I love hearing travel stories! Tell me a story about someone you met on the road, or an event you witnessed, that helped restore your faith in humanity.
One winter when I was road tripping around Western Europe a few years ago, my driver from France accidentally put diesel into our gas car in Belgium. Apparently, the color on the nozzles for gas and diesel in Belgium are the opposite from those in France. Of course, we didn’t start the car for fear that it might explode, or at least ruin something inside the car, so we consulted with the gas station attendant for what to do.
The gas station attendant was super nice. He called a tow truck for us, which took a while, and since it was winter and cold outside, he let us wait in the employee break room. He offered us hot chocolate and coffee from the store’s vending machines for free, and even let us use their computer for internet. And the people at the car shop were just as nice.
We were a bunch of stranded travelers and not only did they take our car in and take care of it, but they also took us in and made us feel at home for a couple of hours, which is more than I can say for any other gas station or auto body shop I've ever been to.
One really useful tip that I learned from this experience: AAA road side assistance from the U.S. is pretty awesome because they ended up covering all of the services above. My French friend felt horrible that he had set us back several hours with this expensive conundrum, so this at least put him more at ease.
That was one very specific and big example, but I also witness a lot of every day things all around you.
I've been traveling internationally since I was a little kid, including to third world countries, and one thing that I realized very early on was that money didn't necessarily equal happiness.
I crossed paths with many folks who were living very simple lives with just the bare minimums because they didn't have much money. But pretty much all of them were very hopeful, content, and more than willing to help and give. Seeing and experiencing that is just always the most humbling experience and makes me want to give back as well.
One little thing that always warms my heart to see are people helping the elderly or disabled cross the street. I once saw a Boy Scout helping an elderly lady across the street, and a man wheeling a homeless man across the street in his wheelchair. Another time, I saw a motorcyclist block off a busy crosswalk to do the same, and yet another time, I saw a motorcyclist pull over to help a lady walk across the street.
Thanks for asking this great question, Amy!
Let me summarize my troubles on my last trip in Japan:
- got terribly lost on the way to my hotel: somebody walked me there and phoned them because she couldn't find it either
- I lost my passport and all my money: it was kindly returned with everything in it
- I took the wrong train and realised I would arrive at my new hotel after check in but my phone did not work in Japan and I had no internet. Somebody was kind enough to lend me their phone and when the hotel staff's English was too crappy, they called for me to arrange it in Japanese even when this meant that he had to go and charge his phone somewhere else
- My luggage got lost but I was on the other side of Japan so I couldn't pick it up. Somebody I barely met picked it up for me. When I wanted to collect it I got terribly lost (sensing a pattern here?) and somebody took me into their home so I could look the way up online.
In short: I never met such helpful people and it made me a better person because now I'm more aware when I see someone being confused I just ask if they need help.
When visiting Tokyo Disneyland in Japan, I had to make a stop in a restroom. I had our Canon EOS 7D around my neck, and rather than risk cracking it on the urinal, I put it on the little shelf in front of me. And then promptly finished and left without the camera. We made it the whole way back to our hotel before we realized that I had left it!
It was well over 30 minutes later when we contacted customer service, who a few minutes later, told us to stop by guest relations, as they had recovered the camera from exactly where I had left it!
Not sure that would have happened in other parts of the world, but definitely restored my faith in humanity a bit.
In the early 1970's, with my oversized backpack, I was travelling in Iran near Tehran on a city bus, when a local fellow started yelling at me for taking too much room. Two older women came to my defense, and insisted on making me breakfast! Of all the countries I have visited, disregarding the politics, the Iranian have always welcomed me with open arms and with loving kindness. I believe the people of Iran are terribly misunderstood - as with many countries, the government gives the complete wrong impression.
I was dating a girl in college and she had never been out of the country before, so I invited her on my already planned trip to Costa Rica. we couldn't make the dates work so I just extended my trip a week and when I went to the airport to drop off my friends I would pick her up and do our extended week together. She was very nervous about traveling by her self for the first time so I gave her $600 cash to travel with (that was all the money I had for the week together). So the first part of the trip was great and as it ended I was looking forward to having girlfriend time on the next week by ourselves! I took the bus from Dominical to San Jose And spend my last cash getting to the airport. so I am waiting at her gate as people are getting off her flight and she isn't there! I panic a little and ask around and she wasn't on the flight! I start to scramble and the airport people are asking me were I'm going and with no choice I do the classic "my flights in the morning just gunna sleep here till then" and to my horror the told me that the airport was about to close and it wasn't a 24 hour airport! So I should just hit the ATM and grab a cheap room right?! At this time of my life I had no bank account no Email address much less an ATM card, so I am stranded in S.J. At night with no money and no were to go! So I start looking for bushes to sleep in around the airport when I here in English "are you ok" I turn around and there are 5 gringos standing there watching me build my bush fort! They were missionaries from the USA! They took me in, fed me and got me in touch with my family! These people saved my life, I don't know how many of you have spent much time in large cities in Central America but it can be very scary at night by yourself, the cops seem to shut down like the airports at night lol! So I got an early flight home, and had a great story to tell! But that's not the end! What about the girl? She honestly was told not to go by her family. They said that it sounds to good to be true, "a guy bought you a plane ticket and $600 to meet him in Central America, your gunna be murdered!" funny thing is that we are now married and have traveled the world together! Funny world!
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Years ago my wife and I decided to move to New Zealand for a few months, just to see if we wanted to live there permanently. A friend told us she had a friend who lived in New Zealand, so she put us in contact with him. He picked us up at the airport. When we got to where we were staying (a house we had rented), he said "you know, I don't really need my car this weekend. You should borrow it so you can look around."
Seriously. We hardly knew this guy. And while we were there, we ran into many other people who were just as friendly and helpful. Other friends of ours who have visited there have had similar experiences.
While my daughter and I were traveling in London and we had not yet exchanged our dollars for pounds, but we had already purchased our meal but the establishment only took cash...what to do? The owner let us take the food and pay him later after we'd had a chance to go to an ATM. Who does that?? He didn't know us at all, we were perfect strangers, but he let me and my daughter take our food and THEN go to the ATM and come back to pay him! This was in a small food store in the Notting Hill section of London.
I was traveling alone in Istanbul and got completely lost. It was getting dark and I was starting to get worried (being a female traveling alone). Finally, I decided to go up to a taxi stand with my map and ask where I was. I don't speak an Turkish and the men at the taxi stand did not speak any English. After trying to elicit them to point on the map where we were, I pointed to where my hostel in the historic district was. One of the taxi drivers told me to get into his cab. At the time, I was a Peace Corps volunteer and didn't have hardly any money. We drove for over half an hour. As we drove (without the taxi meter running), I got more and more worried about how much getting lost was going to cost. The cab driver stopped in front of my hostel and helped me with my backpack. I asked how much and opened my wallet. He just shook his head and would not take any money, and shook my hand, smiled, then got in the taxi and drove away. I later learned that helping a traveler is a blessing, and dates back to when people only traveled on pilgrimage. That evening it was a blessing to arrive safely.
When living in Gwangju, my partner and I were on our way back to my apartment, taking the bus. A man heard us speaking English and wanted to practice with us. This man in particular was heading back to work (it was at least 8pm) but had stopped to get more to eat at a bakery. When we got closer to where we were getting off, the conversation turned to religion but remained very sweet. He then offered us his dinner - this beautiful roll / bread that he had gone out of his way to purchase. It was important to him for us to take it and enjoy it as we had brought happiness into his evening. He made a lasting impact on us - and I hope that we reciprocate that gesture to strangers as often as we can.
It's was on the road in Cambodia, the way from Neak Loeang to Phnom Penh. It's sunny, I saw a buddhist monk walking on the side of the road , then I saw a look-like poor cambodian farmer on an old bicycle is stopping in front of the monk, the farmer get down from the bicycle, knee down and following the gesture, I guess the farmer invited the monk to get on his bicycle. I saw the monk is refusing the invitation and continue his way by walking, the farmer still knee down and wait for the monk go a little far then get on his bicycle. Up to you to think about that, I think following my own way. Thanks
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My wife, teenage son and I were visiting Paris and our next destination was Bordeaux via the TGV. We rode the Metro over to the Gare Montparnasse and because we had plenty of time, we grabbed some coffee and croissants. We checked the schedule monitors to make sure that we knew what track our train was to leave from, and walked over to the proper track and got onboard and got seated. It was only when an English family got onboard and said to us "you seem to be sitting in our seats" that we realized that there was a problem. The train car attendant came over and looked at everyone's tickets, and then announced to us "you were to have been on the Express TGV to Bordeaux, and this is the local". So we got up, grabbed our bags and got off the train - however - the train attendant came out and said to us "look, get back onboard and sit in between the cars and people will get off at the first stop and you can then find seats". Everyone in the world always describes the French as "not fond of Americans" and "rude", but this train attendant was super nice, and as it turned out, he was correct. At the first stop, many people got off the train, and we all got seated.
The "local" train to arrived in Bordeaux only 20 minutes after the "express" train arrived, so we didn't have to worry much.
Our faith was restored in the French, because the train attendant went out of his way to get us to our destination, and did so in a very friendly manner.
I visited Bangkok for 23 days. What surprised me about the people in Thailand was they always had a smile and they went out of their way to be kind and friendly. It didn't matter what station in life they came from. I was always safe and could go anywhere by myself in a taxi, walking late at night or in the morning.
I was riding a motorbike alone through Amed a small fishing village on the east coast of Bali. It was night and a few kids had lit a fire by the side of the road. I glanced at it but when I looked back to the road, there was a brick wall just about fifty feet ahead. I clutched the back wheel brake, but it wasn’t slowing down fast enough to make the turn so I had to grab the front wheel brake. The bike flipped forward, sending me flying over the handlebars. I remember the awful sound the bike made, thrashing behind me. I was wearing a helmet with a face mask, thankfully, because I remember my face slapping the pavement. I wasn’t sure how badly I was hurt. I must have been in shock because I didn’t feel any pain but my arms and knees were torn up. Within seconds, I was surrounded by dozens of young Balinese people. All of them were offering to help me as I tried standing. When I did, I saw a young English boy through the crowd of locals offering to help who led me around the same wall I’d just avoided to a resort run by his mother. While I cleaned and bandaged my torn up knees, elbows and hands, he sat there asking me questions, telling me jokes and showing me tricks he could do with a yo-yo. He was clearly well-traveled, and exposed to knew people enough that he had no hesitations chatting me up. But what was amazing was the way he was distracting me from the shock and made me smile in a scary moment. I’ll never forget that kid.
A couple months ago I was on my way to pick up my girls at summer camp near Harpers Ferry, but had some time to kill, so I parked my week old car on the side of the road, threw my keys into my purse, and went for a long photo walk along the Shenandoah River and across the bridge from the Maryland side to the West Virginia side. It was a beautiful day.
As I got nearer to my car, I reached into my purse to grab my keys and they were gone. I frantically rummaged through it, pulling everything out. A couple fishermen asked what was wrong and I told them I'd lost my keys.
"Oh, a young man had those just a few minutes ago. The blue van? He made the alarm beep to see which car it was. I think he left a few minutes ago."
I had to pick up my kids within 15 minutes and was worried I'd have to find this guy.
Instead I found a yellow envelope tucked into my window. It said, "Hi ya!!!"
I opened it up to find this note written on the back of a birthday card cover:
"I found your keys.
Look on top of your font passenger side tire. -- Ben"
And there they were. My keys. Exactly where he'd said they'd be. Nothing was touched inside my brand new car and my car was sitting there just where I'd left it.
People are good. Thank you, Ben!
I was once on Pico Island on the Azores in Portugal where I needed to get from the town Lajes do Pico to Sao Roque do Pico but there was no bus so I decided to walk across the mountain pass that devides the island.
Half way through the 16 kilometer walk a young guy stopped his car and offered me a ride and I umped in the car.
We talked for about 10 minutes while we drove to Sao Roque and when we got there he told me that he needed to go to work but I was welcome to use his house while I was waiting for my ferry to São Jorge Island and grab some food from the freech.
I have experienced this kinda hospitality a few times around the globe, but not from a person who had known me for less than 20 minutes and did not even know my name.
In his living room there was an expensive SLR camera on the dining table and also a very nice computer and I was quite stunned that he showed so much trust in a complete stranger from another country, but I was very happy to come across this nice guy.
As I left his house after a couple of hours I bumped in to him in a local cafe where he was having a coffee with a work college, so I did manage to say think you for him a grab a photo of him which I put here so you can see what a good honest man looks like and the other photo is one I took a few minutes before getting picked up by the guy.
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So this is just a silly little story of my own: I was in Ho Chi Minh City, with my wife. It was our first day in Vietnam - the motorbike traffic was just epic! We stood on a corner, and I followed an older local woman across the street.
The scooters and motorbikes weaved around us with just inches to spare - seriously! I looked over my shoulder, and my wife was too overwhelmed to take her first step. Well, the local woman I followed noticed. She waded back across the traffic, grabbed my wife by the hand and then walked her across the street. My wife crossed every other street like a pro after that!
I've told this story a few times here but when I was 13 years old my parents and I went to Paris, France, for a week. We started going to this little restaurant that no longer exists and ended up going there each night we were there and made friends with the owners and some of the patrons.One night we started "talking" to this very old man with the help of another patron who spoke both French and English. When he got up to go, my dad asked to shake hands but he said no. The woman said he was a tennis coach for years and years and his hands were so callused that it hurt to shake hands.
Long story short, about 15 minutes later, he returned with a rose for my mother and chocolates for me. I've never forgotten that moment and it led to a life-long obsession with the city for me.
The beginning, or at least everything leading up to the beginning, is a bit of a long story or turns this into a much longer story so I’ll just start like this: I was a few hours bus ride south of Seoul, South Korea and needed to get out of my apartment there and couldn't wait until the next day. It was very cold -- still winter – and I had almost no idea how I was going to get to Seoul and catch a plane the next day back to the U.S. I figured that when I got home that evening from work I would get on the Internet and figure everything out; transportation and all that. Well, when I got home the Internet was down in my apartment and I was freaking out; I don’t speak a lick of Korean so this was going to make matters that much more difficult. Luckily there was a high-speed train not far off from my place so I decided I would just have to pack everything, about 90 pounds of luggage, and start walking there. The train runs straight into Seoul and only took about one hour, but I’d never used it before. So I just headed out and tried my best to get there in the dark. I started getting nervous as it looked like I would need to go through a very dark area, but then I remembered it’s totally safe and so I’d just keep heading in the direction I thought was correct. When I finally arrived I had no specific plan except to go to Seoul so I walked up to the ticket window person who spoke no English and lifted up a single finger and said, “one first-class ticket to Seoul.” Of course there are numerous stops and neighborhoods within Seoul. He gave me a ticket and I headed in the direction of where the trains stop. As I walking to the trains I noticed an employee running towards me and I soon realized it was the ticket person. Before I knew it he started talking to another customer near me and that customer started translating for him. He was there to offer me another ticket going to a different part of Seoul, but leaving sooner. I agreed to take the new ticket, which turned out to be less money too. The ticket person ran back and then brought me the new ticket along with the change from the lower fare; very nice. But it doesn't end there. The customer then asked me if I’m an American, which I am, and then proceeded to tell me he went to college in the U.S. Next he informed me he was taking the same train and was nice enough to help me get my bags on the train. But again, that wasn't the end of the niceness I experienced. While on the train he started telling me about where to get a hotel, how to take this nice limo bus thing, not an actual limo, to the airport, which I did and it was a very nice bus, and just about every other logistical piece of info to get me home. He then ended up telling me about this number you could call to make travel arrangements in Korea. It’s some kind of free service I had heard of before, but never used. He then ended up calling and getting me a reservation at a hotel; then helped me off the train and walked me through the train station to a waiting taxi; talked to the taxi driver and explained to him where I needed to go, my hotel, which was a nice, but inexpensive hotel; then explained to me that the people at the front desk would speak English and to tell them the next morning that I needed a cab to take me to the limo bus pickup location, which I did and they did as asked. Needless to say, while at the hotel I purchased my flight online and everything worked out thanks to this kind young man I met and whom when out of his way for me and for no reward or payment after a very long day at work. I think he had left that morning around 8AM and it was at least 8PM that night when we left on the train together. I am so thankful for his kindness.
My wife and I have been Airbnb hosts for a little over a year. We've had dozens of guests from all over the world. Airbnb has it's verifications and such, but you still don't know the people whom you allow to stay at your house.
Not once in the last year have we ever had a negative experience or any issues whatsoever. We give them a key (not that we have much by way of expensive possessions, but still), we have a baby, etc. Never did we feel uncomfortable with the people in our house. The vast majority of our guests have been really cool and very friendly and interesting.
There are great, trustworthy people out there and they're not hard to find. I think a willingness to trust people grows faith in humanity.
I was in Amsterdam one November and after a nice couple of days I was on my way to the airport....running late of course. When I got to the train station I found it closed and no one to be seen anywhere. As I was losing hope to make it to my flight three people showed up: An Italian man who was dropping two relatives at the station to head to the airport asw well. When they found out the stations were closed and figured out my predicament he offered to help me. We took a tram back to his office where he picked up his car and took me and his family all the way to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The car was small (I am not) and with all the luggage it was really uncomfortable for them. Nonetheless we had the nicest ride on the way to the airport trying to communicate in English/Italian and sign language. When we got there he even dropped me at my terminal first. His name of all things was Angelo...how appropriate!
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After 9/11 happened my husband & I went to New York City. It was my 40th birthday and we have always loved NYC and we just felt compelled to visit. We made no plans or reservations. We easily found a place to stay because there were few visitors there. The first night we went to a bar and met 2 American Airline pilots. We partied with them talked about what had happened. They bought us birthday celebration drinks and asked us if we were afraid to fly. We said "no", and explained drove there because it was spontaneous. They were wonderful souls mourning the loss of their colleagues. The next night we went to Greenwich Village and ate at Monte's Trattoria. We were asked to come in by the server and no one else was there. We were treated to the best italian dinner we have ever had. The owner sat with us throughout dinner and shared stories of his son and his life. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality we were shown and could see the pain on the faces of those we spent that evening with. We then saw an awesome concert- Chuck Mangione live at the Blue Note. We were able to purchase some of the best seats in the house. We met 2 wonderful women who shared stories with us about living in NYC. One had actually played with Dave Brubeck. We knew NYC was going to recover after that visit. How could it not with people like that living and working there. We will never forget the wonderful hospitality we were shown during that difficult time. NYC will forever be my favorite city.
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Many years ago, on a back-packing trip through Europe, I had my wallet stolen in the south of France. At that point, every word of French I ever knew flew out the window! Of course, the gendarme I was trying to report the theft to did not speak English... well, a young, scruffy-looking, bearded kid saw my dilemma & stayed around to help me translate & report the theft. He missed three trains home just to help me out! Whenever this story comes up I think of him & wish him well... (never did get my wallet or money back... oh well.)