Disappointment and Detachment

by Rebecca Crichton

They say travel broadens and deepens one’s experience of the world. It’s also a good bet travel might increase compassion and humility, both traits worth cultivating.

They also say that no matter where you go, there you are! Having just traveled for a month in Vietnam and Cambodia with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), I endorse that maxim. The trip reminded me of some of the signature ways I navigate the world at large. That awareness wasn’t always welcome although I see the benefit of learning from the more challenging aspects of the experience. I got to inhabit the spectrum of Disappointment and Detachment far more often than I would have liked.  

Several things happened that were hard on the group as a whole and me personally. Early on, I dropped my wallet with my credit cards and driver’s license in it when stepping out of a rickshaw in Hanoi. As we walked back from a night market with food, beer, vendors, performers, and endless local goods to bargain for, a member of our group was hit by a motor scooter. Several of us came down with Covid, something we discovered when we returned home.

Despite all my years of travel, I managed not to bring the right clothes. I didn’t pack enough lightweight long-sleeved shirts or different pants. I had to deal with my annoyance with myself about that particular issue every day. And my camera ran out of storage which meant I had to delete old photos so I could take new ones.

Thus, I watched my mind travel the Disappointment to Detachment spectrum almost daily. There was nothing I could do about some of the difficult things and regularly needed to consciously stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. Satisfaction with the experiences and people on the trip depended not so much on what we were doing, but on how fully present I was in each situation.

The more I immersed myself in each experience, the happier I felt. As soon as I got caught in the old grooves of “If only I…” or “How could I not have…” I was transported from the present to the realm of “There’s always something wrong…”

Our guide, who liked to be called Happy Buddha, accepted everything with equanimity. When we had torrential rain, he said he thought it would be fun to take a boat through Hoi An’s streets when things started to flood. It was a piece of fun I am still glad to have missed.

OAT is committed to providing their groups with experiences devoted to ‘learning and discovery.’ Every trip includes meals with local families and businesses and one dinner where English-speaking ‘host’ families feed and entertain small groups in their homes.

I considered how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is reflected in the OAT model. People who travel with OAT are privileged and educated. They want to learn about new cultures and meet new fellow travelers. Our group was a fascinating assortment of participants ranging from retired professors of music to a man whose life work has been decommissioning unexploded landmines in Laos. Our ages spanned the mid-fifties to early nineties.

Through its non-profit arm – the Grand Circle Foundation – OAT contributes to the communities where they run tours. They build toilets, support orphanages, help install filtration systems and other infrastructure improvements that address the basic needs of their communities.

I experienced the satisfaction of knowing that my trip was contributing to the lives of those in the places I visited.

Now on the healing end of Covid, I am ready to review the trip, sort through the photos, and contact my new friends. We were fortunate to be together, learning about each other and discovering how much the world has to teach us.