By Davis Nguyen

The boat would depart in 20 minutes and we were on the opposite side of the island separated by a mountain and a torrential rain storm. We knew we couldn’t make it in time and if even if we made the trek back to the other side of the island, the rain would have already wiped away the trail markers we laid out making it likely for us to be lost.

Less than 3 weeks ago, I started my four month backpacking trip from Vietnam. A week ago I reached Nha Trang, a beach resort town in Vietnam. I started my backpacking journey to immerse myself in the culture of the cities I found myself in, so I wasn’t a fan of touristy resorts like Nha Trang. But after 2 weeks of trekking the countryside and walking in rivers with water levels up to my knee, I thought three days in a beach resort wouldn’t be so bad.

The girl who checked me in recommended I go island hopping and immediately booked my boat ticket for the next day. The boat was a boat targeted at foreigners, so I knew we would only stop at white sand beaches with entrance fees and restaurants that sold food for twice as much as I could get from street vendors. There would be no interactional with locals of the various islands, but I figured one day of an organized tour wouldn’t hurt.

On the bus ride that picked me up from my hostel to Nha Trang’s boating dock, I met a fellow backpacker named Janet who was also in Nha Trang for a few days to take a break. She had spent the last month in Nepal volunteering with the relief efforts and Nha Trang was a stop along her eventual journey to Korea.

The tour boat went from island to island with about 30 minutes of travel time between each and an hour or two depending on the island for the passengers to leave the boat. For some reason I didn’t feel happy, and I could see Janet felt the same way.

The last island we stopped at was another tourist destination: a two dollar entrance fee gave us access to a beach and tons of bars and food stalls.

Janet and I decided to explore the area more. Within 4 minutes we reached the back of the park and we found a dirt trail. With about 2 hours before our boat departed, we decided to leave the tour group and walk up the unmarked trail. As we walked, I would place trail markers so we could find our way back to the boat.

About 30 minutes later we reached a cemetery—where there is a cemetery, there must be a town nearby. So we continued forward until we eventually saw what looked like a small town. We descended from the elevated area and found a way to what seemed like the main street of the town. We noticed that locals were not used to tourists on this side of the island as every local we walked pass stared at us and kids would come up, smile, and follow us before their parents came to grab them.

It then started to rain—hard. Each minute that passed the rain got heavier and heavier until we saw locals using brooms to sweep the rain away from their pouches and save their homes from being flooded. We knew we had to make our way back to the other side of the island before our boat (the last boat of the day) left without us.

We started to retrace our steps, except this time we were fighting against the rush of water coming down the hill we descended from. Knee-high in rain and sewage water, we continued until we could no longer see that path. But then four local women stopped us. “Too dangerous,” one said to us as she raised her hand to block me from walking past her and up the trail.

“Our boat is leaving,” I told the locals in my accented Vietnamese. The women would not let us pass. We were at a standstill until another woman who had overheard my conversation walked over and said she can help us. Not knowing what to do, we followed her. As we followed her, she pulled out her phone and made a call. We eventually arrived at a pier.

The woman explained that she arranged for us to take a boat with some locals who were also headed towards Nha Trang. Luckily for us, they were leaving once the rain settled down.

We laughed at how stupid it will seem to the others on our tour that we left the safety of the park, hiked to the other side of the mountain, and walked into this small town that isn’t used to seeing tourists. But we didn’t’ care—we had the time of our lives!

To pass the time we spoke with the locals as much as we could to learn more about what they do and what it is like seeing foreigners.

Eventually our boat arrived and we made our way back to Nha Trang with our new friends still wanting to know more about us.

Sometimes you can’t start living until you get off the guided tour.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What frightens you about leaving your “guided tour?”



About Davis

Davis Nguyen (@justdavisnguyen) graduated from Yale University in May 2015. He is currently on a year-long quest to connect with his influencers. Want to know how to connect with your influencers?

Written by Paul Angone

There are so many well-hidden suckholes that can stop all momentum, growth, and success in your twenties.

And you can fall into one of these pitfalls without even realizing it, and then stay stuck well into your 30s, 40s, 50s…you get where I’m going…

Now that I’ve successfully freaked us all out, lets talk about these pitfalls and how we avoid them.

Pitfall #1: My Circumstances are “Who I Am” 

If you start believing “well this is my lot in life and I can’t do anything about it,” then you are more than stuck.

Really this pitfall makes all other pitfalls non-existent because you never walk far enough forward to even have a chance at failing at anything else.

Don’t be cemented in your circumstances. They change all the time. Too many people are settling in Sucksville because they don’t believe they can leave town.

We all have crappy subplots we need to work through. Don’t let them become your whole book. Failure doesn’t ruin your story, failure helps you write it. 

It’s really hard to step into your future if you don’t believe you have one.

Your twenties set the course for the rest of your life. If you start settling for a life that’s a “3 out of 10” now, it might not magically become better later.

Pitfall #2: Becoming Bitter, Instead of Better

You might be feeling good about life. Maybe you’re even at the grocery store, with an actual list, buying things like kale and argula.

You’re crushing this whole adulthood thing.

And then you jump into the line at the checkout and start checking out Facebook or Instagram, with the glaring AMAZINGNESS of all your friends buying a new BMW, having a new baby, traveling to Istanbul to take pictures for American Express, and suddenly you want to replace your kale with a box of wine and three jumbo bags of M&M’s.

The new OCD I have coined — Obsessive Comparison Disorder has a way of heightening any discontent to “I only want to drink wine from a box” levels.

Don’t become bitter. Become better. Don’t smack yourself with some yardstick you’re not measuring up to. You do you.

Keep creating instead of complaining.

Strive to find solutions, instead of marinating in all the problems.

Pitfall #3: Never Committing to Anything

Find something you enjoy, that gives you life, and commit to it. It doesn’t have to be what you want to do for the rest of your life to give a little of your life to it.

Your twenties are about what you plant in the ground, not about what you harvest.

We can’t keep pulling our seeds out of the dirt before it has time to grow.

As you commit to something and begin to walk forward, paths and opportunities will open up that you couldn’t see from where you started.

Pitfall #4: Doing Life Alone

We are made for community. We thrive in relationships. Your friends are struggling right next to you to find their purpose and place.

Call a friend. Be honest about what you’re going through. Seek out mentors. Ask them to coffee. Call your mom. Find a counselor if you feel you need one.

Don’t do twentysomething life alone.

To blow up this lie that you’re all alone in this twentysomething struggle is one of the main reasons I wrote my new book All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! It’s why I’m so honest about my own hilariously embarrassing, yet slightly brutal, failures that lined my twenties.

This “groan up” life is anything but easy and straight-forward, and we need to talk about it.

If you try to do life in isolation, it will be very difficult to feel alive.

Pitfall #5: Failing to Clarify Your Signature Sauce

I believe you have a Signature Sauce – a unique mix of ingredients that gives the world a flavor that no one else can.

No, I’m not talking about some sort of magical marinara.

I believe that defining, refining, owning, and honing who you are, your unique tailor-made-ness, your personal Signature Sauce, is the absolute most important thing you can accomplish in your twenties. It’s the key to not only finding your passion, but living it for the rest of your life.

Don’t expect anyone to hire you for your passion if you can’t explain what it is. 

The people who are the most successful know who they are, what they believe, and why they are pursuing what they’re pursuing.

Don’t get me wrong, this discovery process is not always simple and straightforward. This is why I’m working on an intentional program and community to help you own, hone, refine and define what your Signature Sauce is.

You have a unique Signature Sauce that the world needs.

It just might take some time, strategy and intentionality to figure out what it is.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below on this article: 

Are you stuck in one of these pitfalls and is there one thing you can do this week to begin your climb out? 

Paul-Angone-All-Groan-UpAbout Paul Angone

Paul Angone is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!101 Secrets for your Twenties and the creator of, a place for those asking “what now?” Snag free chapters from both his books and follow him at @PaulAngone.

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