I have a strong belief that everyone should travel.

Traveling the world opens your mind, it changes your perspective on how you see the world. When you come home from your travel experience, how you see your life will have changed.

When traveling recently in Vietnam, which was amazing by the way, I had a life changing experience. While struggling to climb up and down a beautiful, but muddy and slippery rice terrace, I was assisted by some local tribe women. These gorgeous, smiley women were dressed in their traditional clothing including very colourful headwear. Yet on their feet were cheap, rubber flip flops or slides, while I had on sturdy hiking shoes I had purchased specifically for this hike.

Heidi’s hiking partners.

These ladies held my hand so I wouldn’t slip, they protected me from the sun with an umbrella, and they chatted and made me laugh as they made there way along the trails with me. Keep in mind we hiked about 6km in 30+ degrees. As I struggled along they told me they did this every day, rain or shine, hot or hotter. They did it in cheap flip flops.

This was the first hint that I maybe was too focused on the material things I needed in order to do a “thing”.  Later that afternoon we made our way to one of the ladies’ homes. Tucked off the mountain road on the edge of the most spectacular scenery you could imagine, was a shack. That is what I would have called it had I come across it without knowing it was their home. It was cobbled together with old plywood, metal sheeting, cement blocks and some sort of roofing material, of which some was woven palm fronds.

When we entered the home, our lady, the home owner was beaming. She was proud and excited to share her home with us. We were all brought a little stool to sit on, provided water and given a short tour. The floor was cement, walls uninsulated, and the room quite dark. The kitchen was divided from the main room by a wooden wall, and had a fire pit for cooking, a small sink, and a few shelves. No table indoors for eating, and I suspect they sat on the little stools for meals.

Off to one side of the main room was a built in bed where her husband was curled up under some blankets having a nap. In the middle of the room was a small fire pit with a smouldering fire and a large tube of some sort sitting next to it. Shortly after we arrived the husband woke up and to my surprise picked up the tube, put something inside and lit it up!

Red Dao man with water pipe

I first thought it was a drug thing, but it was explained that it was a water pipe and how they smoke tobacco. Smoking is quite prevalent here, but expensive for them to buy cigarettes so they use bulk tobacco.

The couple’s pride was evident as they showed us their home, and the highlight for them was showing us the large framed photo of their daughter at her wedding. On the wall hung a large photo of their daughter and her husband. They were dressed in full western style wedding attire, long white dress and veil for the bride, and a dark suit for the groom.

It was then that I was struck by how much the same we really are at our core. The pride of homeownership, the love for our children, the struggles to provide for our family. Although our

Red Dao Woman and child

challenges may be different than theirs, they exist for us all.

As we headed off to hike back up the rice paddies to our five star luxury hotel, I felt a pang of guilt and regret at not being able to help them some how. I asked our guide and was given the okay to tip the couple but he explained that they were happy and well provided for in their community. It was my perspective on their situation that needed to change,

I carried that thought home with me. Had I not travelled to this beautiful region of Vietnam, met these amazing humans, and made a connection with them, I would not have been enlightened.

What we need in life to survive, is quite minimal, what we want on the other hand is where our thoughts need to change.

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