Welcome to the 5th edition of the Kindness on the Road series!
Read the stories of travelers Ted Nelson, Janice Waugh, Trisha Velarmino, Talon Windwalker, and Liliane Cobiao as they each discovered how good people can be as they went their way through Thailand, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Colombia.
Legendary Thai Hospitality
When I reached the gate at Khao Yai National Park and paid my entrance fee I was told by the guard at the gate that the Visitor’s Center was 13 kilometers away. My guide book failed to mention this. He suggested I hitchhike.
I got my thumb out and the first car whisked past me. The second stopped and a group of friendly Thais waved from the back and motioned for me to jump in. I joined them in the back and we flew up the mountain to the Visitor’s Center. I later discovered this was a group of Thai students with their teacher celebrating the end of a course or semester with a camping trip.
They invited me to camp with them. When we got to our group campsite they started to pool their money together to pay for the camping. I got some baht out, but they all looked at me and shook their heads. “For you, it is free,” they said.
After setting up camp they broke out Thai fried rice in Styrofoam boxes for dinner. I was going to eat at the cafeteria, but they would have nothing of the sort and produced a box for me. I tried to pay them for the food, but one young man said “For you, it is free.”
Not only did they share their food, they also shared their beer, whiskey, and more food. They did have a lot of extra provisions. It was like when they were shopping for the trip they said to each other, “We should get more beer and food in case we run into a solo white traveler from the USA,” and then purchased more food and beer. Each time I tried to pay, I was rebuffed with “For you, it is free.”
When it got dark a truck pulled in. They were going on a night safari. Of course they invited me, and of course they would not let me pay. We saw five wild elephants, many deer, and some civets.
The legendary Thai hospitality was indeed on full display that day. After the night safari we drank and talked around the campfire until 3 am. I will never forget my wonderful Thai friends that I met at Khao Yai National Park.
Encounter with a Moroccan
Trisha Velarmino, a social media manager, has a mission: To travel all visa-free countries for Filipinos. She’s currently in Brazil. If you’re dreaming of traveling to South America (like me!), read her ebook VOLUNTOURISMO: How To Travel South America by Volunteering.
It was Ramadan in Morocco and everything was really difficult to obtain. Banks were not cooperating, food was hard to find, and the markets were full by 7pm. My hotel was fantastic but really far from the center.
Everyday, I’d walk 20 minutes just to find food and see the city. One night, I decided to go to the center and film some footages for my Morocco video.
As soon as I arrived there, I realized I forgot my wallet. I couldn’t walk back as my hotel was too far. I didn’t have cash on hand except for 20 dirhams. How far can you go for 20DH? I tried an ATM but to my horror, it didn’t accept my card!
I approached one of the restaurants to check their menu and see if I could afford something.
“My friend, what do you want?” one of the waiters asked. I told him I didn’t have money so it’s okay, I’m just looking.
To my surprise, he pointed to a cafe by the big tree in the center and told me that they serve free food. I was puzzled but I still went there. Was this guy kidding or what? I started talking to the guy though I didn’t know if he understood my question. He guided me to a table.
It appears that, every Ramadan, some food chains offer food to those who cannot afford to buy their meals and it is one of the religious traditions of the country.
I happily ate the food, and on my way out, I told the guy that I will pay tomorrow. He smiled and said, “Insha’Allah, my friend. You can give it or not, tomorrow’s another day.”
Landing in the Lap of Angels in India
“I’ve landed in the lap of angels.”
That was the text I sent to a friend from the train before departing the Ranthambore station in India. It was true. Though I wasn’t really in need of help at the time I was receiving it in luxurious doses.
After almost a month in India I was on the last leg of my trip. I was heading to Delhi on an overnight train where I would spend one day and then fly home that night. On the platform at the train station I met two women. They were sisters-in-law who had taken a weekend break from husbands. We chatted while we waited for the train. It was all normal. But when we boarded the train, they took over.
First they arranged for my sleeping bunk to be near theirs. Then they made my bed from the sheets provided. After a quick snack which, yes, they provided, I was tucked in and told not to worry. They would wake me when we arrived in Delhi. Which they did at 6am.
Their driver was there to meet them at the station so they took me to the older sister’s home. We had tea and then I was given blankets and the couch for a nap for a couple of hours. Then they arranged a car for me for the day which was to take me to the airport at the end of a tour of New Delhi that they designed.
It was amazing!
As a solo traveler, I don’t usually allow other people to take over for me. I don’t usually go into private cars with people I’ve just met, or sleep in their homes or allow them to plan my day. How did I know I was safe with them? How was trust established?
First, I had already discovered that the people of India are incredibly hospitable, and second, I’ve learned to trust that my gut knows who to trust.
The kindness of strangers is a wonderful gift. I try to reciprocate whenever I can.
A Young Man’s Kindness in Sri Lanka
Talon Windwalker runs 1Dad1Kid and is an author, writer, former hospice chaplain, Zen monk, ultra runner, certified endurance running coach, scuba instructor, photographer, and single parent to 13-year-old Tigger. Follow their adventures on Facebook.
I have witnessed many acts of kindness as we’ve traveled throughout the world. The most recent one that comes to mind, however, was when we were in Sri Lanka.
We stopped in this beautiful country on our way back to Europe last fall. People were friendly and quite curious about the white man and his child walking all over the city.
Getting our train ticket to return to the airport was quite the endeavor. When someone who really didn’t appear to understand my question indicated which platform we should be waiting on, I was rather nervous.
As my son and I discussed my lack of confidence, a young man overheard us and offered to help. I told him where we were going, and he confirmed we were at the right place. I was so relieved. As often happens, once the door to communication has been opened we began chatting a bit.
At one point while we waited, there was an announcement overhead, but it wasn’t in English. I was concerned it might have been regarding our train since it was about the time I would expect it to be arriving. He translated for me right away.
It quickly became apparent he had decided to be our personal guardian angel. I was thankful for that once again when a train pulled up and didn’t stop at any platform. He knew it was our train and instructed us to hop off the platform and cross the tracks to climb onto the newly arrived train.
Once on the train, he had some people move over so we could sit down. He asked our destination. “I’ll be getting off the train before you,” he said. He immediately started asking other passengers until he found a man who would be willing to let us know when to get off the train. I wasn’t too concerned, though. I figured the airport should be visible enough.
I was very wrong. When our assigned helper told us to get off, I was a bit dubious as you couldn’t see any hint of an airport, and the station had no sign. I decided to trust him, and it turned out we were OK. A fellow passenger who hopped off at the same stop escorted us to the right exit and helped us secure a reasonable price for a tuktuk.
When I think of Sri Lanka, I remember this young man, Antonio, who took us under his wing without being asked and entertained my son while on the train by showing him photos and talking about video games. I also think of the other locals who made sure we were properly cared for.
There are so many good people in the world.
A Random Act of Kindness in Colombia
Liliane Cobiao, the blogger behind Wanderlass, once traveled around the world “on a quest to live a life not ordinary.” She covered 25 countries across 5 continents in 425 days. Follow her adventures on Facebook.
Many thought I was too adventurous traveling to Colombia on my own, given its infamous history on the drug cartel. Although that was in the 80’s, some say it’s still going on today. However, in my 5 weeks traveling around the country in 2012, I’ve experienced nothing but super nice, friendly locals and random acts of kindness from strangers.
One such example was when I flew from Cartagena to Medellin. 30 minutes into the flight, the captain began announcing something in Spanish, a language I’ve yet to learn. I must have had this confused look on my face, as the lady beside me volunteered that the plane was landing in 10 minutes. “Oh, so soon.” I said and thanked her with a smile.
“You don’t speak Spanish?” She asked.
“Not yet.” I replied, because I intended to learn it during my travel.
“How can you travel in Colombia and not know a word of Spanish?” She was concerned.
“I will manage. I promise.” and thinking to myself, I do know some Spanish words, just not putting them together to have intelligent conversations.
“Where is your hostel?” continued the woman.
I told her my address. It’s near the stadium and I have a very clear direction from the hostel. I assured her.
“It’s quite far from the airport. It’s very expensive to take the taxi. I’m going to that direction, I can take you in my car.” She offered; although it sounded more like a declaration.
My guard was up. What did my mother tell me about accepting candies from strangers? In a new city with a terrible reputation where I don’t speak the language? But I didn’t want to be ungracious. So I accepted her offer thinking I have several minutes to get to know her before we land and claim our luggage. I’m also a lot taller than her so I thought I could beat her in a fight.
I don’t know what’s the moral of the story. I’m certainly not promoting getting in the car of some random person you’ve just met on the plane. There were continuous processing of thoughts when I accepted the offer to even getting into the car.
So finally, I did get to know my kind stranger. She’s a professional dancer and sometimes traveled for work. This is why she enjoyed the exchange of stories with travelers. It was a pleasant ride to the hostel. We’ve exchanged numbers and I even went to see her at her work a few days later. My meeting with her has definitely enriched my trip in Medellin.
There you have it—five travelers’ stories that could seriously restore your faith in humanity. If you have your own stories of kindness on the road, email it to me, and I will include it in the next edition. Safe travels!