As I have been travelling, it has been really important to keep my mobile phone charged up. And for all you naysayers who hate people using phones all the time – yes so do I, but there’s a time and a place, as with most things.
At the advice of travelling friends I downloaded the Maps Me app before I came away, and frankly, without it I’d be really stuck. It shows your location and you can use it to plan journeys on foot or bike or car or whatever. It tells you a route and estimates how long distance wise and time wise it will take you. It’s like Google maps, but it only uses GPS, so you don’t need WiFi or to be online to use it at all. As I only have WiFi internet access, whenever I’m out of range of the place I’m staying or a café with WiFi I can’t use the internet. (Well I could, maybe, but it would cost a fortune.) Travellers avoid this by getting a new SIM card in each country they go to (most of the airports offer them to you on arrival out here). But I’m here to be here, so I’m happy to not have WiFi except when I land up somewhere.
The only drawback with Maps Me is that it doesn’t have such comprehensive information about public transport, and sometimes locations might be missing or misnamed, so I have needed to double check with Google Maps while I have WiFi and then drop a pin into the Maps Me map so I can see where I’m going when I’m offline. But sometimes (perhaps because travellers use it more), it’s easier to find home stays on Maps Me than on Google Maps.
Just while I’m on this topic, even in really out of the way places here there is WiFi in the cafés and homestays. And my top tip for travelling in Vietnam is if in doubt re WiFi codes, try 123456789. I don’t know if it’s because the communist thing has imparted a strong sense of community, or whether it’s not understanding what a password is for (it is probably very perplexing if you’re not from a western individualistic culture after all), or maybe it’s because it’s just too hot? Too hot to worry about having to remember/find out/for café staff to be asked about different passwords? Or because people don’t have access to the sort of technology where it remembers your password for you? But all the WiFi passwords so far in Vietnam seem to be 123456789. Except my hotel in Hanoi, which actually had the 6 missing (a typo? Do the staff end up apologetically explaining that as their mistake, I wonder?!).
Another travelling tip: bring a powerbank so you can recharge devices on the hoof. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere and not be able to find your way back or show your digital ticket. For the uninitiated (as even my Silicon Valley brother was – oops, correction; apparently he just had never heard the word “powerbank” that we use in the UK for this), this is what a no messing powerbank looks like. It’s pretty heavy, but worth its weight in gold. You can see it has two USB inputs so you can charge two devices at once (I also have a small tablet with me). So far it retains its charge really well (although the initial charge up took a long time.):
Anyway, all of this was to point out that my phone periodically needs a recharge and so do I. I find all this planning and checking of maps and so on quite tiring. So this morning I am recharging my phone and recharging myself with a slow morning at the homestay.
Awww! Just as I was cutting my fingernails (nails and hair seem to grow disturbingly fast in this humid climate, for some reason), I had a visitor who came in through the window. Just briefly, exploring the room and then she was gone. She’s like a tiny and wilder version of our household cat Xena (Warrior Princess, presumably still scared of the cat flap 😆):
I think animals are wise; they only show up when you are still enough for long enough to not be a threat. Here’s another poetic passage about that, and how it might relate to us as human beings that I love:
“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.” (From Parker J Palmer https://books.google.com.vn/books/about/A_Hidden_Wholeness.html?id=oRrrRQ-6UdgC&redir_esc=y)
Maybe our soul, or whatever is most deeply essential to us, will only show up when we are still enough to welcome it? That resonates with my experience, anyway.
One of the things I learnt pretty fast on my cancer journey was how to stop. I had no choice really. Having stopped for long enough, gradually, I noticed things that were important to me made themselves known to me more clearly than before. Perhaps because I didn’t have the energy to hide from them or ignore them. My tentative suggestion is that it would surely be good to engage with this without getting seriously ill? I’m meeting some people on my travels who are engaging with it without being seriously ill, so it must be possible!