Currently I am working and hanging in Hanoi, Vietnam.
It is challenging, to say the least, to manage the work/play/life balance here. Not going to lie. But, after a couple of weeks, I think I have finally found my balance.
I discovered the program I am utilizing, Remote Year, through our Positive Aging Thought Leader, Maria Olsen. RemoteYear is a company that provides digital nomad opportunities. I’ve been a quasi digital nomad since 1999. I mean sure, I wasn’t traveling around the world consistently back then, but that’s the year I stopped going into a brick & mortar situation – forever.
Maria’s posts began popping up in my social media feeds and I instantly became enamored and a bit green (with envy) as she would share her adventures in Colombia and Argentina. It didn’t take long for me to reach out to her and inquire for more details on the hows and whys.
“Like many of us at this stage of life, I forget my age.”
Without much prodding or thought, I jumped at the opportunity myself. I asked a few questions – not many actually. And I never asked about the demographics of the group. It didn’t occur to me that given my age, 58, that I potentially could be significantly older than the rest of the attendees. Like many of us at this stage of life, I forget my age. Yes my machine has been running for almost 60 years, but my spirit is trapped in the me of my mid-thirties. It’s actually one of the greatest things about this stage of life – a youthful spirit with the wisdom of time spent on the planet.
Some may call me impulsive. I looked at the options presented by Remote Year, chose a place that I found intimidating to tackle alone, and entered my credit card information. What followed next was a series of “to dos” to prepare for the actual exit from the U.S..
Reality On The Ground:
“From the first day, each of them was welcoming and inclusive.”
Once on the ground in Hanoi, Vietnam the reality of the age discrepancy troubled me in a way I had not anticipated. I have intergenerational friendships. Typically, I am the eldest in my social groups back home – at least by a few years. Why was I having such a hard time being 30+ years older than many of my fellow digital nomads?
Let me state this bullshit story was all mine. From the first day, each of them was welcoming and inclusive. There were no signs of ageism or discomfort from any of my compatriots. As a matter of fact, as I wrote in last week’s Smack, When FOMO And JOMO Get Out Of Whack, the inclusivity was actually overwhelming me. As an ambivert, I am constantly searching for the balance of with and without people. A WHATSAPP thread at my disposal with a continual barrage of opportunities for outings and gatherings proved their point.
An Egos Nightmare:
Since most of us are working full-time while here, the weeks are left fairly unscheduled by the program. However, each weekend a tour is offered to those who wish to participate. The first weekend, we did a day trip to Ninh Binh.
For those who are curious, Ninh Binh is a province in the southern Red River Delta of Vietnam. On the way there we visited a Vietnamese Embroidery Painting establishment. I fell in love with a beautiful piece and decided to purchase it. I met the lady who, completely by hand, stitches the entire masterpiece with strands of silk. It’s unbelievable to think of the thousands of tiny hand-stitches she blends together to form such authentic art. Over the years, I have collected art pieces from my travels. I derive much joy from having small treasures of my world adventures surrounding me in my home.
After the art shop, we spent a couple hours exploring the Tam Coc grottoes by sampan boat. We visited the Thai Vi Temple, Bich Dong temple, and ended with a 500-step rugged hike on the hidden trail.
Let me say that again. We ended with a 500-step rugged hike.
My Ego Got In The Way:
“As the looming climb got closer, I got more and more jacked-up (pun intended).”
I knew this hike was waiting for me at day’s end. I knew I was by far significantly older than everyone else. And, I got in my head about it. Why oh why are we so mean to ourselves? As the looming climb got closer, I got more and more jacked-up (pun intended). One of our fellow travelers opted out of the climb and stayed behind. So, that was an option. But, just not for me. Opting out of discomfort is not my strong suit. Once I perceive a challenge, I am like a dog with a bone.
As we approached the first step, I took off ahead of the others. I needed to be first. I needed to be first by a long shot. Seriously, there may be something wrong with me. At the beginning of the climb the tour guide kept at my side. It didn’t take long for him to verbally note: “You exercise a great deal, yes?” Soon thereafter I lost my companion.
My ego got the best of me. My self-imposed ageism mean-talk pounded in my head as I took every step like it was the last one. Even when I could sense my heart rate entering the anaerobic state (without oxygen), I continued. There were a few moments of nausea and it was only then that I paused long enough to lower the beats per minute.
Victory, But At What Cost?
I did make it to the top, first –by six minutes to be exact. I actually freaking timed it. Did I mention there might be something wrong with me? You see, and of course I am not certain, I believe I was the only one with something to prove. Prove to whom? Clearly, myself. The check of insecurity my ego wrote was being exacted upon my body.
Not going to lie, I began to worry what my body would say to me the following day. After all, like it or not, the parts are worn. The next day I was surprised to note there was no real damage done. Sure my calves were a bit snarky, but apparently my account was good for the check. At least for now.
P.S. If this has piqued your interest in a remote work adventure, reach out! If you use my affiliate link, we BOTH get $$$ discounts and, who knows, maybe we can battle our egos together.