Today is Thanksgiving and I am in Vietnam, far away from family and friends, on a work assignment, no less. When I booked the press trip for the Emeraude, the Thanksgiving holiday didn’t even jump out and say “Hey, what are you doing? It’s Thanksgiving!” And so I find myself on a boat in the middle of Halong Bay. There are worse places in the world. I am feeling grateful for my life.
In the two years I’ve been employed with Apple Tree and living in Hanoi, I’ve been privileged to partake in any number of adventures and travels under the auspices of “work”. Here in Halong Bay alone, I have enjoyed the annual Wine & Dine Cruise Classic and dined in formal attire within a setting straight out of a fantasy book; a large cave in the bay, bathed in candlelight. I’ve rocked climbed, getting up close and personal to the limestone rocks which make up thousands of islands in the bay.
In Hanoi, I’m thankful for my lovely apartment and the kind and caring family who own the building and live “with” me. Without them, I would not have had my little sanctuary to return to after a long and stressful day, after traveling on a street full of honking motorbikes and lost taxi drivers. My apartment could be anywhere in the world, and it is because of them that I could feel that it served as my retreat and “home”.
At the Press Club, I’ve enjoyed countless meals, excellent dinners and some absolutely fantastic parties. The location alone is prestigious, across from the historic Metropole, near the Opera and within a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake. Every ride into work provided any number of sights, from barbers setting up their shop against a tree trunk, to buffalo and pig legs sticking out of a box on the back of a motorbike, a rare sighting of an entire and dead pig on top of a trash pile, numerous children riding squished between parents on motorbikes, and the numerous women who are hauling anything from fresh veggies to a small restaurant on two baskets slung over their shoulders. The sights, tastes, and sounds of the streets of Hanoi will live within me forever. It’s impossible to forget and one small aspect I know I will miss very much when I am sitting in a car, behind a steering wheel stuck in traffic on the 405.
I traveled to Laos on a handful of occasions, this last visit being just for fun. And over two years, with each visit, this landlocked country with the mighty Mekong running through it as its main artery has become one of my most favorite places in Asia. The people are gorgeous, the pace is slow and if you don’t walk away from your experience there feeling spiritual, at least humbled, then you have not experienced the real Laos. I can never forget being blessed by a monk, my friend’s father, and then being in a tiny village to receive blessings from the community. That touched my heart like no other experience in my life.
My business travels have taken me to Berlin, Singapore, Bangkok, London and even the exotic in Marrakech. I’ve made friends in each place and have been treated to the local perspective. In a place like Marrakech, that’s especially fortunate. I love traveling, as you all know, and I feel so lucky that I have visited these terrific cities not just once, but a few times. Many people never travel outside of their hometowns, so I am appreciative of the opportunity.
I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. Living and working in Vietnam has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. But with each daily hurdle, came tremendous personal growth. If Vietnam didn’t kill me, then I don’t think anything can! ;p
I owe these two great years of experience in my life to my friend and my manager, Kurt. You’ll all remember that when I traveled to Vietnam in 2008, I stayed with he and his family for a few weeks and that they were such gracious hosts. Once I returned to the US after my travels, it was Kurt who pushed for my return to Hanoi and for me to fill this role. He’s lent an incredible amount of support and provided such a wonderful opportunity for me to grow professionally. He’s often referred to He, Marcel and me as his “Dream Team” and you know, we are. The three of us work so nicely together and are really a powerhouse. For this I wish I could remain longer in Hanoi, so that the three of us could really gel and continue on our path of success. Both Kurt and Marcel are Swiss German, so I’ve been exposed to a “unique” style of management (that’s a positive comment) which is efficient, productive and completely straight-forward.
I can never express in words how grateful I am to Kurt for bringing me on board, for continuing to be my cheerleader and biggest fan, for pushing me to be better and grow professionally. As I come to the close of my contract with Apple Tree, I’m super happy I took the offer to live and work in Vietnam and will always be thankful for this chapter of my life.