“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” ~Alan W. Watts
One of the most appealing factors about traveling is how much mystery is immediately placed in front of you. You set off on an adventure with the hope that you end up collecting more happy stories than difficult ones. But, in reality, you never know what you’re going to get, how you’re going to feel, who will cross your path, and how the experience will change you…and for the explorer that’s the drug that travel provides.
Hanoi is chaotic. Motorbikes surround pedestrians in all directions. The hustle of markets can be found in every corner. Friends gather on sidewalks to share meals. There is constant action everywhere.
Hanoi waits for no one; it expects you to keep up. But, more importantly, it demands you to trust. It requires you to trust other people and it forces you to trust yourself. In Hanoi, trust is what gets you around the city.
The United States has traffic laws. We rely on lights and traffic signs to keep us safe. We have legal oversight on traffic management and bank on people following the law. If we don’t follow the law, there are consequences to pay, mostly in the form of a fine.
In Hanoi, the city relies on people to keep each other safe. There are very few traffic lights, and traffic regulation does not exist. Traffic does not flow in one direction, but in every direction. Cars, motorbikes, and pedestrians all meet on the road and miraculously make it to their destination in one piece.
They survive the road because they all look out for one another, not because a traffic sign asks them to yield. They are aware of their surroundings and acknowledge everyone in their path.
As a foreigner, especially one that comes from a country where the law teaches what is right and what is wrong on the road, I was not prepared for these demands. I feared crossing the street. I feared that either someone on the road would hit me, or that I would panic in the middle of the road, come to a complete stop, and somehow cause an accident. These were the external fears.
When I did some reflection, I realized that the internal fears were really a fear of having to trust that strangers would care enough about my life not to jeopardize it. I also feared that my intuition would lead me astray by directing me to cross at the worst possible moment. I was having a hard time trusting myself, trusting my steps and awareness.
But, if I was going to get around Hanoi, I needed to work through these fears, and quickly…because, again, Hanoi waits for no one.
I had to believe that those on the road and I were capable of looking out for one another. I had to trust.
As vehicles were headed towards me every which way, I took a leap of faith. I took a breath and willed myself to stop thinking so much and to join the flow instead, to relax and know that it would all turn out just fine.
After practicing this for hours day in and day out, it became easier. My tension decreased and my confidence increased. There was a greater trust in my reliance on those with whom I was sharing the road and more conviction in my steps and intuition.
Practicing how to trust when it is difficult to do so didn’t just aid me in navigating the streets of Hanoi, it left me with a renewed trust in the recent changes and growth that I have experienced in my life.
I left Hanoi and entered California still carrying with me the trust that when we are facing uncertainty, when we do not yet know where our decisions and steps will lead us, that everything will fall into place.
When we start doubting ourselves, or start questioning what the universe has to offer us, we need to take a breath and a leap of faith. We need to stop getting lost in judgment and critical thoughts and learn to trust that the actions and efforts we make will take us on the journey that we need. We must relax and know that eventually all settles and turns out fine.