It had been quite some time since I'd seen the lady whilst I explored Europe. I decided it best I return to Vietnam and rekindle the flame of past or otherwise I'd run the risk of never being allowed to enter Vietnam again.
I didn't want to stop traveling so she came along for the journey with me, making stops in Thailand, Bali and Lombok before rounding out our little trip by returning home - a year after my mother had passed.
Returning to Australia, after such a long time away, was the first time I felt at odds in my surroundings. As if Australia was now foreign to me, no longer my home. My former routine had stopped, I'd gotten off the wheel and I'd gone and seen the world, did this dramatic shift change my identity?
After coming back from lengthy journeys one can feel a little strange. After all the experiences you've had you feel that you have become someone else. You can visualise yourself as you were before but because you've been so far removed from your former self you no longer react to the instinct to be 'that' person anymore.
But the funny thing is, that most everyone else is the same as when you left them. Still being themselves, not changing or evolving as you felt you have. They don't see the change in you. They treat you as if nothing happened.
It made me feel odd, like someone who didn't belong. But perhaps it was because I'd left behind was my former self in search of something else and was having an identity crisis.
I'm not sure where the notion of following the signs came from. I guess at some point I felt as though I was on some pre-destined path of adventure, something akin to a journey one would read in books like Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. (actually I felt like this was exactly the kind of quest I wanted to be on.)
It put the idea in my mind that I needed to keep searching, keep learning and do this by following the signs along the road.
Explorati0n as a means of explanation.
The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.
― Paulo Coelho
'mate, you should go to Sri Lanka, I hear its a beautiful country and I'll be there in a couple of weeks for work so we can hang out.'
I book a flight to Sri-Lanka. Awesome mountains called The End of The World, sacred cities on top of rocks, cricket mad fans and some of the best beaches in the world, check.
Next sign -
Stranger outside Sigiriya (Sri-Lanka) I randomly spoke to for two hours - 'You are on a path of great wisdom and knowledge, seeking is your journey."
"Awesome mate, thanks. How do I do this by the way?'
'You will travel to India. There you will find the answers you seek.'
So I go to India and amongst other things end up visiting a place called Auroville.
Auroville is an 'experimental township' located in Tamil Nadu a few hours south of Chennai, India.
'A place with no money, no religion or politics. A place where all humans are welcome to join in unity, rather than by diversity.'
The idea sounded amazing and I explored this township for a couple of weeks until the Hari Krishna's kept bothering me enough that I decided to move on. It just wasn't my kind of vibe and I didn't buy the tagline.
I return to Chennai a little dejected I hadn't found anything spiritually enlightening, despite a random stranger telling me I would. I was ruing my rather sporadic decision to go there and questioning the whole follow the signs logic when I meet a German fellow who had been traveling for five years straight.
I immediately questioned him about everything he knew. The most important of which was how in the hell do you get money for this travel thing to keep it going.
He said he taught English along the way, stopping every once in a while to get money before moving on.
'How do you teach English?" I ask.
Not two weeks later I'm back in Vietnam, this time up in the mountains at a place called Dalat. I had found a TESOL course and was to spend the next month learning how to teach English in one of the most picturesque little places in Vietnam.
I didn't much like the english course but I did meet an Aussie bloke who I shared an apartment with for the duration of the course. We discuss many things about life and the journey. Said fellow tells me about this place called Rak something something that he just came from in Thailand, a place teaching permaculture courses.
"What's permaculture?" I ask.
After the TESOL course ends I've already scheduled a visit to Thailand and spend the next two months at a permaculture farm called Rak Tamachat, learning permaculture.
Whilst on said farm I complete two courses and along the way manage to impress a lot of the other students with my Instagram account. This results in me being the de-facto photographer on the farm for a little while. At the completion of the permaculture course, after me complaining that I didn't really like teaching English, a Japanese girl suggested I take up photography instead as I seemed quite good at it.
This then prompted another two courses in Thailand (one in Bangkok, the other Koh Samui.) to undergo photography lessons with some foreign photographers. I bought myself an overpriced camera and thought I should go and be a photographer now.
Because that's what the signs told me right?
I return to Saigon for a short little while, meeting other photographers, trying to get my foot in the door of this profession. I start to get some assistant work for another photographer, even managing to score a job on a shoot for Forbes magazine with a very famous Vietnamese rapper.
Was this the path I was meant to be on, surely?
I meet more photographers and ask for their advice. One in particular just came back from two weeks shooting in Myanmar. He took great pride in showing me the shots he'd taken there and recommended I go sometime.
So I go to Myanmar.
In Bagan, a place known for its spirituality, I failed to find answers amongst the two and a half thousand ancient temples dedicated to Buddhism. There were no more signs. I'd spent a month on a motorbike traveling around Myanmar and, despite trusting in the follow the signs nonsense, there was nothing but silence, as if I'd been abandoned by whatever governing force was guiding me.
I found myself a little lost, unsure of where to go and what to do. I was sick of traveling all around, I'd been at it for a year and a half already and the drag of living out of a backpack, sleeping with twelve snoring strangers every night and missing my girl took their toll.
I'd followed the advice. I became like Jim Carrey in 'Yes Man' and always went with why not, but it had gotten me no closer to having the answer to a question I didn't even know how to ask. I'd tried spirituality, photography, blogging, teaching, Instagramming, permaculture and I felt emptier than I ever had.
With travel off the mind I stayed put in Saigon, taught some English on the side, got back into the writing of my book (which had dropped by the wayside) and enjoyed watching the price of Bitcoin going up and up.
My thoughts often reflected on why the signs had stopped? I was supposed to be on the adventure of a lifetime, I should have died in the car crash, why won't the universe send me a damn sign and let this journey continue ...
This I where I found out about the Vietnamese cricket team.