I grew up in a traditional, conservative Vietnamese household in Lansing, Michigan. Each time I asked my parents for money to help buy a plane ticket, my mother (an immigrant from during the Vietnam War, bless her soul) would give the same, lame excuse: “Oh, we’ve been there. I took you there while I was pregnant – you were just in my belly.”
When I started my full-time job and established a steady routine, I thirsted for something more – the crazy life that I never had. A life of plane tickets, late nights, a backpack and a passport to random destinations.
Then one day, in the midst of the usual routine, my friend posted on Facebook that his travel group, the Monsoon Diaries, was taking a weekend trip to Ireland.
A weekend trip to Europe?!
“Insane,” I thought. However, the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. As a young professional who just joined the work force full-time and was itching for some spontaneity, it sounded quite desirable. So I impulsively bought a plane ticket – booking my first, real trip abroad for just 24 hours in Ireland.
Okay, so if you’re thinking that I’m crazy – it’s because I am. I flew almost two days across the world and back with just my backpack and camera, all to spend just one day in Ireland – 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. And for those 24 hours, I only took a twenty-minute power nap.
At my own risk, I jumped the stone fences on the Cliffs of Moher and trembled as I stepped toward the edge of the cliffs. In just 24 hours, I also trudged the Van Burren rocks and spent the entire night out in Dublin getting to know what REAL Guinness tastes like.
Six months after my impulsive trip to Ireland, I found myself flying across the Atlantic yet again to spend only 36 hours in Bulgaria because – why not?
60 hours of plunging into countries abroad for spontaneous weekend trips has taught me a few things about how to approach my life.
- Be Curious: The first time (and probably the only time) I ate tripe soup was in Bulgaria. Imagine a creamy, milk based soup, warm with tripe slices and seasoned with hot pepper flakes, purple onions… and vinegar. A delicacy in Bulgaria, I would have never tried it anywhere else in the world. I apply the same curiosity to other areas of my life – constantly learning new things about myself.
- Be Bold: These weekend trips are notorious for their terrible connecting flights. While I was in Austria for my connecting flight to Bulgaria, I had less than 40 minutes to run off the plane, shuttle to Gate A (P.S. my flight was in Gate Z), run back through security and to my gate. I had to argue with the flight attendant using solely my body language and sweat, because I didn’t speak the language. But hey, I made it back. As you know, fortune favors the bold.
- Take Risks: For each of these insane weekend trips that I take, I travel with a group of people that I’ve never met. We first meet when we land at the airport or at our hostel, and then we backpack together. Taking these kinds of risks has connected me with amazing people that I would have never had the chance to meet before and together, we share a one-of-a-kind experience. They’ve opened my eyes to new cultures, bringing their own personal stories to the table.
A lot of people have told me, “Wow – I wish I could travel to Ireland for a weekend and not miss a beat of school/work.” If you’re crazy enough, tenacious enough, bold enough, then you can… And you should.
Brenda Duong is an associate at Lambert