This is the 4th installment of my kindness on the road series, and it still never ceases to amaze me how good people can be.
Of course, we hear all the time about people being scammed, robbed, raped, or even killed while traveling, but majority of travelers I know have experienced nothing but kindness from the people they’ve met.
This month, we have seven stories from fellow travelers. Some traveled solo, while others traveled with their friends or family. Some were from Asia while others were from Europe and North America.
Despite their differences in gender, age, and background, one thing they had in common was the luck to have experienced being helped by strangers–people they didn’t know and would probably never meet again.
Do enjoy these stories, share with friends, and if you have your own story of kindness on the road, please email it to me!
Christine Kaaloa of GRRRL TRAVELER has been traveling on her own for years, producing wonderful YouTube videos of her trips that her followers love. She experienced the following in her early years of solo travel,
It was my time traveling alone abroad. I was riding the Nepalese country bus to see the Durga Puja ceremonies.
On the bus, while sitting on a sack of grains in the middle of the aisle, I met two young girls traveling with their mothers and sisters. The girls immediately adopted me and took me around the temple with them. It was such a perfect adventure and encouraging to me as a first time soloist to experience this type of kindness from locals.
Before boarding the bus back home, the mom treated me to chai and a snack with the family. I should’ve paid for things, but she wouldn’t have it. On the bus ride back, night fell quickly; and then, Nepal hit blackout hours. It occurred to me, I couldn’t remember where my village bus stop was!
I started to panic. Concerned for me, my two young Nepalese friends tried to help translate my problems to others on the bus. No one knew where my stop was at and the darkness was unsafe for a woman alone. The girls urged me to come home with them out of safety.
Finally, the bus attendant called out to me–he found my village stop. Sadly, that was the last I saw of the girls and their families. I can only hope I meet them again or that my gratitude bestows good things for their future. Their kindness made me fall in love with Nepal and its people and it deepened my faith in others and love for solo travel.
I have been to Nepal early this year, and like Christine, I am all praises for the people there. I had only been to Pokhara and Kathmandu though, so I’m really looking forward to exploring Nepal more next time.
Bronwyn Joy of Journeys of the Fabulist has learned to put aside her expectations about her trips during her solo travel to India. She says,
Kindness means different things to different people. Last year I traveled alone from Kolkata to Gangtok in India, and I brought a book–as a mother of two young children I was looking forward to the luxury of reading it without interruption.
Well, I’d picked the wrong country. In the waiting room at Kolkata station, aboard the train, and in the car going up the mountain to Sikkim, people constantly opened conversations with me.
One woman, for example, spent almost thirty minutes conversing more or less exclusively in sign language with the odd mutually comprehensible word thrown in, occasionally using my guide book as a prop.
Traveling is all about seeing things from a different point of view. In some places, it would be almost a sin to intrude upon a reader, but I soon got the impression people were concerned that I was traveling alone and saw it as their duty to keep me company – even if they had to go to a great effort to push through a vast language barrier.
I met Lara Yturriaga through Couchsurfing in 2008 when we went as a group to the Caramoan Islands, a beautiful destination in the Philippines. A world traveler, Lara has this to share of her experience in India as well,
I remember when a friend and I went to India. A street vendor was trying to sell me his lime soda at an expensive price, refusing to give me the local rate, so I decided not to buy. An Indian family, seeing I was disappointed with what happened, offered to buy it for me so I don’t have to overpay. The vendor ended up getting mad at them but the family stood by us and told us the vendor was just being unfair. We later found out that they weren’t from that region either and was also just visiting so they were happy to help. It was a simple deed yet it remains vivid in my mind.
Jay Exiomo of Pusang Gala experienced the same kindness from a local when he was lost and very low on cash in Jakarta. He was flying back to Manila and trying to save on transportation, so he decided to walk from the bus terminal to his guest house. He says,
It was around 11 p.m., and the streets were almost deserted. It would have been okay for me to just walk around trying to find my hostel, but it started to rain. I made a detour to some random street and took shelter at a waiting shed.
When the rain stopped for a bit, I resumed walking. After half an hour, I realized I didn’t know where I was on the map anymore. And as if being lost wasn’t enough, the rain was getting stronger again.
I went to another waiting shed in an empty street to wait for the rain to pass. By that time, I was already willing to take a taxi, but there weren’t many passing by.
After what seemed like eternity, as I was sitting there thinking of what to do, a motorbike stopped a few meters away, its driver just looking at me. I felt a chill run down my spine. On top of everything, was I going to be robbed?
My instinct told me to just ignore the man, or even walk away. But for some reason, I felt the need to walk in his direction. So I did. And then he talked to me in English.
“Do you need a ride? Where are you going?” he asked.
“To Cikini,” I said, believing he was an ojek (motorbike taxi) driver. I realized that I couldn’t walk anymore, not in this weather. I was prepared to bargain hard. “How much?”
The man shook his head. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no! I’m taking you there for free.”
To make the long story short, I took his offer. It was during the ride to my hostel I learned that my driver’s name is Joshua, a pastor of a church in Central Jakarta, who happened to be on his way home when he saw me.
“You looked so confused out there,” he said, “so I stopped. I knew you needed help.”
I thanked him. He said, “No, don’t thank me. Thank God. You were a sheep that was literally lost so He sent me to guide you.”
Terima Kasih, Jakarta!
Batanes is considered the Philippines’ last frontier. It’s located north of the country, much closer to Taiwan than to the mainland. It’s very beautiful; because of its location, traveling there can be expensive. Ar-jay Abellera of RJ d Explorer found out how expensive it can be when he went there with friends. And yet, he found an unexpected gift there in the person of his landlady.
“Itbayat people consider themselves as poor. An egg here costs about 9 pesos,” our host, Nanay Tina, muttered while fixing the table. The accommodating woman checked if we already had breakfast and immediately offered coffee on our arrival. She brought us to our room for the night and asked if we wanted to arrange meals during our stay.
“A meal costs 200,” she said as she handed us our blankets. Since we were on a tight budget, we decided to only have lunch because we brought some canned goods and biscuits that can sustain us for at least 2 meals. She didn’t let us wander around the island without having lunch. In addition to what have been served, she gave us a coconut crab and a bowl of beef stew, for free.
The next morning, for our departure, we woke up early. She was already awake and sitting on the bench of their hut. She provided us hot water for our coffee. By the fact that we didn’t order breakfast, she again offered us boiled egg to nourish our stomachs for the trip back to Basco, the Batanes capital. This time we declined her offer, not because we were mean, but considering that the lodging fee is too cheap and the food she gave us the other day were too much.
This made me understand why travelers in the island called her Nanay Tina. She’s not after the income of her lodge but what really matters to her is to accommodate her guests properly, as a mother takes care of her kids.
From Asia and all the way to South America, Stephanie Walsh of Discovering Ice had also discovered how kind people can be. She says,
We’re constantly surprised by the kindness of strangers when we travel. We know it’s a cliché but thankfully it’s true.
Several times, strangers have taken us into their homes and given us food. The most memorable one was when we were in Northern Colombia, in the remote parts of the desert, La Guajira. Most of the population there are indigenous Wayúu people who don’t have a great reputation for being friendly to foreigners.
However, one particular family took a shine to us, invited us into their very basic home, offered us food and even ran to the local store to buy breakfast for us when they realized they had nothing suitable in their fridge. They wouldn’t take no for an answer despite our objections.
When they learned that we were leaving for the airport, they insisted on accompanying us all the way, and they even sat waiting inside the tiny building until our plane took off. We could see them waving at us until they were nothing more than tiny specs in the distance.
We still keep in touch with them to this day, as they are truly a special family who we are grateful to have met. It’s another one of the many reasons why I love Colombia.
Not all stories of kindness involve life-threatening events. It can also be just spending time with someone. Sofie Couwenbergh of Wonderful Wanderings experienced this in the USA when she went there with her friend.
My friend Sylvie and I landed at LAX. We’d done a quick trip to Vegas and would only spend the night in LA before flying back home to Belgium.
On our way to the exit we started a conversation with the guy who’d sat in the row in front of us on the plane. He asked us about our plans and thought it was ‘not done’ that we’d spend our last night in Los Angeles at a motel, so he invited us for dinner.
We agreed, wondering if what we were doing was smart. On our way to his car, the guy made a call: he was booking us a room at the Sheraton! He then drove us to Manhattan Beach, bought us dinner, and took us out for drinks.
When we asked him why he was doing all those things, he simply replied that he didn’t have any plans for that night and that he would never have the guts to just start talking to someone like we’d started talking to him. He thought it was cool we’d done that and he wanted to give us a great last night in LA.
After a couple of hours he dropped us off at the Sheraton, bidding us a polite goodbye. That whole night we thought he was going to start flirting or that he would want to go up with us. None of that. He was the proper gentleman and he’s given us a last night in LA we’ll never forget.
There ya go, seven inspiring stories from seven lovely travelers. The world may be full of peril, as some would think, but for these travelers, and the others who had previously contributed to this series, the world is definitely full of people willing only to help out strangers, from giving their time and company, to making sure they’re safe.
If these stories don’t restore your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will!
Do you have your own experience of kindness on the road? Do email it to me or write it as a comment below.