Doesn't matter where, nor when.... more so.. who was it that you met out of nowhere on a trip / adventure / life journey that made that moment / day unforgettable? Share with us this moment, and maybe tell us how we could find this person if we are travelling down that road ;)
For me, it could be a family that takes you into their home for a cooked meal to sit on the floor with their family of 12 to ask questions like, "what's it like in big city with all those lights.....?" to a fellow traveler who you share a moment with that turns into exploring century old ruins over lunch and extends into a dinner and hours of sharing travel stories.
Perhaps, you will just enjoy reliving that moment #idleTuesdayAfternoon that someone special crossed your path.
These are the real gems that come out of nowhere to leave a mark on you!
One quick one that always brings a smile to my face is running into someone 1 month later in a whole new country. I met them in Barcelona and seeing them 4 weeks later walking the streets of Prague...that moment of yelling across the street led to a priceless night of swapping stories, laughter, great food and drink! #nowYOUshare
I met four extraordinary Indonesian guides on a trek in Bukit Lawang. Being attacked by oran-utan in the middle of the jungle didn't make our journey easy. The oldest female oran utan of the park crossed our path while we were conversing (bahasa/english mix) down to our isolated camp, a magic spot at a river's edge. I was talking to Aripin, our 50 years old guide, who was also an English teacher in the village. When he saw her on the path, he looked at me and say "run, bring your friend back to the top of the hill and wait for my signal". Well. He knew better the forest than I did. So I complied without questioning. Few minutes later, he called me, say we should pass slowly and reach the camp. He was there, seated on the path's edge, feeding the oran utan hand in hand, slowly. But he accidentally dropped the fruit. She got scared, and grabbed him by the neck. While trying to protect his face with his arm, she violently bit him hard enough to draw blood. Fortunately the camp was just down the hill, and reaching there, I helped him bandage his deep wounds. We couldn't stay at the camp for the night, she had become crazy and was yelling from a tree on top of us, shaking branches & throwing back the stones our guides tossed at her. Aripin, together with our other bro's, Hans, Mohamad and Herman, packed the camp for good. We had no other choice than leave her behind through the river. It was the most intense & dangerous canyoning ever, the oran utan following us for quite some time. Aripin's arm had doubled but he still gave me his other hand each time I needed help. None of them did look scared at all. They helped us fight with the fear with smiles and jokes. After 2 more hours running in the river, we settled a new camp by its side, took an incredibly delicious bath, ate the most wonderful dinner I've ever had, laughed a lot, played dozens of games & riddles with our new friends. Aripin had gone back to the village for an injection. But he was back here to wake us up, leaving the village at 5am, walking 4 hours through the jungle with his bandage, to be by our side till the end of our journey. This was one of the most unforgettable moment I have had with locals, lost in the jungle. We're still in touch and I look forward to going back.
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I have had some amazing random experiences with locals as I have travelled the world - from being invited to an island family BBQ to hitch-hiking with truckers and spending the night with a family who rescued me because I hadn't booked a hostel over Easter weekend - the kindness of strangers blows me away time and again. That said none of these are people you can 'find'. They were my personal experiences and I think travellers need to put themselves out there when they visit a place, accept the hospitality of others and discover a whole new adventure of their own!
For someone I CAN recommend, it is Ian Harmer at http://www.african-wanderer.com/About.aspx. He is a guide based in Zimbabwe and he is an absolute legend! He is so in tune with the bush it is unbelievable to watch him work and he has the most fantastic stories of the great African trackers of old and the wild San people living so remotely that he in one of literally a handful of people in the world who knows how to contact this secretive tribe who is thought to be the 'Adam gene' i.e. as close to original humans as is possible today. He spent a long time living with the tribe - not for tv but just to further his own understanding - and even learnt their crazy 'click' language and their beautiful customs. Honestly, one day with this man had me hooked! A must do if you plan on visiting the region.
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In the early 80's, my then boyfriend and I- a couple of early 20 something's took a crazy whirlwind 10 countries in 14 days trip to Europe. Part of that trip included the magical city of Venice. We arrived in the city via train on a busy Easter weekend without having made arrangements for our accommodations. As we stood and waited to speak to someone about the possibility of accommodations, we were approached by a woman who asked if we were looking for some place to stay? Upon closer examination, the woman who stood in front of us was eccentric to say the least. She was probably in her mid to late 50's wearing zebra print leggings (long before leggings were even remotely cool) with a cheetah print poncho and a britely hued purple velvet hat that would have made any 70's pimp proud! We cautiously replied, "yes" and she went on to tell us she had a family apartment that she rented out a room occasionally to "good people" for $50 a night. Even in the 80's THAT was a good deal! We began following her over the Scalzi bridge into the Croce neighborhood and as she wove us through the winding streets we began to have our doubts. Here we were with ALL of our luggage and camera gear thinking, "uh, oh", she's taking us to a dead end alleyway and somebody is going to knock us over the head and steal everything we own. Fortunately that was most definitely not the case!
We finally arrived at our destination to a lovely but quirky apartment that had been in her family for generations. She not only was an artist but also was a writer for a Rome based newspaper. We only spent two nights with her but while there she imparted so much knowledge about Venice and specifically her neighborhood which is not one of the normal tourist areas. It was a real and beautiful slice of Italian living. She even set up a dinner for us with her friend who was a restaurant owner. When we tried to pay, the owner replied, "Oh no, Igana has already taken care of it." On the way home we were able to purchase a dozen yellow roses for her and explained the significance of yellow roses signifying friendship.
The next day as we were getting ready to leave she pressed a lovely black and white Venetian postcard into our hands with a simple inscription on the back that read... On a sunny day in Venice I met some friends. Now, on a rainy day I am losing them. Perhaps one day we'll meet again?
In 2009, after almost 30 years we had the opportunity to take our 16 year old daughter to Venice we tried to find Igana and her apartment to no avail. Regardless, we have never forgotten her or her kindnesses. We've travelled the world but that remains one of my most memorable and fond experiences.
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Many years ago, before it was cool, I decided to take a trip to see Chornobyl' and the surrounding area of Pryp'yat', just outside of Kiev. I met up with the guide, and five other people going just outside of the main square. Two of the individuals were from Sweden.
During the crazy journey, which included driving over sidewalks to avoid traffic jams and listening to what sounded like Ukrainian rap, I befriended the two Swedes. The remainder of the trip to Chernobyl became much more memorable hanging out with them.
When the trip was over and we were all dropped back off in the square, we all left our separate ways. It quickly struck me that I had forgotten to get their contact information! Unfortunately, it was too late by then to find them.
I finished off my afternoon wandering around town and decided to make it a short night as I had an early morning flight the next morning. I was walking to the, "luxury," condo I had rented (I quote luxury as the elevators only had a few holes in them...but still worked!) when I walked by this wacky, American style steakhouse right next to my condo. It was a good 10 minutes walk out from the main square, and the hotel I recall the Swedes saying they were staying out.
To my utter surprise, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, both of them sitting outside at a table! I rejoined them for dinner and drinks. Needless to say the early evening turned into a late one, but out of that came some of the best people I've met and best times I've had.
Since then, I've been to visit them 7-8 times, with them coming quite a few themselves. We've spent New Years in Azerbaijian, evenings on a small island lost in the Swedish archipelago, a cruise to nowhere in Finland, and many more adventures!
My wife and I were in Fes several years ago staying at Riad Laaroussa. We had just come back from an afternoon of sightseeing. My wife went up to our room to mix us up a cocktail and I turn around a corner and see Andrew Zimmern in front of me. Unbeknownst to us, he was filming part an episode of Bizzare Foods for Pigeon Bastilla at the Riad where we were staying. Anyway, we had a brief conversation, as he was busy. After dinner (yummy!) Andrew and his crew engaged us for about ten minutes. It was a nice gesture on the part of him, and his film crew, and I find it rather ironic that this is now being posted on here.
The late Richard Marks, who was a resident of Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii and conducted the only authorized tours of the old leper colony. An amazingly knowledgeable man, and so willing to discuss in detail his lifetime of experiences there, as well as the history of the settlement, and his visitors knowledge and reaction to it. I'll never forget him.
Wandering the water village right next to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. It was amazing to meet locals and be in a place that gets next to no tourism.
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Two come to mind.
2011. While in transit from Medan to Pulau Weh. In Banda Aceh I took a motorbike from the bus station to the boat terminal. Although I forget his name, my driver shared with me his story of the morning of 04-12-26, when the tsunami slammed upon the city. With a massive smile on his face, he starts out by saying "I so luck man" because he and one of his son's surviived. Unfortunately, he never found his wife or his youngest son, and after 8 months found the body of his daughter. He has all the reason to be bitter, yet he was one of the happiest individuals I met on this particular trip. Very humbling experience.
2012. While visiting Cambodia. At Siem Reap War Museum I met Mean Sokhom. This is all I will say because the courage and bravery of this man is nothing short of heroic and cannot fully be expressed in words other than his own. The next time you're in Siem Reap, instead of wasting away an afternoon chugging $0.50 drafts on Pub Street, ride a bike out to the museum and let Mean or any of the other guys share with you their story.
I have met so many people who have been exceptional. But, one stands out and earned the title of the "Person Who Changed My Life." It all started on a beach in Split one early autumn afternoon in 2009 ...
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