This is a story about being comfortable with uncomfortable. My Hang En cave adventure with Oxalis was in every sense, uncomfortable. It all started one fateful night when I took an overnight bus from Hanoi to Phong Nha that ended up being the worst bus ride of my life. My brand new iphone was stolen while I was sleeping and suffice it to say, I didn’t get any sleep. That same day, I trekked for 6 hours through the blazing hot jungle with 16 strangers. I was sweaty, tired and gross. For me, the worst sensation in the world is wet socks and that’s exactly what we had to endure for 2 days. The wet socks were from river rushing, which is basically just walking through the rivers with your shoes on. Our first cave was the cold cave which is a literal translation because we had to swim through cold water. It was equal parts fun and spooky. Swimming through a dark cave was a testament to trusting our guides and our instincts because otherwise, we would’ve all freaked out. To summarize the first day…no sleep, stressed out that I lost my phone, trekked 6 hours, sweaty, wet socks, and swimming through a cold cave.
How often do you “rough it?” I only rough it for experiences like this one. Camping with no running water and an eco toilet is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you want to experience the cave systems in Vietnam, you have to trek and camp. Hang En cave is the 3rd largest cave in the world and the 2nd largest in Vietnam. I love experiences like this because it very quickly reminds you of how lucky we are to have the simple things in life like a shower and a toilet. Getting to this remote cave was not an easy journey but I’m so glad I stuck through it because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Exploring Hang En, which was featured in the movie Neverland, reminded me that there are things in life worth struggling for. I couldn’t believe how nature carved this cave out through millions of years. Surviving the physical pain of the trek, made me feel very accomplished; like I could endure anything. It’s comforting to know that given any situation, I could survive it.
Being comfortable with uncomfortable (e.g. hiking up a massive hill in the Vietnamese jungle and not showering for 2 days) mentally preps me for real obstacles in life. I also learned a hard lesson that I was addicted to my iphone; it was my life line. I was far too dependent on it. Instead of enjoying the moments I had in South East Asia, I was constantly distracted by my phone. Having my phone stolen ended up being a blessing in disguise because I didn’t get a new one for 2 weeks. Even though it was frustrating and annoying at times, I adjusted my behaviors in the absence of my phone. Even now, I’m far less dependent on it.
This is one of my favorite quotes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” by Neale Donald Walsch. So many people are paralyzed by fear; fear of the unknown and fear of failure that they don’t even try. Because of this fear, people miss out on a lot of opportunities to improve their life and happiness. Instead they bury themselves in their creature comforts. It’s easier to know that you’re unhappy in your current situation than to actually jump into the unknown that could potentially change your life. My answer to this is that you can always go back to your previous situation. You will never know what’s in store for you if you don’t take a leap of faith. When you start living beyond your comfort zones, that’s when good shit happens. That’s the biggest lesson I learned on this cave adventure.