Tour the Unfamiliar

I just finished watching a “Heygo” virtual tour of Hanoi at the time of this writing. So, first, let me get my personal Wow reaction out of the way. And there was more than one.

I was feeling a bit at sea. Not quite bored, but getting there. I suggested that my wife find us a virtual tour of a city. Someplace we probably would never get to visit, and it was different. I wanted to experience the unfamiliar while being safe.

“I found it,” she said. “Hanoi!”

First, the technology. The night before the tour, I set my alarm for an earlier wake-up than usual – 7:45 AM. I made a fresh cup of coffee after grinding a brand of beans that I had never tried before. Then I logged in to the live stream.

It was 13 hours later in Vietnam or about 9:00 PM, with darkness in the sky and bright lights in the streets. It was as if I was in the middle of an Amazing Race TV episode, except as a participant. I was moving in slow motion. To my unfamiliar eye, the streets were teeming with motorbikes and pedestrians, moving in ruleless ways.

All of that was a Wow, but here is another. I was sitting in my very casual clothes, sipping coffee, watching a high-definition picture on my 49” TV of a city street. Hanoi in Vietnam is half-way around the world. We had just walked into a coffee shop, toured about, then walked back out to soak up the streetscape. Magical.

The theme of the tour was transportation. So, our guide met us on a bustling street corner. Then we got on a bike/rickshaw or cyclo. After bargaining the price from $5 to $2.50, we travelled about 1km. We used our feet for a scary stroll through a few streets of the Old Quarter. Then it was onto a motorized GoBike (Our version of a bike as a taxi.)

I had achieved my purpose. I got out of my comfort zone at a level and pace that I could enjoy. Yet, I would be challenged, all the while learning.

Please give this a bit of a think. Think of a country that you might be intrigued about but not comfortable travelling to it. It might be your own health or mobility issues, fear of flying, too different for language, food. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Find a virtual tour of a city in that country and register. The whole experience is free, but these tour guides need to make a living, and a ‘tip’ of about $25 is a fair payment to make somewhere in the middle of the tour. Enjoy the different and unfamiliar.

After the tour, perhaps search for a book or movie that might extend your knowledge and enjoyment of this country. Is there a food identified with the country that you could purchase locally and give it a try? You are in your own space, so you don’t need to finish that first bite if you really aren’t enjoying it.

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