It was ten years ago when the visa process was quite different. I had no idea about my options back then, so I entered the country on a tourist visa without knowing the other requirements. Fortunately, I quickly learned the rules and made the necessary changes to extend my stay.

Recently, Vietnam has once again started granting tourist visas for up to three months. This was the type of visa I initially applied for when I first arrived in the country a decade ago. As more and more Westerners visit Vietnam, it reminds me of why I made the decision to move here, especially now that my ten-year anniversary is approaching.

Moving to Vietnam is not an easy process for most expats. There are numerous rules and regulations regarding visas, banking, employment, and various other aspects of daily life. It’s something we often take for granted in our home countries.

My personal story starts in 1965, two years before I was born in Australia. When the U.S. became involved in the conflict here in the early 1960s, Australia was called upon to support the Allied Force.

Due to my family’s involvement during that time, the word “Vietnam” was something I grew up hearing but rarely discussed at home. It wasn’t until later that I became aware that some of my family members had been to Vietnam before I was born.

This early exposure to Vietnam set the stage for the first 18 years of my life. Eventually, I grew up, moved away, started my own family, and pursued a career. Around 25 years later, in 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam on a holiday. Little did I know, this trip would change my life forever.

During that week, memories of my childhood flooded back, and I realized that I wasn’t simply on vacation; I was on a personal journey to uncover the secrets of my childhood, many of which were intertwined with Vietnam.

But this trip was more than just a pilgrimage. In just over a week, I gained a deep understanding of Vietnamese culture, spirit, and the delightful imperfections that make Vietnam unique. It was a transformative experience that gave my life meaning and purpose.

Upon returning to Australia, I found myself constantly thinking about Vietnam and missing the warmth and hospitality of its people. From a distant childhood memory, Vietnam became a place of wonder, a welcoming community, and an adventure I felt compelled to pursue.

A visitor has her photo taken in front of a coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

But the distance from Vietnam started to weigh heavily on my spirit. My desire to be here grew stronger with each passing day. I found myself frequently conversing with the friends I had made during my travels, and I even attempted to learn the language, though not very successfully at first.

One year and one week after my first visit, I made the life-changing decision to leave behind my career, most of my possessions, and bid farewell to my friends and family. I took the leap and moved to Vietnam to explore the country and find a new purpose, a decision that has forever transformed me.

Instead of taking it easy, I immediately began working. Over the next ten years, I built a new career that involved studying, freelancing, creating YouTube content, and working harder and longer hours than ever before. Despite the challenges, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to do what I do and to call Vietnam my home.

My good fortune extended beyond my professional life. In Ho Chi Minh City, I was privileged to be part of teaching blind children how to swim, raising funds for orphanages across southern Vietnam, and engaging in other charitable endeavors to support local communities.

I also took up cycling, which allowed me to discover hidden corners and remote locations in southern Vietnam that I could only dream of visiting. And two years ago, I had the incredible experience of marrying a wonderful Vietnamese woman, who is now my wife.

Living in Vietnam for the past decade has been a privilege. The greatest privilege of all has been to be accepted as part of the Vietnamese community and to contribute to improving the lives of its people. The smile of a stranger on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the simple act of asking a child their name and age—these moments are forever etched in my memory. I am grateful for the chance to learn and to find purpose in one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in the world.

A file photo shows busy traffic on Hai Ba Trung Street in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, October 4, 2021. Photo: Chau Tuan / Tuoi Tre

If you’re considering moving to Vietnam for work, marriage, or to be with family, it’s crucial to understand and comply with the new visa laws. Make sure you’re aware of the requirements before booking your flight. Visa agents and law firms in Vietnam can assist you in navigating the relevant laws. If you plan to work in Vietnam, you’ll need a work permit unless you’re married to a citizen, in which case you may be eligible for a two- or three-year Temporary Resident Card. Seek professional advice before your arrival to save time and money.

Living in Vietnam may not be suitable for everyone. There will be challenges, and not every day will be easy. However, for those who have a deep connection and love for this country, the transformative moments, joyful experiences, and unforgettable memories far outweigh the difficulties.

As I celebrate my ten-year milestone in Vietnam, I want to express my gratitude for being embraced by the Vietnamese people and for the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of Vietnam even in the smallest ways. Vietnam truly has a timeless charm.

I’ve learned that it’s important to choose your home for the right reasons to live a life filled with purpose and meaning. With over 100,000 expats residing here, each with their own unique story, it’s worth taking the time to share your journey with others.

A photo taken in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News