There’s something magical in traveling, and a lot of that magic lives in the people you meet along your journey. Maybe it’s the open-mindedness you get from experiencing different cultures and ways of life, or the soul cleansing power of seeing the breathtaking natural beauty of this world. Whatever it is, I was blown away by the kindness, compassion, generosity, and selflessness from people I barely knew over the course of my 10-month solo travels. I think the main thing to note about the below 9 stories is that these people helped me simply out of the goodness of their hearts, and weren’t expecting anything in return. If you’re losing faith in humanity (especially during these very political times) I have one suggestion for you – TRAVEL!
1. Kelly – Chiang Mai, Thailand:
I arrived back in Chiang Mai pretty banged up after a motorbike accident in Pai. After getting my wounds properly cleaned at a nearby hospital, I was okay. Changing my wound-care dressings however, proved to be both difficult and very painful. I was in the hostel bathroom, whimpering as I peeled off a layer of skin that had formed to my bandage, when Kelly, a sweet girl visiting from China, walked in. Her first instinct was to help, and after acquiring a first aid kit from the hostel owner she insisted on re-dressing my wounds. She did this everyday for the next three days of my stay here, and on my last day, she left a package of M&Ms and note reading, “Hope you will get better as soon as possible, here is a little gift for you.” I will never forget the kindness and love she showed me when I was alone and feeling a little down, and will always feel grateful for those hugs that lifted my spirit during that time!
2. Garry – Darwin, Australia:
I arrived to the airport a few hours before my flight to Bali, when I found out that the flight had been delayed by 5 hours. It would be my first time in Southeast Asia, and with the flight delay, I was nervous to arrive in Bali in the middle of the night, alone. While waiting, I met Garry, a surfer from Perth, Australia, who was headed to Indonesia for an epic surf getaway. He had been to Bali, Lombok, and other parts of Indonesia several times before, and was eager to tell me everything he knew about the country. Not only did he suggest multiple places to stay, things to eat, and different Indonesian phrases to learn, but he also put me in touch with a few of his friends in Canggu, Bali who I ended up meeting and chatting with over a fresh juice! When we arrived in Bali, he even made sure that I got legitimate transportation to my hostel before he figured out his own situation. Over the course of my 20 days in Indonesia, Garry would check up on me and make sure I was doing okay, and would continuously provided valuable advice and suggestions for my travels in Bali. This was all out of the kindness of his heart and I will always be grateful for his guidance during my first solo trip to Southeast Asia!
3. Alp – Istanbul, Turkey:
I received a message on Couchsurfing.com from a Turkish guy named Alp who was visiting Boston, asking if I could meet up for a coffee or provide suggestions on what to do while in Boston. At the time, I was living in Australia, but of course I was able to provide a very extensive list of things to do in my home city, as I had lived there for the previous 7 years. He messaged me back thanking me for the suggestions and said that if I were ever in Istanbul, he’d be happy to return the favor. It just so happened that my flight out of Bangkok to Bogota had a 7-hour layover in Istanbul, so I contacted him back asking if he could show me around his city! He didn’t even hesitate and agreed to show me around without thinking twice. Alp met me at the airport in Istanbul and showed me as much of his city as he could during my short layover. He took me to see the many beautiful mosques, the quaint Old Quarter, and we even took me on a ferry ride down the Bosporus Strait, the river that separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey. He took me to eat doner and baklava (my favorite dessert in the whole world), and had me try Turkish tea and Turkish coffee. Alp was an amazing tour guide and I couldn’t thank him enough for taking an entire evening out of his busy schedule (he works full time and is a grad student) to show me, a complete stranger, around his incredible city!
4. Dave – Whitsunday Islands, Australia:
I met Dave on a two-day sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands and was fascinated by his travel stories. He too had quit his career to travel the world, and told us about his epic journey, from exploring Antarctica, to white water rafting The Grand Canyon and everything in-between. When he learned that I was soon headed to Southeast Asia without any proper medication (think Malaria tablets, Traveler’s stomach bug, etc) because it was so darn expensive, and I had limited time to see a doctor before I left, he offered to send me his leftover medication from his recent trip so that I would be covered. So, a guy I had just met, packaged up his medication when he returned home and sent it to the hostel I was staying at next so that I would be prepared for my adventure. In Asia How awesome is that?
5. Darryl – Bangsal Harbor, Bali:
When you buy a ferry ticket in Indonesia that doubles as a shuttle ticket, it is very important that you don’t let a ferry ticket collector take your ticket, as you will need it to board your shuttle once arriving to the harbor. I didn’t know this when I was coming back from Lombok to Bali. When I boarded the ferry in Bangsal Harbor, I asked the ticket collector if I needed the ticket for the shuttle, and he said no. Well of course when I went to board the shuttle, they asked for a ticket, and after explaining the story to the man collecting tickets for the shuttle, they said that I needed to buy a ticket to board the shuttle. It was then that I realized I had just been scammed and was very upset, when Darryl, an Australian from WA I had briefly met on the ferry, insisted that I forget the shuttle and jump in a taxi with him and his brother back to Kuta, Bali. I tried to offer them money, but they refused. It was the nicest gesture that got me out of an upsetting situation and made my entire day so much easier thanks to them.
6. Will – Melbourne, Australia:
Before heading to Australia, I reached out to friends asking if they had any connections in Melbourne, as I would be arriving alone and was hoping to meet someone local who may be able to show me around, give me the inside scoop on a city/country that would be entirely new to me. A friend connected me with Will, a recent law graduate who was quick to respond and extremely helpful, even before I arrived. Upon arrival, Will not only offered to pick me up from the airport, but also gave me a phone for me to use and set me up with a SIM card, offered up his couch, and even took me to a BBQ where I met a bunch of new people – all on my first day in the country! At this BBQ I met Jade, who helped me lock in a job within a week of me arriving. Basically, Will was my guardian angel in Melbourne, and I will always be grateful for his generosity and friendship.
7. Rachael & Isabelle – Melbourne, Australia:
A mutual friend from back home had connected me with her cousin, Rachael, as she knew I had just arrived in Melbourne, and didn’t really know anyone. Rachael agreed to meet with me, and we hit it off immediately. By the end of our very fun friend-blind-date, Rachael’s roommate Isabelle had joined us, and the two of them offered me a place to stay at their home. These two girls had JUST met me a few hours prior and were opening their home to me! Not only that, but Rachael gave up her room for me to stay in until I found a place to live permanently. Although I’ve tried to express it, I’m not sure if they’ll ever realize how much they actually helped me with my transition to life in Melbourne.
8. Jenia – Melbourne, Australia:
Jenia and her husband accepted my Couchsurfing.com request upon arriving in Melbourne, and graciously opened their home to me. They were a lovely couple and had no problem with me staying at their home even when they were off at work during the day. I had developed a pretty nasty head-cold since arriving in Melbourne, and felt terrible that I was ill and staying in there home. Instead of being annoyed by my coughing or asking me to leave (I was honestly disgustingly sick, I would not have been offended if they politely asked me to leave, as they had a small apartment and I easily could have gotten them both sick) I woke up one morning to cough medicine and throat lozenges, as well as a note telling me that there was oatmeal on the stove for me. I only stayed at Jenia’s home for a few days, but the hospitality and compassion they showed me went above and beyond. For anyone who is new to Couchsurfing – the hosts let travelers stay in their home free of charge. I look forward to paying it forward once I have a home to host travelers in!
9. An Indonesian Man (name unknown) – Kuta, Bali:
Just before my flight out of Kuta, Bali to HCMC, Vietnam, I did a little shopping for gifts to take back to loved ones at home. I was cutting it a little close, but finally found some items I liked at a shop near my hostel. The man I bargained with was much friendlier than other shop owners I had encountered, and gave me a fair price on the souvenirs. When he learned that I had a flight to catch, he immediately offered to take me to the airport on his motorbike. I told him not to worry, that I would just get a cab to take me, but he insisted that he drive me, as he was grateful for my business. I know that it’s not the safest thing to jump on the back of a motorbike of a shop owner you barely know, but something told me that he was sincere. When we arrived at the airport, he insisted on carrying my bag, and made sure I made it to the correct part of the airport safely and on time! I tried to offer him money, as it was incredibly generous of him to shut his shop down just to bring me to the airport, but he refused. I insisted that he take the money, but he refused again, and wished me safe travels. I wish I would have remembered his name, but I remember his shop and will be sure to return there on my next trip, just to thank him again!