The story behind this photo embodies why I travel. More than anything it reinforces my belief that taking a leap of faith on the fear of unfamiliar will lead to major personal growth and most special of memories.
We were somewhere in Mekong Delta, playing a game of left, right or forward, which meant that every time we’d reach any crossroads, we would decide the direction in which to go. These random turns led us onto a street with sounds of music from around the corner.
As we could not see what was beyond the street curve, we temporarily stopped to follow our curiosity, so with my camera in hand and our helmets off, I take a few steps forward. I can only describe what I saw as a multi-family karaoke party, which only became more ridiculous once we appeared.
At first sight of us, one of the men motioned with a smile and hurried to sit us down. We were completely unprepared and overwhelmed by the amount of handshakes, smiles, beer and food that was offered all at once. None of us knew what to do except to accept it all. Nobody spoke English and we spoke no Vietnamese, but the amount of kindness and genuine friendship needed no translation.
They tried handing us rum shots and implored me to karaoke in Vietnamese, which I politely dodged in favor of showing them partner dancing. The man who motioned to us earlier wanted me to meet his wife, and another man never smiled but challenged me to slamming a beer to prove my manliness. A teenager in the group used his phone to translate and tell me how grateful he was to become our friend. It almost felt like this corner street was waiting for us to show up the whole time.
We left before being incapable to drive motorcycles and proceeded on with our game of directions. This led us to a private tour of a Buddhist temple and a random funeral celebration, at which locals waved and asked for photos. Haircuts on the side of the road marked the day’s end, and I proceeded to process what had happened for the past several hours.
I don’t know if I ever felt that level of unabashed and selfless good nature before from complete strangers in a foreign country. It made me so glad to have stepped forward with curiosity against all ordinary internal signals to just stay put and keep my reality boxed away. Wherever you travel, take an opportunity to stop worrying about time or places to visit for the photo everybody else is taking. Just go where it feels right.
You may be delighted by what you might find.