Traveling Alone to Vietnam -Words of Wisdom

By Barb Ohland

Advice on traveling solo to Vietnam.

Considering traveling alone? Is your spouse going to stay with your other children to lessen the emotional toll? Are your trying to save money? Are you a single parent who just doesn't know the "right" person to be your travel partner? Did your travel date come MUCH sooner than anticipated? Whatever the reason, traveling alone to adopt is not the easiest way to go, but for many people it was a wonderful experience.

I interviewed thirty parents who traveled to Vietnam alone to adopt. Their shared wisdom and advice spells out what it takes to successfully travel alone adopt.

Bonding Time

Everyone interviewed treasured their time abroad with their new child, as a special time to bond. Parents felt it would have been chaotic or emotional draining if other children had come along. One experienced adoptive parent reported, "My new daughter attached quickly to me because there was only one person and the two of us were isolated from everyone else. It seems as though many children bond quicker with one parent than the other. We didn't have to deal with this until I returned home.. It was very precious for me to have this special time with her. We got to know one another and form a real relationship as traveling partners ourselves!"

A dad who traveled to adopt emphasized the freedom he had as well as the bonding time. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling alone. It gave me much more freedom. At no time did I feel lonely. I was much too busy for that! I will never regret the bonding that it gave with my son. Those ten days will always be cherished as our special time together."

A single, first time mom chose to travel alone because her travel date came unexpectedly soon after her referral. "I liked the idea of not having to share her with anyone for the first two weeks. It was important to me to have that time for bonding."

Group Support Traveling Alone to Vietnam

All parents emphasized that the key to successfully traveling alone was largely linked to the friends they made on the trip. As one single Mom put it, "The trip alone.was made manageable because I was traveling with a small group of people who were very helpful. I met one through the APV ahead of time."

A good agency can make a huge difference when you are traveling alone. One mom wrote. "I had a great agency, who looked after me. I stayed at the friendly Claudia Hotel in Hanoi where I had people there who could baby-sit if needed. Mrs. Thuy, the hotel manager made sure I had everything I needed." With or without a group of adoptive parents around, the support you receive from your agency can be pivotal to the success of your trip. It is a good idea to check to see if you will be met at the airport, what services are provided at or near the hotel (babysitting, a restaurant, laundry, email or fax). Find out if will have access to a translator and someone to walk you through the "paperwork process" while in the country.

What It Takes to Make a Good Trip When Traveling Alone to Vietnam

Traveling light was also a uniform recommendation. The following is a list of recommended gear for those traveling alone.

- Backpack (one that can double as a diaper bag, if adopting a baby)
- Waist pack (for incidentals)
- Money pouch (for under clothes) - the neck version was most popular
- Snugli for babies - up to 25 lbs.
- A carry-on suitcase with wheels and telescoping handle
- Books
- Medical kit

Other general suggestions from "the pros":

- Travel over the pacific when it is nighttime for the child.
- Exercise before you go to build up your arms strength.
- Be patient and plan on things not going perfectly.
- Maintain a willingness to accept change and uncertainty.
- Maintain a strong sense of purpose.
- Allow extra time for bathroom breaks etc., since you have to manage the child as well as yourself.
- Practical knowledge helps too - e.g., parenting, medical knowledge (for fevers, etc),
- Bring along food that is ready to eat or almost-ready. (instant oatmeal, tea, cookies, small boxes cereal, small cans chicken, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, fruit snacks, instant soups) so you'll have "meals" at my fingertips when needed.
- If at all possible, talk w/people who traveled to a similar place you are going to. Don't be afraid to ask those nit picky questions that you want to know so you can better prepare yourself. One parent met a couple who had *just* returned from the same trip and they filled her in on lots of details that really helped her prepare.

Keeping in Touch When Traveling Alone in Vietnam

It is essential to set up some kind of communication system with people back home. For times when you may be feeling low, or run into some sort of snag, it is important to have a workable way to keep in touch with those back home. Calling from Vietnam to the US is impractical and VERY expensive. It is much better to set up an email account before you travel so you can email from your hotel or a nearby cyber café. Alternately you could make arrangements for loved ones to call you at a specified time each day.

The Downside of Traveling Alone to Vietnam

The freedom, the adventure, the cherished bonding time are wonderful aspects of traveling alone, but most people noted that traveling alone to adopt is not easy. A recurring comment was the need to take your child with your EVERYWHERE. Simple everyday tasks like taking a shower, using a public restroom, etc., can be tricky and tiring after awhile. Being part of a group can alleviate many of these difficulties if the group meshes well together.

Another concern was what would happen if the parent got sick? One mom wrote, "I was blessed to get to travel with another couple and I credit them with making my experience so wonderful. His wife got very sick and I kept thinking about what I would have done if I had been alone? Two weeks is a long time when you are on your own."

Adopting a child is such an emotional time in your life and many people agreed that it would be nicest to share it with someone - especially your spouse or a close family member if possible. One Dad who had a great trip traveling alone admitted, that he wished he had been traveling with his family, "In retrospect if I had to do it over again, we would have all come, including my then six year old."

Putting It All Together for Your Trip to Vietnam

You need to be a bit gutsy to travel alone. If you try to control every aspect of the trip you will be overwhelmed. Yet by being organized, packing light, maintaining a degree of flexibility, bringing your sense of humor, a bit patience, and a sense of adventure - traveling alone is quite achievable. If you can let go of some expectations and take what comes with a measure of faith, then you are most likely up for the task and what is likely to be the trip of a lifetime!

This article was originally written for "Maine Families with Children From Asia" © Barb Ohland