The idea came to me one night after two glasses of wine, as I was procrastinating my post-grad job search by looking up photos of exotic lands I hoped to see in the vague time frame of someday. Someday when I was older, when I had more money, when I found the love of my life to take on the world together. But then it struck me. Why someday? Why when I’m older, richer, in love? I’m the oldest I have ever been, yet young enough that a little reckless abandon with my meager savings will be forgiven, or even encouraged. As for the love of my life? The first man I ever loved, and the one who will always love me best, is an adventurer and the perfect travel companion…I impulsively texted my father, suggesting that we make at least one grand trip together before I began my career and started a family. He agreed without hesitation, and the plan was set in motion.
One reason I knew Lanza would be the perfect travel companion is because in many ways I truly am my father’s daughter. Between the relentless sarcasm, a strong thirst for adventure, and an uncanny ability to read people, the apple has certainly not fallen too far from the tree.
However, some crucial differences remain, and they are particularly evident when it comes to travel. For example. This trip to Vietnam is months and months in the making. To prepare, my father has poured over dozens of travel books and blogs and YouTube videos and documentaries. He created a budget, down to the penny, and a color-coded itinerary detailing which hotel he had booked and which activity he had planned for nearly every day. He began sampling some of the more exotic fare at a local Vietnamese restaurant.
Me? Until two days ago, I thought we flew out on October 31st.
Another vital difference (and one that I am not sure my father quite appreciates the magnitude of yet) is our sense of direction. You could drop my father in the middle of a corn field blindfolded, and I am fairly positive he would be home in time for dinner. He can glance at any map and trace out the quickest route to our destination in under a minute. I once accidentally drove to Daytona Beach instead of Panama City Beach from Tampa. For those unfamiliar with the geography of Florida, I basically drove across the entire state to the opposite coast, when all I needed to do was head directly north and take a left.
Far from viewing these differences as obstacles to overcome or compromises we need to make, I see these differences almost like yin and yang…neither positive nor negative, simply two halves of the whole. And the whole is a snapshot of an adventure traveler. Someone who is willing to travel to the other side of the world, where they may or may not be understood, where the food may or may not turn their stomach, where there may or may not be hot showers and other modern conveniences. Someone who is not only willing to face these unknowns, but who grows giddy with excitement at the very thought.
True to my tendency to romanticize, our chosen destination of Vietnam seems to perfectly echo this sentiment of apparent differences blending together. The violent history between the two countries simply cannot be ignored, nor can the obvious differences in culture. However, given the opportunity to hold up history against history, culture against culture, I have a hunch that it will become rather obvious that these differences are not so much differences, but rather shades of the human condition. Within the yin and yang of our experiences in Vietnam and America, the whole will undoubtedly be a snapshot of humanity.
We have both become accustomed to the reaction when we tell our friends and family of our plans – a surprised burst of laughter and the question “You’re doing WHAT?” Once we confirm that yes, you did hear us correctly, yes we did say a whole month, yes we are a little crazy, the inevitable question is asked: ”But why?” The only answer I have been able to come up with is “But why not?” It is a borderline flippant response, but how else can I explain without seeming rude that I can not possibly imagine being content spending all my days within a comfort zone that spans from California to New York, hot dogs to hamburgers, English to slightly accented English? This is not a trip to escape the stresses of a life full of traffic and tax returns and the unwritten social rules of office life. This is not a trip to find myself, or have some grand epiphany regarding the nature of life and death. What this trip is about is collecting a puzzle piece or two to the snapshot that is my life, a picture that I aim to make as varied and vibrant as possible.