Almost there / by Marek Charytonowicz

There’s something magical about traveling. It’s the time when getting somewhere becomes less important than being on the way. When truly journey itself becomes the destination. Passing by various towns, villages or cities - especially from a ground level of a car or a bus - gives you a snapshot of life in places you would normally not get to or live in. Flights are about the destination. All of the other means of transport are about the journey.

What interests me most are people and places but people seen through the context and opportunity of places. I’m not a social person and I hardly ever start a conversation with a stranger unless an opportunity forces me to, that’s one of many talents I was born without unfortunately. But visiting places makes you meet people whether it’s easy for you or not and I like that about traveling.

Moto drivers and omnipresent sellers. From one side I have this overwhelming urge to punch the next guy who will beep after me and ask if I want a ride, from another I see old ladies coming patiently over to tourist after tourist trying to sell a bunch of bananas and I can’t stop thinking of a conversation that I had with a girl at the reception of my hotel in Hanoi.

She was very helpful and booked all the train tickets for me and I asked her for some tips on Hoi An and Nah Trang where I was thinking of going. I was sure that living in Vietnam and having those apparently amazing beaches in her own country she surely must have been there.

She said that unfortunately she hasn’t. She earns very little working two jobs, one in the hotel and another one somewhere else, over 12 hours a day. To go to any of those places she has to save for some time to afford it. That put me back in my place and I realized I’m in a privileged position waking up and thinking, why not fly to Saigon instead of taking a bus so I can have more time on a beach. A lot of normal people here don’t have choices like that and in this light all those lighthearted tourist suggestions that some newly met nice local person should definitely visit London as its a lot of fun, sounds strangely stupid.

I just hope there’ll be more happy faces here when the actual season hits. And more shopaholic tourists that buy anything. As it turns out, it can be a blessing in some places.