You hear it all the time, and I definitely wont be the first or last person to bring up what a sad time in history it is. With all of the darkness in the world, especially now, it’s hard to think love and kindness can be found in someone you do not know. A stranger, to be exact. We are all guilty of judging others. I unfortunately know I am, especially while traveling. It’s like you’re always second guessing yourself: Should I talk to that person? Will they like me? Are they nice? Will I be safe? Can they speak English? Can I say that one phrase I’ve been practicing well enough? Are they going to think I am a dumb American? These thoughts are normal, and a huge part of exploring abroad because traveling makes you vulnerable, and that is the beauty of it.
Traveling also causes you to get lost… a lot…which I highly recommend. Get lost willingly and purposely, get so crazy lost, you have no choice but to ask a local, and THEN find your way!! AND while you’re finding your way, you’ll find yourself, which ends up being the absolute best part.
Sean and I have been awe struck at how many times complete strangers have shown kindness to us while traveling abroad. Whether we asked, or not.
During our first extended travel trekking through Europe, we found kindness in Paris, and then it happened again and again and again.
Paris is easily one of my favorite cities in the entire world. You can feel the love as you walk down the streets, and the people are actually very friendly, despite popular belief. In fact, people were the NICEST and most willing to help us in France. Sean and I got so incredibly lost on the subways of Paris. If you don’t know us personally, please know we are from suburbia. I.E. NO SUBWAYS and VERY LITTLE USE OF PUBLIC TRANSIT. As we stared into the abyss of the Parisian subway maps, a young man approached us with broken English, asking if he could help? He said: “Where do you guys want to go? I can help you!” Sean and I, floored at the kindness of an observant stranger, obliged and we explained our plans for the day. The sweet, young man then proceeded to write down very detailed notes for us on our map.
The second time we were approached in Paris happened on a train ride back into the city from the beautiful Chateau de Versailles. Sean and I were casually talking and staring at, yet again, another map, unsure of which exit was closest to our hotel. Another young man behind us popped up, and said: “I’d like to help you, and perhaps practice my English!” We invited him over, and chatted with him the ENTIRE 60 minute train ride back into the city. Parisians are SO friendly! Thank you for your hospitality.
Continuing our French streak, the third time we were treated to unexpected kindness was on our bus ride from Nice to Eze, France. At this time, we were visibly frustrated and had no idea if we were on the right bus, or if we were even going in the right direction. We had already paid to get on, and as we read each sign we passed on the bus, we had a sinking feeling we were going the wrong way. We knew Eze was located on the top of the mountain, but we were not going up, we were staying on the coast. As Sean and I quietly argued about directions (pretty normal right ladies? LOL), I could tell a French girl and her boyfriend were listening to us. They would stop talking when we began, and they would randomly stare. I tried not to think much of it since we were on local public transit, and it was so obvious we were complete tourists and outsiders. The girl turned around and decided to move closer to us and in the sweetest, nicest voice said “Hi, I am sorry to intrude, but you are on the wrong bus.” Sean and I were so thankful she said something because we were absolutely on the wrong bus!! She redirected us, and we found our way to beautiful Eze. Thank you for your kindness, mysterious and oh so friendly, French girl.
The fourth time we were treated with unexpected kindness and extreme thoughtfulness was in Split, Croatia when our tour guide and now dear friend, Ivan, did everything in his power to make us feel like family. After emailing back and forth a few times prior to meeting upon arrival in Split, he, as a complete stranger, picked us up with welcoming arms. He showed us off the beaten path, and raced us back to our ship as we were running late. He provided us with towels to keep us warm, and water to keep us hydrated (which were not included in our agreed upon tour). What impressed us most is that he risked driving into the cruise terminal, so we wouldn’t have to run back freezing and exhausted. While saying goodbye, he left us with his adventure band as a memory, which was so incredibly kind. We hugged, and said we’d love to host him in the U.S. should he ever make his way. He then emailed us tirelessly to check on our well being, safety and ability to get back on the ship. He also then emailed us over 50 photos of our time together. Thank you for your caring and adventurous spirit, Ivan. We will never forget you!
The fifth time I was treated with unexpected kindness truly touched my heart. Sean and I spent a lot of time with the locals in Fiji, and I can whole heartedly say that they are the nicest, most genuine, and caring people on the entire planet. Their life is so simple, so wholesome, and absolutely beautiful. Family means everything to them, and when you hear “Bula Bula” you know you are about to be welcomed with opened arms, like a true family member. We spent time drinking Kava with them (no, not the champagne), a watery like substance derived from the earth that gives a natural buzz. After hearing about their traditions, learning how to clap and sing with them, a young teenage girl pulled me aside and took off her necklace. She handed it to me, and said please take this. I said “Oh thank you so much, but I can’t”, she insisted and proceeded to say: “When you find someone you connect with, you give them a piece of your heart, forever. Vinaka” Vinaka means good luck and good bye. I have never been so touched in my entire life. This young sweet girl could not have been more than 15 or 16 years old. She was so generous and appreciative that we took the time to speak with them, and learn more about their culture, but at the end of the day, I was the one who was appreciative, honored, humbled, to be included. Thank you, Fiji. Thank you for your spirit, your great people, and the true meaning of island family.
These stories are just a mere handful of the kindness we’ve experienced overseas. I could go on and on about the amazing people we’ve met. Travel makes you wiser. It makes you a better person. It opens your eyes to the BEAUTY and KINDNESS that is eminent and oh so present in the world (although sometimes forgotten). Although we hear over dramatized hatred in the media every single day, people are generally good. They are kind, and they want to help. It is a pleasure and deep honor to travel the world. I love doing it, and each place brings a more humbling experience. I challenge you to try it. Be kind to your neighbors. Be kind to the person you’ve never seen on the street before, and most importantly, be patient. Patience is what drives kindness in the world. Peace and love will conquer all. It is easier to love, as the body does this naturally, rather than hate. Hatred takes years of anger and heaviness.
Most of all, do not stop traveling because of the hatred and fear you sense in the world. You will find kindness in every step you take. It is not hard.