Yep, I went backpacking with my friend with benefits. And it sure was something.
But before we jump into those two weeks, the story starts a tad before.
I had reacquainted with my special friend (or ‘special Vietnam friend’ as we later upgraded our commitment level to) on Tinder.
She was on the backburner of a long-term relationship. And me, well I’m just me.
Inevitably, the casual status was established and we embarked on the rollercoaster adventure of cringe Netflix chills, meeting up after sloppy nights out and eventually to just hanging out at the park or at my place. All the time.
The feels were coming. And we weren’t equipped to handle the feels.
More importantly – she was heading on a 2 month backpacking trip through Asia soon. The beautifully tragic reality that we were and had to be, for the sake of our better interests, just special friends.
That is – until pillow talk led to the proposition.
To join her. As a friend. Same boundaries, same vibes. Just, you know – in Asia.
So I did it. She left. And a few weeks later – I was on a plane to Hanoi to meet her. I somehow convinced my boss to give me the time off work. I also somehow convinced myself to actually go ahead with it.
Me on the plane shitting it over how YOLO this decision was. View was nice though.
I’m a firm believer in old man memories – the memories that I’ll look back on when I’m (hopefully) old and grey in my death bed and think, ‘fuck, that was awesome. Insane, but awesome.’
These two weeks, my friends, are some of the juiciest old man memories that I’ll treasure till the day I die.
Starting with that flight – heading to Vietnam (a place I hadn’t ever really considered to holiday to) with no accommodation booked.
Over the next two weeks we learnt A LOT about each other and shared unique, amazing and inevitably some cringe experiences.
It was a little weird at times … But the entire experience was mostly smiles and good times.
The first thing she learnt was that I spit my toothpaste out from an alarmingly high level (apparently).
But once she was eventually able to get over that, the rest of our trip was mostly fantastic.
We explored the streets of Hanoi, indulging in a variety of street and restaurant food. Some of it was definitely questionable (albeit amazing tasting).
1 of about 40,000 bowls of pho we ate. Yummy and hearty as fuck.
We went on a hostel boat tour through Ha Long Bay, staying at an exclusive party island (which was essentially – a bar, a beach and hammocks).Ha Long Bay boat tour was unbelievably fun. Views were beautiful. Here’s me featuring a tactical towel to cover the slowly depreciating rig because I have no self control when it comes to Vietnamese food and $1 beers.
This was our accommodation. Not sure how many stars this was … but the views and location were stunning.
At night, the water lit up because of bioluminescent plankton. To this day it remains one of the fondest (and believe it or not – romantic) experiences of my life – stumbling, carrying my special friend into the water to swim around in a sea of fluoro green lights, much to the amusement of our inebriated selves.
We squished ourselves into overnight busses to travel across the country, crying with laughter at the Vietnamese action movies and pop songs they provided as entertainment.
‘Dan, are you sure you don’t need sunscreen.’
‘Trust me dude, I need a tan anyway – it’ll be fine’
We explored Phong Na national park, traversed mud caves, zip lined into a river and stayed in the middle of fuck-knows rural Vietnam.
I seriously felt like Tarzan.
A special version of Tarzan apparently.
I also had the humbling experience of crashing our motorbike, luckily leaving her unscathed but me with a rather nasty gash to the nose.
How do I support my body on those twig calves? Also, she teased the shit out of me for crashing.
This was an injury that, being in the middle of nowhere, we solved with hand sanitiser, our ALDI first-aid kit and copious amounts of alcohol. To my surprise, it didn’t heal particularly well and a nice scar can be seen across my shnoz to this day.
We push-biked our way to the day markets and night markets of Hoi Ann, equipping ourselves with cheap hipster outfits for home and pushing the limits of our stomach. Funnily enough, I ended up loving and mostly eating vegan food with her, an idea I’d have scoffed at back home.
Best scenic ride ever. It was amazing until we realised we had to ride back through peak-hour traffic lol.
At night, the hostel pub crawl was a must. I’ll never quite forget (though maybe I ought to), doing nangs out of balloons with, no word of a lie – a Vietnamese McLovin doppleganger.
When mum hasn’t heard from you in a few days, do not send her this photo saying ‘having lots of fun.’
We also chilled at the beach a tonne. Even went snorkelling at a beautiful reef.
Finally, by the end of our exhausting two weeks – we booked a 5-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (for $125 I might add), and explored the city a little before settling in for a sleep in a beautiful big bed and a wash in our own big, private shower – luxuries we had forgotten over the weeks of backpacking.
And you know, we had a lot of sex. Holiday sex, everyone’s favourite kind (you know it). Questionable hostel funky times were an adrenaline rush and hilarious to look back on.
To be honest, I’m laughing and smiling whilst reminiscing and writing this. I mean, she was my best friend at the time and we explored another country immersing ourselves in the culture. It was fucking awesome.
But, there were inevitably some downsides, nothing deal breaking albeit (imo anyway).
The FWB situation did lead to some awkwardness and complications.
In terms of social media uploads, we didn’t post pictures together and we never really discussed the protocol there.
Also, people assumed we were in a committed relationship, that is – essentially all hospitality staff. It was also hilarious when making friends and meeting new people. We ended up answering the question by either looking at each other and laughing, saying some variation of ‘good friends from home’ or stuttering our way out of the question. Again, nothing major just a bit awkward.
Finally, fair warning – the feels, pillow talk and all things inclined that way were amplified. We found ourselves heavily infatuated at points, particularly when we were put in romantic and emotionally arousing situations.
We even decided we would be more than friends at one point, and then reverted back to being just friends the following day because things felt weird af. It definitely made for plenty of jokes and laughs.
As long as you can joke about it it’s okay.
When we got back to AUS, we kept things as they were for a while, tried our luck at a bit more, and eventually called things off when we realised it wasn’t going to work.
Regardless though, to this day I look back at the Vietnam trip fondly with absolutely no regrets and laugh and treasure all our adventures and mishaps.
So that was my experience backpacking with a FWB. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, or even in a situation that poses a similar YOLO question, ask yourself – is this an old man/woman memory I want?
You’ll know your answer pretty quickly.
Check out my Instagram here – you’ll see some photos from Vietnam there feat. just me.