THE WRITE STUFF: Hồ Nhật Hà and his book Đi Bộ Xuyên Việt Với Cây Đàn Guitar (Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar). Photo courtesy of Hồ Nhật Hà
by Lương Thu Hương
To inspire others with positive messages about life, Hồ Nhật Hà has released a book entitled Đi Bộ Xuyên Việt Với Cây Đàn Guitar (Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar), which records his memorable 113-day journey on foot around Việt Nam exploring nature, people, and himself.
The 344-page book contains 16 'lessons' about life Hà learned on the journey, which are also 16 'beliefs' that helped him complete the 2,300km trip with guitar in hand. For example, each person has his or her own morale that helps them overcome any circumstances to lead a happy life, people should live in harmony with nature, and every dream can be realised with effort.
In addition to life lessons, the 33-year-old man includes knowledge he gained on the trip, like survival skills, communication skills, and coping skills.
Recounted chronologically, Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar begins with Hà getting in shape to prepare for the trip and then departing Hồ Chí Minh City in October 2017 and heading north towards Hà Giang Province on the border with China.
He brought along just a few changes of clothes, some food, medicine, a hammock, a guitar, and VNĐ100,000 (US$4).
To earn money along the way, Hà utilised his ability to sing and write music. The young man from the south-central province of Phú Yên challenged himself to compose 24 songs inspired by people around.
He took the journey, he said, to seek answers to questions that occupied his mind.
“I wondered what the similarities are among Vietnamese from each region, how they treat each other, and if young people dare to overcome the first obstacle -- money -- to realise their dreams,” he said.
“Travelling with just VNĐ100,000 proves that the most important thing in fulfilling your dream is being consistent and moving forward despite the judgments of others.
“Other goals are mental training and learning. I used to study hard at school but now it is time to study in life, the lessons of which are not the same as those taught at school.”
The happiest outcome of his adventure, he believed, was being able to answer the questions he had.
“The greatest value is in life lessons that can only be learned by venturing out into the world ourselves,” he said.
MOUNTAIN HIGH: Hà in Hà Giang Province, after 113 days walking 2,300 km through Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of Hồ Nhật Hà
He began writing his book as soon as he finished his adventure and returned to Hồ Chí Minh City.
As an amateur writer, though, he found it a challenging process.
But the thought that he must share his experience with people he encountered along the way motivated him to plough on.
So, he set himself a challenge of writing for 24 days straight, locking himself in a room, not going out, and not using social media.
The result was a 300-page draft of Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar.
“My 113-day trip has countless stories to tell about the people and landscapes of Việt Nam, but as I can’t recall them all I have selected the best,” he explained.
“I accepted everything and let it happen naturally, so I could fully experience the trip, even though it meant there were both happy and sad times.”
Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar also includes Hà’s collection of impromptu songs written on the journey, among which is Việt Nam Trong Tim Tôi! (Việt Nam in My Heart!). It includes the chorus Ta là anh em một nhà (We are siblings of one family), which affirms the solidarity of the north and the south of the country.
What has pleased him the most is the positive reviews he’s received from readers, which have strengthened his belief that everything you desire can be yours as long as you have the determination. Where you started out is not remotely important.
“I hope to send a message to the young about the spirit of the Vietnamese people and the way to realise your dreams,” he said.
“Life has many interesting things to discover. As a young person, if you bravely take to the road you will never regret anything. So, leave your comfort zone and pursue your dreams to the end. It is a great way to live.” - VNS
Việt Nam News is pleased to introduce an excerpt from Đi Bộ Xuyên Việt Với Cây Đàn Guitar (Walking Through Việt Nam with a Guitar) by Hồ Nhật Hà
A night in the forest near Trung Lương
I moved on towards the Trung Lương tourist area in Quy Nhơn. Along the way I came across a large statue of Buddha by the side of the road, and suddenly felt so small standing in front of it. Then, before arriving in Trung Lương, I discovered a beautiful, untouched stretch of beach.
It was dotted with large rocks reaching out to confront the white-foam waves. In the distance was a poplar forest on a high point of land, whose trees seemed to sway in time with the waves.
A thought flashed through my mind: “Should I sleep on the beach tonight?” which suddenly felt like a bolt of electricity passing through my body, making me tremble with excitement.
It felt like such a challenge! I began to make my way down to the beach. There was a small path through the rocks. I took a closer look to see if it was possible to hang a hammock and sleep here.
But it was not at all suitable. The vines were too dense, so there was barely enough space for a hammock. It would be extremely uncomfortable, not to mention damp. I’d also be fair game for the mosquitoes. So I headed back the way I came.
As I did so, I came upon a rock the size of a pillow with one word written on it in white. And that word was “Hà”.
I was startled by the coincidence. Who had written this? It was odd, but I took it as some sort of cosmic sign. I absolutely had to sleep somewhere nearby tonight.
A book called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho sprang to mind. It tells the tale of a young adventurer in search of treasure. Through many hardships, he finally finds where the treasure is hidden -- in the backyard of his own home.
We all have treasure inside ourselves. Sometimes, though, we need to travel to see who we are and discover the treasure that exists within us.
Behind the rock was a path to the shore, so I headed down. When I reached the bottom there was a man fishing, his face covered. He was sitting on a large rock and throwing his line into the strong breeze.
I was excited to meet him, so I sat on a nearby rock and tried to talk to him. “Have you caught a lot of fish?” I asked.
But the man neither answered nor looked at me, instead keeping his eyes on some point out at sea. Just then a fish hooked on to his line, and he reeled it in. It was about the size of an adult’s hand. As I glimpsed at his basket full of fish, it was clear he’d had a good afternoon.
Having failed to strike up a conversation, my eyes settled on some rocks nearby. There were a lot of critters here and there, like mudskippers, crabs, snails, and sometimes a few jumping shrimp. After watching them go about their business for a little, I continued along the beach to see if there was anything interesting and at the same time looked for a place to sleep.
Suddenly the opening of a cave appeared and I let out a cry of discovery. The opening was two large rocks leaning against each other. Entering, I found that the cave was pretty big and would shelter me from rain and wind.
“Yay!” I thought, “I’ll be sleeping like a caveman tonight.” I laughed happily at the idea. But after more thought I realised it wasn’t such a great place to sleep. If the tide rose, the cave would flood. So the search for somewhere continued, but I promised myself I would come back here after sunset to see what it was like.
As I walked along the beach I came upon a stream flowing into the sea. On both sides were rows of bushy weeds. I then walked into the poplar forest I had seen earlier, and had a look around.
The ground was flat, which was good, but it was too close to the beach, and I was afraid my hammock was too easy to see and so I wouldn’t be safe.
I moved further inside the forest, seeking a more discreet location. As it was only late afternoon, however, I had to wait until nightfall before deciding.
While I was sitting there a man suddenly passed by and saw me. He was no doubt surprised by seeing someone sitting alone in the forest late in the afternoon. He saw me looking his way, and left.
As he walked away he looked back over his shoulder, then bent down by a ledge to pull out a bag of something, which he put on his back and then continued walking. I felt a sense of relief, believing him to be a fisherman catching crabs and snails.
But I knew already that vigilance is essential when sleeping in an unfamiliar place. I kept my eyes on the man to see if he looked back again. But he continued on his way, eventually becoming part of the distant horizon. VNS