In cities like Hanoi or Saigon where pedestrian crossings are merely something to speed over, stoplights are practically non-existent, one-way streets are laughed at, and thousands of motorbikes speed past without stopping, crossing the street can be an intense experience. The question, “how did the tourist cross the road” is not a joke, it’s a real query from most visitors to Vietnam. To make it to the other side, you need to be brave, focused, and a risk-taker—just like in life. Here are 12 life lessons that you can learn from crossing the street in Vietnam:
Traffic isn’t going to stop to give you an opening, just like most opportunities in life won’t magically appear. You have to go for what you want, whether it’s getting across the street or going for a new job. As the famous saying goes, “Fortune favors the bold”. Keep that in mind next time you’re tempted to hesitate out of fear.
Know When to Ask for Help
We traveled to Vietnam with Friendly Planet, and on city tours, our guide would block the road for us, crossing-guard style, so we could get across safely. Sure, it was embarrassing, but we got across the road a heck of a lot faster than we would have on our own.
Focus on Only Your Path
Block out distractions. If you keep your eyes on the traffic coming at you, human instinct will cause you to stop, and you’ll never make it across. Use this tunnel vision in life. Focus on the prize and ignore the obstacles around you.
Copy Someone Who’s More Successful Than You
One of the easiest ways to get across a busy street is to follow a local who knows what they’re doing and walk beside them as they cross. Do this in life, too. Find someone who’s more experienced than you are (whether it’s in fitness, crossing the road, or in a career), and follow what they’ve done.
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When a scooter is your only mode of transportation, you figure out fast how to perfectly balance three people, groceries, and a television (or whatever you need to carry). You’ve only got one life, so learn how to balance the essentials, and how to leave behind what you don’t need or whatever’s dragging you down.
Sometimes You Have to Take a Few Steps Back to Move Forward
If you encounter a busy crossing, walking down a block and going the long way can be theeasiest and safer way in the end. There’s no shame in taking a different route, even if it takes you a little longer to reach your destination than everyone else.
Know When to Break the Rules …
Cross in the middle of a street if the crosswalk is too busy and there’s no traffic light. Sometimes it’s easier to get over in the center, rather than trying to navigate around cars turning corners. It’s pretty hard to get ahead in life if you follow the rules to the letter every time.
… And Know When to Follow Them
If you’ve stumbled across a traffic light, use it. Now is not the time to break the rules and jaywalk. In life, there are certain moral and legal rules that you shouldn’t try to bend—common sense will tell you which ones.
Related: 10 New Rules for Traveling Without Being a Jerk
Commit Fully in Everything You Do
Drivers are counting on you to walk across at a consistent speed. They’ll watch you and navigate around. If you unpredictably stop, you’ll mess up the flow. Whether it’s in love, work, or friendship, decide to commit fully. Trust that the people around you won’t hurt you.
Ignore the Haters
There will be honking. There may even be heckling. Tune it out. Focus on you.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sure, it’s safer to stay on one side of the street, but then you’ll never know what you’re missing on the other side. Don’t miss out on chances in life because you’re scared of failing.
Celebrate the Small Things
Crossing the street on your own hasn’t been something brag-worthy since you were a kid, but making it across in Vietnam is a victory. Pat yourself on the back. Take time to rejoice in the little wins (from snagging a prime parking spot to getting in a workout) every day.
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