Last year, when I started my Kindness on the Road series, I focused on getting the experiences of travel bloggers.
After all, who else would have a lot of stories of random acts of kindness than those who make it their business to be on the road often?
This year, I’ll expand my sources, and will solicit stories not only from travel bloggers, but also from other people, from “regular” travelers, to weekend warriors, gap year travelers, as well as long-term nomads.
For this first edition for 2015 (January’s was a compilation of the best stories in 2014), I asked Reddit if they have experienced any random acts of kindness while they were traveling. Here are some of the best responses from Redditors.
A few years ago I was traveling around Europe. I found a cheap flight to Amsterdam but because of various delays I didn’t touch down in the airport until almost midnight– at which point I still had to take the train into the city, then find my way from the train station to my Couchsurfing host’s house.
While waiting at the airport for the train to arrive, a middle-aged man started (verbally) harassing me (in English). Unfortunately that’s not too unusual for a 20-year-old female traveling alone, so I wasn’t alarmed until he followed me onto the train. I tried to stay near other people but considering the hour, the train was pretty empty and the only other person in my train car was a 50-something woman.
The creep sat across the aisle from me and proceeded to masturbate while staring directly at me. I was trapped in a train car, and when I got off the train at my destination I still had to figure out how to get to my host’s place. The other woman in the train car had no reaction so I assumed she didn’t even notice what was happening.
When we reached the city center, I got off the train. I was standing in this nearly empty train station with this creep standing 5 feet behind me and before I could figure out what to do, the woman from my train car grabbed my arm at the elbow and walked me to the road outside, to a cab that she’d apparently arranged before she got on the train.
Once we were moving, she asked where I was going, I gave her my host’s address, and she rode there with me even though it was nowhere near her home. On the longish ride I explained to her how Couchsurfing works and she was a little nervous leaving me with a stranger, so when we got to his apartment she stayed until he came out, introduced himself, and passed her inspection. I thanked her over and over and tried to pay the driver but she wouldn’t let me. Instead, she wrote down her name and phone number and said she’d love to meet up and talk about my travels while I was in the city.
Somehow in the process of getting up to my host’s apartment and getting settled, I lost the piece of paper with her information and never had the chance to properly thank her, which I still feel bad about. I’ll always be thankful for her care and concern for me when I felt otherwise helpless.
My boyfriend and I went to Ireland when I was 24. We didn’t have much money, and we planned on using Couchsurfing but everything was a bust because nobody wanted to put up a couple, even though we were willing to work. We decided that Ireland wasn’t working out and bought two tickets on a ferry to France.
As we were disembarking in Cherbourg, we met a lovely young man from Berlin and a sweet guy from Poland. We all decided that we needed to find the nearest train to Paris, and surprisingly, I was the only one who knew a little French. I asked for directions, the German guy helped us figure out the ticketing and the Polish guy knew of a great cheap hostel in Paris.
We all stuck together and got to know one another for the long train ride and walks through town. We stayed in the same hostel for a few days, stayed up late sharing drinks and rolled cigarettes, laughing, and joking. Eventually the Polish man had to go home, so it was just us and the Berliner.
He asked what our plans were, and we said we had no plans whatsoever. He invited us to Berlin with him to stay in his flat. He helped us to find affordable sleeping arrangements, he coached us in German, he took us to parties, we even ate Christmas dinner with his best friends mom and dad (it was amazing!). At the end, he got his grandfather to drive us to the airport for our connecting flight back to Dublin.
He was truly a selfless, amazing human being. I feel so bad, even to this day, that I couldn’t do more for him. My boyfriend at the time was a taker, not a giver, kind of your classic couch guy. The Berliner had been in Ireland in the first place because he was “woofing,” or volunteering on a farm, so that he could better his English. He was just the truest example of a good, decent human being.
I’ll find him again one day, when I have a bit more money, and invite him out to California and put him up and show him around for three months, all expenses paid by me. :’) I hope that my friend the Berliner will read this and reconnect with me. My contact information has changed a few times since then, and I could never pronounce his last name, let alone spell it, so he’s lost to me now.
I have a couple stories of meeting the most wonderful people on trains. In July 2014, I was traveling solo in Asia and would often meet people at hostels and hang out with them for a few days and then move on to the next place. One morning in Osaka, I met a wonderful Aussie girl, who was as keen as me on seeing Nara, so we agreed to meet up in Nara in a couple days’ time.
As I was waiting for the train at the station in Osaka, I found myself confused as there were multiple trains passing the same platform going to different places. I flipped through my phrasebook and practiced asking for help a couple times before approaching a man who seemed to be in his 70s.
In my very broken Japanese I asked if the next train was going to Nara and he surprised me by replying in English! We were both going to Nara so when the train arrived, he helped me with my bag and we spent the ride talking and sharing stories of travel.
He told me about his experiences traveling solo in Europe around 50 years ago as a young man of 22. Now here I am, also 22 and traveling solo. We were able to relate to each other so well and had many similar stories to tell. He told me about how poor Japan was at the time and how rare it was that a Japanese was traveling in Europe.
He spoke with such emotion as he recounted stories of how generous people were towards him, offering him food and places to sleep and looking out for his every need while all he could offer in return was a sincere “thank you” before moving on to the next destination. He then asked me my plans for Nara, his hometown. I said I was meeting up with a new friend I met a few days ago and that we’d be spending the day sightseeing. He then asked if my friend and I would join him and his wife for dinner!
I was taken aback by his generous offer, but he insisted. He gave me his business card (a common practice in Japan) and we agreed to meet at the station for 6pm. My new Aussie friend was thrilled with the idea and we spent a great day walking around Nara before returning to the station where we were met by smiling, enthusiastic and oh-so kind Mr. and Mrs. Yamada. They took us out to their favorite restaurant for the most delicious meal over which we shared more stories of travel and family and love.
At the end of dinner, they told us they’ve adopted us as extra granddaughters! Who wouldn’t want to join the family of this caring couple! Dropping us off at our hostel, we found ourselves in the same position Mr. Yamada had during his European journey: we can only give a heartfelt “thank you.” They hugged us and made us promise that one day when we meet a young Japanese traveler, we will have to return the favor. I now look forward to the day I can pay it forward.
I couldn’t have had any of these experiences unless I’d been traveling by myself. Everyone I meet while traveling is a new friend and I’m so lucky to have been able to meet these wonderful people and have such incredible experiences. The world is full of kind people. We just have to smile and give strangers a chance.
My two friends and I once decided we were gonna climb a mountain, because I wanted to climb a goddamn mountain and my friend lives pretty close to the Adirondacks region. We went to Whiteface Mountain, the fifth highest of the Adirondack High Peaks, but we didn’t realize quite how long it would take, and we were pretty unprepared in other ways since it was our first time climbing any sort of real mountain.
We reached the peak around sunset and it was getting cold. It had been beautiful when we started climbing, temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny. Reaching the top, there was ice and snow. And we were looking at having to walk back down, with our legs exhausted already, along the road that goes to the top as it was getting dark because the trails we’d climbed would be difficult at night even with headlamps (which we didn’t have anyway).
So we started walking back down the road. We hadn’t gotten very far at all when a pickup truck stopped and the people inside offered to give us a ride down in the truck bed. We gladly accepted!
The truck bed offered us a great view on the ride down, as the sunlight was starting to fade. One of the people in the cab turned out to have grown up in my hometown too! As they dropped us off at my car, we offered them some money for saving us what would have been hours of walking and they refused to accept it, telling us, “Just pay it forward!”
The hike up the mountain was amazing, but those people and their warmth made it a much more incredible experience.
I was on my way home to Australia from my first ever overseas trip (solo), heartbroken to be leaving after 8 weeks but longing for home and eating my last meal in Rome airport. A lovely lady in her 50s and her son started talking to me in broken English about why they were at the airport, where they were going, among other things.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened during our conversation except that I had the instant impression that she was very warm, affectionate, and passionate and had a very kind smile. To me it felt like the usual chit-chat I’ve had in many places until it was time to pay my bill. I had ordered a fairly fancy meal with a couple of good beers because I was feeling a bit emotional and had my last few Euros to spend.
When I asked for my bill, however, the waitress told me not to worry about it, my friend had paid it. I was blown away to say the least! I saw her walking away and she looked over to me and smiled and kept on walking. I sat at my table and burst into tears.
For as long as I live, I’ll never forget her kindness, I didn’t need help, didn’t tell her how sad I was to be going home, but she knew and did the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for me. That €50 has a random strangers name on it and I’m looking forward to paying it forward some day on my travels.
I was cycling by myself through England and because of budget and availability, I was staying on people’s lands, in gardens, etc., instead of regular campsites. This would often take me multiple tries.
I used the line ‘do you know any place to pitch my tent for the night?’, which left them free to say no but was often enough of a hint to offer me their grass. By preselecting the farms and bigger houses, I usually succeeded in a few tries, but the trick was to find them and find someone around the house.
That this was even possible was all very kind on itself. But one afternoon, it was a raining cats and dogs, and to make matters worse, a lot of my equipment was still wet from the day before (oh England).
It’s not the rain itself I dislike too much, it’s more the situation where too much stuff has gotten wet and you have no way to get them dry because the rain keeps coming.
In the first place I asked, the lady said yes instantly, saying she has been helped so many times while traveling. She showed me this barn, that was (or had been) used for meetings. A dry roof, running water, a kitchen, a shower (!), and lots of chairs and tables to dry all my soaked equipment.
Wow. Very kind and so, so, random. The next morning they left a note on my bike saying they had to rush to the hospital during the night, so I never saw them again.
One summer, my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Istanbul. Our hotel was near Yildiz Park, so we decided to have dinner at the restaurant there on our first night.
After a tiring walk all the way up to the restaurant (it was a hot day), we managed to tell someone there that we’d like a table. The outdoor patio was large, and had several long bench-style tables set up as well as smaller two-person tables. Many of the tables were full, and there were appetizers already set on each table.
My wife and I sit down and take in the view. As she nibbled at an olive, I noticed that despite the fare spread out before them, nobody was eating, nor was anyone drinking despite the temperature. I pointed this out to my wife, and she asked, “Is it because it’s Ramadan?”
Sure enough, the sun had not quite set and everyone was waiting for the evening prayers to be called before starting into the iftar. We decided to wait as well, thinking it rude to be the only ones eating. Sure enough, once prayers were called, everyone tucked in.
The meal was several courses and everything was delicious and plentiful. During the meal, an older gentleman and a younger man came over and asked where we were from, and if we were Muslim. We said no, we’re not, but we thought we’d be polite and wait for everyone else. They thanked us for our courtesy and went back to their table.
When the bill came our waiter informed us that it had been taken care of already. The younger man had paid for our dinner! He said it was a wedding present and a thank you for honoring their customs (that, and he was already writing off his table’s dinner as a business expense anyway, so what’s two more?). We insisted but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
We had read a lot about Turkish hospitality but we certainly weren’t expecting something like this! It was a great experience on the first night of our honeymoon.
I’ve been on the road for a bit short of four months now, and I’m traveling only by hitchhiking, so basically, I’m experiencing random act of kindness every single day. The mere fact people are picking a stranger standing on the road is pretty amazing on its own.
And then you have those even more incredible persons, with whom you share a meal, or two, or three; who take you to see the most awesome, secretive places; who bring you to their home and give you a couch, a mattress or even a full suite-like room to your own.
If I’d only have one story to share though, it would be of that amazing couple in Thun, Switzerland. I was hitchhiking in Bern when this car stopped. It was a young couple, 25ish, both architects, and we got along very well. They told me that they were going to her parents for dinner, and invited me.
I ended up staying six nights in the beautiful house they had. We hiked to the nearby mountains (the Stockhorn peak), went to the Opera in Bern, tried some vegan restaurant, had sweet promenades around the town, listened to some amazing music, and had the most delicious and diverse meals. I got super lucky to have met them!
Reading all these stories of kindness always makes me sort of weepy. Knowing that there are people like this who exist really restores my faith in humanity. It’s the reason why I’m continuing this series; we all need a reminded every now and then that there are good people in the world, we just have to be open to them!
Which of these stories do you like best? If you have your own story of kindness on the road, email it to me and I will include it in a future issue of this series.