Behind Fear Lies a Gift

It was a warm summers night.

I was spinning fire around my head. A trick I had learnt in Australia three years before from two gorgeous backpacking girls I had met. We lived in tents, during the day we packed tomatoes into cardboard boxes. We worked hard and at night our campsite became a circus where the girls taught my friend and I how to twirl fire poi while sipping on cheap warm white wine from a box. Thankfully we never set ourselves on fire ! 

There I was back in Ireland in
the magical garden of my fairy godmother ironically standing under an Australian tree. An extremely tall eucalyptus tree that was beginning to succumb to the perpetual dampness of the Irish weather. 

My mum and my fairy godmother herself sat on a bench watching the hypnotic circle of fire that was racing past my head. We were excited. I had just completed my honours degree in Marine Science . I was returning to Australia to be with my Kangaroo boy. The world was my oyster. The freedom of summer was intoxicating. As I was twirling the fire I told my audience I was thinking of stopping in Vietnam on my way to Australia for a last adventure before I began to settle into grown up life. 

On a whim I asked my Mum and fairy godmother if they would like to come with me. Why not?  I was sure the world could be their oyster too. It would mean they could accompany me half way on my journey to my new life and we could spend even more quality time together. 

From that throw away remark we found ourselves three months later in Dublin airport. Feeling excited and nervous. Our backpacks on our backs and some Vietnamese dong in our pockets we boarded the plane. 

I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of traveller. I was used to just winging it with accommodation and transport. However my Mum is the opposite. She is a planner. She organises and she researches. I wondered if she would drive me a little crazy with her worrying and her planning. It was the first time my mum had left Europe and she was extremely nervous about it all. 

We flew into Hanoi. I really want to go back to this amazing city. It was a typical south Asian city with the crazy traffic and  strange food stalls on every corner. The humidity was stifling. However I loved every second of it. It made me feel alive. The people were friendly and smiling. The buildings were old and decrepit but with history and beauty, a strange blend of European and Chinese. My senses were enthralled by the the smells and fascinating sights.

Whole families riding by on one scooter.
Elderly women siting on benches doing each others hair. Just trying to cross the road took such courage and tenacity waiting for the right time. One day a kind man saw us hesitating on the side of the road. He told us to follow him showing us that we must walk slowly and let the traffic weave around us.

This trip was almost 10 years ago so my memories are hazy. However I know that I absolutely loved Vietnam. There of course were parts of it that were difficult. The beggars on the streets missing limbs and living in huts. The guilt we felt being rich westerners in comparison to these poor people was overwhelming at times. The remnants of a horrific Vietnam war forever etched into the countries land leaves a reminder of the suffering the Vietnamese people have endured.  

There is something about Vietnam though it captures your heart. With vistas that you only dreamed of in books on far away places. Ha Long Bay, I will never forget our stay there. We stayed on a traditional Chinese Junk boat. Throughout the bay high stacks of rock protrude out of the water like the humps from a dragons back. A hazy cloud of fog in the morning can create a scene you would only dream of. I will never forget sitting out on the deck on a humid night. All around we could see twinkling lights from other boats in the distance. Above us bright stars and a moon so full it looked as if it might burst. We could have been in Neverland with Peter Pan. 

Throughout the journey we all enjoyed each others company and got along really well. My Mum and my Fairy Godmother are cousins and best friends since they were babies. Despite my hesitations with travelling with my Mum I don’t think I would have had such a good time if my Mum had not been so organised ! Considering she had never really done any travel before she was amazing. 

We travelled South from Hanoi all the way down to Ho Chi Min City. We mostly travelled by train paying a bit extra for our own sleeper cabin. It was a really comfortable clean and pleasant way to travel. My favourite stop was Hoi An. I could spend days roaming this beautiful small town. Quieter streets. Heritage buildings with a french influence. We were always fascinated with seeing the children going to school in Vietnam especially Hoi an. Their uniforms were always spotless. The boys in their whiter than white shirts and blue shorts. The girls in their traditional Chinese white dresses and straw hats. They looked so elegant with their beautiful long shiny ponytails.  

It was after 4 weeks of travelling that the day came to separate from each other. My Mum and Fairy Godmother to return to Ireland. I would then fly onto Perth to begin a new life. If I am honest I would not have minded jumping on the plane with my Mum. The goodbyes were heartbreaking. My Godmother took a photo of my mum and I in the airport in Singapore. Its a beautiful but raw photo we are both looking at the camera as we sit side by side. But our eyes are red from crying. To this day I cant really look at that photo. It still breaks my heart. My mum gave me a beautiful card she had written  in. She told me to read it on the plane. I read it with great difficulty through a flood of tears, I placed it into my travel wallet. There it has stayed in the back of my wardrobe for the last 10 years. 

I could never bring myself to read it again. It was too painful for me. I was afraid . Part of me had always wanted to be at home with my family. Today I found that letter . I read it and it didn’t break my heart this time as I thought it would. 
It made me smile and feel proud. 

I guess it has taken me 10 years of growth to appreciate the words of my wise Mum. 

“As you set out on your Journey to Oz and your new Life with D.., I want you to know that you are a brave, wonderful and beautiful woman”

“I want to thank you for allowing me to share Vietnam with you I will always remember it. Be strong and be happy” 

Once my Mum took that first journey across the world further than she had ever been before her nervousness to travel was quashed by the excitement of a whole new world out there.  Since that journey to Vietnam my Mum has been to India to work with women in a community centre and she has travelled to Australia three times. Twice with my Dad and once on her own.

This Friday she boards a plane alone to come and visit us for the fourth time, 
How lucky am I!

Behind fear there is a gift waiting for you. Go seize it. 

Blogging with EssentiallyJess for #IBOT

When have you found a gift behind your fear?

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