Life, Travel

Asia, Again/ The Happy Place

It’s hard to believe, but in less than 48 hours, I’ll be headed off to Southeast Asia again.

This is my third time over there, and while I’m visiting a few new spots, I am mostly trodding well loved territory, although this time not with my family, or alone. Ryan is coming, which should be a treat. More for him, I think.

The pragmatist in me thinks “Why are you going back there? Shouldn’t you spend your money on new experiences? What about India? What about Burma? What about Nepal?”

For a while I didn’t know how to explain it, but it occurred to me the other night as I was doing a test pack: Southeast Asia is my happy place.  I’ve worked through major breakups, death and a number of other issues there. It’s a place of intense healing for me. It’s just something about the tone of life. You can’t help but be moved by being there. I may have mentioned it before, but when I meditate or do thought exercises in therapy, the Mekong River in Luang Prabang is the #1 thing I think about to calm myself down. I mean, come on, look at this shit.



This trip was precipitated because last year I didn’t go to Vietnam, and I felt like I had made a mistake. For a year I’ve told myself that I have to get back to Vietnam.


When I visited Vietnam seven years ago I met my family that was left behind in Saigon. I learned more about life and war by looking into their hard worn faces than I’d gathered from 22 years of books and stories.

Most notably, I’d been Chinese all my life, but once I went to Vietnam, I started feeling Vietnamese as well.  (Unfortunately, this “Vietnamese feeling” does not qualify you for a visa discount at the SF Consulate). I left Vietnam changed, with two little sunspots on either side of my cheeks to prove it. I was there, it really happened. See, here’s the sun damage to prove it.


So anyways, on the housekeeping front this longwinded, winding  and maudlin post is all to say that I’m going back to Asia again for a couple weeks. We’ll be hitting Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (oh, and South Korea too, sort of). I’m pretty excited, and hope to post a little bit here and there.

Since we’re talking about it anyways, I guess I want to mention that if you don’t already have a happy place in your heart, you need one. Think about it. Sit still for a second, and conjure up the last place where you truly felt free and happy. Think about what it felt like to be there. Try to think of a specific moment that actually happened to you. Maybe you were riding motorcycles somewhere 3,000 miles away, or maybe you were on the couch with the cat, drinking chocolate milk and basking in the late afternoon sunlight. Think about all the little details, like the burn of the sunscreen in your eyes, or the grit of the rocks in your shoes. Even if this place doesn’t exist anymore, hold on to this feeling. The more you practice remembering the moment the easier it is to conjure up in times of stress and pain.

If you do try this, tell me where your happy place is. I’m curious.

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