There are many reasons that people end up on a tropical island. Every person has their own story.
For us, it was to spend time watching wildlife, kayaking to deserted beaches & staying in one place after a busy few weeks of travelling. We weren’t disappointed either… Cat Ba Island in Vietnam is stunning and the small islands and beaches sprinkled around the coast provided the perfect place to chill, reconnect and re-inspire.
The main town is full of tourists from around the world… Each with their own reason for being there. Vietnamese people who grew up on the island and others from the mainland compete for tourist dollars, creating two parallel economies that mean you have to keep your wits about you when buying something.
In one such transaction we assumed that our vendor had her own interests in mind for a good 10 minutes before realising that she was one of the most genuine people we’ve meet so far.
After spending some time together, she started to share her life story. She came to the island a few years ago to make a living to support herself and her precious daughter. As a survivor of domestic violence, against all the odds, she managed to separate from her abusive husband and set up a business and a new life on the island. She works all day, every day to cover the cost of childcare and life on the popular island. She longs for the time to relax and let go, but at least now she’s safe.
Our friend asked whether it is normal for women to be beaten by their husbands where we come from so I shared that abuse of all types is sadly still common. The biggest difference is that emotional, financial and legal support does exist and the law is (generally) on the side of survivors.
It breaks my heart to think that this strong, inspiring, young woman has had to go through this at all… and for the most part, without support.
I’m reminded that we can never know the stories that people carry with them. The waitress who seems grumpy while serving your coffee or a short tempered manager may be carrying far more than you think. Every interaction is an opportunity for compassion, connection and healing.
Next stop: Cuc Phuong — in Hanoi, Vietnam.