PAYING IT FORWARD IN VIETNAM
Paying it forward and making a total stranger’s day is as easy as engaging and connecting with those around you. Connecting with people around the world is simple when you realize we are all just people with similar hopes and dreams. I made a stranger’s day, maybe even his life in that moment, by simply paying it forward. By relating to someone and feeling compassion for them and their life. This experience changed my life in the most unlikely of places; a spa in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Meeting Mr. Bean
It was my last night in Hanoi and I wanted to treat myself. Spa treatments in Vietnam were too incredibly cheap to even consider passing up. So, I treated myself to a pedicure. As I waited for my turn, the receptionist was chatting up a storm. He was watching YouTube videos when he turned to me and began asking if I had seen this video or heard this song. I began to notice how close we are in age and how alike we are even though we come from totally and completely different worlds. He told me to call him Mr. Bean. We began listing off song names that we both liked and hoped the other one would know. Our taste in music is what allowed us to fully engage and connect.
Being able to engage on a non-personal level about music allowed us to start connecting on a deeper level. Throughout southeast Asia, I noticed one common theme: it’s practically impossible to leave their country. Mr. Bean started saying how blessed and lucky I am to have the chance to travel. To have the blessing of being able to leave if I want to. He explained his work schedule to me. He works 9AM to 1AM four days a week and 11AM to 11PM the other three days a week. Mr. Bean gets three days off a month. This rigorous work schedule earns him about $150 US dollars a month. Or five dollars a day. He said it would take at least twenty years to pay for a plane ticket just to get there. Tears began to form and he looked defeated knowing that leaving Vietnam was a hopeless dream.
Paying It Forward
As our conversation went deeper, I felt compelled to help Mr. Bean in some way. Any way I could. I knew instantly that before I left that evening, I would give him all the cash I had on me. Which I hoped would be more than enough. Mr. Bean made me realize how lucky I am just because of where I was born; basic geography. I had no control over which country I was born in; but because I was born in the US, I was born with endless opportunities. Opportunities like having twenty dollars for a tank of gas to get me into the mountains. Something that seems small to me but is monumental to others.
In the US, it seems like none of us actually see the endless opportunities presented to us. But I see it now. I know how much others would give to live the life I live. For that reason, I gave Mr. Bean all I had. His reaction touched me and moved me in a way that left me speechless. Paying it forward and giving back to others is one of the best rewards life has to offer. He was overwhelmed with joy and love. He hugged me and gave me a look I’ll never forget. A look of never-ending gratitude.
I left that spa feeling more full and accomplished than I had the entire trip. Mr. Bean expressed just how grateful he was on social media. He said he was kicking himself for not getting a selfie with me.
Ahhhh the incredible experiences and stories we get to share when we travel. Now, I want to hear all the unbelievable ways you guys have paid it forward while traveling?!