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Leah Clements, Hoi An

Who are you?

Ha ha, just a small opening question to begin with then! You could be a counsellor! My name is Leah and I’m an integrative counsellor/therapist based in London in the UK. I’ve been working in front line roles in the voluntary sector for the past ten years, which has been challenging but very rewarding. I’ve worked with homeless people, people with addictions and also in the women’s sector with women affected by domestic violence.Progressing into counselling was a natural step for me and I now see clients both face to face and online. I’m currently taking some time out to explore the world and enjoy the sunshine!

Where are you right now?

We (my husband and I) started this trip in May this year, 2015 and we first headed to India for two months. We have been there before and just loved it there! The culture is so rich and the food is wonderful! We had both travelled a lot in the past, my husband has been almost everywhere and I did four months of backpacking after University and had always intended to do a longer trip again but work sucked me in! Although I’ve had short holidays, now seemed like an ideal time for both of us to take a break and do a seven month trip. We’re now in Vietnam and we really like it here, we even liked Hanoi, and despite the crazy traffic, we’d love to come back again!

What challenges have you faced along the way?

I think the usual travel challenges of booking transport and accommodation are always there but the Internet has made all that so much easier! I’m a vegetarian, so finding veggie food can be a bit of a challenge but it’s a challenge I’ve chosen. Travelling as a couple has really tested our relationship as we’re together virtually 24/7 and we’re both people who like our own space. Luckily we’re still the best of friends and I don’t think either of us could travel this long with anyone else! The biggest challenge for us, when travelling in developing countries, especially India, is seeing the inequality between those who have and those who don’t. The gap is so huge, especially compared to Western countries. Women’s rights and equality still have a long, long way to go too, so feelings of turmoil about wanting to help make people’s lives better but not knowing how we can do this is difficult for us. And crossing the road in Hanoi is VERY difficult and not for the faint hearted!

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Are there many expats in your area?

I think there are lots of expats in Vietnam, a friend of mine taught English in Hanoi for a year, so I think it’s an increasingly popular place. I’m not sure if there are many counselling services for expats here, I ought to find out and start promoting!

What do you like about life where you are?

We’re currently staying at An Bang beach, near Hoi An. We have sun, sea and sand… all the things we don’t have in London! Ha ha. It’s cold back home now, so we’re making the most of the weather! It’s very relaxing and the people are very friendly. Vietnam is a beautiful country and has a lot to offer!

What do you dislike about your life as a global traveller?

I think being away from family and friends for an extended time is difficult. We’ve made a real effort to keep in touch with everyone back home and the internet has made that really easy, especially with Skype and FaceTime (other video calling apps may be available, lol) Sometimes we get a bit fed up with moving around and would like to stay in one place for a few weeks but then of course we won’t get to see as much of a country and as we’re on a bit of a time scale, we need to make the most of it.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between the country you're currently in and life back home?

I think differences around good old ‘health and safety’ are noticeably different! Sometimes I think in the UK we have too many health and safety rules, but here, there needs to be a few more… such as not using shiny floor tiles in a bathroom… because they become very slippery when they’re wet! And the driving!!! I’ve nearly been knocked over twice since being in Vietnam, when walking on the pavement! It seems motorbikes are allowed to dive on pavements too, which to me is insane and very dangerous… because people are walking there! So there seems to be a general lack of awareness around safety but it’s better here than in other countries we’ve been to.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

I met a man sitting on Chennai beach in India and he had travelled from Calcutta in the North to Chennai in the south for work and he was telling us how life was hard for him, but he said he tried to make the best of what he had and then said ‘one life, enjoy life’ and that has really stuck with me. I think it’s very easy to delay the fun things in life, until ‘tomorrow’ and prioritising work but one day we won’t have a ‘tomorrow’… so we need to push ourselves to have fun and live the lives we want as we won’t get another chance, this is it! Life is to be enjoyed not endured! If you want to travel the world, then do it, there are many ways to make it happen, just read all the travel blogs out there! If you want to travel but haven’t done it yet, then ask yourself what’s stopping you and find a way forward.

What are your plans for the future?

More travelling! Ha ha. I’d certainly like to live abroad at some point, though choosing where is so difficult. I also want to improve my Spanish, as I’m very rusty and can barely hold a basic conversation now, so perhaps a trip to South America is on the cards! I’m also looking forward to getting back to counselling work, which is fascinating, challenging and very rewarding. A blog may be in the pipeline too, combining travel and therapy! There’s so much to do in life, I really need several life times…but alas…!

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