Suspended in a Cloud: My Journey Up the Mountains in Vietnam
I was at the edge of a cliff. Below me, rice paddy fields clung to the edge of the mountain, plunging over a thousand meters downward. I was in the northern mountains in Vietnam, suspended in a cloud.
I inched towards the light. There was only one. It was a single bulb, dangling from a feeble wire.
I would have moved faster, but it was nearly 10 PM and the fog was so thick, my limbs were invisible. A gust of light wind splashed droplets in my eyes as I pulled them further, further open in hopes that I could collect any more information on my surroundings.
My attempts were useless. The only figure I could make out was the light bulb. In the thick fog, its rays were spliced into a diamond formation shooting in each direction of the compass rose. One beam that struck me directly.
As I inched closer, the silhouette of a bony tree appeared and the barn I had just evacuated collapsed behind me like a stage prop. A familiar metaphor played out literally: With each step towards this foggy light, I had to abandon what I knew from behind me. Staying in safety was the most comfortable position. I was afraid. I was unprepared. But I had a burning desire. I had to know what is it like over there!
One blind step after another, I reached the light and my senses were restored for a split second before the fog swallowed it up again.
These moments of misunderstanding. These attempts to comprehend. Isn’t this the essence of travel? Why is it that after 12 months of constant globe-trotting, it took a common meteoric occurrence, stretched to the extreme, to remind me what my journeys were all about; making sense of where I stand in the world. And in this instant, the world was anything that I wanted it to be.
Hiking the hills and staying with locals day-in and day-out made this “new” world feel as if it exists in a parallel universe. The fresh air and array of greens repair my city-stained lungs and monitor-burned eyes. One tear-off calendar on the bamboo-wooded wall is my only reminder that I am still living in the same real world I left in Boulder. The natives I meet after each mile of climbing were draped in colorful, ethnic ensembles made to perfection.
I’ve now walked through the clouds of my gap year, not sure where to put my next step, but infinitely curious as to how far I can really go. I want to continue this lifestyle of asking myself, how much fear can I overcome? And what’s on the other side? The hills of Vietnam were a mere step of the much longer excursion ahead.