Archive for July 13th, 2013

July 13, 2013

Lessons Learned: Travels with Debbie in Bali and Vietnam

by Tabitha Kidwell

On our month-long journey through southeast Asia, Debbie and I met one young backpacker who said that he had dropped out of college and used the money he would have spent on tuition to travel around the world. He said he could learn more traveling than he ever could in a classroom. While I’m not about to pawn my diplomas for bus fare, the kid is on to something. My varied experiences in countries around the globe have helped me grow as a person and gain incredible lessons about compassion, justice, and human nature. Also, it’s helped me get really good at trivia.

In any case, Debbie and I definitely learned a lot on our adventures. Here are some of the lessons we will take home:

Be decisive.
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its crazy traffic. There are apparently more motorbikes than residents! With minimal traffic regulations, this means you need to be daring if you want to cross the street. What seemed to work best was to start walking when you saw any tiny break in the traffic and to continue at a steady pace. Hesitation can lead to catastrophe – the vehicle darting around you will end up careening directly into you.




Take a rest.
This a phrase that Indonesian people say all the time. (It’s a close translation of a common Indonesian verb). I had assimilated it into English without realizing that it was awkward English, until Debbie pointed it out to me. Nevertheless, after spending way too many days on this trip walking around in blinding sun and 100 degree heat, we came to see the brilliance of this advice. We would walk a bit, then have some fruit…


…then walk some more, have some beer and donuts…


…walk a little more, have some more beer…


You get the idea. Days we didn’t follow this advice and tried to have more ambitious plans, we typically ended up like this:



Pay Attention.
Walking was a difficult task in Vietnam – what sidewalks do exist are encroached upon from one side by shopkeeepers plying their wares, and on the other side by motorcycles looking for parking spots. So we spent a lot of time looking down. We had to remind ourselves to take the time and make the effort to look up and notice the many wonderful things going on all around us.  If we weren’t noticing it in exotic Vietnam, we realized we must just walk by magical sights at home all the time.

Like these sweet motobikes…



… this sidewalk barber shop…



… and this street-side hang out.



Also this transcendental advice…



…these cats sleeping in a basin…



… and these bird cages hanging at the park.



This ambitious motorbike…





… and this guy.


Don’t be afraid.
Growing up, I was kinda a weenie. I mean, I was in the marching band and national honor society. I didn’t exactly live on the edge. I was never one to look before I leapt. But we did lots of scary things on the vacation, and the more we did, the easier they seemed to be!

Like riding a motorbike on terrible Vietnamese roads…



and drinking whatever is in this plastic bag.




Holding this snake…



… and crossing this bridge.



Jumping off this boat…



… and playing with this alligator.


Be attractive
Debbie and I kicked off out travels by meeting up with 9 other ladies from the English Language Fellow program. For our last hoorah in Bali, we were ready for full-on-sleepover-girl-talk-style-fun. The best day of vacation may have been when Debbie shared her American junk food and People magazines and we caught up on all the celebrity gossip and high fructose corn syrup we had been missing. Poolside.


And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the “Angel romance cards” my mom had sent me for Christmas. They were like tarot cards – they were supposed to give you messages from the angels about your love life. I don’t remember most of the advice we got, except for Deirdre’s card that told her to “just be attractive.” This was memorable for its apparent absurdity: “Oh, the reason I don’t have a boyfriend is because I’m not attractive. Let me just change that real quick.” As the advice sunk in, though, we realized its brilliance. We spent the rest of the trip trying to be attractive, and look how well we did:





Okay, this was mostly just a shameless excuse to put up of pictures of us looking hot, but it did become our catchphrase. “Just be attractive!” We attracted lots of vacationing fun, at least!

As you can see, the Bali/Vietnam trip was a blast!  Most important lesson learned:  Tabitha and Debbie are great travel partners!