33 hours of travel, door to door.
Major sore throat. Aching ears. Congested sinuses.
Jet lag like I've never known it. (Good thing for Xanax.)
A taxi ride from airport to hotel spent gripping the seat and shutting my eyes.
Windows that don't close (how else would the cables attach to the poles?) and honking, roosters, Vietnamese shouting filtering in.
Overwhelm and tears and wanting to come home.
And yet, and yet.
On the plane from New York to Taiwan, I snuck a peek out the shuttered window when my neighbor got up for the bathroom (oh yes, 15 hours on a plane in a middle seat) and came face-to-face with the full moon shining over the cloud cover. I was able to smile for the first time in hours and breathe a sigh of relief -- for it's true, the moon is the same no matter where on the planet you are. I can rely on her, her solidity, her steadfastness -- even over Alaska.
I promised myself I would stick this out for at least three months. Once the 90 days are up, I can come home if I really want to.
When I got to my hotel yesterday, I wanted to change that to three weeks. And then three days. It felt like all I could handle. And barely that.
Today feels somewhat brighter. More solid. I can breathe.
I have Vietnamese currency in my wallet. I choked down a horrible Vietnamese breakfast at the hotel (24 hours without a real meal will do that to you) and then put on my brave face and ventured out. I passed women chopping meat on plastic tables, children slurping noodles for breakfast, a Caucasian couple drinking coffee together. I dodged the many motorbikes navigating these tiny alleys and turned around when the sidewalk ended and the street became full of zooming motorists and I started fearing for my life.
I passed a somewhat Western-looking coffee shop and took a deep breath and stopped in, hoping someone spoke English. There was a choice between Italian coffee and Vietnamese coffee, and I knew I couldn't have come this far to order regular old coffee. So I pointed at something in Vietnamese that seemed normal and ordered it for takeaway. I was absurdly grateful to also see sealed liters of water and bought a couple of those, too, carefully counting out my bills of Vietnamese dong. I walked back to the hotel slowly, savoring this small victory. Huge victory, actually.
Ten minutes. I was out no longer than that. And yet I got back to my hotel room and felt so accomplished, so proud, so satisfied. My coffee tasted like melted ice cream and I swallowed a whole bunch of zinc and vitamin C and got back under the covers.
I'm not sure I understand solo travel. For so long now I've been following other women who are doing it, research for my impending adventure. And now here I am, a couple days in, and I don't get it yet. Right now it feels largely full of loneliness and discomfort and fear, so much fear. I'm trying to trust that it will make more sense soon. After all, jet lag and sickness and culture shock might be influencing me at the moment. (Might.)
I find myself pining for stability and family and safety and calm. Grass is always greener, I suppose. Adventure versus security. A two week vacation might be a good balance for both. But this is more committed. This is a move. A year. A job. An apartment. A year goes by fast, right?