Posts Tagged “writer”

The Question of Why: How I Got a Step Closer to My Life’s Purpose

The Question of Why: How I Got a Step Closer to My Life’s Purpose

Pairs Well With…Slight Changes in Course + Mind Benders + Deep thinking + Self Reflection

You know that feeling you get when you read something that doesn’t sit well with you, for whatever reason?  Maybe an article or an idiotic tweet, and it makes your blood boil? You’re fired up and your first instinct is to fire back, but instead, you eye roll to yourself, move on and perhaps think about it here and there throughout the course of the day.

But then there are times when what you read strikes a cord and forces you to think a lot – because somewhere deep down it hits home.  And you can’t stop thinking about it.  And you wish you’d never read it in the first place because somehow, it got you rethinking your actions.

Here, I’ll tell you what I mean. It all started in March back in Hanoi, Vietnam….

la long bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Views


I had just landed from Ho Chi Minh City and was about to embark on my first big paid content assignment for a global client. This job was big time, as far as I was concerned, and though I feel like a storyteller extraordinaire most days, I was still a bit nervous.  The company was even paying for my round trip flight on their seaplane, and that isn’t cheap either.  I was starting to get this freelance thing down nicely if I do say so myself.


seaplane ha long bay vietnam travel

A rainy day return flight


Just when I thought I had my life all figured out…

I was in my cab catching up on my morning social medias. My scrolling came to a halt as I began reading this lengthy Instagram post. This excerpt, pulled from the larger message, is the part that got to me:

“The more ‘why’ questions you ask yourself, the more you move towards your real life project, which is what do I conceptually want to leave behind.”

First of all, this was a very mind bending question for 9 am and not being caffeinated. Secondly, what was this post even saying?  Why are people trying to make my life on the road harder than it already is?  I mean, isn’t it enough that I quit my job to figure out my life’s purpose, let alone this extra pressure? I reread the post a few times, and I started questioning myself, something maybe I don’t do often enough. I’m a “just do it” kinda gal.

And so, mainly because my cab ride was obscenely long, and I didn’t want to anticipate my death watching these crazy Hanoi drivers, I started the why exercise. (If you do try this, prepare for where it takes you. Just sayin’.)

I asked myself a multitude of questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Why did I decide to travel for an entire year?
  • Why did this company fly me out to write for them?
  • Why didn’t I have coffee on the plane?
  • Why do I always gravitate to the non-traditional path of life?
  • Why is it raining today? I didn’t bring warm clothes. (Get back on track Carin…focus!)
  • Why isn’t wine more readily available in Asia? (Now, you’re becoming that Askhole kid from Home Alone! Pull it together.  You want these answers.)
  • Why do I feel I that my biggest success stories will come from running my own business?


(You’ll see from the questions in my head, there’s a theme song that pairs well with these type of thoughts. It’s called Circus Theme, and it’s the worst when one thought triggers a thinking spiral. Ya feel me?)

The list goes on and on. The most frustrating part was when I realized what was firing me up. Many of my answers were “I don’t knows,” and that’s not a good sign because you should always live with purpose. For me, it was an indicator that I had a lot to think about and many hours of goal setting and reflection ahead of me.  Another thing for the endless to-do list.

Pause. Fast forward.  A few months later, I finally had answers to those questions:

  • Why am I here? To build a business outside the confines of a cubicle.
  • Why did I decide to travel for an entire year? To fulfill my dream of living abroad, meet some amazing collaborators along the way, and maybe even test my own capabilities, both personally and professionally.
  • Why did this company fly me out to write for them? They see my talent – and if they do, others do, too.
  • Why do I always gravitate to the non-traditional path?  I refuse to settle for less than I want, even if it means busting ass day in and day out for the perfect work set up.  To me, traditional is boring.  Anyone can do it.  You can choose to reach high or you can choose to coast.
  • Why do I feel I that my biggest success stories will come from running my own business? Because when you invest in yourself, you tell the world that you believe in yourself. You believe in your talents, capabilities, creativity…all while leaving fear behind to continue making forward progress and writing the next chapter in your story.


Storytelling is a talent of mine, and it’s something you’ll continue to see me do more of, both for myself and for others.  In regards to content…well, the good stuff leaves a lasting impression and causes you to think more deeply.  So, the person who created this post got his job done (and his point across) well.  So much so that I devoted a considerable amount of time thinking about it.

So, what’s on YOUR mind?  As always, feel free to drop me a line.  You know I love hearing from you while I’m on the road.

seaplane ha long bay vietnam carin

Ready for takeoff: My first seaplane experience

Vietnam’s 15 Best Things To See & Do

Vietnam’s 15 Best Things To See & Do

Pairs Well With…Exploring + City Jumping + New Adventures

My month in Vietnam flew by.  Gone.  Poof.  Done.  While I continue to travel the globe, my days pass by quickly and effortlessly as I’m consumed by the wonders and sites of the world.  Next thing you know, another month down.  See ya Vietnam.  (The eagle has since landed in Cambodia.)

Over the course of these four weeks, I had the pleasure of engaging in sensational activities and adventures both in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), my hub for the month, as well as other Vietnam cities. Below is a list of my fifteen favorite finds to check out as you move about the Vietnam.


  1. Book a seaplane excursion with Hai Au Aviation.  Planning a trip to Ha Long Bay? Make your trip quick and seamless with a 45-minute scenic flight.  Take in the astonishing views and jade green waters of the bay while enjoying the comfort of a quiet flight with a top notch flight crew.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

2. Cruise Ha Long Bay with Ha Binh Cruises.  Get a closer look at local living and exceptional sites including the Ba Hang fishing villages, Thien Cung Cave, Fighting Cock Islet and Titov Island to name a few.  Ha Binh Cruises offers many options to fit the duration of your visit, everything from a half day adventure to three-night stay cruises.  Their staff is exceptionally delightful and accommodating.

Fighting Cock Islet


3. Haul it to Hanoi.  Okay, just kidding.  Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a speedy two-hour flight from HCMC.  Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find a plethora of sites you’ll want to visit including the Temple of Literature, Hỏa Lò Prison, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Quán Thánh Temple.  Or, fuel up your morning with a Vietnamese coffee (they are the best) and take a stroll around beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake to people watch. There is a lot of activity surrounding the lake.  Don’t expect a dull atmosphere here.  Make sure to book your stay in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which boasts unique French colonial architecture, foodie gems and the best night markets city.

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

The streets of Hanoi

4. Peek at the Trấn Quốc Pagoda.  This pagoda, in particular, was one of my favorite sites in Hanoi. So much so that it deserved a standalone call out.  Trấn Quốc was built between 544-548 and is the oldest Buddist temple in all of Vietnam.  The Pagoda sits next to West Lake and serves as a tranquil backdrop, especially during sunrise and sunset.


5. Customize your clothes.  Looking for something that’s totally you and fits just right?  Hoi An is well known for its skillful tailors and seamstresses who can replicate clothing from a picture and have your garment ready within 24-48 hours.  The average cost per garment generally ranges from $50-$100 but is oh so worth it.  Clothes couture anyone?  (Better yet…ladies, these hot studs are up for grabs!)

Fruit suit anyone?!

The man, the legend.

Mr. Fly Guy himself


6. Love local music.  Experience the sounds of the city in local theaters and music venues.  This one, in particular, Phuong Bao Music, is an enchanting experience for all to enjoy.

7. See Ho Chi Minh City Hall.  Built from 1902-1908 and most picturesque at night, this historic landmark is one of the best pieces of architecture the city offers.  In front of the hall, you’ll see a statue of Ho Chi Minh himself, founder of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930 and the League for the Independence of Vietnam.

8. Walk the War Remnants Museum.  This museum is not for the faint of heart and does contain lots of graphic images and content, but is an important part of the past.  It contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists. Expect to reflect, feel and ride the waves of emotion as you move through the destruction of modern warfare.  

9. Bargain in the Ben Thanh Market.  Located in District 1, this market is one of the earliest surviving structures in HCMC.  Bob and weave the endless aisles of colorful products including jewelry, food, fabric, crafts and souvenirs.  Don’t be fooled by any fixed price signs.  They are a key indicator of a good negotiation waiting to take place.

10. Sign, seal and deliver at Saigon Central Post Office.  Still fully operating today, this 19th century Gothic, Renaissance and French influence constructed post office is a destination for both tourists and locals alike.  Buy, write and send postcards right on site.  Want to write a letter in Vietnamese? Visit Mr. Duong Van Ngo, the 85-year-old gentleman sitting near a sign reading “Information and Writing Assistance.”  Mr. Ngo, the last letter writer in HCMC, has worked at the post office since the age of 17 as a public letter-writer, translating across a handful of different languages and closing a communication gap.  (If you do visit Vietnam, take the time to have a brief conversation with Mr. Ngo. I did and found him, and our conversation, to be quite entertaining. Well worth your time.)

11. Eat at Pizza 4P’s.  Generally, I wouldn’t have included something as common as “eat pizza” in my list of best things about Vietnam.  But…this pizza place unexpectedly rocked my world.  With homemade cheese, fresh ingredients and handmade woodfire grills, you can’t go wrong.  And did I mention cheese plates?! You know that one love that you can’t get out of your mind?  Yep.  This is was mine for Vietnam.  Visit.  Love. Repeat.

They even do half/half pizzas!

12. Revisit the skyline on a rooftop. Everything looks different when you’re looking at it from a different angle. That also includes skylines.  Grab a cocktail and enjoy the evening sunset as you take in the colorful city lights from up above.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison



13. Day Trip to Mekong Delta.  West of HCMC you’ll find the Mekong Delta, also known as the “rice bowl of Vietnam.”  Mekong Delta is the heart of the rice producing region of the country and is booming with floating markets and other excursions to partake in such as boat cruising through canals, catching catfish and listening to local music.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

We’ve got a keeper!

One man jam band


14. Eat Pho.  Actually, eat everything.  Vietnamese food is amazing, especially pho.  Other traditional Vietnamese favorites of mine included: Banh Mi (baguette sandwich), Gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls), Cà Phê Dá (iced coffee), Bánh Xèo (hearty stuffed pancake) and Bun Cha (grilled and marinated meat in a rich broth with noodles).  And then, of course, there’s the out of the comfort zone stuff.  When in doubt, don’t ask, just eat.  Looking for authentic Vietnamese recipes to make at home?  Check out this month’s A Girl’s Gotta Eat Guide to Vietnam!

Needs no introduction

My favorite!

Bun Cha

THIS is why you don’t ask what you’re eating before hand. More to come in the Vietnam edition of “A Girl’s Gotta Eat.”

15. Uncover the city Uber Moto style.  I will admit, it took me almost two weeks to brave the bikes. Once I did, it was fantastic.  Talk about a $0.50 thrill ride, not to mention being able to zip from one end of town to the other in half the time of a car ride.

Tonight we ride

Well, that’s a month two wrap!  Almost.  Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming second edition of “A Girl’s Gotta Eat” with all the best food finds from Vietnam.

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