The pre-departure weekend in Meath made everything real. It bridged the gap in my mind between a cool idea and a reality. I met the great people that I would share my experience with and overall, it just got me buzzing for everything to come. This meant that as I went to the airport to meet another EIL awardee I was so excited. We flew from Dublin to Dubai and then Dubai to Hanoi. The flight was grand, like. By the time I got to Dubai I had a headache and had to search duty-free for painkillers. The next flight wasn’t the best few hours of my life as I felt sick (most people wait until at least after they arrive). I wasn’t the best travel companion at this stage.

After far too many hours traveling, I was reminded of an important lesson. The importance of pushing through. Travelling is great. It’s good for the body, even good for the soul. However, the metaphor ‘It’s about the journey not the destination’ is not all it’s cracked up to be. We’re spoilt nowadays in a world where aeroplanes and cruise liners have converted the pilgrimages of the past into ‘holidays’, ‘trips’ and ‘getaways’. But despite this acknowledgment – sitting in one spot for over seven hours still gives you a pain in the a*se. It’s uncomfortable sitting for that long, and nobody really enjoys it.

We eventually arrived and I started to feel myself again. Even as we approached touch down all I could do was smile at the beautiful mountains and the bright red tiles that seemed to roof every house. The bright colours were made all the more vivid by the contrast of the overcast grey sky.

Then as I started to meet people from my project – and I realised how great they were – I enjoyed it even more. And finally as I got a greater sense of Hanoi City I began to fall in love with Vietnam.

I’m trying to make a point here… not that I’m dramatic and had a headache, but that to get to the good bits we often have to push through the bits that are smelly, sweaty and boring. It’s something that’s obvious but easy to forget. It’s great to be reminded so as to put into practice. It’s something to remember in all aspects of life; our daily struggles and most prominently for me right now, our voluntary work and service to other people.