Article: Huong Quynh
Photo: Nguyen Huy Tam

Nguyen Huy Tam is a young Vietnamese man who has traveled, usually solo, to more than 90 cities around the world. He believes solo travel is key to finding himself, rebalancing his emotions, healing, and nurturing his mental health. Heritage met Mr. Tam to discuss his meaningful journeys.

On the beach in Havana, Cuba

There are many ways to discover one’s inner self. Why did you choose solo travel?

We usually deal too much with the outside world, but forget that we also need to listen to and empathize with ourselves. Many young people living in big cities have trouble answering the questions they ask themselves: who they are, what they want, and what they will be like in the future. Thinking I would face this same predicament at some point, I chose solo travel as a way to face my inner self, listen to my own problems, and comfort myself.

I have tried many different forms of travel, such as journeying with friends or a group of strangers. In the end, I found solo travel suits me best. Only when there is no one else around do I turn on my “inner switch” and start communicating with the cities I’m visiting, strangers on the street, and unique cultures. That’s also how I see the world with greater insight, which complements my writing career.
A bookstore in Brussels, Belgium

What have you learned from the journeys? How have they changed you?

As for the journeys, if you call them strolls then they are strolls. Call them experiences then they are experiences. For my part, I felt a clear change in my outlook on life. My views on the world became more diversified. As I came to love the little things in life, I became happier. Traveling also allowed me to meet interesting people of all colors and nationalities, each with their own unique life stories… I brought those stories to many people through the pages of my books, and the books further widened my horizons.

Throughout my journeys, my perspectives broadened and my mind became open to new opportunities in my career. I am no longer the shy, insecure young man I was before. I have learned to become independent, dare to make decisions, and be flexible in any situation. In these uncertain times, flexibility is a much-needed skill.

For the past two years, you could not travel and had to postpone your plans. How have you dealt with this period of downtime? Do you feel it’s been “pointless”?

For me, “traveling” has two meanings: the first one is to step outside, to board a flight to a distant land. The second meaning is to travel inward, listening to, conversing with, and cultivating your inner self. So even though the past two years have been long and arduous, I have used this downtime to learn new things and adopt good habits.

Capadocia, Turkey

We all have the same 24 hours a day, but whoever uses those 24 hours more effectively will be more successful. Instead of sitting there lamenting the impacts of the pandemic and waiting for it to finally pass, I used my time to work, cook in the kitchen, exercise, read good books, and chat with family and friends.

Exotic cities always excite me, but since I can’t travel right now, I read about history and culture so that when things get back to normal, I’ll have a reason to hit the road right away. I really miss the journeys.

When the door to your inner self is opened, what do you find most interesting?

The one thing that interests me the most in my journey to discover my inner world is getting rid of my prejudices. In the past, I looked at the world from a narrow perspective. But once I realized and understood the diversity of our world, I’ve become more tolerant. And only when one becomes tolerant will good things come.

Opening my mind and inner self also helps me to see that the world is flat after all. The borders become blurred. The greatest border is the border in our minds. Do we dare to cross it or do we keep living in our comfort zone?
A frozen bridge in Tehran, Iran

Can you share the “wealth of knowledge” you have accumulated from your journeys as well as your future plans?

I always feel I have gained a lot from my journeys. I have gained friends all over the world, unforgettable experiences, and a vivid and colorful worldview that I turned into written works that are loved and shared by many…

Another thing I’ve gained is my sympathy toward people I’ve encountered, the poor and rustic villages in dire need of help, the many rich and vibrant cultures that must be preserved. As I mention this, I think of Africa. I will probably return there soon to visit the steppes, forests, lakes, and poor villages. And I’ll bring lots of candy for the children…

Thank you. We wish you many wonderful journeys ahead!