A couple weeks ago, my dad was at CVS talking to a pharmacist while on the phone with me. He told the woman that he was speaking with his son in Vietnam, to which she responded, “My son is in Afghanistan!” My dad reminded her that the war was over in Vietnam, and that I was in the country simply to travel. It’s amazing how Vietnam still has this connotation. My dad, who was too young to be drafted during the war, has always been fascinated by this misunderstood country. My three weeks in Vietnam was a perfect excuse for my parents to finally make the trip.
I was thrilled to see mom and dad after being separated for nearly ten weeks. We reunited in Saigon, where they started a two week Vietnam journey. I have a new haircut, got some color on my skin, and lost some weight (inevitable while traveling through Asia), but they recognized me at our coffee shop meeting point. We spent three days together exploring Saigon. These days were very different than any other part of my trip. My generous parents put me up in a fancy hotel room and paid for some meals that I would normally consider very expensive (example: $25 total for five people). This served as a very nice vacation from the harsh life of budget backpacking.
Spending time with family on the other side of the world provides for very special experiences. Everything is native and comfortable at home. Traveling with family gives you a rare opportunity to be together while experiencing new cultures far away from your comfort zone. It was entertaining to see my parents get used to customs that are now normal to me. Watching mom and dad experience panicked stress while crossing the street, holding hands like we did in grade school, was uncomfortable and a bit funny at the same time. I taught them how to say no to the hagglers and negotiate at markets. I told them which beers to drink in each city. It is all too appropriate that they start their Vietnam journey as I end mine.
We said goodbye after three amazing days together. I am overjoyed that my travels during this gap year have encouraged my family to get up and see a part of the world that they never really expected to see. I’m not selfish enough to say that my brother and my parents came all the way across the world to see me because they love me that much, but I do think that may have played a part.