For the month of October, we wanted to honor the impact travel has on our perspective—and nothing hit home more than Allison’s story about her trip to Southeast Asia with her father, a Vietnam War veteran. Read on for her winning entry in our free tour giveaway contest and to see how special the tour was to both herself and her father.
Allison, a kindergarten teacher in California, was overwhelmed (to say the least) when we called her to tell her she’d won the free tour. “It was such a special thing to get to write about my experience with my dad,” she told us later. “I was really emotional. I took the call in the teacher’s lounge and was crying!”
The tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand was originally her idea. “I brought it up several years ago, so it gave him some time to process,” she explains.
Allison’s father was stationed in Vietnam from November 1967 through February 1969, an experience he rarely talked about at home. “I knew the war was tough on him because he never spoke much about it,” Allison says of her dad’s past. “It felt kind of like there were a few missing years where I didn’t really know who my dad was. And I never really brought it up, because I knew he didn’t want to talk about it.”
Even leading up to their trip, Allison says her father was quiet about his return to Vietnam. That all started to change as they arrived at the airport, where Allison’s father began to open up about his experiences. “One we were on the trip, at the airport even, I started asking more questions and he started talking,” she says. “He was finally in a place where he could talk and share it with me too.”
Allison says the way the itinerary was structured really added to their experience, giving them ample time to process and eventually, decompress. “We started in the south, where he had spent a lot of his time,” she explains. “Being south was really meaningful to him, it was powerful to be back in the areas where he had served. He kept saying it was amazing how well the people were doing, he was so happy for everybody.” After an imaginable emotional part in southern Vietnam, Allison and her father enjoyed some downtime in Cambodia and Thailand. “It was a great way for him to go back there, to have the guidance and structure of the tour but with the little bit of freedom we had.”
Allison and her father also had the luck of being on tour with another woman who had grown up in Vietnam but was forced to flee, returning on this tour with her two daughters. “We were so fortunate,” Allison says. “We got to see Vietnam in a different time than when they were there.”
As for her favorite moment, it’s nearly impossible for Allison to choose just one. “It’s so hard to pick a favorite moment,” she gushes. “It was a really wonderful thing for me and my dad to experience together. And Vietnam is so amazing, it’s so nice to come back and tell everyone how beautiful it is. I don’t think people realize how beautiful the country really is.”
The beauty of Vietnam and its history is something Allison feels everyone should have a chance to see and appreciate–after all, being there with her father is what changed her perspective on the country itself. “My knowledge of Vietnam was because of the war,” she says, “but to see how it is now versus the images I had in my head because of its history, it was good to see that.”
“The history is still there, it’s still around,” she continues. “But you get to see how the country has moved on and changed. For my dad, he had seen it as a war-torn country but he got to see it in a time of peace. It was amazing.”
Congratulations, Allison! Do you want to try your hand at winning a free tour? See how we’re celebrating this month and enter for your chance to win.