I arrived at Skybird Homestay in Hoi An, Vietnam by motorcycle and was greeted by the owner Lac, and his little dog James Bond. I was shown to my huge room with a private entrance, and a patio overlooking the garden. This is it, I thought. I am not leaving here for a while.
I stayed at Skybird for nine days. Although this was a large portion of my time in Vietnam and I missed seeing other places, there is nowhere else I would have rather been.
Some homestays are really just a hotel where the family lives in separate quarters, but not at Skybird. Lac and his family welcomed me in at a time when I really needed it. My second night there, I was invited to have dinner with the family and another guest. Not only did we get fantastic food, but Lac played the guitar and sang Vietnamese love songs for us.
Lac is the kind of person who really understands happiness and how to live a full life. In addition to singing, he gardens, keeps up the homestay, and teaches Vietnamese martial arts including qigong and kung fu.
Lac loves his family, and is very involved in his community. I spent countless hours on the back of his motorbike, driving by the homes and businesses of his friends and cousins. Life for Lac isn’t just about work. It’s about kindness, friendship, and health. The things that often get pushed to the side in favor of getting ahead financially in my culture.
One morning, I couldn’t sleep. I went out on my patio at 5:00 am. Lac came out of his door and saw me sitting there. I told him I was going to watch the sunrise. “Sunrise?” he exclaimed. “I will take you on my motorbike”. Off we went through villages past the cemetary and rice fields. We arrived at the fish market docks where fish, squid, shrimp and crabs were being pulled to shore.
We couldn’t see the sunrise through the fog, but it didn’t matter. We had many other rides throughout those nine days, and Lac would talk fondly of his memories of Hoi An, while also recounting the horror his people experienced in the war.
Lac understands that life can be painful, but he knows how to live it with joy. He has lost many people he loves, but he will be the first to tell you “I’m very lucky. When I have something, I like to share it with others.”
Lac didn’t charge me a single penny for our early morning rides, shared meals, taking me shoe shopping and to his friend’s yoga studio, or teaching me qigong in his living room. He does it out of love for other humans, and he doesn’t expect anything in return.
Yesterday was my twenty-ninth birthday. As was the case with the holidays, I felt really sad and alone being away from the people I love at home. But Lac cheered me up when he took me to coffee with his friends in the morning. Soon afterward, he knocked on my door with a bouquet of roses. “Happy birthday!” he said, with his usual huge grin and a hug.
Traveling can be lonely because even though you meet people, they are soon gone and to be replaced with new ones. There are a precious few that come in at the right time, grab a hold of your heart, and never let go. He is one of those people for me. I will remember the life lessons he taught me long after this trip is over. I had the best luck to have met Lac.