goodbyes in ha long bay.

As you leave the scarring years of adolescence behind and move past the wild nights of university, a remarkable realization will dawn upon you. The quality of your friends is much more important than quantity. There is nothing to gain in surrounding yourself with dozens of people who do not know who you truly are – what your quirks are, what you fear most, what makes you deep belly laugh. Eventually you learn to surround yourself with people that lift you up rather than drag you down.

With this new found wisdom you also gain a powerful ability: the choice to choose your friends. Not everyone you meet is meant to be a permanent ally in your life. You cross paths with people for many reasons – to challenge, defy, question, encourage, and remind you. However, a select few carry a light that will brighten yours. The more aware of your sense of self and purpose, the clearer this connection becomes. In time you realize which people in your life are truly there to love, support, and encourage you - and they are the ones you keep around.

I have been truly blessed to have kind hearted and fiercely loyal friends. These unions have grown since birth, grade school, university, and during my travels. Throughout the years I have also come to realize those who do more harm than good; and they have been left behind on this path along with my naïve teenage beliefs.

I carry the light of those I love with me everywhere I go and am happy to meet more along the way. During my travels I have met all sorts of acquaintances; gratefully, a few dear friendships bloomed from them. My time in Thailand was no different and I am honored to have lived, worked, and traveled with two radiant souls, Brittany and Laura, who will forever be shining lights in my life.


Our Vietnam reunion was coming to an end with Ha Long Bay. Using the same tour company as the one we used in Sapa, Vega Travel, we booked an overnight cruise through the green sea of Vietnam’s coast.

Our group of five boarded a dated but dainty ship along with nine other travelers that were paired off as couples. Our host presented a fancy lunch and an organized itinerary as the boat pulled up its anchor and sailed off.

Rare to boast a blue sky, Ha Long Bay was cloaked in velvety gray clouds and dusted with a light fog that bounced on the emerald waters. Limestone cliffs dramatically towered over the passing ships. They appear as if shot out from the deep sea and reaching toward the sky, almost in mourning that they failed to grasp it.  The constant humidity in the air allows green life to grow upon the rough rock, softening their severe dynamic with the soft sky and tranquil water.

We cruised in and out of lagoons and straightaways, watching the landscape change with each passing moment. We stopped to explore “Surprising Cave” with a myriad of other tourists from fellow ships. Set in what appears as a small sized cliff, rests a deep and cavernous hollow. Stalagmites and stalactites line the path through the series of caves. The ceiling is dimpled from the air pockets that formed when water once filled the cavities. A few people traced their initials into the soft layer of chalk that coated the walls. Bats hung from overhead, vigilantly watching intruders pass through their home. Rock formations played games with the naked eye, giving the illusion of turtles or monkeys.  A cave so tall and deep was truly a spectacular sight.

Later on we boarded dilapidated kayaks that would bring us to a few hidden grottos and lagoons. Brittany and I were natural kayak partners and swiftly arrived in a quiet lagoon. We were surrounded by steep, forested cliffs on every side. It felt as though we needed to whisper. The uninhabited islands that dot Croatia’s coast are rugged, spread out, and dramatic like Ha Long Bay’s; however, these limestone cliffs unique to Vietnam exude a different vibe.  

After an evening feast and a deep slumber, we woke the next morning to climb 300 steps for an aerial view of the bay. As one of the first groups to the summit, the 360 degree view of Ha Long Bay was breathtaking. Layers and layers of murky island mountains and cliffs floated in the calm waters. Their shadows relentlessly haunted the massive mounds of dark earth. These sleeping giants that were blanketed in an early morning fog gave an eerie feel to the quiet bay.  

The somber energy of our dramatic surroundings provided a perfect backdrop to our group’s imminent separation. Mikaela and I would be carrying on to Southern Vietnam as Laura and Brittany returned to Thailand to meet visiting friends and family before they both headed off back to the States. I met Laura and Brittany on my first day in Thailand and this marked the end to our chapter here. There would be no more movie nights in my room, venting sessions about work during a sweltering lunch, islands to explore in torrential rain, elephants to ride through the jungle, cities to wander while enjoying an ice cream, or exotic foods to test and try together.

Laura and Brittany were both gems to find in Thailand that I am forever grateful for. To share this experience with two souls that complement, encourage, and uplift you is quite lucky. We seamlessly fell into a groove of living in Thailand that kept us together at all times. I am so happy our travel plans aligned so that we could explore Northern Vietnam together and our goodbye could be delayed for a little longer.

I am at an age where I do not have to be friends with everyone I meet. I am able to pick and choose who I wish to share my life with. So I am extremely thankful that God decided to introduce me to two generous and genuine spirits that I am lucky to call friends. 

Laura’s ability to see in the good in everything and everyone is admirable and contagious. She is both strong willed and gentle with the loveliest parents supporting her.  I hope to one day match Brittany’s passion for family, faith, and food as she so effortlessly does. She has reminded me time and time again to see the beauty in myself and in life.  It is rare to meet people who match your personality so well and share the same values as you do. I cannot thank these girls enough for always making me laugh, being easy travel companions, and knowing me better than I know myself at times. I know reunions in New York and Oregon will happen regularly and perhaps we will embark on a few more adventures over time.

So once again, as I so often must do while traveling, I said see you later rather than goodbye to friends that will forever have a place in my heart. 


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