Making a difference while traveling the world

I’ve been back in the states for two weeks now and it’s crazy to think how quickly I got sucked back into the go-go-go, status-conscious, check-your-smart-phone-every-10-seconds way of life again! Sadly, I feel the memories of Southeast Asia fading a little day by day. At least posting my photos on Facebook little by little helps fill in those gaps.

Living in San Francisco helps me relive those experiences, too. A whiff of the sewer or a sign written in Vietnamese helps transport me back to Ho Chi Minh City. Or the symphony of horns that rises out of the snarled traffic in downtown during rush hour takes me back to the insane streets of Bangkok (their traffic is so much worse!). Whether it’s something I see, smell or feel – just for a split second – it’s a link that keeps me latched to those three amazing months.

Here’s what I miss most:
The children’s smiles and laughs

Nghiem laughing







My homestay mom in Thailand, Pi Su

Pi Su and me on my last day at school









The other volunteers from around the world I worked with in Vietnam

Volunteers for Peace Vietnam, July 2011







Buying a good bowl of pho or a plate of pad thai off the street for $1

Pad thai from a street vendor








I loooove those mangosteens!







Massages for $6
2-hour siestas in the middle of every day in Vietnam
New adventures and places to explore every week

Being an elephant owner for the day in Chiang Mai, Thailand












Don’t get me wrong…I am glad to be home and here’s why:

Being with my family and giving my parents peace of mind that I’m safe at home
Being with Trevor
Catching up with friends
People who understand personal space
People who say “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”
Seeing and interacting with people of all different ethnic backgrounds
Clean feet
Toilet paper in public restrooms
Not fearing for my life when I cross the street

Streets of Ho Chi Minh City...cross at your own risk







Softer mattresses
Finally getting to see the last Harry Potter movie (it was banned in Vietnam)

The important thing is not to lose sight of what I discovered about myself. I’ve learned I’m somewhat of a control freak and need to let go of what’s out of my hands. I’ve learned how to be comfortable – and confident – by myself. I’ve learned to become even more compassionate towards children, especially the ones who are so helpless.

Nghia and me

I need to use the momentum I’ve gained from my trip to keep driving me towards the bigger picture – my ultimate goal – of providing encouragement and resources for people seeking a volunteer venture of their own. Please let me know if you know of a web designer who’d be willing to contribute to a project like this and anyone else who might want to help. Stay tuned…I may be home now, but it doesn’t end here!


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