A relative newcomer, Intrepid leader Huyen Nguyen believes that positivity and passion for her country and its culture is the secret.
Huyen Nguyen says yes. It punctuates her speech as she waits to see whether the group is following – literally and figuratively. And it says a lot about Huyen, whose positivity as a leader is infectious.
While she’s comfortable talking to the group, we are coming to the end of our trip before Huyen will sit down and talk about herself. She’s been too busy showing us around her country. In a quiet moment on the bus, I pick my moment and request the interview. ‘Yes,’ she says.
Hailing from a small province two hours from Hanoi, Huyen has been an Intrepid leader for just over two years. While she studied travel and tourism at university, she learned a lot about her job from other Intrepid leaders. “Some people work for Intrepid longer than me, and we have a big culture of sharing,” she says.
But you can’t learn Huyen’s passion, positivity and authenticity. ‘I always believe that when you like something, when you’re passionate about something, when you talk about that, it will be better.’
Sometimes, Huyen sees travellers experience some ‘culture shock’ when they first arrive in Vietnam, but to Huyen, that’s not a bad thing. ‘I think we travel to see the difference.’
Huyen is passionate about changing people’s preconceptions about Vietnam. Yes, the country has been shaped by war, but to Huyen, it’s so much more. ‘When they come here, they see the fast growing of Vietnam, they see beautiful scenery of our country, and we do have rich culture too,’ she says.
And one way of challenging those preconceptions is through food. ‘I love Vietnamese cuisine,’ she says. Bun cha is one dish that Huyen recommends to her travellers, as well as the banh mi in Hoi An. The bread is the best there. ‘And of course, I cannot live without pho,’ Huyen laughs.
To Huyen, Hoi An is an unmissable destination for international travellers. Its history, culture and food represent the side of Vietnam that Huyen loves to show visitors. And its size helps. ‘Hoi An is a small ancient town we can walk around to discover. And I prefer walking because while you walk, you can enjoy the small moments, the little things.’
Like many Intrepid leaders, Huyen is keen to travel beyond her home country. She would love to visit Cuba for the food and culture. Later this year, she is doing an Intrepid trip in India, where no doubt she will learn more from her leaders along the way.
Wherever her travels lead, we hope Huyen keeps saying yes.