I stumbled towards the light. There was only one. It was a single bulb, dangling from a feeble wire.
I would have moved faster, but it was nearly 10 p.m. and the fog was so thick I could hardly see my own hand. A gust of light wind splashed droplets in my eyes as I pulled my eyelids further, further open in hopes that I could collect any more information on my surroundings.
My attempts were useless. The only shape I could make out was the light bulb. In the thick fog, its rays were spliced into a diamond formation shooting in each direction of the compass rose. One beam that struck me directly.
As I inched closer, the silhouette of a bony tree appeared and the barn I had just evacuated collapsed behind me like a stage prop. A familiar metaphor played out literally: With each step towards this foggy light, I had to abandon what I knew from behind me. Staying in safety was the most comfortable position. I was afraid. I was unprepared. But I had a burning desire. I had to know what is it like over there!
One blind step after another, I reached the light and my senses were restored for a split second before the fog swallowed it up again.
I was at the edge of a cliff. Below me, rice paddy fields clung to the edges of the mountain, plunging over a thousand meters downward. I was in the northern mountains of Vietnam, suspended in a cloud.
Hiking the hills and staying with locals day in and day out makes this world feel as if it exists in a parallel universe. One tear-off calendar on the bamboo-wooded wall is my only reminder that I am still living in the same real world I left in Boulder. The number 24 is exposed. “Today is April 24th? Really? I should probably check to see if I got any emails from colleges. Maybe after I finish another six-hour hike. And this article I have been working on. Oh, and that Vietnamese history book I just started. Hm. Actually, I’d really like some more time to finish my next Chinese lesson. Maybe I will check after that. No, I am eating dinner with a local family in their home in the northern Vietnamese mountains tonight. If I have time tomorrow, I will check.”
College is no longer my end goal. I see it as a (vital) stepping-stone for my future. However, its place as my ultimate prize, the award for slaving away my high school years has vanished. I’ve now walked through the clouds of my gap year, not sure where to put my next step, but infinitely curious as to how far I can really go. It won’t be towards social entrepreneurism or fashion design. Definitely not in India but maybe it will allow me to continue practicing Vipassana Meditation. I want to continue this lifestyle of asking myself, how much fear I can overcome? And what’s on the other side?