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Tale of an Idiot: Travel Edition

This is where I divulge one of my most embarrassing travel stories. I’ll let it all out while it is still fresh and painful. It’s not the kind of incident where you slip in cow crap and have to spend hours on a hot bus smelling like dung. Stories like that are funny but, honestly usually caused by events out of a person’s control. This story is worse. This was 100% my own doing. Although I’m the first to laugh at my own mess-ups, I take no pleasure in self-degradation. The purpose of recounting my own mistakes is to inspire others to get off their butts and travel. I mean, if I can do it with this level of bludering, anyone can.

So math has never been my strong point, but I get by. I have functioned in a professional setting for years making the most of my limited capacity. For me full-time travel requires organization. I log every cent I spend and carefully budget for each leg of my journey. I use a travel app to help keep track of my spending and plan ahead. This is not my first time around the block. I have decades of experience travelling and have never before had a problem like this.

Everyone knows that Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries to travel in. My daughter and I had been gearing up to save some money on this leg of our trip, but soon after we arrived I started noticing our budget was getting pretty tight. We had done a few excursions and rented bikes several times, so I figured things would even out after a few days of limited spending. They didn’t. Instinctively I knew something was wrong with my number crunching. (Always go with that gut feeling.) I combed over every expenditure to see if I had accidentally added an extra zero somewhere. If you have ever visited Vietnam you know that even the smallest purchases require hundreds of thousands of Dong. It is easy to get confused. I could find no mistake. I checked and double checked exchange rates to see if my app was making some kind of error. Nope. I had to face the fact that Vietnam was just more expensive than I thought and we were going to have to start sacrificing if we had any hope of making it through this stage of our trip.

Everyday was a growing struggle to stay within our limited budget and most days we went over. We were forced to stay in cheaper and cheaper places. I started getting creative. I even convinced a hotel that was completely empty and closed for renovation to let us stay there. On one occasion we spent a night in a rat infested shed, on another we slept in someone’s attic during a storm and woke up with the bed surrounded by water. Don’t judge, desperate times call for desperate measures. All non-essentials were cut out. This meant no renewing our toiletries. I mean we were starting to look pretty rough. We were forced to seek out local cheap-eats and markets far from the touristy areas. This tends to be our travel style anyway but we had to go a bit more extreme.

After three weeks of living on a bare bones budget, and not being able to pull out of our financial nosedive, I knew something was wrong. One tropical storm after another had been beating the coast of Vietnam. It was on a cold day, where it had been raining nonstop, that I snapped. We had spent 3 hours walking through the pissing rain to get to a local market.

We were soaked to the bone and hungry as hell. Back in our cheap-ass hotel room that reeked of mold I desperately went over the budget with a fine tooth comb one last time. I scrutinized every single expenditure over and over. When this revealed nothing I decided to review my method of calculating our remaining funds. My trusty app deducted everything we spent from our total budget. I then divided our remaining days into this amount to get our daily budget. The problem suddenly hit me like a semi truck. We laughed until we cried when we realized just how silly I had been. My budget was based on staying 6 weeks in Vietnam. (I’m actually really embarrassed to write this. OK here goes any shred of dignity I ever had.) Somehow, in my brain, I had decided that 6 weeks was 75 days. I mean talk about a brain-fart. Don’t ask me how or why. I don’t know how this number got in my head. Every time I reevaluated the budget I just subtracted the days we had been in the country from the original number of 75. How could I go so long without realizing that I had added 30 days to our budget? I have no freaking idea. So right now many of you are saying: But you could have just… Why didn’t you… Don’t waste your breath. I have no answers for you. Let’s just agree that my mind works in unique ways.

Every cloud has a silver lining and here is ours. Besides that fact that we now have more money than we know what to do with, there are bigger blessings here. Despite our difficulties we still had a great time and every day was full of laughter. My daughter and I explored, we had adventures, we met amazing people who we never would have otherwise and we tried new things that we might have passed over. We learned how little we need to be happy. Okay, we could have lived without the rats, but the rest was fine. We stayed with such beautiful families, and maybe their home-stays were a bit shabby, but they were lovely people who took us in and treated us as family. My kid is 17 years old. She is already an amazing person who knows how to roll with whatever life gives her, but I know there were experiences here that will shape her character forever. I also think I’ve inspired her to work a little harder in Math.

So if someone as foolish as me can successfully stumble around this globe, someone like you, who is staring at this screen dreaming of travel, can totally do it.

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