And Then A Shark Ate The Internet

The internet shark struck two days before my guidebook deadline, which had been extended twice because I had completely failed to grasp the enormity of the task I had taken on.

I had three months to cover Southern Vietnam and write three chapters of the Vietnam guidebook. I figured I’d spend two months traveling and one month writing. But I really wanted to deliver my chapters early, as in several weeks early, so that I was able to focus on our food tour business during our busiest time of year.

So, about four weeks in, I sat down to do the writing part of the task. I’d done the hard-and-fast travel for the first chapter, and made a gazillion fact-checking phone calls and I expected to finish writing things up in about week.

But a month later, with loads of travel still to do, I was still chained to my computer, relentlessly choosing classifications from long drop-down menus and filling out fields from 7.30am until late at night. It was a struggle to keep the other parts of my life afloat as I wrestled with the guidebook company’s slow and laborious content management system.

From that point onwards, the guidebook work was no longer a dream job. It was a long hard data entry slog, interspersed with bouts of travel, even after my deadline was extended by a month. For more than two months I was so stressed I felt like I’d swallowed a bunch of bicycle inner tubes.

Heading off on my last research trip through Vietnam's beautiful Central Highlands ... without sunscreen.

Heading off on my last research trip through Vietnam’s beautiful Central Highlands … without sunscreen.

And just when the end was in sight, the internet broke. Apparently because a shark ate it.

It was just the latest in a whole series of unexpected and totally exasperating incidents that stood between me and deadline day. These incidents included our helper doing a midnight flit, a missed flight, me getting sick, both kids getting sick and employees getting sick (so I had to stop data entry stuff and lead some tours). The baby was teething the whole time so when I was home, I was chronically sleep-deprived. When I was traveling, I was up til all hours inputting data, so still chronically sleep-deprived. (Apart from that one time when I had a long afternoon nap at a five-star resort on Con Dao Island, on a blissfully soft four-poster bed overlooking one of the most beautiful bays in the world.)

Deadline day was Monday. I sent my last piece of information off on Thursday night. (I really love my understanding editor in New York.)

And post-deadline me is a little bit brain-dead.

I feel like I’ve been underwater for three months and now I’m up for air, I need to re-acquaint myself with life without a deadline. I’m dazed and dizzy but suddenly free. And I know so much about Southern Vietnam now. I just need a bit of space to work out what to do with all this information.

So that was my September to January. (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by the way.) What have you guys been up to while I’ve been MIA?


And if you didn’t believe me about the shark, check this GIF of a shark biting an undersea cable (which doesn’t appear to work in this post):

The internet shark

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6 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Denise says:

    Oh dear….hope you’re ok now. Yep, I’ve now heard it from multiple people that guidebook gigs are really not as glamorous as one would think, but oh, what an achievement.
    Happy Christmas to you and your family.

    • Barbara says:

      Merry Christmas and chuc mun nam moi (Happy New Year) to you too, Denise! Some of the highlights of the gig were pretty glamorous but the lowlight was weeks and weeks of data entry work. And the shark.

  2. Stacey says:

    Some people have all the luck, don’t they!?

    Ah well, chalk it upto experience I guess.

    Bloody sharks.

  3. Well …. I guess if the internet is gonna die, being eaten by a shark sounds pretty cool on the tombstone. Haha! Sounds like you’ve had an intense couple of months, hopefully things settle down and you are able to catchup. 🙂

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks Anna! It’s strange how life went on for everyone else while I was underwater. Catching up gradually now, and itching to write about some of the fabulous places I’ve been, beyond 100 word hotel reviews.

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