For many years, people I know have been urging me to go and explore Vietnam. Finally I made it this year. Initially I thought that 3 weeks of travel time would give me adequate time to get to a good range of sites and regions – until I started to do my research! Vietnam, like many countries, has its set of ‘go to’ traveller picks. It is easy to fall for the easy option when planning journeys and stick to the places that always hit the top of the lists on generic itineraries. But this is always something that I seem keen to sidestep in some way. A little of that is travel snobbery – it’s true, can’t lie! – and a lot of it is that desire to see a more authentic side to a culture. However, if you are like me and don’t have endless months to sit and soak up a place at whim, there is always the restriction of time. Alongside that is the fact that, whilst I am brave enough to travel solo, I don’t like to go without good plans in place. So how did I choose where to go when I am plotting a future journey?
Every now and then, when you travel, you find a place that feels just like ‘coming home’. It doesn’t necessarily make logical sense – it may be a sensation of having visited before or, perhaps, an ease at being in those surroundings. It may be an indefinable gut sensation of familiarity – a sigh of contentment on arrival or an affinity for the landscape.
For me, there is a distinct type of landscape that always swells my chest with emotion and inspiration.
As soon as I get into a landscape of rolling hills, where roads begin to twist and turn, I feel it. To be blunt – flat places leave me …well? – they leave me flat! But give me a curving river valley and I am a happy girl. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic or high in altitude, but it has to roll and fold! There have to be unexpected moments as vistas burst into view along winding roads. Better still, there needs to be woodland or forest. Then, when I come to a village, my heart will truly sing if it is made up of stone cottages and walls. Bright flowers against golden warmth. A dry stone wall just floats my boat!! The more that I have ventured out in the world and explored different climes, I have started to notice this pattern in my sense of belonging.