It’s interesting to see how different people react to what I’m doing. What it taps into in them, their own hopes and ambitions, their own fears and insecurities. Mostly the reactions are positive, mixed with various degrees of consternation, depending on how conservative the listener is. Vincent was totally cool immediately. He was half black and his family had come to Les Banlieues of Paris in the last generation. French mother, Caribbean father. He showed no loyalty to France and neither did his brother, who now lives in Canada. Interesting that if this global transience gets into your family veins, it seems to pass from one generation to the next. His ambition was to make short bursts of money and use it to travel as widely as possible, perhaps eventually setting up a chain of restaurants across different continents and moving between them. He told me to take the job in Bangkok, make $70k for 2 years and then ‘you can just fucking go man, for 2 years at least! Daing! You will be a king!’
Sverre, of Norwegian stock, was far more conservative. With his usual stalling, pensive talk, he summed the situation up to himself in chunks: ‘so you just left?… And you don’t have anything to go back to? And you don’t know, at all… where you going to end up? But that’s totally crazy! So it could be Burma or Vietnam or Colombia, you are just waiting to see?… I think that’s brilliant. Crazy but brilliant! In Norway nobody goes anywhere. Sure to travel, but then you start to work, and you settle into the routine and that’s it! Twenty years in your office! So I had to go, you know. To get out, at least for a while. And that’s why I’m in Sydney.’ Sverre was studying International Business for a year or so. That was his adventure, what he needed to do to break the mould, and then he felt he would be ready to go home. ‘At least I will know I did it… I got out.’
The 4 German girls are younger, still at uni, travelling through Saigon. They can’t begin to get their heads round why anyone Western would want to live in this dirty, bustling, decadent, other-worldly metropolis. They just keep saying on loop: ‘so you really want to live in Saigon? Really really? But why?’
‘I don’t know. Why not?’ is perhaps not the most helpful answer I could have given. It’s still outside their frame of reference, it’s too wide and too daunting, this huge potential of freedom we have in our lives. You can only really digest it one small bite at a time.
Heiko is a fellow teacher in a rough school in Freiburg, southern Germany, teaching the delinquents. ‘So you just quit and came out here? With nothing? No security or anything? To try and get a job and see what happens? Wow! And it has worked out for you, yes? You’ve found a job? Wow! So that’s lucky.’
I have posted on Facebook that I’ve just signed a contract to live and work in Saigon for 2 years. The responses are intriguing. 45 or so people like this. About 3 times like most things I write. So what does that tap into in them I wonder? The comments are interesting too:
Kat: Nutter 😉 x
Lea: 2 years??
Rob: sounds more like a sentence
Charlotte: Jeez little cuz!! Very exciting. You’re really one for the BIG decisions aren’t you?? Another adventure #Supercuz!
Karen: Good for you. I’ve got a bit of an itchy foot myself and love hearing of people taking off. Coolio!
Nina (Berlin): Bloody hell, are you serious? Little jealous, as it must be absolutely stunning in Thailand and cause I wish I had a tiny wee bit of your spontaneousity;-). But mostly extremely happy for you, Will, congratulations! What amazing news!
Jason: rolling deep Will. id expect nothing less young fella m’lad!
Sam: If in a couple of years there’s a whole load of Withnails coming out of Saigon, we’ll know who to blame! Good luck, mon brave. Will come and find you before you get too Martin Sheen. x
Keith: Bro I am so proud of u, gonna miss u man x
To be clear I don’t put these down to celebrate this move as some kind of an achievement. I don’t think leaving home constitutes any kind of success, whereas staying is some kind of failure. Not at all. But it’s fascinating to me so see what deals with chance people are prepared to make in their lives.