There are a lot of reasons why people travel; we travel to get to know ourselves better, to see the world, to explore, to see and do things that are beyond ordinary.
I believe, however, that another reason we travel is that, out there on the road, we can also learn how good people can be.
We’ve heard (or even experienced) a lot of horror stories when we’re traveling; we might have been scammed, gotten robbed, sexually harassed (or worse), and a hundred and one other things that could happen to travelers.
And yet, we might have also experienced being helped by angels—by people who were virtually strangers but went out of their way to help us, to treat us like family and admit us into our homes, to bring us to our destination without expecting anything back, and even to sacrifice something of themselves for us. These and many other inspiring acts could indeed restore our faith in humanity.
I asked travel bloggers to tell me about their experience of receiving kindness on the road. Here are their stories, as well as one of mine.
The Gift of Trust in Hungary
My story happened in Budapest during my 70-day backpacking trip in Europe. I’ve talked about this again and again in some of my posts, because that encounter really left a significant impact on my life, for it was in Budapest where I learned how precious a gift of trust can be.
I had contacted and was accepted by a Couchsurfing host in Budapest, a beautiful and smart woman living alone in the city center with her gorgeous cat. I really wanted to stay with her as I desperately missed my cats at home and wanted feline company as well to ease my depression at that time.
A couple of days before I arrived, however, my host contacted me. She had to go out of town because of a family emergency, so she wouldn’t be in the city on the day of my arrival.
I was crushed; at that late notice, I wouldn’t be able to find a host with a cat so easily. Before I could say anything though, she reassured me. I could still stay in her apartment even if she wasn’t there. A friend of hers could meet me at the train station and give me the keys to her place.
I was speechless.
I couldn’t believe what she was offering. This woman hadn’t met me in person; she only knew me online through the Couchsurfing website. And yet, she trusted me completely to take care of her house and her fur baby. What if I were a thief and ransacked her house while she was gone? I could have emptied her place of valuables and be a continent away by the time she came back.
Needless to say, I accepted her offer and spent three lovely days alone in her apartment with her cat, meeting her only on the last day of my stay there when she came back from out of town.
That happened two years ago, but her gift of trust still remains with me, reminding me all the time of the goodness of people around me and keeping my faith in humanity despite everything.
An Unforgettable Kindness in Tibet
I’m not the only lucky one in experiencing this kindness on my travels. Katie Matthews of Wandertooth, for example, couldn’t forget one instance which happened ten years ago. Here’s her story:
In 2004, I was traveling through Tibet on my own. I met a few other independent travelers, and together we hired a Land Cruiser and driver to take us from Lhasa to Mount Everest Base Camp, a journey that takes about a week and includes mountain passes more than 5,000 meters above sea level.
Unfortunately, I fell very ill in Shigatse, a small town about halfway between Lhasa and Everest. My throat and lungs were in rough shape, and the infection was made worse by the extreme altitude and general dustiness of the Tibetan plateau. I had difficulty breathing and speaking.
The doctor I saw there told me to stay in Shigatse for several days and go to the hospital every day to use a machine that vaporized the medicine I needed. Unbelievably, the British woman in my Land Cruiser–someone I’d known for less than one week–gave up her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Everest Base Camp, choosing instead to stay with me in Shigatse.
She was there to ensure the hospital staff used clean syringes when giving me injections (they initially tried to use an unpackaged syringe, and I struggled to say no given my swollen throat) and helped me to and from the hospital each day.
It was an incredible gesture of kindness that I still think of 10 years later. Unfortunately, Facebook wasn’t widely popular then, and her email address went missing on my onward travels. I wish I could find her someday to let her know how much her choice means to me, even now.
I can’t imagine anyone giving up such an opportunity to see Mt. Everest (think of the time and money you’d invested already) just to take care of someone they barely know. Katie was definitely lucky to have met such an angel on the road!
An Encounter in Peru
Shara Johnson of SKJtravel, whose horror story in the airport I’m sure sounds familiar to a lot of travelers, ended up as lucky as Katie. Her story goes:
I was once traveling to Peru with my husband when our first leg of flight to Miami was delayed. We sprinted through the Miami airport to make our connecting flight to Lima, but when we arrived breathless at the gate, the gate attendant would not let us on the plane because he said we hadn’t checked in properly in Denver.
The plane left without us. Dejected, we walked back to the check-in counter to try to figure out what happened. The staff there gave us some kind of nonsense, the upshot of which was that they canceled our plane tickets and said we had to buy new ones if we wanted to get to Peru.
None of this made any sense to us and the horrible, callous staff at LAN Peru Airlines made me hate humanity. My husband and I were irate and filled with frustration and disappointment; I even broke into tears right there. A woman passing by, who was staff for another airline altogether, couldn’t help but notice this scene of yelling and crying, and came over to ask what was going on.
When we told her, she said, “That’s not right!” She had heated words with LAN Peru staff and then told us she would get us to Peru but it would take her awhile to sort it out. We had to spend the night in Miami but she took us under her wing and spent a lot of time on our case, and we weren’t even passengers on her airline!
The woman simply saw a situation in which people were being wronged, and took it upon herself to right it. Two days later, we were in Peru without having to buy new tickets, and my faith in humanity had been restored by this guardian angel of a woman.
It would have been so easy for the woman to just ignore them. After all, how many crying passengers do you see in the airport daily if you’re working there? I’ve even seen quite a few in my travels. And yet, this woman went out of her way to help them!
Lost and Penniless in Italy
In your travels, or even in your own city, how many people have you seen on the street, crying or asking for help? There’s a lot of them in any major city you go to, and more often than not, you can’t tell whether they’re genuinely in need or are just scamming people.
Nikole Souza of Sometimes I Go Places found herself in this situation in Italy. She says:
Recently, I was living in Italy and having a bit of bad luck. I had basically run out of money and was on my way to a job training with all of my luggage for the year.
On the way there, I didn’t have time to buy a bus ticket and was given a 65 euro fine (about $90). I missed the train I needed to get there on time, and had the handle of my suitcase snap. As I was dragging my suitcase trying to find my new school, I broke down crying.
A lot of people stared at me but kept walking, and quite a few laughed. The third time I broke down, a woman came and started speaking to me. When I said “I don’t understand Italian” (while sobbing) she told me she spoke English and helped me find the school. I was late for the training, but at least I arrived.
If you were in the woman’s shoes, would you have stopped and talked to Nikki? Or would you have just glanced at her, thinking “Tourist!” and then went on your way? The woman’s act of kindness in talking to Nikki and helping her find the school definitely went a long way than just giving directions.
Finding Kindness in Ecuador
What can you say about hotel people? At best, they would be very accommodating to your requests and could even upgrade your rooms. But Mike Hinshaw of Nomadic Texan met someone who was so much more in Ecuador. His story goes:
My faith in humanity was restored October of 2011, on a trip to Ecuador. Alberto Ordonez is the General Manager of Casa Ordonez, in Cuenca Ecuador. I have never met a nicer human being in my life. Throughout my life I have had substantial back issues and have had a total of five surgeries in ten years.
On my first trip to Ecuador, I had severe back issues stemming from my last surgery and was having very deep pain. Mr. Ordonez put me in touch with his niece, who at the time was a doctor practicing at a major hospital in Cuenca. She made an appointment with a senior physician at the hospital for me.
As I started to go outside of the hotel to catch a cab, Alberto grabbed me and said “I am taking you to the hospital.” I was floored. This would never happen in the United States where I reside!
Alberto immediately went to the parking lot where he kept his car and picked me up outside the hotel. He drove me straight to the hospital where I secured my medicine and was instantly relieved.
He also took us all over the city for other appointments and saved us a whopping $2.00 taxi fee each time. He is the nicest guy I have ever met in my travels and my wife thinks the world of him. Trust me if you are ever in Cuenca, stay at his boutique hotel and he and his family will treat you like royalty!
Mike and his wife were certainly lucky to have met Alberto Ordonez!
There are so many more stories like this, stories that inspire us, that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. True, there’s a lot of bad in the world, a lot of done wrong to others.
And yet, through our encounters with such kind-hearted people that we meet on the road, we can definitely agree with Anne Frank. Indeed, despite everything, people are really good at heart.
Have you experienced similar kindnesses on the road that restored your faith in humanity? Write it as a comment below. You may also email it to me with a picture (or even without) and I may include it in future posts like this!