Welcome to the 13th collection of stories of Kindness on the Road!
As strangers in a strange land, any kindness given to us by mere acquaintances or even strangers can mean so much. Sometimes, it can even mean the difference between life and death.
In this collection, for example, traveler Lexie Willems and the other people in her climbing party found themselves at the mercy of nature during the Nepal earthquake. Their guides did everything they could to protect Lexie and her friends from the elements.
Aside from physical safety, the kindness we are given in our travels can also boost our spirit and give us the strength to keep on going, as Amanda Zeisset have found out during her biking trip.
Indeed, kind people are everywhere, and as travelers, we can only be grateful for their (brief) presence in our lives.
Read on for the stories of Lexie, Amanda, Claudia Tavani, Lucy Hemmings, and Rebekah Esme during their travels in Nepal, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the USA.
Lessons in Buddhism
This is the second contribution of Lexie Willems, the blogger behind Steps to Follow. According to Lexie, she has experienced so much kindness in her travels lately that she can just keep sending more contributions to this series. Lexie loves tea, photography, and travel, and she is currently preparing for the best year of her life. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
I was directly affected by the recent earthquake in Nepal. We just reached 16,000 feet (just under 5,000 meters) in the Himalayas on our trek to the Everest Base Camp when the world began moving from under our feet. Our guides had us huddle together to brace for impact in case the earthquake triggered an avalanche.
Indeed it did! In fact, it triggered multiple avalanches and would continue to do so for many days after, but not where we were at each moment. I peeked out from our huddled position and noticed that our three Nepalese guides where standing around us hands in prayer formation as they quickly and frantically muttered protection chants.
The level of protection these men went through to keep us safe during our next week of survival was unprecedented. I remember walking near the edge of the pathway and Gele becoming frightened and grabbing me and pulling me away from the cliff, like a father would a daughter, and how he was able to find us safe places to sleep every night and made sure they were safe by inspecting the condition of each tea house.
I remember Domi’s kindness, how he would run ahead of our group so that he could reserve us beds for the night in a village hours ahead. I remember his beautifully infectious laugh, a laugh I will miss forever.
I remember how Bijay would find us the safest way down the mountain and have us avoid paths that were destroyed by landslides triggered by the earthquake and all its aftershocks. I remember the friendship he gave to me on days I wasn’t feeling my best.
This was all done while the guides were unable to contact their own families who were also affected by the destruction back down in mainland Nepal.
I remember each guide teaching us the Buddhist way of acceptance, of accepting what has happened and living in the moment because worrying will do us no good. I am still at shock today as to how they were able to get each of us to laugh, dance, and find happiness in such sad and difficult times.
I remember Gele telling me that I have good karma and that’s why I survived. He also said I must continue the cycle of good karma by continuing to do good for others.
The truth, however, is that each of our guides will have good karma forever for the lessons they taught me. I have taken these lessons in Buddhism to heart and will never let them go.
The Gift of Water
Amanda Zeisset, together with her partner Antonio Cala, blogs at The Adventure Junkies. Amanda and Antonio have been traveling by bicycle for the past two years, exploring the Americas and writing about their adventures. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
I was cycling an awful stretch of route between the Colombian cities of Santa Marta and Bucaramanga. This road is called the La Ruta del Sol (The Route of the Sun) and is rightly named.
It involved days on the bike dripping in sweat, a strong head wind blowing dust in our face, breathing in the black exhaust of the huge trucks that passed us very closely, numerous gringo/ gringa shouts, and long stretches with no towns in sight.
I hit a wall, I was exhausted, dehydrated, and bored. I wanted to be anywhere but there, and I was just one step away from kicking my bike into a ditch. Then the unexpected happened.
As I cycled past a crew of construction workers, they yelled at me, “Agua, agua!” I pulled over and this man ran over with six of these bags filled with ice cold water.
The power of the spirit of kindness never ceases to amaze me. It can really transform your whole outlook on the world in just a few moments and give you the strength to keep pushing forward.
A Kindness in Costa Rica
This is Claudia Tavani’s third contribution to this series. Claudia, who blogs at My Adventures Across the World, is from Cagliari (Sardinia) and is obsessed with traveling. A former human rights lawyer and academic, she decided to give in to her biggest passion in November 2013 and started traveling around Latin America, and she has hardly stopped since. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
It was the first of January 2014, and I had suddenly decided to leave Tucurrique, in Costa Rica, where I was meant to work at a WWOOF project in what I thought would be a permaculture farm. It turned out that the only organic thing in that farm was the dirt that I was meant to scrub from a wanna-be restaurant.
It was badly infested with cockroaches, too, and everybody knows I have a phobia of them. It would actually have been okay, had I not been starved. The owner was a strict raw vegan, and she expected me to also be one. I was not allowed to cook my own food, let alone bring any food on the property.
The problem was that, with all the scrubbing and hard work I did, I was too hungry to just keep eating mango. I needed a decent, hearty meal. I was so hungry, desperate, and exhausted that after a week of starving, I decided it was time to leave.
I told her I was going to leave the next day, but then she said I would have to pay the rent of the room where I slept for that night. An argument followed, and I decided to leave pronto, even if it was the first of January and chances were that buses would not be running.
As soon as I stepped out of the farm, I hitched a ride which took me to the main village. The driver was a police officer who confirmed that buses would be running, but I would have to wait for hours. The weather was okay, so I sat in the park to read my book.
Nothing was open in the village, just a kiosk selling snacks and drinks. I bought some and then made my way to the bus stop. I then realized that I had to pee, desperately! And I had to pee before getting on the bus, as it would take me a few hours to arrive to San Jose.
I started looking around for a place where I could use the toilet, I asked at the kiosk, but I had no luck. Then a lady who had also been waiting for the bus stopped me and said she had overheard me asking around for a toilet. She said she lived right across the street and that I could go to her home to use the bathroom.
How many times have you let a stranger to your place so that s/he could use the toilet? I surely was not expecting that kindness, and after those horrible days at the farm, it made me regain my trust in the human race.
The Road Trip
Lucy Hemmings is half-English, half-American, and 100% fun. The blogger behind Lucy’s Miles Away, she has spent the last six years travelling, getting lost, and making friends who can read maps. She has spent a lot of time travelling in Asia and Europe, and only returns to the UK when she’s in need of a really good fix of cheese and a hug from mum. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
My three friends and I sat around our Couchsurfing host’s kitchen table in the Bronx, New York, drowning our sorrows with cheap beer. On somewhat of a whim, we’d flown out to the USA with the intention of taking a four-month road trip around the States and Canada.
In our excitement, we’d forgotten the minor details: bringing enough cash and organizing a car. Again, minor details. We had, however, brought four hammocks and a huge amount of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm which had quickly disappeared when we sat in the rental car office, horrified at the price and the fact that they wouldn’t allow us to split the cost over four dodgy looking English debit cards. We really hadn’t thought it through.
After three attempts of online transfers to pool our measly funds onto one card, it was looking like the trip was the worst idea we’d ever come up with. Lisa, our host, sat down and joined us. She asked us how long we were planning to go for. “Four months or so,” we replied miserably.
“Well, I’ll be in South America over the summer,” she said. “I don’t need my car – borrow it if you want, just bring it back when you’re done.”
Although this happened five years ago, I still remember Lisa’s offer, as if she was lending us a CD or a book. Needless to say, there was whooping and cheering, the commiseration beers swiftly turning into ‘How on earth did we get so lucky, let’s celebrate all night’ beers. We had known Lisa for two days and there she was, lending us her beautiful Honda Accord for four months.
Figuring life couldn’t get much better; a week of celebrating later and we had set off to explore the USA. Unfortunately we stumbled at the first hurdle, managing to get lost at almost every turn.
Our next host, a guy who had played online video games with one of us ten years prior, took pity and donated a GPS to the cause. A free car and a GPS within our first two weeks? That was by far the best idea we’d ever had!
An Unforgettable Passerby in New York
Rebekah Esme of Rebekah Esme Travels is from York, England. She started her blog to share her passion for writing, photography, and travel. She hired a car in 2013 and went on a road trip in the USA. This year, she aims to get back on the road and explore India/ Asia and Australia. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
If you’ve ever visited New York City, or even watched films of it, then you’d get the idea that the city is best known for bustle. I remember a year ago, I was standing in downtown New York looking at the One World Trade Center, discussing the history and progress of the Freedom Tower with a friend.
We stood right in the footpath in the way of commuters whom we realized were tutting at us before we managed to move aside. Deep in thought and voicing our questions, we were overheard by a lovely commuter. The man was in such a rush that he had walked past us before he decided to turn around and come talk about the site with us.
He stood, listened, and answered all of our questions. He also took us over to the site and even led us to a great café for us to warm up (it was February and very very cold!). Afterwards, he simply wished us well on our travels and went on his way.
This story, although not extravagant in the slightest, is something I will always remember when I think of America, and how that lovely man took time from his busy day to share his knowledge and time with two strangers.
If you have a similar experience of being helped by strangers while you were traveling, email me your story and I will include it in future posts!