The Niece Project – Evie’s Decision
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long-term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She just completed the 450 mile Camino De Santiago journey herself this spring and covered the experience on her around the world travel blog Ottsworld. She’s also a co-founder of Meet, Plan, Go!, a website and national event offering career break or sabbatical travel inspiration and advice. In the past, she has written a guest post for Savvy Auntie on The Niece Project.
Imagine being 16 again…
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? If someone had asked me that question when I was 16, I most likely would’ve answered “New York City.” I didn’t really dream outside of the US boundaries at that time. But I did dream about getting out of the Midwest. However, I never left the Midwest until I was 30, when I moved to San Francisco. I guess that’s what makes me so determined to ensure that my nieces get the opportunity to go out and explore at a young age.
Because once the world starts to open up to you, so does your mind.
This is the question I pose to all of my nieces: If you could go anywhere, where would it be? My oldest niece, Bethany, answered “Italy” thanks to her love of pasta. But my next oldest niece, Evie, has been challenged by this question. Knowing that her turn to travel was coming up soon, she sent me an email about a year ago, telling me that she had been thinking about her destination choice but was having trouble choosing.
Evie was perplexed—after all, the world is a big place, and when you can go anywhere, how does one decide? It took a lot of time and conversation, but this was her thought process:
I have been thinking about where I’ve been wanting to go ever since you told me about this opportunity we were gonna have. I always thought I was going to go to Asia. I wanted to go somewhere that sounds crazy, that most people wouldn’t dare to go to. My first thought was Mongolia. I absolutely love the pictures I’ve seen of the gers, and just everything! I just knew it would be a little too extreme for my first world trip—especially with the food they have. So I started thinking more about it, and completely opened up to Asia, South America and even Africa. The whole time I still had the gut feeling of Asia. The hardest part is there are so many different small countries in Asia and I’m not very well educated about them, so I had to look to Aunt Sherry to help me out on that, and I narrowed it down to my 3 guidelines of food, culture and non touristic, and chose Vietnam.
As a little side note—I absolutely LOVE that she has these 3 guidelines, that she’s daring enough to eat anything, and that she wanted to go somewhere crazy… There is no doubt that we are related.
So this summer, we will be heading to my old ‘expat home,’ Vietnam, to experience the yummy food and seemingly chaotic culture that only Vietnam can offer. In order to avoid the typical isolating tourist experiences, we chose to go with a company that specializes in small groups for families and focuses on cultural exchange and local experiences—Intrepid Travel. I’ve traveled with Intrepid many times in the last six years, but this will be the first time I ever traveled on one of their family focused tours.
Family can be defined in many ways, and an aunt and niece traveling together is really no different than parents and children—especially in this age where there are plenty of women deciding that motherhood isn’t for them. I’m hoping that there may be some other kids her age on the trip too so that when she gets tired of me, she has an outlet!
This July, we’ll be traveling from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City over two weeks. You can see our itinerary here: Good Morning Vietnam.
I recently asked Evie what she was most excited and nervous about regarding the trip this summer.
I’m most excited about the idea of travel. I love learning about how other people survive in different parts of the world and to see what is important in their eyes. I love traveling, and I can’t wait for such an awesome experience! And I like food!
I’m nervous for the idea that this is gonna be a long adventure. Thirteen or more days in a different country is going to be crazy! I also think jet lag is gonna suck. Terribly. And I’m not the hugest fan of planes, or at least take off and landing, so I was thinking we could swim possibly?
Evie will be the first person in her family to leave North America. We recently got her a passport and now she gets to learn about the process of obtaining visas, vaccinations—and gets to experience jet lag for the first time. All pretty exciting and daunting stuff for a 16-year-old from Nebraska!
From my perspective, I’m really excited about getting back to Vietnam and being able to show Evie my old home and favorite foods. One of my favorite things about Evie is her love of food and cooking, so Vietnam will be a culinary delight for both of us! But most of all, I’m just excited to travel with her and experience international travel for the first time through her eyes.
Photo: Courtesy of Sherry Ott
Published: February 20, 2013