Exploring Mental Health: Vietnamese Photographer’s Road Trips to Aid Depression Recovery

A 32-year-old Vietnamese photographer took on a long journey from North to South, capturing the most beautiful moments of nature

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In 2018, Ao Kim Ngoc of Ho Chi Minh City embarked on a transformative road trip to heal her battle with depression. One of the most overwhelming and impressive experiences on her journey was witnessing the sea of clouds in Dalat, Lam Dong. This inspired her to buy a camera in 2019 to capture these precious memories and document her connection with nature.

Photo taken at Bao Dai Waterfall, Lam Dong. Photo: NVCC
Near Bao Dai Waterfall, Lam Dong. Photo: NVCC

Over the years, Ngoc has traveled to various destinations in Vietnam, including Sapa, Tam Duong, Ngai Thau Thuong, Y Ty, and Ta Pa. She spends 5-7 days at each location, allowing her to fully explore and capture her most memorable moments. There are a few places that she revisits multiple times a year. When the weather is not suitable for traveling, Ngoc takes the opportunity to learn about the local culture, cuisine, and way of life.

Kim Ngoc's check-in photo at Dalat. Photo: NVCC
Kim Ngoc’s check-in photo at Dalat. Photo: NVCC

Ngoc developed a deep love for the beauty of the mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam and the friendly nature of the local people. Dalat holds a special place in her heart as the city that ignited her passion for photography and where she made many new friends.

Ngoc also enjoys capturing the daily lives of local people, especially children. Photography has become a way for her to preserve the memories of the places she has visited.

Photo: NVCC
Photo: NVCC

In addition to solo road trips, Ngoc also participates in group activities involving photography, allowing her to meet like-minded individuals and professional photographers. Safety and budget are important considerations for her, and she often travels with friends to save money and share in the joy along the way. Each trip typically costs VND 6-7.5 million.

Ngoc primarily explores wild and undeveloped areas, so she dresses comfortably in lightweight clothing suitable for navigating through forests.

Although Ngoc initially faced difficulties in learning to use her camera and had some accidents while capturing photographs in challenging locations, she gradually mastered the skills through experience and guidance from other photographers.

To Ngoc, these hardships are part of the journey that has made her stronger and more confident. She is able to fully appreciate the happiness and knowledge she gains from her travels.

Soul Healing Journey: Vietnamese Photographer Takes Road Trips to Heal Depression
To Kim Ngoc, nature and photography are her “medicine” to help her fight depression. Photo: NVCC

For Ngoc, the most valuable treasure she has is the collection of photos she has taken. She believes that the most beautiful photos are the ones that capture the strongest connection between herself and nature.

Snow in Y Ty, Sapa. Photo: NVCC
Snow in Y Ty, Sapa. Photo: NVCC
Sea of cloud in Cao Bang. Photo: NVCC
Sea of clouds in Cao Bang. Photo: NVCC
Phan Rang, Thap Cham. Photo: NVCC
Phan Rang, Thap Cham. Photo: NVCC
Photo: NVCC
Photo: NVCC