Do you ever feel a dying urge to travel to a destination, or do you have an unexplained fascination with a certain place or period in time?
I often find these urges are taking me to a certain place to learn something about either myself or life. These travel directional pulls need to be listened to with close attention.
Growing up, I had a fascination with the Vietnam War. I watched TV shows and movies, listened to music, and read all the books I could get my hands on from that era.
I often thought that perhaps in my previous life I was a soldier in the war or a peace protester on the streets. My friends used to call me Little Hippy.
Whether or not this is true about my past life, I don’t know, but I do know there was an urge that was pulling me to Vietnam. I followed it and first visited Vietnam in ’99 with my best friend.
It was my trip of a lifetime. I did all the war tours, crawled through tunnels, hung out on China Beach, and traipsed around in the steamy jungled landscape I had seen in all the movies and books. I loved being a part of this exotic world that had enchanted me for years and I could see why so many soldiers became trapped in its allure.
Within this captivating world, however, lay a world of destruction, and the horror of a land and people ravaged by war was evident everywhere. In many parts where the war was heaviest, craters still remain deeply embedded over the countryside, and dirt exists permanently where lush grass used to grow.
Bombs and unexploded ordnance threaten to continue killing daily, and children and grown adults walk the streets visibly showing the effects of war through their Agent Orange disfigurements. Life intended to teach me that war is never a good thing.
Life intended to teach me that war is never a good thing.
Upon returning home, the reading of the books continued but with somewhat diminished fervor. Then the attack on the World Trade center happened and planted some seeds of doubt within me. I was not completely satisfied, and the pull returned, dragging me and Craig with it in 2002.
One morning, Craig and I sat on the beach chatting as a woman sat over the cooking stove she carried across her shoulders, like a set of balancing scales all day along the beach.
She was barbecuing some fresh prawns and we communicated using the universal language of smiles and laughter.
A young boy walked up with a pineapple for sale. Before we had a chance to ask him how much, we heard an unmistakeably loud explosion coming from the jungle behind us.
Fear and sickness struck a blow to my stomach and I swallowed hard. The young man shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and said
‘Bomb. Cow dead,” and in the next breath continued “So do you want to buy a pineapple?”
I will never support war as a result of my time in Vietnam, instead , choose to work for peace by first allowing it to exist in my own heart. Since that last visit my fascination with Vietnam, or any war for that matter, vanished. I’ve never picked up a book or watched a movie about it again.
It was not just truths about war and peace that I came to learn in Vietnam.
It was while lying on a beach in Nha Trang, that I met a man who was to forever change my thoughts about my life.
I was absorbed in a book I had purchased the day before from a book seller on the beach, and yes, again it was about the Vietnam War. The clanging of change close to me caused me to lift up the side of my book and peer around it. There on the sand, sat the trunk of a man’s body. Holding it up on the sand, at the hip, were two little deformed feet, in the place where legs should have been.
My eyes moved up toward his face, which was covered by the shadow of his large baseball cap. On either side of his shoulders, where arms should have been, sat two deformed hands, one of them holding the small calico bag containing the coins he was begging for.
My mind’s shutters clicked at that moment, etching finely the snapshot of this man forever into my memory.
From that day on, his image would appear, followed by a phrase that I would use and remember during all times of my life, happy or sad, and no matter how small or big my problems may be,
“I have two arms and two legs, I’m doing well.”
This small little man had taught me the power of gratitude:
there is always someone who is worse off than you, so you have nothing to complain about and everything to be thankful for.
Life is always going to pull you in the direction you need to go to learn the things you need to fulfill your purpose. Trust in those, follow them, and pay attention so you can learn the lesson and move on.
The only challenge is trying to work out what it is all for and what your purpose is, but when you ask the right questions, the Universe tends to answer them for you.
Now when I feel the urge to go somewhere, the questions I ask are:
Why am I feeling this? What is it I need to learn?
And then I’ll follow with eyes and ears open.
- 20 best travel tips learned from 20 years of traveling
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Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a place before through urges or unusual fascinations? Where did you go and what did you learn there? Or do you feel it now?
Photo credits from flickr upyernoz