Some anxiety-inducing situations create opportunities for randomly bestowed kindness.
Traveling away from familiar places can be so stressful: you don’t know where you’re going, you might not know the language, you’re suddenly very aware of how foreign things feel. And while those are also the exciting things about travel, they can certainly create tension as you navigate your trip. It can also force you to rely on people you might not normally interact with: strangers. And in so many cases, that produces results that restore our faith in humanity. From the next town over to a vacation abroad, our readers sent us stories of strangers who helped them while they were in fish-out-of-water situations. Watch out: these stories will warm your heart.
Who could forget an instance where a stranger stepped in and practically (if not literally) acted in such a manner to save your skin? When locals go out of their way to help travelers simply because they have the wherewithal to do so, actions are beyond meaningful–they’re angelic.
On Facebook, Gabrielle Rabon Waldrop tells this harrowing tale: “We got caught in an avalanche in Banff National Park and it completely buried our car. Thankfully a park warden and a few other cars drove up as we were trying to get away. One of the guys saw how shaken and traumatized I was and immediately gave me some tea he had with him. The park warden had to go rescue a colleague so we were instructed to stay put until he got back. We ended up sitting in the guy’s truck for a few hours and chatted with him and his daughter. They had been ice climbing that day. They were so nice and kept offering us food. I will never forget their kindness, it was calming after a near-death experience! Our hotel Emerald Lake Lodge was great too. [They] packed up our luggage for us (as we were redirected and stranded in another town hours away), and then once we finally made it back they allowed us to use their phones for a few hours and gave us a great rate on a room!”
Ryszard Gnuśny wrote of a distressing experience turned bright: “I was robbed of my money in the guesthouse I was staying in Cambodia while I was sleeping. There wasn’t a bus available back to Thailand until the next day. A Swedish woman offered to pay for my bus ticket back to Thailand but I still needed another place to stay. The guest house where I was robbed refused to acknowledge that I was robbed, and the Swedish woman and her travel companion got a room in another guesthouse. They told the manager of the new guesthouse of my situation and they gave me a free room! I was so grateful to the Swedish woman and the guesthouse… I repaid [her] once we got back to Bangkok!”
And then there’s the help you so desperately need when you’re sick and don’t speak the language. Lorena Guevara remembers such an instance while traveling in Asia: “The last thing you need during your trip is to take a half-day going to a doctor. But I got sick and needed ophthalmic antibiotic drops while I was visiting Japan. I walked into the pharmacy in an attempt to obtain medication (already self-diagnosed and prescribed as I’m a doctor). A caring Japanese lady, while waiting for her medication, saw me in line with my Google translator on and she called for the pharmacist, as she introduced herself with a smile: “Hello, I know a bit of English, can I help?“ I explained my situation. The pharmacist also kindly asked a few questions and gave me the antibiotic I requested. I thanked them, and both with smiles wished me well as I left.”
The Things They Carried
Readers often spoke of strangers who helped them physically move their heavy belongings around.
On Facebook, Judy Robinson Smith said of her time in Australia, “I had to walk down two flights of stairs to get to the tarmac and stopped to lower the handle on my roll-aboard suitcase. A young man who was also boarding stopped and quickly picked up my suitcase, saying ‘let me help you’ and carried it down the stairs which was a big help. He was partway up the airplane stairs when he turned around, came back down, grabbed my suitcase again and quickly carried it up to the plane door. He never stopped to offer. He just did it. He was a big help!”
Brennda Cauglin Richmond was so inspired she paid it forward on the metro: “[A stranger ] carried my suitcase up the stairs in the London Underground. For the rest of the time I was there, I helped anyone I saw struggling with those stairs!”
And in the forums, Ifnotnow_when remembered the kindness of a server in the Netherlands who saved her trip from day one: “After arriving in the Netherlands we rented a car and drove to Delft. After checking into our hotel we went out to dinner. We chatted with fellow travelers and a very friendly waitress. It was raining that day and we wondered aloud if it was going to rain tomorrow also. The waitress checked her personal phone and told us it was going to be nice. At some point we just happened to mention we were staying just around the corner at [a] hotel. Following dinner, we wandered around a bit before retiring to our room. In our p.j.’s and readying for bed, there was a soft knock on the door. Here was the hotel clerk. Apparently, in a jet-lagged fog, my husband had left his credit card in the restaurant and the waitress had brought it to the hotel. We were so happy. It could have been a mess to start the vacation on the very first day by losing the credit card. The next morning we went back to the restaurant to find the waitress, but it was closed. We were only staying the one night, so when we returned home some three weeks later I mailed her some euros care of the restaurant. I hope she got it, but I never heard.”
Got You Where You’re Going
No matter where you are and what technology you have, getting to where you want to go can be a challenge. In so many instances, strangers went above and beyond to get you pointed in the right direction–often by physically taking you to where you needed to be.
From Facebook, Nancy Reiss remembers a Brussels hotel manager who went above and beyond: “My very first day on my very first trip to Europe and I take the last Eurostar from London to Brussels. I have a hotel room reserved, but it’s dark, it’s late, I’m on foot, I’m exhausted from the trip over the Atlantic, and I can’t find it. I make it to Place Sainte-Catherine and find another hotel and ask directions. A very wonderful man at Brussels Welcome Hotel was extremely helpful, he called up my hotel and asked if they still had my room open and for directions, then he had his own personal car service take me and my family to the other hotel. I had to promise to stay at his hotel the next time I’m staying in Brussels and I intend to keep my promise.”
Teddy Minford remembers depending on humans before our apps showed us the way: “Before Google maps and smartphones, we asked for directions while driving in Milan and instead of telling us where to go, a dude on a Vespa just gave us a signal to follow him and took us exactly where we needed to go, helped us park, and then sped away.”
And forum user Mms recalled a time when an Italian hotelier made her child feel comfortable: “When the kids were young we were in Florence and taking the train to Venice. The hotel made up little bags for each of the kids with blood oranges, soda and a few other things for the train ride. Totally unexpected, but very much appreciated!”
But perhaps the most heartwarming experience you can have with strangers while you’re traveling is the connection you make by just becoming friends.
“I was in Dublin alone on St. Patty’s day and I went to a popular pub with great food and lively music,” says Sophia Rigatou.”A woman who already had a table asked me to join her because she was also dining alone, as her spouse was traveling. We had a wonderful conversation, which doesn’t always happen when talking to a stranger. She wanted me to remember Ireland fondly so she gave me these pins (a clover and a harp) that she had bought earlier that day for herself. It was such a sweet, unexpected gesture and the whole evening made me love Irish people and want to spend more time in the country”
And Jennifer Hansen told us, “I was really airsick on a plane as we were descending. I started vomiting in the bag and the lady next to me handed me tissues and kept saying it was going to be ok and not to be embarrassed because it happened to her before. It was really an uncomfortable situation but she made it tolerable.”
Says Amy Ross: “Arrived in Tahiti and had accidentally booked the wrong night at a hotel in town. The guy at the front desk helped fix our mistake, and when we asked about wanting to attend a church service the next morning, he offered to pick us up and take us. We sat with his extended family, and they all invited us to their church lunch/picnic [and] paid for our meal. The icing on the cake was [that] not only did they meet us at the airport/ferry station for each of our transfers between islands, but they also ended up inviting us to their home where grandma honored us with an authentic home-cooked meal. Afterward, they asked us to go watch one of their local dance group practices. We were completely and utterly floored by the Tahitian hospitality! There’s nothing like it. Complete strangers are now friends for life.”
And, finally, Gloria Hockley says: “We were traveling in Hawaii with small children years ago. We had a bad day and ended up at a small remote town, very hungry. The only hotel had astronomical prices so we left. We spotted a sign that said Office. It led to rental cabins, all were booked. The owner checked with a couple who had a cabin with 2 bedrooms and a kitchen who said we could share. We had no food to cook. The owner said she was holding a luau for her high school students who were rehearsing for a music tour. We were invited. We had a feast and saw the best singing and dancing.”
All responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.