By D.A. Cairns

When you go to the zoo there is a pleasure in observing animals in natural settings, albeit simulated ones. It’s nice to see them doing their thing, acting without inhibition, feeling at home, and behaving as though no one is watching. People behave differently at home too. When we are in our private spaces with the people we are closet too, the people we know best, we relax and enjoy being ourselves. Any self-consciousness we may carry out into the world dissolves in the warmth and security of familiarity. So, it was a delight for me to see my wife in her natural environment during our recent trip to Vietnam.

Moving to another country with different food, people, culture, and different expectations is very hard for most people. It takes quite a bit of adjusting. There is a recurring, if not constant gnawing sense of discomfit. You may feel it sometimes when you travel, as I did when I was in Vietnam, but living in another country is a next level proposition. My wife has lived in Australia for three years now and has generally acclimatized to life here, but she doesn’t have family here, nor childhood friends: people around whom she can completely relax and be herself without fear of rejection or misunderstanding. I saw this many times, but the one that stands out was her playing cards with her family. In that game I saw the best of them all and I was happy for my wife. Happy that she was so happy. Delighted, in fact.

My father in law took me out to spend time with his friends, sometimes for coffee in the morning but usually for a drink or too in the evening accompanied by music and awkward silences. They are really good blokes as far as I could tell. Friendly, generous, and welcoming, but man can they drink. I travelled to these gatherings on the back of a motorbike with my father in law at the helm. He is a very skillful rider. Having to cope with a heavy weight on the back of the bike (me) and a belly full of booze cannot have been easy He was drunk and I was in danger, but what could I do? I prayed, and I survived,

Vietnamese people are generally smaller bodied than westerners and they like to eat together on the floor (on a mat) because meals are a big deal and there are often too many people, and definitely too many dishes, to squeeze around a dining table. it seems easy and natural, not to mention comfortable for Vietnamese people to sit on the floor. Alas, for me, it is quite the opposite. I can’t do it. My legs are too long and inflexible and I can’t sit on a hard surface for an extended period of time. As a concession to my shortcomings, my hosts always provided a stool for me to sit on. More comfortable? Sure. However, my head and the rest of me was higher than everyone else, and as I was already conspicuous by virtue of not being Vietnamese, I did not need to be elevated and exhibited any further. Discomfit.

What a great holiday it was. Share your travel stories of delight, danger, and discomfit.

David Cairns, Heavy metal lover and cricket tragic, D.A. Cairns lives on the south coast of News South Wales. He works as a freelance writer, has had over 100 short stories published, and has authored seven novels, as well as a superficial and unscientific memoir, I Used to be an Animal Lover. His latest novel is the second book in the Callumron series, The Sorcerer’s Tusk. You may like to visit his website