Us on the Beach at Cat Ba Island

This Is It

We’re half way through our time in Hanoi and there are just 18 weeks of the semester left before we leave Vietnam – how did that happen? I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions but this has led me to a startling realisation. In short, our experience here, which seemed to stretch onwards forever when we first arrived, now feels like it’s running out fast. This is it – we have just a few months left of our life in Vietnam and we need to make the most of it.

Us on the Beach at Cat Ba Island

The beach on Cat Ba Island

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Taking Things for Granted

Last weekend we had dinner with a British couple, Hannah and Ben, who have just arrived in Hanoi to begin their own adventure teaching in this crazy city. While we chatted to them over delicious Mexican food about our life here, I realised just how far we’ve come since we arrived in Hanoi in August. Back then we had no idea about English teaching, Vietnamese public schools, where to buy our groceries, which restaurants to visit and how to ride a motorbike. However, as we answered their questions and related some of our teaching tales, I realised just how much we’ve achieved in the last few months. The path may have been a bit rocky at times, but somehow we’ve built a life here – a very busy life.

Our Vietnamese Puppy

The puppy who lives in our courtyard

In fact, our lives have been pretty much ruled by our jobs and although we’ve tried our hardest to enjoy Hanoi and get out and explore Vietnam, the reality is that our waking hours are usually spent either working or lesson planning. In the time left over we’re often too exhausted to do much more than lie at home on the sofa or wander into the Old Quarter for a massage. Great for our bank balance, which is increasing fast, not great for our wellbeing. This needs to change.

Making the Most of our Time in Vietnam

Our recent trip to Cat Ba Island reminded me of how beautiful and diverse Vietnam is. There’s so much more to see beyond Hanoi and although we’ve visited some of the main hotspots like Hoi An, Dalat and Ho Chi Minh City, I feel that we’ve barely scratched the surface of this incredible country. We need to make the most of our meagre school holiday allowance and see as much as we can over the next four months.

Kids at a Vietnamese Public School

Break time at school

With that in mind, we’ve now booked train tickets to Sapa for the TET holiday in February. We have two friends coming over from England and we’re excited to show them around Hanoi and then explore the rice terraces of Sapa with them. We’re also researching trips to take over a National Holiday week in April and when we finish our teaching contracts in May.

A street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

A street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Most importantly, I’m trying to make the most of daily life. How many of us struggle to appreciate the now and instead dwell on the past or live for the future, counting down the days till our next break, holiday or adventure? I know that I find it incredibly hard to really live in the present and it’s something I’m determined to work on doing this year.

Sunset and a Beer on Cat Ba Island

Sunset and a Beer on Cat Ba Island

I should make the most of all my favourite classes and appreciate every smile, scream and Hello Teacher! I should try not to let a rubbish lesson get me down and learn not to stress over things that go wrong. I should make the effort to hang out with the other teachers more, rather than collapsing on the sofa on a Friday night. I should walk as many of Hanoi’s streets as possible, discover new corners of the city, sit in more cafes, re-visit the museums and make time to just soak in the crazy Hanoi-ness of it all because this is it, the last few months of our time in Vietnam.

Do you struggle to live in the moment?

  • Kirstin
    Posted at 14:33h, 17 January Reply

    Hey Amy!

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted on your blog! Mainly because Mark and I have stayed put rather than continued our travels like you guys and I am far too jealous! We moved to Melbourne in Apirl last year and were lucky to both get sponsored jobs, we were so happy about this, but 8 months on I find myself thinking about travelling again and the next step! I am in love with Melbourne, but keep thinking about what else is out there and where else we need to travel! So yes, I really struggle to live in the moment! If you guys plan to come to Aus soon please give us a shout! Kirstin

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:25h, 18 January Reply

      Hi Kirstin, nice to hear from you. Living in Melbourne sounds amazing; it’s actually something we considered as an alternative to teaching in Vietnam. Even when you love being in a place it can be hard to ignore the travel itch! We would love to go back to Australia but it doesn’t look like we’ll get there anytime soon 🙁

  • Miriam of Adventurous Miriam
    Posted at 23:20h, 17 January Reply

    I know exactly what you mean, Amy. Living in the now can be a struggle and sometimes we need a little reminder to enjoy the now. Whenever I feel off or the days just flow into each other I read my favorite book “The Alchymist” by Paolo Coelho. It helps me focus every time.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:26h, 18 January Reply

      Good tactic Miriam! We’re trying to get out and enjoy Hanoi as much as we can now, I know we’ll miss it when we do leave.

  • Charlie
    Posted at 12:54h, 18 January Reply

    I can definitely relate to not living in the moment, that’s my goal for the new year as far as resolutions go. I’ve been trying to mediate each day using the headspace app, it’s really helped me slow my mind down and focus on the here and now. It’s great that you can look back at your time there so far and recognize how much you’re changed and gained, I think that’s an important part to learning to live in the moment.

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:29h, 19 January Reply

      That app sounds interesting Charlie. I am actually amazed by how much I’ve achieved since we arrived in Vietnam and I know I will be sad to leave. I must make the most of the time we have left.

  • Victoria@ The British Berliner
    Posted at 16:12h, 19 January Reply

    I can’t believe that your time in Vietnam is half-way through. I remember reading all about the anguish of whether teaching was the way to go, and now you’re pros and really well established!
    As bloggers and writers, living in the moment can be difficult as we’re hardly write about the now but the past or the future. I try to stay in the moment, but unless I’m in the garden or walking near the river where I can see the sky, it can sometimes be a little difficult. Thanks for sharing Amy. 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:42h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks Victoria, but I wouldn’t say I was a pro, I still have a lot to learn about teaching and I find the younger classes especially hard 🙂 I am amazed though at how far I’ve come, this time last year I really doubted that I’d ever have the nerve to stand up in front of a class and now I do that everyday and I’m stronger for it – pushing through my fear was worthwhile 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 17:30h, 19 January Reply

    Your time in Hanoi has been a steep learning curve and you have achieved a lot, it is good to take stock of that and plan how to make the most of your last few months. I strugle to enjoy the moment and long for having more time to myself and to be able to travel for long periods of time. At the moment I just live for my holidays. I don’t like the darkness of the winter in England and feel like going into hybernation. Come spring I will have a lot more energy. We are off to Tobago in 4 weeks time and that will give me a boost of light.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:43h, 20 January Reply

      Oh, I remember the dark, cold British winters Gilda – they can be so depressing! Your trip to Tobago sounds amazing and I can’t wait to read about it 🙂

  • Maddie
    Posted at 21:47h, 19 January Reply

    It’s so hard to live in the moment when you’re working full time. I vowed that my life would never again be consumed by work but it is so tiring and far too tempting to collapse on the sofa after a long day. I’ve found myself wishing weeks away for the next trip to come around and it’s a terrible habit! Nice to see you enjoying the remaining time you have in Vietnam, it’s such an extraordinary country.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:45h, 20 January Reply

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds an evening on the sofa tempting Maddie 🙂 Wishing time away is a terrible habit and I tend to do that most on Tuesdays when I have my hardest classes (which just happens to be today!).

  • Patti
    Posted at 02:03h, 20 January Reply

    Oh yes, Amy, I am very bad about living in the moment. I’m usually always two steps ahead of myself and thinking about 3 or 4 more steps ahead. I tell myself, stop and think about where you are right at this moment and be grateful for that moment. When I was still working full time I lived for the weekends or when we were running our B&B all I could think about is the off season. Ha! Ha! I think now though I am getting a little better because I don’t have to divide my focus quite so much. I totally understand being in the classroom and thinking, how many days until vacation?! 😉

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:48h, 20 January Reply

      Yes Patti, I think when you’re in a working routine it’s easy to wish the time away and go into autopilot; when I was travelling I felt much more in the moment. I am working hard to live in the moment now but when my grade one Tuesday morning classes come around I find myself counting down the days till our next holiday!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 20:16h, 20 January Reply

    I can’t believe your time in Vietnam is in the homestretch! Where has all the time gone?!? It seems like you guys were just arriving there yesterday and now you’re fixing your eyes on the horizon and getting ready to push through and head off on new adventures.

    Since we’ve been back home, we’ve been terrible about living in the moment and seeking out adventure wherever we are. Most days, we just work and work, and then are too tired to do much more than cook ourselves dinner and watch tv. (If we’re feeling ambitious, maybe we’ll read actual books…) Sometimes I’m glad that we’re holed up in boring Rohester, MN at the moment because I don’t have to feel guilty about not having the energy to do anything fun… but I’m also really looking forward to getting back out on the road, where hopefully I’ll be able to better strike a work-life balance and appreciate every place we find ourselves. After 7 months at home, I think the road will feel good once more!

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:40h, 21 January Reply

      I can hardly believe it either Steph. During that first difficult month in Hanoi when I was struggling to grips with teaching I seriously doubted whether I could handle nine months working here; I’m so glad I pushed through that as our life here is pretty good now. It’s so hard to get off the sofa when you’ve been working all day though, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Rob
    Posted at 23:20h, 20 January Reply

    Proper impressed by you guys, it’s not an easy thing to do, but you seem to have taken it in your stride. Seriously even the most experienced teachers have rubbish lessons/days/weeks, I come from a family of teachers and it’s an epic job.

    Look forward to seeing your adventures beyond teaching. Oh btw where is next after Vietnam?

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:45h, 21 January Reply

      Thanks Rob. We’re heading back to Thailand for a holiday in June then to the UK for two months. In September we’re off to the US for a three-month road trip around New England – something I’ve been dreaming of for years 🙂

  • Jenia from HTL
    Posted at 15:40h, 21 January Reply

    Enjoy Hanoi — we loved it so much. Try brunch at Commune – this was the best bloody mary that we’ve had in our time in Asia (not a terribly high bar, but still!) Do you plan to stay in Vietnam for a bit and do more traveling in the country — or are you off for other locations?

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:54h, 21 January Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation Jenia, we will take a look at Commune. We’ll be heading to Thailand in June and then we leave Asia for the foreseeable future. We will do as much exploring here in Vietnam as we can though over the next few months in between teaching.

  • Jenia from HTL
    Posted at 14:29h, 23 January Reply

    When you are in Thailand – visit Koh Lanta — it was beautiful, relaxed, and very, very comfortable!

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:02h, 23 January Reply

      Sounds lovely Jenia 🙂

  • Zita
    Posted at 03:13h, 29 May Reply

    oh I am a worrier and struggle to live in the moment. This post has made me a little hesitant about working in this type of organisation as it doesn’t sound that much different to my teaching life here at home and that’s not what I want. Hope you were able to find some peace and things got better after writing this!

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:29h, 29 May Reply

      Hi Zita, although working in Vietnam is often chaotic I actually did enjoy working with the children and we had positive experiences overall. You just have to be prepared for the disorganisation and be proactive about getting the help you need from your language centre.

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