Most people think of traveling as a scary adventure only fit for the bravest. Although the idea of taking on whatever life throws at you without the cushiony comfort of your familiar landscapes and the people around you may be daunting when you set off into the unknown you quickly realize that traveling does much the opposite and, more often than not, it will restore your faith in humanity more than it will make for sleepless nights.
Sure you will sometimes be stuck in unfamiliar territory with no shared language and perhaps even with no money or sense of direction but those times will be farther and fewer in between than all the other situations in which a complete stranger will have an outrageously altruistic gesture that will make your day and possibly change your life.
Through the years I have been in many situations like that. Particularly when I travel solo I am an easy target for a stranger’s generosity and unrequited love. This time, I wanted to share the stories of other travelers, because you don’t have to be a broke backpacker for your soul to be touched by a complete stranger.
The following stories have been shared by friends and fellow travel bloggers and, if nothing else, should encourage you to get out into the big scary world.
Travel Stories Part 1: My Colombian mother
Alessandra – Strategy Consultant and serial expat
“I was temporarily based in Colombia when my relationship ended. Although we were no longer together I still had a pre-booked flight back home to see him and my family and I decided that I would take it anyway for the sake of my family.At that time, I had a lady that would come and clean my apartment but since I was always at work or traveling I had barely met her. When the day to fly out arrived I was so upset that I did not find the strength to face the packing. That day, Amelia was at my place cleaning around and when she saw the state in which I cuddled in bed her empathy took over and she started to share her story with me.
Coming from an impoverished area in Bogota she got married very young and had 2 kids very early in her life. At the age of 28 her husband was diagnosed with a cancer which took his life in les than 6 months. Since they were very poor they could not afford any treatment. She was left alone, unskilled, barely literate and with two kids to take care of. Her exact words to me were “Moreover, I was so fat and ugly that I was sure I would not find another husband”.Eventually she completely rebuilt her life. She remarried, had another child with her new husband and found a job and today, she was very happy again. Needless to say my breakup never sounded so mundane.
If that wasn’t enough, seeing me in such condition was reason enough for her to offer to help me pack my luggage, even if she had never done it before. She was coming back and forth from my closet showing me clothes and accessories asking whether to pack them or not. Whatever I chose to take, she folded neatly following my “frequent flyer instructions”.She behaved like the mother I did not have close to me at that time. I was so grateful for her generosity and care that I brought back lots of gifts for her and her children. I learned that it is often the most unfortunate who are able to give you the most uninterested and genuine love and care”.
Travel Stories Part 1: A Taiwanese poncho
Ana, Freelance consultant
“I was walking around Taipei, Taiwan, when it started raining heavily. I was in an area where there was nowhere to hide, in the middle of big streets and parks, and the best shelter I could find was a tree on a sidewalk. After a couple of minutes, the rain started going through the leaves and the tree was not keeping me dry anymore. That was when a man on a scooter stopped at the traffic light reached out to his backpack and handed me a rain poncho! He didn’t say a word, and I couldn’t believe it “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he saved my sightseeing day and definitely made me appreciate the Taiwanese hospitality even more!I’m sending you a picture of my happy-wet face I took to register the moment”
Travel Stories Part 1: An Egyptian pomegranate
Josh, Idealist, passionate about education
“At the end of my study program in Egypt I finally made it to the Pyramids. I had been living in Egypt for long enough not to consider myself a tourist anymore but, in the eyes of the local touts and sellers I was still very much a target. Lying down on the sand to appreciate the moment and take in the beauty of the Sphinx I was approached by a sweet little girl selling postcards. She was clearly unfazed and had surely become a professional at leveraging her smile and cute face to sell postcards to any tourist willing to fall for it so she stood there, as still as the millennial rocks I was resting on, with her entire range of postcards out.I had nothing much other than a pomegranate and I gave it to her. She smiled and disappeared only to return a while later, her face completely covered in red seeds and sticky juice with the other half of the pomegranate on her hand and gave it back to me.”
Travel Stories Part 1: Human GPS in Tokyo’s subway
Will from Going Awesome Places
“When you travel, you bump into people of all walks of life and you see and experience kindness that truly restores your faith in humanity. One such instance was in Tokyo a few years ago. My girlfriend and I were trying to get from Shibuya, a busy commercial and shopping area of the city to another area. This required us taking the subway and for those that have been to Tokyo, you’ll know what I mean by the subway system to be quite complex. On top of not being able to read any of the signs, there was a labyrinth of tunnels that led to different parts of the station and levels upon levels of all the different colored lines that intersected through the station.
So there we were, map in hand, heads perked up and rotating 360 degrees to try to figure out which way to go to find our station. We probably looked completely dazed and lost because before long, a Japanese gentleman came up to us and asked if we needed any help. I was taken by surprise because that doesn’t happen very often back home. We told him where we wanted to go and he instantly knew which way to go. Now here’s the part that warmed my heart. It wasn’t enough for him just to give us directions for how to get to where we needed to be but this gentleman literally escorted us from where we were to the exact subway platform.
I was completely taken a back and as we were walking we found out that it is actually his hobby to help tourists. I couldn’t believe it. If he didn’t come along, we probably would’ve been standing clueless in that one part of the station for a long time. This moment of extreme kindness is not something you experience every day so when it happens, you cherish it and that’s why I still remember it to this day.”
Travel Stories Part 1: Vietnamese tour guide
Ryan from Blogging from Paradise
“When my wife Kelli and I visited Hoi An, Vietnam we were casually walking into town to check out the UNESCO scene. A kind woman pulled up on a motorbike. She told us immediately that she didn’t want ANYTHING; she just asked if we needed directions. We told her we were new to town so she brought us to the coolest little local restaurant and turned into our tour guide for the day. We developed a wonderful friendship with her, offered to pay for her lunch but she wouldn’t have it. We ran into this situation more than a few times in Vietnam. The people are so kind!”
Read more about how Ryan retired to a life of island-hopping on his blog Blogging from Paradise