too much, staying too closed and careful.

Life is not the good china. It can’t be saved for when company comes. It’s gotta be used… used up. This is a lesson I need to teach myself every day. You’d think, by age 46 that I’d have clued in to that by now.

I’ve gotta shift the crap around, the crap that keeps me from doing the things I love, the things I want to love, the things I fear. I have to find a way to be fearless in the way I used to be, or fearless in a way I want to be. Maybe not even fearless at all, but brave enough to just take a deep breath, plug my nose and jump into the deep end of living.

So that, my friends, is my Valentines wish. I want to really live. Live big, loud, ugly, funny, beautiful and awkward. Trip, dance, fall, get dirty, embarrass myself, try again, Look foolish, say the wrong thing (at least I said something), make a new friend, mend a lost friendship, find my centre, get lost, get dizzy. Be real. And have more sex 😉

Cheers…