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I’m on the road, and I will always be.

Recently, I have got bored of a lot of things: social media, music, news, people (either public figures or some of my friends), even writing. At some point, I’m even freaked out thinking how my life would turn if nothing could lift my mood up, nothing could give me goosebumps just thinking of it, nothing could make me so excited that I felt as if there were an aura glowing around my head.

But after all, I still get all of those when I’m planning for an upcoming trip. I already picture in my mind new places, new people, new memories to see. Traveling is one of very few times I happen to love the world a little bit more. It’s not the vacation mood, but a remind that I am nobody in this magnificent world. It’s not the gray, dull and mundane scenes I see everyday when I’m at home or at school. People on the road do crazy things, but not social-media-stupid-crazy thing. Nowhere but when I’m traveling, I see my sympathy for humanity becomes more thorough.

It was a gloomy, stormy day when I was on Mt. Greylock with Bear. I saw several elders getting off the tour bus. Raindrops were hitting their faces as the gusty wind was howling. The weather was so bad that we could barely see anything. I saw them slowly walking one step at a time, and it made me sad.

I turned to Bear asking,

“Hey, poor those elders. Some of them might come here the first time in their lives, and this is all they can see.”

“But they might have seen a lot of other much more interesting things,” Bear answered.

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

There is a proverb in Japanese, “Ichi go Ichi e,” which means, in life, there’s usually just One occasion for you to see something, to meet someone. Heraclitus said quite the same thing, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” And that is the good and the chilling things about traveling. It’s likely that you will see this person, this place only once in your life. It’s not mundane. It’s something new and never-coming-back. ARE YOU FREAKING OUT YET?

On the way to Colorado
On the way to Colorado
Not everyone needs to travel. Traveling can be just a treat, a hobby or a passion. For some people, it’s an incurable disease. I think I got it when I was a kid. My dad used to go on ample business trips back then. He usually took me with him. One of the best parts of my childhood memories were made while I was spending hours sitting still in the car’s backseat, looking at everything on the road: the herds of cows, the electricity poles, the road-sided vendors, the funny boards on some stores, various kinds of local fruits and liquors… In the summer, for some afternoons, my dad just went home and asked me, “Do you wanna go to [This Place]? Pack your stuff. We’re departing in one hour.” I learned to travel light at that age.

By the age of 10, I had learned to eat whatever available at some cheap (and sketchy) restaurant, to check inside the cabinets and under the bed after entering a hotel room and before leaving it, to sleep without a pillow. I learned to shut my mouth and walk that damn trail on the Trường Sơn Range when my dad’s colleagues said I should not do it because I looked weak (and fat, maybe). There I was, eating a small bánh chưng, sitting in a cottage on the mountain. Around me, adults were talking about business (my dad’s job involved building hydroelectric plants in Central Vietnam). I was the only kid, and this kid was watching the historic mountain range bathing in sunlight with her mouth full of bánh chưng.

I didn’t have the insight about that back then. But now when I looked back, it felt pretty awesome.

After that, it lay dormant. For the first two years in the U.S., I didn’t visit anywhere farther than two hours of driving from my town. Despite the fact that where I lived is next door to Seattle – an interesting, artsy city -, I barely knew anything about it. I went to Seattle twice and mostly stayed in my friend’s apartment or walked aimlessly in some mall. And that’s it.

It started to strike when I moved to Texas. I can’t tell exactly when, but I still remember some nights I just lay still in my room, wishing that someone would stop by my house and ask if I wanted to go on an (epic) adventure with them. I would pack everything in one backpack and take off without turning back. And I cried a lot.

The rest is history.

Nah, just kidding. The rest was vague and somehow merely dumb luck. I’m not that kind of a brave person who dares to make a big change in their life. Some people came and took me out of the muddy hole I stuck in. Some have stayed with me until now (and hopefully will do for a long time down the road), some left for good. And I became the person I am, always yearning for new horizons and adventures.

Again, I have to remind you that nobody needs to travel. But maybe, I said maybe, everyone needs something they will always wish for, something they are addicted to, and the more they have it, the more they want it. For the unlucky, that thing is smoking, alcohol, work, food (it’s me again), sex… For you, it might be penmanship, motor-riding, science, technology, music… For me, it’s traveling.

That’s not something to be proud of like the way the media has pictured. Of course, sometimes I write something good out of it, heard someone admiring the places I have seen, even got nationwide fame for a trip, but they are only side effects and they faded off quickly. I’m just like every people who happened to become hooked on a thing in their life.

As long as it doesn’t harm you, hold on to it, wish for it everyday. Tell the world why you got addicted and why there’s actually no reason at all. It just happened. You are destined to become this person who can’t stop his obsession. And if you have not got a hold of it for a while, start to question your life and where you are heading to.

Rio Lam Signature

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Published in Eng Journal


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