Welcome to the 15th collection of stories of Kindness on the Road!
Every month, I just love receiving and compiling contributions for this monthly series. There are so many negative stories out there of people getting mugged or cheated on (or worse!) in their travels, and I want to highlight that there’s a lot of kindness, too.
Backpacking solo as I am now in South America (currently in Bolivia, where the cover photo was taken), I am continually amazed by how kind people can be, even to strangers.
So for this month, feel good again about humanity when you read the stories of Ania, Dave, Laura, Lena, and Kim during their travels in Kazakhstan, Turkey, Italy, Norway, and the Philippines.
The Kindest Criminal in Kazakhstan
Ania and her partner Jon, the bloggers behind the HitchHikers Handbook, are a Polish-English couple of English teachers hitchhiking their way around the world. They are experts in traveling on a shoestring and are currently thumbing through Asia on their Long Way Home adventure, exchanging gifts and learning about the local cultures as much as possible. Follow them on Facebook.
We met one of the nicest guys in our lives while hitchhiking in Kazakhstan. When you hitchhike you experience human kindness on a daily basis and meet on your way loads of good-natured and altruistic people, but who would have expected such kindheartedness from a criminal?
We were walking to a petrol station when a big 4×4 pulled over. The driver, Artem, was going our way and offered to give us a lift.
He was driving his younger sister from the hospital back home and explained she had cancer. That was one of the reasons he was so amazed by our lifestyle and the fact that rather than being stuck in a rut we were traveling round the world, meeting people, discovering new places and living our lives to the fullest.
We swung by a fancy restaurant where he bought us the most expensive lunch on the menu as well us some desserts and after driving us to the road, he said we would be more than welcome to stay with him on the way back. And we did take him up on that offer!
We spent two amazing days at his house, having barbeques, drinking beer, and going to the beach. When we first met him we asked what his job was, but the answer he gave us then was ‘a bit of this and a bit of that.’ Only later when we became friends he admitted to being a thief.
In fact, Artem turned out to be the leader of a metal stealing gang and he showed us a big heap of scrap metal in his back garden. The tons of meat we had for barbeque was also of dubious origin but after his confession we didn’t want to ask too many questions.
After leaving his town, we stayed in touch and it wasn’t even the fact that he treated us like friends, not strangers, from the very first minute we met, nor the fact that he paid for everything during our stay. It was his straightforwardness, kindheartedness and selflessness that we loved about this lovely criminal.
The Lost Button (Turkey)
Dave Ingelson, the blogger behind Baldpacker, is a Canadian who has been traveling and living internationally since 2006. Baldpacker provides travel tips, lifestyle ideas, destination guides, money saving hacks, and photos and stories from Dave’s travels to over 100 countries around the world. Follow the Baldpacker on Instagram and Twitter.
I normally don’t get embarrassed while traveling, but I couldn’t help but blush when my favorite travel shorts lost a button and dropped to my ankles in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar while I was surrounded by thousands of people.
Although I quickly retrieved my shorts, I was not sure how I’d hold them up for the 11km walk back to my hostel through a city filled with 14 million people.
By chance, while leaving the souks, I discovered a street full of fabric and button shops. I walked into one of the button stores and indicated to the shopkeeper, who spoke no English, that I needed a button for my shorts.
He gestured for me to give him my shorts, which I did, while he rummaged through dozens of button drawers to find a suitable replacement button. Of course, as he did this, I stood in his small shop in my underwear, easily seen through his window, while dozens of people walked the conservative Islamic streets outside.
After 20 minutes, my shorts were fixed and I tried, through hand signals, to figure out how much I owed him for the button. Each time I tried to pay him he waived me off as though saying “no problem, I’m happy to help, it’s free of charge.”
I can’t imagine this man’s small button shop created much revenue, and given how much he helped me out, I really wanted to pay something, but he was resolute that it was free of charge.
In a city where tourists are constantly bombarded by shopkeepers to buy overpriced wares, this man’s kindness and generosity have really stuck with me, especially since I could not even speak with him or properly pronounce ‘thank you’ in Turkish (Teşekkür ederim). I will forever remember his generosity and his small act of kindness will certainly bring me back to Istanbul in the future.
Cashless in Norway
Lena Tarasyuk is the storyteller behind Travel Monkey Blog. Obsessed with maps and geography since high school, Lena finally gets a chance to start the travel adventure with her first trip to study abroad. She falls in love with every city she gets to live in and lives the life of no regrets, taking all travel mix-ups as valuable life lessons. Follow Lena on Facebook and Twitter.
My story about kindness on the road takes us up to the cold Nordic country of Norway. For those of you who haven’t been there, Norway is a country of exceptional beauty and orderly society that promotes obedience to the rules.
Back in 2013, when myself together with other two people decided to spend the weekend in Norwegian mountains, we took a bus in order to get to the starting point of Trolltunga hiking trail. What we weren’t prepared for, however, was that buses in Norway don’t take credit card for fare payment.
This, of course, was to be expected, but having traveled throughout Scandinavia, I was confident that my card was going to work. But it didn’t. And this was already after we took our seats and took off.
Instead of throwing us out, a kind lady driver simply shrugged her shoulders and told us to sit tight. There was nowhere to draw cash from in this area anyway, according to her.
We were astonished by her decision, but didn’t argue. She dropped us off at our destination point, and even gave us a tip on where we had to change to another bus.
With our ‘no-cash’ pockets we were prepared to walk 7km uphill, but the driver in another bus agreed to take us on. He assured us that there was a small shop at the final stop, where we could ask to exchange credit for cash.
When we got there, though, it turned out that it wasn’t possible. We felt very frustrated, as it seemed as if we tried to take advantage of the situation, so we offered to buy him coffee with our card.
To this, he smiled at us with kindness and said that he was more worried about us getting back down, since without a car, we wouldn’t be able to walk towards the town as there was a tunnel with no sidewalks on the way.
The day after, having spent a night on the mountain and coming back, we had no problem catching a car with spare seats to take us down town through the above-mentioned tunnel. The couple who gave us a lift was tired from being on the road for couple of days, and we thought that the least we could do to reciprocate their kindness was to offer them a warm shower in our campsite.
They were more than happy to accept our offer. This is how kindness on the road passes from one traveler to another.
Alone and Injured in Italy
Lance and Laura Longwell are authors of Travel Addicts. They enjoy long road trips, drinking wine, sharing a romantic sunset together, and do their best to stay out of trouble. Check out their post on their Top 10 Travel Mishaps. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Several years ago, I (Laura) was traveling in Italy. My husband had spent the first week with me, but I had just put him on a plane back to the United States and I would stay for another week.
Walking around Rome, I stopped to look at some ruins on the opposite side of a wall. When I stepped down from the wall (only about two feet), I lost my footing on the cobblestones and twisted my ankle…badly.
Before I knew it, an elderly Italian couple was at my side. With tears streaming down my face, I struggled to my feet with their help. They gave me reassuring words (or at least that’s what I’d like to think they were saying since they didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Italian).
I was so frightened to be alone, far from home, and in real trouble. I’ll never forget their reassuring smiles and the kindness in their eyes, even if we couldn’t actually communicate with each other.
Kindness in Paradise (Philippines)
Kim Buenafe, the blogger behind KimiViajera, posted this story first on Instagram. She’s been all over the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and she has been living her life motto for a few years: to move, eat, learn, and inspire. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the idyllic beauty of the secluded Maniuaya Island in Marinduque. We discovered this little piece of untouched paradise several years ago with the help of a kind stranger.
Upon getting off the boat, Bam and I were clueless on where to head and how to get to the beach. Yes, we were that unprepared during that trip.
One of the passengers must have noticed how baffled we look. He approached us, asked if we have a place to stay at, and after learning we don’t, told us to follow him.
For several minutes, we were trailing behind him with all the doubtful thoughts in mind. Where is this man taking us? What if his intentions are bad?
As if reading our thoughts, he asked, “Natatakot ba kayo baka kung saan ko kayo dalhin? (Are you afraid of where I might take you?)”
All I managed to respond was a shy, embarrassed laugh. It turned out that he just wanted to help us. This guy took the time to personally show us the way to a beautiful beach spot and even arranged a boat ride for our return trip since there was no more passenger boats cruising in the afternoon.
That was our first taste of genuine kindness from a total stranger and I will never forget that day.
How about you? Do you have any stories of kindness on the road? Send them to me and I’ll include them in a future post!