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Meeting lots of great, interesting people, yummy food all the time, aromatic fruit, beautiful landscapes, friendly locals. To name only a few of all the expectations I had created before I left. Yes, I knew that there would be annoying things, stress, getting lost and feeling lost, and maybe lonely sometimes.

There is one thing that made it worth it to have had all those expectations – and have been disappointed. Every single expectation that turned out to not match reality made me learn to let go of expectations just a millimeter more, sometimes even a centimeter. So did my expectation of Mui Ne. Beautiful white beach, nice sand, blue water, palm trees. Reality was this: Plastic and broken fisher nets on the beach and in the water. All kinds of other garbage. Dead jellyfish and starfish, crabs, and little fish that weren’t useful for the fishermen and women. The water was rather brown than blue, because the water was very shallow so the waves stirred up all the sand. During the day, the high tide made the beach very narrow, only in the morning there was more space to take a walk by the beach. All in all, the beach was pretty stinky and not so dreamlike as one could have wished.

So, lesson No. 1 was letting go of my expectations, not creating specific ideas. I learned another thing, though, which is accepting and enjoying what is there, even when I had different expectations. One day, i got up early in the morning for sunrise and the light was just stunningly beautiful. I took photos and picked hundreds of colorful shells. I felt like a little kid who couldn’t stop looking at the ground, pick a shell, and, oh! – another one, so beautiful, and over there, one that has the colors of a sunset.

What I could not ignore was the plastic. It made me so sad. There’s a beach on the other side of the world, and it could be fantastic, paradisiacal. But instead it’s full of waste. What are we doing to this planet? To the ocean, the plants, the animals, ourselves. Mui Ne is famous for its sea food and fish, but honestly, after seeing the locals pick the edible fish out of a pile of jellyfish, tiny fish, and SO MUCH plastic, I wouldn’t want to eat that stuff (even if I wasn’t vegetarian). Apart from the fact that a great number of animals die for a single crab or bigger fish – they’re just thrown away or left at the beach as bycatch. There must be so much plastic in the sea food, little particles that humans ingest by eating the animals there – and not only there. Plastic is flooding the oceans, the whole planet.