16 Feb Motorbikes, Buddha’s belly, and so much more: The human connection in adventure travel

Originally written and submitted for publication in NAFSA's story competition on why one is in the field of international education (December, 2011). “Back when I was in ‘Nam” is a phrase my father never said, still doesn’t say. He never spoke of it while I was growing up. I’m surprised my father isn’t a bit “off” as some of his friends are. High school buddies died there, back in 1967. His mother—my grandmother—would send letters to Blackhorse Base Camp outside Saigon, informing him that so and so came back to Hudsonville, Michigan that week in a body bag. My father’s entrance to the war was similar to most other’s at the time. He sold his ’67 Corvette, drained his bank account, and never expected to come home alive. He didn’t want to come home. Resigned that this was the end, he spent every dime he had. He did return home, however, after a year in Xuan Loc, Vietnam. And not in a body bag. He had to be slightly “off,” I thought, when he asked me to join him on a trip to Vietnam in 2011. There had to be a few screws loose in his mind to return to a country he rarely spoke of, one that once wanted him dead. Whereas his friends wanted to return for “healing” measures—to build churches and care for children born with Agent Orange defects—my father wanted to explore and enjoy a people he’s come to...

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