It is 4:24am local in Ho Chi Minh as I’m about to hit “publish” on this post. And, words can’t fully describe how excited I am for this trip. But, I’ll certainly do my best here. To start, this trip can be quickly summed up in two words: food & family. Further explained, any one who even remotely knows me is aware that these two constant forces have shaped me & continue to drive everything that I pursue. Quite metaphorically and literally, I think about food non-stop: 28 hours a day, 400 days a year. Beyond swinging my first baseball bat at the age of two, my earliest memories revolved around eating & cooking. And, the next two weeks promises to be a dream come true. I get do both. Eat, eat, and eat . . . with family.
To say the least, I believe in the power of food. Food always tells a story and is the ultimate connector amongst people, even folks from different walks of life. Food is common ground and, despite the marked differences amongst different groups & cultures, it unifies us all. One needs to look no further than our business, Viet Nom Nom, to understand this notion. Viet Nom Nom is an operation & vision revolving around Vietnamese-inspired food, co-owned by a Jewish guy from Dallas and a Chinese guy from Chicago. If at least one of your eyebrows raised while reading that sentence, don’t feel surprised or alone, the peanut gallery often has the same reaction 🙂
But, again, this shows us the inherent magic behind food. At the core of our business is a deep passion for food — we live in a world where, Vietnamese roots or not, we are able to use food to pursue our personal & collective dreams. The medium of food also allows both of us to demonstrate & share our beliefs in community and social responsibility with every one of our customers and all of you. It doesn’t get any better than that and it’s never lost on me how lucky we are to do so.
It took me nearly 26 hours to get to Ho Chi Minh City with all 26 being on my own. And, I loved every second of it. No complaints. And how could there be? This 29 year old, second generation American-born Chinese brother has finally made it to Asia. Finally.
Ever since I was a kid, my family has planned and dreamed of heading to China — to see our roots and, yes, to eat. Unfortunately, plans derailed a few different times for a variety of reasons and we just haven’t made it happen yet. Having missed the opportunity to do so with my mom, it would mean the absolute world to see China with my dad. But, it’s still on our absolute bucket list and I’m confident it’ll happen very soon.
In the mean time, I feel very fortunate to visit Asia in the form of Vietnam and a quick stop in Thailand before heading home. I also feel very grateful for this trip because, as I’ve share earlier, this is a family affair. I’ll be rendezvousing with my younger brother, Aaron, on this trip. And, with this trip, we’ll now have traveled to all four hemispheres together (in a matter of less than two years to boot!). We’ve gone from bunk bed buddies to roommates to road warriors and, given the gravity of this trip, I am thankful to experience it with him. We’ve also started an informal tradition of celebrating his birthday on the road the last four years. We’ve checked off Vegas, Jamaica, and Key West and now I’m especially excited to celebrate his birthday this year in SE Asia.
BROTHERS FROM OTHER MOTHERS
I’m super lucky to be sandwiched (told you, I ALWAYS think about food) between two awesome brothers. But, I’m also thankful to have brothers from other mothers. in the form of my two other roommates, Rob & Rohun, and my business partner, Noah.
Rob & Rohun round out the team for the next two weeks and I’m particularly thankful for their incredible generosity & support. As a birthday present last year, Aaron, Rob, and Rohun were adamant about gifting me a flight to Vietnam. Last June was just a month after I officially left my corporate career to focus on Viet Nom Nom and they recognized how important a trip (this trip) to Vietnam would be for my ability to develop & execute the vision we have for the business. I’ll undoubtedly draw from all the inspirations on this trip immediately and throughout. I’m already forever grateful for their support (and stomachs as I’ll need eating buddies all trip long!).
Every day, Noah and I juggle no less than 2304329409234 projects and responsibilities. I continue to question how the heck people run businesses solo. Viet Nom Nom is a team project between the two of us and that often means we have to shoulder the load for each other on certain days and tasks. As we continue to figure out how to best “divide & conquer”, the next two weeks are a prime example. Luckily, our world of iMessage, Gmail, Drive, Dropbox, Hangouts, etc. will enable me to do a bunch while I’m away, but no doubt that this trip cannot happen without Noah holding down the fort back home, especially during our construction. We’re lucky to share the same vision and passion to succeed — the next goal is to get both of us back to Vietnam together. And, that will inevitably involve more teamwork from existing & future hires. All goals to strive for!