Myself and my experience thus far in Hanoi, Vietnam… yeah I interviewed myself, it’s my website I can do what I want.
Name: Sara Mendelsohn
Country of Origin: America
Are you traveling alone? Yes
Do you like traveling alone?
I love it. I honestly can’t imagine traveling with anyone else long term right now, but it is nice to have occasional company.
Where are you now?
I’m living in Hanoi, Vietnam
How do you like Hanoi?
Hm. I wouldn’t say I like it. I moved here with the intention of finding myself, and I feel like since I’ve arrived, I’m more lost than I was when I started. It’s kind of like, I had this vision that once I got off the plane in Vietnam, I would discover myself like the flick of a switch, but the opposite has become true.
Hanoi is nothing like I expected and when June comes around, I will leave for Chiang Mai, Thailand, and live there for a while. I’m so happy I chose Hanoi though for my first experience traveling through South East Asia. I have met the most extraordinary people who I now consider life long friends, and it has taught me so much; I don’t even know how I could put these feelings into words. But I’ll try…I guess Hanoi has taught me what I don’t want, ha. I’ve realized over the past couple of weeks, that for a while now, I have just been trying to replicate my life I had back in America… but that’s exactly the thing I wanted to get away from. I rented out a westernized apartment my first couple months here, started working basically 8 – 6 pm almost everyday, all while still trying to workout and lead a new life in a new country.
It wasn’t until about a month ago I had a self realization: I realized I needed to let go of all of who I “thought” I was. I left my westernized apartment for a shitty studio (and I’m much happier), I recently quit my camp teaching job (only teaching online, which I enjoy), and have made a conscious effort to not partake in any partying (for now). I also stopped going to the gym and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to hold up this idealistic image of myself. For someone who makes fitness there life, this is pretty huge for me. The gym will ALWAYS be a part of me, I love it, I genuinely do. But right now, I need this time to let my body heal and for my mind to learn new things; write, read, talk to other people, do other activities… I need to discover what else I love; what else can I be excellent at?
Now back to Hanoi – it’s pretty dirty, polluted, and I never see the sun…I don’t know how you could through the extra polluted days, even in the summer. The locals here are absolutely incredible, though. They are some of the kindest souls you will ever meet. As beautiful as the people are though, it is hard for me to find the beauty in Hanoi.
Do you ever feel lonely being out here?
Occasionally, but I am used to feeling lonely, in fact, I kind of like it.
Do you like teaching?
Yes and no. I HATE teaching in person right now, maybe it’s just Hanoi, but I am miserable going to my job. This miserable feeling is what made me realize I need to look back and do some reflection; Why did I leave America? Oh, right, I was miserable. So, then why am I making myself miserable here?
I enjoy teaching online. I teach adults who are genuinely interested in learning english. They care about the lesson, which makes me feel like I am doing something meaningful. I can be myself around my adult students; I am not putting on a show like I do for kids. I don’t care how much in- person teaching pays me anymore – and it pays a lot – if I am not happy, I won’t subject myself to it any longer. I will try in-person teaching again in Chiang Mai, maybe it will be different 🙂
Why did you decide to do this?
I’m lost and I’m searching for something bigger than myself. I want to lead a life that is not the norm for woman my age; get married, buy a house, pay bills, have kids, give my younger years to a man.…use my prime years to work my days away when I could be seeing the world and learning about myself; that sounds miserable to waste that opportunity way because tradition and society tells us to. I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, because you do you, but I look at other peoples lives; peers and friends, who are settling down and leading a different lifestyle, and I am so happy I am not them. I AM 100% so, so , so fucking happy. How fucking great is that to say? It FEELS great to love myself, my decisions, my life…to be completely satisfied with my journey and where it takes me, even if it’s to places I don’t love right away. Actually, I love that I don’t love Vietnam like I wanted, it’s forcing me to find the good in the bad, to not have expectations; it makes me not want to be complacent, to go out for more. Can you imagine if I did fall in love with Hanoi and never wanted to leave? I’ve already grown SO much in a short 4 months living somewhere new, I can’t wait to see what other places will teach me.
I feel like I should apologize for saying I am happy I am not my friends, but I don’t need to. I guess this life I’m leading is just so rewarding to me, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to do it…but everyone has different ideas of happiness, and that’s hard for me to wrap my head around. You are not me though, and I am not you. I just know I am meant for better things, I can feel it…this move is just the beginning and something really amazing, and it is the start to the life I have longed to live; I am already much happier here than I was back home. I feel closer to myself than ever before.
What are your thoughts on settling down and marriage?
Mhm, you know I think men are trash. I wrote a blog on this (not on “men are trash,” although that could be a good blog post, haha), but on marriage and love. You can check it out here. I also agree entirely with a friend of mine I met here in Vietnam. You can read her interview and her answer about this question here.
What are your thoughts on settling down and marriage?
Marriage… I think all these big miles stone that we’re supposed to get excited for, I don’t get excited for in the same way. Marriage is much more of upholding a tradition, but we’re at a pinnacle of change in our society. We live in a time where things are evolving. I have nothing against it, but I think you don’t need that label to stand for something or have something special. Like, I don’t want to be somebody’s wife…I want to be someones equal, their adventure buddy. I’ve never had a relationship, nor am I looking for one. For the meantime, the focus is me and there is a lot I need to do for myself before I could even consider bringing someone into the equation; and that in itself is liberating, it takes a lot of pressure off the supposed ideals of life I am “supposed” to live by. I also don’t want kids. It’s something I’ve always known about myself. I feel like I don’t need that experience to feel complete. I don’t need a carbon copy of myself running around. It’s not something I see in my life.Jemma Jet @jemmajet
It is so awesome to meet women who have the same mind set as I do on this, and that share the same philosophy…..
What would you look for in a partner if you were looking?
Honestly, right now, all I care about is learning myself more sexually. So, someone who is down to have no strings attached and be patient with my body and asking me what I want. I’m learning to stand up for myself more and be demanding, so when I do find a partner, I know exactly what I like, and we together, can enjoy a deeper connection physically and emotionally.
Are you happy?
Sometimes I am super happy, sometimes I am not. I cried the other day because I missed my brothers so much, but just the day before that, I was walking down the streets with a smile plastered to my face.
Do you feel fulfilled?
In different areas of my life I feel fulfilled. Physically I feel fulfilled; like, I am happy with my body, my appearance, etc. Mentally I am fulfilled; I am strong, courageous, kind, and open minded. Emotionally, career wise, success wise…not really fulfilled just yet.
Whats been your favorite place, experience, or culture?
I am such an inexperienced traveler! This is my first experience traveling alone and being to SE Asia….I’ll ask myself this in a year and let ya’ll know then. As of right now, I have a ticket to go to Thailand in April, Laos in May, Japan in June and then back to Thailand to live for three months or so…
What’s your advice to anyone who wants to do what you’re doing?
Just do it. Don’t think or get too emotional, and just listen to your intuition. People will tell you not to do things or to do other things instead…don’t listen to anyone but your higher self. I am not special, rich, or any different than you. I was terrified to leave my home, and even though I planned this for months and months, when it came time leave, I still wasn’t ready. You will never be ready, have enough money, or find the right person to do it with; you just have to woman up and do it. I say this a lot, but its cause I mean it: I used to read blogs like mine, wishing and wishing I could be the person behind the post who was writing about their journeys, and now, I finally am, that’s how I know I’m no different than you.
What do you expect to get out of all this and how long do you want to live this way?
I don’t expect anything anymore…I just know something extraordinary will come of it, it’s already been extraordinary…and I know this isn’t where I want to be. If I can find happiness and valuable experiences in a place I don’t yet feel fulfilled, imagine what I’ll find when I am truly somewhere I want to be.
I want to live this way, traveling abroad, until my early thirties…so about 5 to 6 years, longer if I can.