"How was your trip?"
I get asked that question almost every day and it's probably the most challenging question to answer. The truth is, it's hard to express how much the CBTVietnam trip means to me. Whenever, I try to explain it I never feel like I do it justice as words can't describe it. It was a trip of a life time and can only be truly understood by experiencing it for oneself. However, I want people to hear about it even if its only a taster of how inspiring and rewarding it was.
Going to Vietnam was more than I could have ever wished or dreamt. I didn't believe it when Chris, Stephanie and Caitlin said it would change my life. It seemed cliche and unbelievable that one trip could touch that many hearts so deeply but once I arrived in Lao Chai all my doubts vanished. The villagers are the most welcoming, open and loving people I have ever met. Right away, they invited us into their homes and treated us like family.
While in Lao Chai, I worked with so many amazing people and witnessed how hard they worked everyday to make a living. Ms. Sao and Ms. Di are two local batik artists who run workshops in their handicraft shops just off of the main road that travels through the village. I had the pleasure of working with them to further refine their workshops and find ways to advertise to the tourists. It was surprising how much we were able to communicate to each other without speaking the same language. These interactions showed me how powerful body language can be and how it can often be more effective because the meaning of words vary so much from culture to culture.
Working on the batik product also gave me a chance to see how strong the bonds of community are in the village. On the last CBT Vietnam Trip in August 2013, Ms. Di was the only batik artist running workshops in Lao Chai. Since then she shared the knowledge and resources on how to run a workshop with Ms. Sao, again illustrating the strong sense of community this village has. Sharing this information was not seen as a threat to business but a growth of the whole village. The unquestionable generosity and compassion of the Hmong people opened my eyes to the self-centred attitude that I often see at home.
When I think back to the CBT Vietnam trip, I am amazed at how much I have learnt, not only about community based tourism and Hmong culture but about how to be a better person. The Hmong people showed me how beneficial and important it is to enter every situation with an open mind and a smile.