This is the 5th part in a monthly-series that gathers stories from travelers all around the world. Each of these travelers share their experiences with a stranger where this kind stranger helped them in some way or another out of pure kindness and generosity. These acts of kindness we encounter helps to restore our faith in humanity, and indeed reminds us all that a little help can often go a long way especially to someone in need.

Travel Stories Part 5: Bethany

Nomad, travelling with at least one family dog all the time

Travel Stories Part 5 Bethany and her pets

Bethany and her pets from the same road trip

Returning to camp after dark is always inconvenient but coming back at night to a disheveled tent during a wind storm was extra bothersome. The dog crates and parrot t-stand were basically all that was left holding the loosened tent in the seventy five mile an hour wind gusts whipping through the campground. By the time further tent disaster was averted, it was very late at night. I still had three dogs and a cockatoo to feed and settle in for an unexpected night of sleep in the van. As I finally got as comfortable as possible in the drivers seat, watching the hanging lamp I had accidentally left lit in the tent swing wildly in the tumultuous storm, I heard a voice outside.

I rolled the window down to hear a man at the tent door asking “are you alright in there?” Bringing his attention to the van, I responded “I’m in here.” The man came to the window, inquiring if I needed anything, stakes or rope. I thanked him but told him we were settled for now. I thought he was a park ranger until he finished by informing me “well, I am camped just over there if you need anything.” How kind! However, that violently swinging lamp that I had planned to ignore really did need to be turned off.

So I again ventured out into the fierce wind. After extinguishing the light in the tent, I could see my miniature dachshund peering at me out the driver side window of the lit van. I heard a clunk sound and panicked with the realization that his paw was on the lock button. The keys were inside. The rental van had not come with a spare. My four traveling pets were locked in a van with my phone. There was now something that kind man could do for me after all so I struggled through the dusty gusts to the lighted trailer nearby. After I knocked softly, the very sleepy man who answered was not the man who had offered help in my campsite just a short while ago. I was absolutely mortified but apologetically asked if I could use his phone. This man ever so graciously found his phone and handed it to me, a stranger in a dark, stormy campground well past midnight. For a trifecta of kindness, the park ranger left his post at 2:30AM to escort the lost locksmith to my campsite. Never in all my travels have I had to rely so much on the kindness of strangers and never have I been so pleasantly surprised at the kindness strangers could bestow. What should have been one of the worst evenings of camping in my entire life, turned into the night that restored my faith in humanity.

Bethany has been traveling the roads of North America for as long as she can remember and at least one family dog always joined the journey. Currently she is enjoying as many trips as possible with her three dogs, cat and cockatoo, on any money she can scrounge, and sharing her Cascadian Nomads tales in hopes of inspiring wanderlust in others.

Travel Stories Part 5: Laura

Budget traveller who has backpacked around the world with friends and family

The home made treats that Laura was offered

The home made treats that Laura was offered

Myself and a friend had an early start to catch the train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, we had skipped breakfast and kind of missed the opportunity to buy snacks for the 5 hours journey. Our own stupid fault!! We sat in our seats resigning ourselves to the fact it could be a while before the rumbling in our bellies stopped. We were on our way when an elderly lady sat in front of us, with her husband, turned around. She handed us a piece of paper towel, we cautiously accepted, inside were home made sweet treats. She must have been listening to our conversation! She spoke very little english but we showered her with thanks and gratitude to which she very humbly accepted. The treats were soon demolished and no sooner had we finished when she turned round with more edible goodies and a great big smile on her face, I think she was just delighted in the fact we were enjoying her baking.
I have to admit to being reluctant to accepting things from strangers in the past, but her gesture was one simply of kindness. She wanted nothing in return, nor any thanks, she just knew we were peckish and had enough supplies to share. To the lady on the train that day, thank you for generosity your treats truly were appreciated.
Laura is 23 and lover of travel. She has backpacked around the world, travelled with friends, family through school, university and with work and absolutely loves to explore new places.She is a budget traveller so tends to stay in hostels where grabbing a bottom bunk is a major plus!  She is also a big fan of the beach. Check out her blog to find some travel inspiration.

Travel Stories Part 5: Renee Tng

Traveled for 1.5 years around Asia, North America and South America in 2013

Renee (holding the ball) and her travel friends

Renee (holding the ball) and her travel friends

I had just arrived in a quiet town city of Chile after a 27 hour bus journey. It was late and I was desperate to get to my hostel. With my 80L backpack strapped on, and my city map out, I embarked on my 2km walk (didn’t have the luxury of catching taxis this trip). About 15 minutes into the trip a middle aged woman stopped me. ‘What on earth are you doing here little girl? You cannot be here it is too dangerous’ she says to me frantically in Spanish. She eventually called my hostel for directions and got the hostel owner to pick me up on his bike.

On my last day in town, I decided to pay Maria a visit at her hair salon to thank her again for her kind gesture. ‘Chinita!!’ (Little china) She yelled out as she saw me and gave me a big hug. She asked me to take a seat and offered to cut my hair (and refused to accept any money for it after). She then invited me back to her home just above the salon to have dinner with her mum and younger son. Maria’s elderly mum welcomed me to her home and treated me like I was her own daughter. She made me feel like I was at home so much that I started feeling bad for receiving this nice treatment. Later on in the evening she would prepare the biggest, most delicious home cooked Chilean meal I’ve ever tasted. The family then insisted I stayed another night with them before I left.

Ill have to admin that I did at various times doubt Maria’s hospitality and their motives. Especially travelling solo in a continent where crime and violence is a common occurrence. But at the end of the day it really was a breath of fresh air to realise that genuine people like Maria and her family still do exist! I couldn’t remember the last time I invited a traveller home for dinner.. I’m not sure if I could extend the same hospitality as I’ve received but I’m definitely making an extra effort to help travellers make hem feel right at home when they’re visiting my country!

Renee, 24 year old entrepreneur working on 2 startups in the food and fitness industries. She caught the infamous travel bug since her trip in 2013. Her next trip planned is in Europe, sailing the beautiful Croatian and greek islands with her best friends from all around the world. Follow her travel stories here.

Travel Stories Part 5: Yvonne Mak

Lover of everything theatre- and travel & culture- related, while also training to be a lawyer in Singapore.

Yvonne Mak

Yvonne Mak

In Helsinki we stayed with a young bartender in his 10 by 10 metre studio apartment. We slept on a mattress on the floor and in exchange, drank alcohol with his friends and had stupid teenage fun.

In Oslo we stayed with an IT manager. On our first night, he barbecued an entire salmon because it was a lovely day. We had dinner and wine, and were surprised with breakfast the next morning. In exchange we provided our mere company.

In Budapest we stayed with a carpenter on a spare bed he made out of scrap wood. In exchange, we rendered him a listening comfort as he spoke about love and loss.

In Oslo we needed a place to sleep for six hours in between our connecting trains. In exchange for 30 minutes of conversation, a kind 18 year old Portugese boy let us sleep on the floor of his living room.

I have been a strong advocate of the Couchsurfing experience since I joined the community in 2011. The premise of Couchsurfing is a non-monetary exchange of sorts, a cultural offer from the guest and a place to sleep from the host. Without regulated controls, the premise of Couchsurfing seems to open up a multitude of safety and theft risks. Without the incentive of monetary payment, one would expect to receive nothing more than some floor space or a couch to crash on for a few nights.

And yet, through these fleeting encounters with strangers, I have experienced only trust, warmth, good-heartedness and generosity that never fails to impress me. Human beings are, for the most part, good. Apart from letting a passing traveller into the comfort one one’s own home, these people have offered so much more – their time, food, a part of their lives, their trust in strangers. At the end of each stay, the magnanimity of people always impels me to pay it forward.

Yvonne is passionate about Theatre and Travel & Culture; hopefully one day she will occupy that elusive space in the Venn Diagram where they merge. She writes about her travels here

Travel Stories Part 5: Jenn Grahams

Flight attendant

Jenn and her husband sitting in First Class

Jenn and her husband sitting in First Class, using her flight attendant benefits to fly to Switzerland

Commercial flying doesn’t showcase humanity at its best.  As a flight attendant, I’ve seen many adults explode into toddler-like tantrums over seat swaps and become as vicious as vultures vying for a piece of carcass when it comes to overhead bin space.  Their bad behavior isn’t excusable, but it’s easy enough to understand.  An expensive plane ticket, minimal legroom, and a total lack of privacy for an extended amount of time (throw in a little turbulence, too!) is enough to make any person go insane!  Fortunately, not all of my customers turn into self-centered monsters when they cross the threshold of an aircraft.  In fact, I’ve witnessed some of the most amazing acts of kindness while working flights.  (And thank goodness too because otherwise I would have quit long ago!)

There are so many simple ways to help your fellow passengers and I’ve seen it all; swapping seats to accommodate a family that was split apart, helping someone get their bag into the overhead bin, lending a sympathetic ear to a distraught seatmate, buying someone a food or drink item, or holding a stranger’s hand during turbulence if they’re nervous.  I smile when I see these wonderful acts.  So simple and yet, often forfeited because we choose to live inside our bubbles of independence.  And then there are the truly rare acts.  Twice I’ve had a First Class passenger give up a seat for a pregnant woman from Main Cabin.  (I don’t care if you’re a millionaire!  That is super nice!) And then there was James*, the man who wasn’t afraid to help a fellow passenger during a medical emergency.

I’ll never forget that red-eye flight.  It was night and everyone was asleep when I approached the woman sitting in 7E, the first row of Main Cabin.  With the lights out, her body looked like a couple of oversized pillows molded into human form.  Haphazardly wedged into a middle seat, she was sitting between two dozing gentlemen.  The woman made a peculiar sound, a gurgling noise.  She didn’t respond when I asked if she was alright so I turned on the overhead light and then gasped.  It was like seeing something out of a horror film!  Eyes rolled into the back of her head with only the whites flashing, her body tremoring, her face bloated, chin tucked down, and an oatmeal-like substance oozing out of her nose and pooled across her arms and chest.

Poor James.  He was the young man sitting in the window seat, 7F.  I made a snap judgement and wrongly assumed he was traveling with the ill woman.  Thinking he looked like the woman’s son, I threw him a pair of plastic gloves and immediately involved him in the medical emergency.  He could have thrown the gloves back at me and said, “I don’t know this lady!  Forget it!”  Instead, he stuck with me and helped me revive, comfort, and then clean up the sick woman who had nearly asphyxiated on her own vomit.  It wasn’t until everything was settled that James mentioned he wasn’t related to the woman.  Nope.  He was just a kid who had recently enlisted in the National Guard and was traveling alone; just a kid with a heart willing to serve others!  And for the rest of the flight, James did act like a devoted son, checking in on the woman and making sure she was okay.  Isn’t it a blessing that we have people like James in our world?  His example is one that restores my faith in us all.

Jenn Grahams is a chai tea addict, travel junkie, and chinchilla enthusiast.  She works as a flight attendant by day, flying domestic routes within the USA.  You can follow Jenn’s exciting life and find out about her upcoming novel by joining her bimonthly newsletter and visiting her travel blog.