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Mattituck grad rides motorcycle 2K miles across Vietnam

Ian Husak with the Vietnamese flag on a fishing boat in Ha Long Bay. (Credit: Ian Husak courtesy photos)
Ian Husak with the Vietnamese flag on a fishing boat in Ha Long Bay. (Credit: Ian Husak courtesy photos)

When Ian Husak first arrived in Vietnam, he didn’t have the benefit of international data on his phone. There was no GPS in his pocket to direct the Mattituck High School graduate from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne, a journey of more than 130 miles on a motorcycle across foreign terrain.

“I had no map,” he recalled. “I spent the whole day wondering, ‘Am I going the right way?’ ”

In a way, that uncertainty was a key experience for Mr. Husak, a sophomore at Fordham University. Along with a more nuanced global perspective, he said the greatest reward from his month-long trip was learning to live in the moment.

“I had to learn to enjoy being lost,” he said. “As a person, I like knowing where I’m going and having a plan. But you develop a sense that you’ll get there when you get there.”

Mr. Husak had known since high school that he wanted to see the world. A documentary on Vietnam and an episode of the BBC television series “Top Gear” convinced him that the quickly growing Southeast Asian country would be his first destination.

From May 17 to June 12, he took the plunge and pursued that goal.

“I just think that was so brave,” said Gary Buckner, Mr. Husak’s former social studies teacher at Mattituck High School. “Most kids, if they do go away after high school — which many don’t — usually go to Europe. But Ian had this fixation on Vietnam and I loved it. I thought it was fantastic.”

Before Mr. Husak left, Mr. Buckner gave him some advice on exploring the world.

“Be a sponge,” Mr. Buckner recalled telling him. “Keep your mind open and absorb what is out there. Trust everyone until you’re given reason not to.”

In total, Mr. Husak traveled about 2,000 miles on a Honda Win 110cc he bought for $300 his first day in Vietnam. His journey took him from Ho Chi Minh City in the southern part of the country all the way to Sa Pa, in northwestern Vietnam, near the border of China.

His favorite part was the cuisine, especially since he could get a bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) for a dollar or two at every meal. He estimated that his trip cost about $1,500.

“You can live on $15 a day including hotels and food,” he said.

Perhaps dauntingly for some, Mr. Husak arrived at and departed from Vietnam without a single companion.

“If you’re by yourself, you’re so much more open to meeting new people and talking to new people,” he said.

He spent the majority of his trip with three documentarians from Lebanon who he met at a hostel in Mui Ne.

“I’ve been telling my classes for 20 years that you’re never alone when you’re traveling,” Mr. Buckner said. “There are people you meet that are doing the same thing as you … You get to know people, and you find out about their culture.”