From the Mountains

Sapa, Vietnam

This one is going to be a long one. I can feel it in my bones.

It’s the Indian New Year and God, I can’t help but tell you over and over again how blessed I feel. I am blessed to be here, blessed to be in this body, blessed to have this soul, blessed to have my parents, blessed to have been born an Indian-American, blessed to be given the ability to write these words you are reading right now.

Each week I am out here I don’t think I can possibly feel more than I did the last. But I do.

This past week has been a beautiful rollercoaster. I went to Ha Long Bay and then to Cat Ba Island where I sold my motorbike. I came back to Hanoi for just an hour before heading north to Ha Giang. The days I spent driving around Ha Giang province were some of the most difficult moments I have had on this trip so far. It wasn’t because of what I was doing, but it was more of what I was feeling. Through those days I finally faced the truth that I had been choosing to avoid for months and months. I addressed things, to myself and others that I have been too afraid to address for way too long. I stared at some of the most challenging things in the face and worked through them. Alone.

This all happened after I woke up one morning with a pit in my stomach. That type of pit that makes you sick to your stomach and consumes every ounce of your being. That pit, I realized, was fear that my life would remain the same as it was before. That it would be stagnant. That I would be stuck in the same rut. That I would just be content with my life.

After I woke up, got my day going, and hit the road, I got a hold of myself. It’s in my control, I said to myself. Get a grip, Rina. It’s your life. If you want something to happen, make it happen. It’s that simple.  This is what I realized: I don’t want to just be content with life. I want to live my life being inspired and fired up. I want to be moved by the people, places, and things around me. I want to be on a constant road to self-discovery. I don’t ever what that road to stop and if it does stop, then I better do something to make sure the road keeps getting built. I told myself if one day ever comes that I feel stagnant, I need to move. I need to feel hungry, fueled, and fired up to be living this life.  

I also realized something that I always told myself, but it never truly hit me. Life is too short and my parents won’t be here forever. I think we tell ourselves that our parents will always be the super humans we had when we were kids. I always acknowledged my parents won’t be here forever, but I don’t think it has ever moved me to the point of making a concrete decision. I won’t talk about it too much right now, but this is an important decision I’ve been going back and forth on for a long time. It’s a decision that will impact my life when I come back home. It’s a decision that I’m happy with because it’ll make me happy, not just those around me.

I just got off the phone with my parents and it was so good to hear their voices. Not in a sappy, ‘I miss my parents’ type of way. Although I do miss them, it was something else. Thus far, they have supported the decisions I have made to come out here. Their only reservations were regarding safety. My father told me and always tells me Jee hai to jahan hai…If there is life, then there is world. It resonates with me and it’s one of the very few phrases that has constantly resonated with me through the past few years.  

My father always said, Rina you can’t change the world if you’re not here. The world keeps going, YOUR world keeps going when you’re here. When you’re not, it stops. It’s blank.

That phrase has always had a deeper meaning for me and it’s not something I can explain in entirety. All I can say is that it encapsulates my being. It keeps me going and it fires me. It could be because one of the most influential people in my life told me, but I think it’s something else. I’m still figuring that one out.

I know I’m quoting my dad a lot today, but there’s one last thing that he told me today on the phone. It felt like he was in my head, reading my thoughts. People only think about their mind and body. Nobody thinks about their soul. In the past few days, I realized that this journey started out as something for my mind and body. I thought it would physically take me to all of these places and teach me all of these great things. Don’t get me wrong. It definitely has, but more than anything this journey has fed my soul. It’s cleansed my soul and showed me who I am at my core. Not just the person I’ve created myself to be through my career, education, family, and friends. Not just the person I’ve created for myself through being a woman, a social entrepreneur, a daughter, etc.

Anyways, transitioning now. After Ha Giang, I had a few days, so I decided to come to Sapa. I only have one full day left in Vietnam and it’ll be spent in Hanoi. I can tell you with full confidence that I’m not ready to leave Hanoi much less Vietnam. I can live here and there aren’t many places I say that to. After a few hours in the city, I felt a connection that I haven’t felt before. I don’t need one day, one week, or just one month. I can spent months here and still love it. I’m attached and I know I’ll be back. One day.

With love,