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After job losses and the mortgage meltdown of 2008, Karin Esterhammer, her husband, and their 8-year-old (autistic) son fled Los Angeles to start over in an unlikely place:a nine-foot-wide back-alley in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly started into windows, generously shared their barbecued rat, kept cockroaches for luck, and ultimately helped Karin and her family find joy without their Western trappings.
Who hasn’t daydreamed about chucking it all and living simply in a hut with a hammock on a beach? Such a move can be a brilliant way to cut expenses and flip your life’s switch to adventure mode.
Around six of every 10 North Americans didn’t have an emergency savings account when the 2008 recession hit. Karin was one of them. “I don’t know why I thought selling nearly everything we owned and moving to Vietnam would be the easiest way to get back all I’d lost. Call it desperation. I was laid off from an industry becoming more obsolete by the day — newspapers. My husband’s home business was also tanking, and with debts that equaled what seemed like the GDP of a small country, we didn’t have the capacity for clear thinking and careful planning.”
So, in 2008, Karin and her family moved to Ho Chi Minh City to get jobs teaching English. In a country where a great meal was $1usd, a motorbike taxi ride was 50 cents, and cable TV plus telephone was $6usd a month, they had lofty expectations of saving bundles of money and returning home in a year. What they didn’t account for was high rent. The least-expensive place they could find was $400usd a month for a nine-foot-wide house on a crowded alley with no hot water, but plenty of roosters and rats. They took it.
In So Happiness to Meet You, Karin shares what her family learned while living in Vietnam and learning to appreciate having less and needing less.
In the great tradition of Bill Bryson and J. Maarten Troost, So Happiness to Meet You is a captivating travel memoir that’s as rich in heart as it is in vivid, hilarious observations about Karin’s life in one of the world’s most fascinating places. For the Silo, Trina Kaye.
Karin Esterhammer’s work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and more. Her diary-style article in the LA Times about Vietnam earned more letters to the editor than almost any other travel story. After their years in Vietnam, Karin and her family are again living in LA.
Prospect Park Books 16$usd contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information.