Note to self

Deliver to: Thatcher Gleason

January 10, 2018 at 9am GMT +7

Home Hotel West Lake – Room 702

156 Yen Phu, Tay Ho, Hanoi, Vietnam


Dear Thatcher,

Welcome to Hanoi, and buckle up.

As I’m sure you know, you just embarked upon the most difficult and daunting and exciting and amazing journey so far in your life. Still, you are grossly underestimating how much this adventure will test you, teach you, and reward you for taking the leap of faith, for getting on that airplane in New York a little over 24 hours ago.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it – this is going to be the most difficult thing you have ever done. It’s not even close. You’re in way over your head.  It’s almost comical.  You are 10,000 miles from home in a place as foreign to you as exists on this planet. Over the coming days, weeks and months you will battle with insecurity, self-doubt, and fear. You will fight through several minor physical injuries and one severe one (look out for dogs on highways). You will be confronted at times with feelings of loneliness you’ve never known, with feelings of isolation that can only result from living on the opposite side of the world than your home. Sometimes it’ll feel too much and you’ll want nothing more than to go back, to bail on this seemingly doomed adventure and return to your friends and your family and your home. But you won’t do that.  You’ll find the strength to carry on – every time.

It might take a while, but you’re going to find a job. You’ll achieve your goal of becoming an English teacher in Vietnam. Again, you’ll be in way over your head. Far from how you imagine it now, you’ll spend your first several weeks “teaching” just trying to get the kids to stop screaming. But keep at it. Eventually you’ll find your teaching voice and swagger, you’ll find ways to engage the students (and yourself) in the lessons, and you’ll play a lot of musical chairs. There will be days when entertaining a room full of screaming Vietnamese children for three hours sounds like a fate worse than death, but enjoy and cherish all your time in the classroom. Days like that will wake you up to the “run of the mill” days (which in retrospect will have been fantastic days), when you get to play Musical Chairs and freeze dance to the YMCA – and get paid for it. Those kids will look up to you – be a teacher that deserves to be looked up to.

Though at times you will feel bouts of crippling loneliness, when you open yourself up to those around you in Hanoi – you will make friends. Some of these friends will be gone from your life just as quickly as they entered. But some will become great friends upon whom you can rely and in whom you can confide. Most won’t stick around too long, though. Everyone here is interesting and in motion.  It’s a town full of rolling stones. Just as soon as you get to know someone, they could very well be off on their next wanderlust adventure. Cherish and be grateful for the people you befriend for however long you have together – you won’t get through this journey without them.

Of all the things you’ve underestimated going into this adventure, perhaps the greatest one is how many friends you’ll be blessed to play host to. I’m not going to ruin any surprises, but the assortment of friends destined to visit you while over here is literally beyond your wildest dreams. Cherish each moment a friend from home is here – these will be your most precious memories at the end of your journey. As cheesy as it sounds, I think I get while they’re called “homies” now. Not because they’re friends from home, but rather because wherever you’re with them, you feel at home. Even somewhere as crazy and foreign and magical as Vietnam.

I don’t want to spoil too much or give too much away. As I said at the beginning of this letter – buckle up, you’re in it now pal. But enjoy the ride, the lows during which you will grow and the highs during which you will delight. Cherish this remarkable journey you are just now undertaking – because before you know it you’ll be sitting on your roof watching your final Hanoi sunset descend over the beautifully smoggy city, writing an imaginary note to your past self in some convoluted writing exercise for your blog.

Oh, and as always, Roll Wave!

Your biggest fan / critique,


Last Vietnamese Sunset

One thought on “Note to self

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