Happy New Year! Hope you’ve been well. It has been a year since my last post! Time flies when you’re following your heart. As a 1970 baby, I welcome each new decade with my own new decade in life. This one was a biggie, so to celebrate I followed my heart and my family to a place out of my world, Thailand and Vietnam to be exact. I was seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences, to see new things, to get out of my bubble, to be uncomfortable.
On the last night of the trip, we set off on our final adventure in Saigon, a city of 3 million motorbikes and 9 million people. It was yet another food tour, but this time on a Vespa. Just as I was hopping on the bike, my guide shouted, “Don’t tense up or move around. Just relax or else your driver will lose control.” With nervous limbs as flimsy as my helmet strap, I held on not too tight, taking deep breaths of diesel exhaust as we whipped through flower markets, flew around crowded café corners, zigzagged across congested roundabouts and turned straight into oncoming traffic.
Two days before, we followed a food blogger named Tu for a walking street food tour through Hanoi. Seeing fear on my face, Tu grabbed my arm and pulled me diagonally through intersections of similar nonsensical traffic. He whispered in my ear, “Walk slow. Don’t run or change your pace. This way they can time their way around you.” If seeing live bunnies awaiting their fate or frogs trapped in nets for someone’s dinner or squirming sea worms that I later learned were in a spongy fried cake I had just eaten weren’t awful enough, now I had to walk slowly into traffic with no crosswalk or common sense.
In Chiang Mai, I also walked along side enormous elephants and fed them snacks of sugar cane straight onto their soft tongues. The day before, I stuffed my own mouth with curried Khao Soi I made myself in a cooking class.
In Phuket, I said “Sawadee Kha” for hello and “Khob Khun Ka” for thank you with an authentic Thai accent so I was told. No words were needed as we crossed paths with a gang of monkeys who made it clear we were not welcome on land from our longtail boat.
In HaLong Bay, I welcomed in the New Year with rowdy new friends from Thailand, Mexico, France and Vietnam aboard a junk boat surrounded by limestone karst.
In Bangkok, I took a tuk tuk to incredible food stops, some down dark dingy alleys I would never dream of eating in at home. Outside of Bangkok, I stood as narrow as possible inches from a moving train passing through a local market and over the vendors’ goods.
In other words… birthday wish granted. Truly living is uncomfortable. Every new experience brings the unfamiliar. Taking chances. Just seeing. Testing new waters. Not turning away. These feelings felt familiar. I realized I live this way almost daily, winding my way through my organic food boutique business. Where I once outsourced cooking, I am now responsible for it all. Much like crossing a crowded street on a diagonal, it’s exciting, scary and uncomfortable. To have stayed in my comfortable zone, though, would have denied me connections to new people and new discoveries of myself.
On my trip, I also learned that what you find may be dark and unbearably uncomfortable. Coming face-to-face with the atrocities of the war at The War Remnants Museum in Saigon, I wanted to turn away. Instead, I asked the awkward questions and grappled with the honest answers in an effort to better understand. Where there's discomfort, there's vulnerability. Vulnerability, according to vulnerability expert Brené Brown, “is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
At 50 years old, I’m committed to my uncomfort zone. If you’ve made new year intentions that make you feel uncomfortable, chances are you’re on the right path too. Moving toward something new can be uncomfortable. If change were easy, we’d all be changing. It took a little distance, give or take 9000 miles, for me to get the message... to flow comfortably through discomfort, let life grab you by the arm with a whisper reminder to move slowly, relax, stay the course and enjoy the ride.