In Over Our Heads to Head Over Heels in HCMC

City Hall, Ho Chi Minh City

A clock hangs on the wall of our room here in Saigon. At first glance, it’s a helpful but unremarkable piece, a rather drab thing clearly picked more for its utility and cheap price than for any inherent style.

A second glance reveals that there is something decidedly off about the clock. Not only is it losing time, but upon closer inspection, we realize the second hand actually jitters in place, like a needle stuck in the groove of a scratched record. The other two hands on the clock move in an approximation—if not with the alacrity—of how they should, but that second hand is perpetually stuck at the 9, seemingly for good.

Any reasonable person would simply conclude the clock was broken or in need of new batteries and ignore it, but I gaze up at it every so often and wonder if it might secretly be more accurate than anyone realizes. It may not be tracking conventional time, but maybe this clock understands what Einstein was talking about with his grand theories of relativity; not one to be bogged down by the limitations of quantum mechanics, perhaps our ugly little clock is tracking how time feels like it’s passing for us here in Vietnam. If that’s the case, then it would seem time has come to a standstill.

Hems (alleys) of Saigon

The hems around District One

Actually, that seems just about right.

It’s incredible to me that we’ve already been in Vietnam for three weeks; it feels like we just arrived days ago. I hesitate to say that we are losing time, though certainly, in some sense, we are. The days pass sluggishly as though at half speed. The chaos and frenetic energy of Ho Chi Minh City swirls just steps from our door, the traffic snarling in the most terrifying of ways, the world moving like someone is holding down the fast-forward button. But in our little cocoon of a room, all is calm, all is quiet, and at times, it feels like in order for the universe to maintain balance and keep from imploding, time has stopped here. Like our poor busted clock, we seem to be outside of time, at least for a little while.

Perhaps this expansion of time is the anticipated side effect of really slowing down, but nevertheless it has sort of crept up on us. Our first week back in Vietnam was as frantic and flustered as any week in the life of long-term traveler, and I was feeling more than a little off-kilter. Tucked away in the heart of the backpacker quarter in District 1, I found it really hard to shake the “traveler” mindset and the frenzy of activity that accompanies it and that encapsulates Vietnam so well. Unable to shift gears, I would sit in our room churning out lists whose lengths were longer than my (admittedly diminutive) body, itemizing all the things I wanted us to see and do while we are here, all the day-trips and weekend-trips we could (would?) take. Three months seemed impossibly long to be in one location, and I wanted to make the most of that time; at that point, this seemed to mean that we had to do ALL THE THINGS and always be busy. I tried to draft out schedules for our days so that we could achieve the maximally optimal work-exploration division of our time and not one drop of our day would be wasted.

Smiling Vietnamese woman serves food

Despite our fevered memories, one thing was as accurate as we remembered: Vietnamese remain an incredibly friendly people

Of course, such a plan was always doomed to fail. We had come to Vietnam to explore the country in a different way than we previously had and running around wildly from one tourist attraction to the next wouldn’t really have accomplished that. And if I’m being completely honest, despite my lengthy lists, the idea of it just didn’t really appeal at all, especially since we had already spent some time in Ho Chi Minh City before this, and had visited most of the sites that really appealed to us already. Moreover, when Tony & I were concocting our triumphant return to a country we consider one of our very favorites, I can assure you that the hodgepodge of memories and affection we were drawing upon relied very little on the one week we had spent in Saigon, and certainly hadn’t fixated on its various tourist attractions (unless you consider its food a tourist attraction, in which case, that was at the top of our list…). So, when we arrived in HCMC, a city we quite honestly hadn’t spent all that much time in and were now going to call home, and were forced to reconcile it with the fictitious Vietnam amalgam that we had brewed in our minds, it was a bit of a shock to the system. We felt like we were maybe in just a little over our heads.

But that’s Vietnam for you, and it is probably why this country is so polarizing: even when you’ve already been here before and know what you are getting into, it’s not unlike diving from the frying pan headfirst into the fire. I doubt anyone, not even the most hardened of travelers, has landed in Vietnam and not had his or her mind blown just a little bit. Even in the most Americanized city in the country (which is not really saying so much in Vietnam, a country where there are no McDonald’s… though that may soon change if construction on Pham Ngu Lao is anything to go by) there is more here that is unusual and bizarre than is comforting and familiar. And that’s why I love it here so much. It is a country that confounds expectations and my concept of the world at every turn, which means it is always surprising me. It pushes me out of my comfort zone continuously, which means it allows me to surprise myself just as much as the country does. On most days, something happens or I notice something that is so quintessentially Vietnam—whether it’s the snarling rats nests of wires that dangle like electrified mistletoe on every corner or ladies wandering around in their fancy pajama sets topped with conical hats that make them look like they’ve stepped straight from the pages of a 1950s National Geographic—that I find myself shaking my head and murmuring, “Oh Vietnam… you so crazy…” But I always do so with the biggest grin on my face. The more I wander around HCMC, the more I have those moments and see the glimmers of the weird quirks that hooked me in the first place.

Vietnamese woman works in market

The uniform of 80% of Vietnam’s women

Ever since finding our actual home base in Saigon, it’s really felt like things have clicked into place. For all its perks, Saigon is kind of a sprawling, overwhelming beast of a city, and I’ve found it hard to come up with a plan of attack to tackle it, even if I’ve already bypassed its barriers and am residing within its (metaphorical) walls. So we’ve started small, focusing our energies and explorations on the alleyways around our apartment and all the places we can reach on foot. We are quite literally conquering the city foot by foot. We have slowly been building up a roster of “favorite restaurants” (none of them any further than a five-minute walk away and many of them the loosest possible definition of the term “restaurant” that one can use). We have learned how to count in Vietnamese and to recognize words other than chicken () and beef () on menus; our pronunciation is still abysmal/borderline incomprehensible to locals, but we’re trying our best. (I’d love it if Duolingo would start offering Asian languages…)  As promised, we purchased impractical fluffy towels. I am reading books filled with beautiful, if challenging, writing and wonderful stories. We are catching up on all of our favorite TV shows and discovering some new ones too. We are working on a variety of design projects, constantly on the hunt for new clients to work with. And through it all, with each day that has passed, we’ve begun to slowly build a bit of a routine for ourselves. I sincerely doubt whether it’s possible for life in Vietnam to ever be truly boring, but in some ways, our days are taken up with such mundane tasks and missions, it’s as though we’re doing our best impression of it.  If I’m being completely honest with you, it’s actually pretty glorious and our happiness has grown exponentially as the pendulum swings from us being in over our heads to head over heels in HCMC. Maybe we lose track of time here because our days tend to resemble each other and consequently blend together; they are more alike than different, but when this means that every day is a good day, that is not such a bad problem to have.

Man sleeping on motorbike in Saigon

Doing an impression of us doing an impression of how comfortable we are here now. Yep.

Since arriving back in Ho Chi Minh City, we have seen a grand total of one attraction you might actually find in a guidebook, and we have left the city exactly zero times. Sometimes I feel bad that our intrepid spirit has seemingly been quashed so swiftly and with such ease, but then I remember that I don’t have to run around to the museums and war memorials to entertain or educate myself, because simply stepping out my front door and walking down the street with the biggest spring in my step is an education in and of itself, a schooling in the most fundamental of subjects: this is what it is to live in Vietnam.

An alley in Saigon

Time hasn’t actually stopped, but somehow it’s always Christmas in our little alley. They even have little multi-colored disco balls set up.

Whether the clock on our wall marks it or not, I know that time is steadily ticking by, but we still have lots of time to explore the Mekong and get lost in verdant rice paddies or make it to some of the country’s oft overlooked islands. Now I also know that even if we never set one toe outside of Saigon while we’re here or visit any other guidebook-approved attractions, that’s also a valid choice. When it comes to our time here in the city, I no longer care so much about making the most of it, but making the best of it instead. Only we can decide for ourselves what exactly that means, but I suspect if we continue on as we have, we will not be too far from the mark.

“I’ll live as well, as deeply, as madly as I can—until I die.” ― Anne Lamott

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About Stephenie Harrison

In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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47 Responses to “In Over Our Heads to Head Over Heels in HCMC”

  1. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown January 15, 2014 at 9:40 am # Reply

    I love this, and I love that you guys are enjoying your little home base!! Sometimes settling down a bit and living like a local means just watching a bunch of Netflix and eating soup. I’ve been on Roatan a year and a half and I still haven’t gone ziplining…. it’s for tourists :)
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 17 Roundup

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:41 am # Reply

      Thankfully Vietnam is like, the world capital of soup, so we’ve got that easily covered! And the internet is good enough here too that we can actually stream tv shows and movies so that’s been such a nice perk too.

      Somehow it seems like wherever we go, we always manage to miss the biggest attraction the area has on offer, so I have no doubt that whenever we get to Roatan, we’ll be nowhere near the ziplines. Besides, we’ll be too busy DIVING! :D

  2. Dyanne@TravelnLass January 15, 2014 at 10:48 am # Reply

    Excellent. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Two years living there (1 in HCMC, yes, Dist. 1, and a year in Dalat – you.simply.must.go) and I still get all misty-eyed missing Vietnam’s uniquely wonderful people (such dignity! so genuinely friendly! so down-to-earth!) and all the craziness, the “buzz” that is Vietnam.

    So glad you two feel the same way.

    And the good news? I’m coming back! Well only for a short vist (en route to the U.S. and my move to Ecuador). I arrive on 31 January (yeah, Tet New Years Eve, what WAS I thinking???) at 5:30 pm. But likely won’t take the bus to Dalat until 9-10pm-ish so… perhaps we can meet for dinner.

    OMG, I can’t WAIT for phu and a baguette!
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Woo-Hoo – I’m Back In the Spanish Saddle Again!

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:44 am # Reply

      Would love to meet up when you return to Vietnam for one last go round before heading off to South America; Vietnam is turning into be our best blogger meet-up city ever! And of course, it’s always nice to meet fellow travelers who love a country as much as we do… still can’t figure out how anyone could NOT love it here, but evidently those people do exist!

  3. mee January 15, 2014 at 11:39 am # Reply

    I have just been catching up with the Internet and reading your recent posts. It’s amazing that you’re still in South East Asia, you must really love it there. Vietnam is one country I haven’t explored much (just been to Hanoi), so I’d definitely love to go again. I miss Asia, but apparently I’m not quite yet done with Europe ;)
    mee recently posted..Turkey Storifyed

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:47 am # Reply

      Ha ha! I think you feel about Europe the way we feel about Asia… maybe in a year’s time we’ll swap places? ;)

  4. eemusings January 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm # Reply

    Vietnam IS polarising, is it not? We had our first Couchsurfing experience abroad there meeting up with a couple of locals who took us to some interesting spots, but overall Saigon didn’t really capture us, though I bet with the amount of time you guys are spending there you’ll be able to really crack it. We were sick, we stayed in the backpacker district, though I do have to say we had a BLAST going to the local waterpark and being the only foreigners there.
    eemusings recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Coasting down California, complete with elephant seals

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:50 am # Reply

      In many ways Saigon was not the part of the country that really “caught” us, but perhaps that makes sense given that we started in the north and worked our way south. I still think there are places here that I like more than HCMC, but in terms of a longer-term base, it makes more sense than anywhere else we could have chosen. Livability does not always make for good traveling cities and vice versa.

      Haven’t tried the waterpark… perhaps once it warms up (we’ve acclimated to Asian temperatures, I guess!)?

  5. Emily January 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm # Reply

    I think exploring and experiencing a place can be as big or as small as you want it. What you’ve described sounds like you are getting more of a handle on things than whisking around here and there. I love that kind of travel! (and I also love the photo of the guy sleeping on his bike!)
    Emily recently posted..Learning the Art of Slow Travel

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:53 am # Reply

      Yup, the great thing about travel is there are so many ways to do it, and just when you think you’ve got it down, you discover there’s still more to learn. We may have been on the road for 17 months, but we’ve certainly never done this before and it feels really great!

  6. Brian January 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm # Reply

    Kim and I have found that settling down in a place for a stretch of time is out favorite way to travel – even if it is in hectic Saigon! And if you are enjoying your time there, why leave? The tunnels & delta aren’t going anywhere and will be good distractions for when you start to get itchy feet but also want to stay in Saigon. Enjoy your time there!
    Brian recently posted..A Battle with The Worst (airplane) Seat Neighbor

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:55 am # Reply

      I think if you intend to balance traveling with other interests, slow travel and settling yourself somewhere for longer periods is really the only way to achieve that. It allows you to focus on something other than getting to your next destination and cramming in all the activities, and while that can be fun, it’s draining too. And as you say, Asia may be changing quickly, but the big attractions are here for a good long while so they can stand to wait a bit longer for us!

  7. Jimmy Dau January 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm # Reply

    Not seeing an attraction is a good thing. I’d give it all up just to spend time to have a routine and find out what it’s like to be a local. When I was in Medellin in Colombia, I wanted to do the Pablo Escobar tour but after 6 weeks I had no interest in it as it’s not what defines Medellin.

    Can’t wait to get there. As always, the photos are amazing!
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..My Travel Photography Gear

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:57 am # Reply

      It’s very true that rarely do the big ticket tourist attractions actually accurately capture the places in which they are located. That’s not to say that they’re not of any value, but for those looking for real insight into the country, you can normally achieve that in other less obvious ways.

  8. Alana - Paper Planes January 16, 2014 at 3:00 am # Reply

    I love this title! I’m horrible at coming up with clever titles and openings…

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 4:58 am # Reply

      Thanks, Alana. Sometimes I feel like clever titles and openings are all I can dish up… ;)

  9. Kim January 16, 2014 at 5:53 am # Reply

    You guys, this is so good. And you perfectly described my favorite city in Vietnam. AND the photos are wonderful. Love it and I’m glad you guys have found a little cocoon that time forgot there in the crazy city.

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm # Reply

      I’m so glad this post spoke to you and capture a bit of HCMC’s magic for you, Kim. I have to say, I didn’t anticipate that it would wind up being your favorite city in Vietnam (I suspect your favorite place is probably gorgeous little Phu Quoc!), but I can’t fault you on that choice. Maybe one day you will return and find a cocoon of your own!

  10. Carmel January 16, 2014 at 6:30 am # Reply

    Fantastic. I think that’s a challenge to us all, no matter how long or short of a stay we have in a city. We always have expectations of ourselves to do all the things, or have all the experiences or make the MOST of our stays, but in doing that, sometimes we miss the point. I feel like we’ve had this feeling many times before, mostly notably with our time in Chiang Mai. I read blogs after we had been there and saw “not to be missed” or something you “must” see in Chiang Mai…but we didn’t do any of those things. For a moment, I felt like I had missed out, but thinking back to our time, I wouldn’t change a thing. We had a similarly long stay in Siem Reap a couple weeks ago and didn’t worry for a second about doing anything besides Angkor Wat, which we did with my family.

    I’m glad you’re letting this city sink into your bones. I think it will be that much more special because of it. Now that we’ve gotten past the visa debacle, I’m starting to fall for this city and country, slowly by steadily (thanks to you AGAIN).

    Also, we had a clock that did the same thing in high school. How unfair is that?
    Carmel recently posted..PIRANHA FISHING IN PAI

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:25 pm # Reply

      I think the past we have only ever given into the impulse to “do nothing” when we are so bone tired that we literally can’t do anything else. So we haven’t really purposefully chosen to just turn our backs on running around madly, so much as we’ve slid into it before. It’s nice to say, “Screw it, I’m just going to celebrate this city in the way that I want to, not in the way that everyone else feels I should.” The longer we travel, the less we experience FOMO, simply because we become happier and more confident in the choices we make. When you’re happy with what you’ve got, it’s harder to really feel like you should be doing something else (or wanting something else).

      And I’m so glad that you guys are FINALLY in a place where you can leave all the visa debacles and red tape behind you and get to falling in love with Vietnam. I promise, it’s insane here, but amazing too!

  11. Nico January 16, 2014 at 7:47 am # Reply

    Some great photos of Vietnam. Can’t wait to visit there this year.
    Nico recently posted..Conservation through the Camera Lens: An Interview With iLCP

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:26 pm # Reply

      Thanks, Nico. If it’s your first visit to Vietnam, you are really in for a treat!

  12. Kara January 16, 2014 at 8:50 am # Reply

    Sounds like an absolutely wonderful plan. I was in HCMC for a few days but I wish that I had had the chance to stay for a longer period like you – maybe in the future though! I loved Vietnam and would love to explore again.
    Kara recently posted..Riding the matatus in Nairobi

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:27 pm # Reply

      I think one could legitimately spend years exploring HCMC… it’s one of those places that seems to expand to fill up however much time you choose to spend here! The best places generally tend to be like that, don’t you find?

  13. Colleen Brynn January 16, 2014 at 9:26 am # Reply

    On a much smaller scale to your experience in Vietnam, when I was on Easter Island, I spent a few more days there than most travellers. For the first half of my trip, I was completely enchanted and whisked away. Then I met a few people who opened my eyes to what the island is really like, and I had to reconcile these two different ideas I had of the place. It was such a fascinating experience, it only made me love the island more because I managed to be exposed to a different side of life. I’m glad you are getting to experience this in Vietnam by actually living there and sinking your teeth into life in Vietnam daily. That is the true gift of travel and being away from home if you ask me. Knowing what it is to live somewhere.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..Escape From A Gulag!

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:30 pm # Reply

      In some places I have been completely satisfied to only know them as a casual (if interested) traveler, but I think when we really love a place, we want to know more about it, just like we would a person. You want to know it’s quirks, it’s dirty little secrets, not just the pretty face it shows to the world. The truth is that locals never experience their homes the way tourists do, and even with people in the know to guide you, I think you have to simply be willing to allow a place the time to reveal those aspects of itself to you. I’m glad we’re getting to do that a little bit here in Saigon, and I think it’s so cool you got to do that on Easter Island of all places!

  14. Talon January 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm # Reply

    I was SO glad we avoided District 1. When a friend drove us through there later, I know I would’ve been hightailing it out of HCMC at that point. Which would’ve been a HUGE mistake. Really loved that city. Would love to go back and spend more time there. I’ll have to convince Tigger, though. He got a little bit too much friendly touch from the locals while there. lol
    Talon recently posted..5 Things to Do in London

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:32 pm # Reply

      You know, District 1 is not, in its entirety, all bad. We are still living in D1, but we’re on the outskirts where it’s much quieter and there’s not a lot of tourist traffic. And when we were last in HCMC, we were right in the heart of backpacker central and it was fine for the needs that we had at that time. But I think we have a higher tolerance for that kind of thing than you do. We had also been traveling for a long time through the country already, so it’s not like we were under any illusions that we were getting a true blue Vietnamese experience there.

      Maybe you can tempt Tigger with a visit to the waterpark? It’s supposed to be a good one!

  15. Joanne Joseph January 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm # Reply

    My hubby and I are about to take off to live our dream life – traveling indefinitely. I’m filling in each week/month with places to go, things to see, and experiences I want to have. A little voice in my head started to whisper and is now shouting that I need to plan less and just let things unfold more. You said, “When it comes to our time here in the city, I no longer care so much about making the most of it, but making the best of it instead.” I think that may be one of the most profound and meaningful things I could read right now. I just subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading more. By-the-way, I also love your photography. You have an excellent eye for capturing street scenes which translate into giving a good perspective into what life is like there.

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:38 pm # Reply

      Thank you for your kind note Joanne, and how exciting for you and your husband that you’ll soon be turning a dream into reality. Congratulations! That is no small feat!

      I am a crazy Type A planner at heart so I would never tell someone who hasn’t set off on their travels that they shouldn’t plan (it’s so much fun! it’s just an extension of dreaming out loud, is it not?), but the problem isn’t so much in making plans but in refusing to deviate from them. I started our trip with an insane serial-killer style spreadsheet where I not only listed all the countries we would go and the cities we would likely visit, but I also tried to estimate how much time we would spend in each place, how we would get from point A to B, potential guesthouses, etc., It was ridiculous and way too much! Once you’re on the road you find that things have a way of working out and while we still have a general road map of where we’d like to head and how we anticipate the next few months will go, we find that having a few big sign posts is all we need and we’ll fill in the details as we go. It is good to leave yourself room for serendipity and to remember that traveling will change you a lot and the person you are now will not be who you are after even 1 month of travel, meaning your goals, desires, and sources of immediate happiness will likely shift too. Embrace the uncertainty!

  16. Rhonda January 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm # Reply

    I loved it there as well. At other times, our travels throughout Vietnam were a huge lesson in frustration but the buzz and traffic and spirit of it all makes one feel alive!
    Rhonda recently posted..An Enemy named Time.

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:40 pm # Reply

      I think that traveling anywhere can be a lesson in frustration (even in Japan!) and although Vietnam seems to get a lot of flack from travelers in the past, we’ve never really had trouble slipping into the flow of things here. In Asia you learn a lot about the power of patience and that’s a good thing to have in spades while in Vietnam! So glad to hear you loved it here too.

  17. Lauren @Roamingtheworld January 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm # Reply

    Beautiful Beautiful photos!

    Ah routine is so nice when you’re on the road or building your life elsewhere… Enjoy it!
    Lauren @Roamingtheworld recently posted..Road trippin: Hitting the road without a plan

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:42 pm # Reply

      Credit for the photos is (per usual) all due to Tony. He does have quite the knack for capturing Vietnam’s spirit, doesn’t he?
      It’s funny how before we left we felt like our routines were dictating so much our lives and sucking the fun out of it, but now they actually feel real liberating and energizing. :)

  18. trisha January 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm # Reply

    you’re so right that simply living there is an adventure — and a rarer one than visiting tourist sites. Glad you are able to slow down and enjoy it.

    • Steph January 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm # Reply

      Yes, I think this ties into the post I wrote in Nepal about a savoring the small stuff to find the beauty in everyday life and increasing our happiness as a result. It’s understanding that everything has the potential to be an adventure if we only look at it with the right set of eyes. This feels really good to us right now, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts… I know in a few months time we’ll be back to our peripatetic ways because we’ve still got a lot of exploring to do!

  19. Heather January 17, 2014 at 11:34 am # Reply

    Great opening! We only had five days in HCMC so our time there was more in line with your original plan to see all the things. We took a day trip to the cu chi tunnels and had another one planned for the Mekong Delta, but then my husband got food poisoning and we had to cancel. He was stuck in the hotel room for one full day and, after making sure he had everything he needed, I set off to explore deeper into the city. As bad as I felt for him, it was nice to have that time to explore freely and change my direction at will. I ended up seeing some pretty cool things and the experience reminded me that I don’t need to over plan everything to make the most of my time.
    Heather recently posted..The Royal Palace of Gödöllő, Hungary

    • Steph January 17, 2014 at 9:00 pm # Reply

      Ah the dreaded food poisoning! As much as we love Vietnamese food, this country seems to be pretty toxic for travelers on the food front… I think we’ve had better luck this time around because compared to Nepal, everything here seems so clean! ;)

      Good for you for not letting your husband’s sickness stop you from doing your own exploring! Even if I do like having rough plans, I am more mindful about leaving big chunks of the day open to chance and whatever might pop up along the way. Those things generally wind up being more fun and memorable anyway!

  20. Travis January 17, 2014 at 11:36 am # Reply

    Great post Steph! I think Vietnam is a place that slightly terrifies every traveler – definitely me (although certainly in a good way…I can’t wait to visit someday soon). I love that you guys are spending some time just staying put for a while. That is one thing I have really started to want after about 10 months of perpetual travel…it would be nice to not feel “guilty” about wanting to spend a day in and just read or watch TV. Also, I’m terribly jealous of all the amazing food you guys are probably eating in Vietnam. Gorgeous photos as always…safe travels!
    Travis recently posted..Discovering Palermo’s World Renowned Street Food Scene

    • Steph January 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm # Reply

      We were SO NERVOUS about Vietnam when we first visited back in March, and of course we really didn’t need to be at all. But you hear a lot of mixed things about the country and not everyone loves it the way we do and we were so worried that we would fall into the “hate it” camp. Given how much we love Vietnamese food, that would have been a sad state of affairs indeed! ;)

  21. Amy January 18, 2014 at 5:33 am # Reply

    I can’t believe you’ve been back in HCMC for so long already either! We started our ‘rest and work’ month in Chiang Mai with lists and schedules too and wildly overestimated what we could achieve; I think we only got through probably half of what I thought we would during that time. However, the most important thing we gained from that month was a sense of routine and familiarity which was such a comfort after months of hectic travel. Ultimately that comfort turned to restlessness during our last week or so in Chiang Mai as we became desperate to get moving again, so we headed back out renewed and excited. It sounds like this time is just what you need right now, enjoy it!
    Amy recently posted..Laid-Back Laos and Learning to Relax

    • Steph January 20, 2014 at 5:31 am # Reply

      I agree that after months of hectic travel that a routine can really feel very liberating and comforting; I find that I am a lot more productive and energized when we are staying put, because it frees up so much room in my brain. You don’t appreciate how much time and energy can be spent on little things like finding food or a place to sleep until you’re constantly having to do that, so it’s definitely been nice to get back into a routine so that we can focus on meeting some different needs for a little bit.

  22. Arti January 18, 2014 at 11:12 pm # Reply

    I love this post! To experience any city, slowly is just fascinating. As an old saying goes, ‘Even a broken clock shows the correct time twice a day!’
    Arti recently posted..My Yatra Diary…’s New Blog Look In 2014!

    • Steph January 20, 2014 at 5:32 am # Reply

      Thanks, Arti! I agree that slowly experiencing a city is really very interesting, so it’s nice we have given ourselves that chance here in HCMC.

  23. Marisol@TravelingSolemates January 20, 2014 at 8:57 am # Reply

    Hi Steph, so glad to hear that you and Tony are well settled and loving it in HCMC. I think if you’re traveling as much as you do, it seems natural to come to a point when you just want to slow down. You evolved from “lets see everything” into “let’s live and feel the moment” kind of travelers. I think it’s a good thing. I also think that for location independent people like you, feeling at home where you are helps in your productivity and creativity. I guess it also helps that great food is just within reach:)
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Trongsa, The Center of Bhutan

    • Steph January 22, 2014 at 5:27 am # Reply

      You’re exactly right, Marisol! We really have evolved as travelers and no longer feel like we have to race around and see absolutely everything, certainly not right now. And since we’ve settled down, we’ve both felt A LOT more creative and like we channel our energies into more intellectually demanding projects than when we were jumping from place to place. I’m sure in 3 months we’ll be ready to hit the road again, but for now, this is really what we need.

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  1. "Eternity in each moment": In search of Slow Moments. - January 16, 2014

    […] think slowing down may look different for everyone. For my friends Steph and Tony, who are currently living in Saigon, it means deciding they don’t have to tick off every […]