These days we could all use some encouragement and positivity. As travelers, well, as people, we’ve all misjudged, done stupid things, or just needed a smile. Through my travels, I’ve been moved by random acts of kindness from strangers. Some the simplest of acts, others that made, or saved, a trip. Together with contributions of fellow travelers, I’ve compiled some of these experiences of kindness around the world. Perfect examples of “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12).
Kindness in Tulum
Contributed by Maria from A World of Destinations
My friends and I were in Cozumel, an island near Tulum, riding our bikes around the island. At some point we stopped to take some photos on the side of the road. I noticed an indigenous man nearby watching us. After a while he started walking toward us with something colorful in his hands. My first thought was “Oh no, he’s going to try and sell us something”. When he came closer, I saw that he held a bouquet of freshly picked flowers in his hands. He greeted us and intended to hand us the flowers. We kindly rejected, thinking that he’d ask us for money. He then said that he saw us taking photos, so he had picked these wildflowers from his garden to give them to us for the photos.
Then it hit me: This man was simply being kind and wanted to help us, offering his beautiful flowers to make our photos look prettier. I immediately felt bad for judging him. We ended up accepting the flowers, thanking him and talking to him for a while longer. He shared some historic and cultural background from his tribe with us and it was truly interesting to listen to him. As travelers we’re always so alert of scams, that sometimes we miss out on seeing genuine kindness.
Kindness in Paris
Paris often gets cast into a poor stereotype, just like American tourists. Yet, I’ve seen the city on some of its worst days and been moved by its peoples’ kindness. I was there in 2015 during the November bombing and saw the city shut down overnight. Everyone was saddened, confused, and scared. Nonetheless, we set out to explore what we could. The day after the attacks, we stopped at a candy stand in St. Germain des Pres, where the owner looked at us hesitantly. When my little sister ordered candy for one, he smiled and nodded. After we paid, he tucked in extra pieces of candy for all of us, saying today everyone needed cheer.
On my next trip to Paris, three of us were exploring the garden behind Notre Dame, when a huge rainstorm came up. My mom was across the street in a gift shop, while we huddled under the trees. Shortly, she came looking for us with a loud Paris umbrella. The shopkeep had sent her to find us, with one of his umbrellas, even though I had her wallet. We walked back and bought the umbrella, but I was surprised by such a kind, trusting act in a city as large as Paris.
Kindness in Costa Rica
We traveled to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for a jungle getaway. A few days into the trip, we realized we didn’t exchange enough money at the airport, and would need to visit the bank. We took a cab from the hotel to the local bank, only to find out they wouldn’t exchange our money without our passports. Of course, we had left them at the hotel. We didn’t have enough Costa Rican colons for a cab back to the hotel, and these cabs didn’t take credit cards. So, that left us standing in front of the bank, looking at each other stupidly and asking how we got to this point.
Up walks one of the friendly hotel staffers, off duty and on his way to the bank. He asked if we needed help, and we sheepishly admitted our situation. Without hesitation, he exchanged the dollars under his bank account and gave us the colons. I was so taken off guard by the unexpected kindness. He could’ve walked by and acted like he didn’t know us. Could’ve just said hi, or told us he was sorry and left it at that. Instead, he saved the day!
Kindness in Myanmar
Contributed by Charu from Travel with CG
In 2020, my friend and I landed in Bagan with little cash. The ATMs at the airport were not working, so we made our way to our accommodation, thinking we would get some money in the city instead. But even after trying for a while, we could not get cash from any of the machines nearby.
We visited the local bank to get help and found out that the problem is quite common in Bagan as ATMs often run out of money or stop working because of bad connectivity. They asked us to try withdrawing the following day. We were about to leave when a kind stranger stopped by and asked if everything was okay.
After hearing us out, he told us that this happens regularly and can take a while to get fixed. He helped us get a tuk-tuk and explained to the driver the address of an ATM that he had withdrawn money from a while back. He also offered to lend us some money in case that machine stopped working as well.
Since we didn’t feel right taking money from a stranger, he instead gave us his visiting card and let us know that we could reach out in case we still needed help in Bagan. Fortunately, the ATM he recommended worked, and we could get our money. Still, it was incredible to see that we were just visitors standing on the side of the road, and he stopped to offer monetary help without knowing anything about us.
Kindness in Maine
The whole family took a New England vacation, driving around Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. After a couple nights in Rockford, Maine, we were heading to our next stop. We got a few hours away when the hotel called. The housekeeper had cleaned our room and found my dad’s wallet. Everything- credit cards, driver’s license, and cash- and turned them into the hotel manager. We were blessed with two honest people!
Kindness in Belize
When I graduated college, my parents took me on a Caribbean cruise. (The quality of the photo tells how long ago it was!) It stopped in Belize, where my dad planned a major adventure for our fairly short port time. We took a cab to the airport, where we boarded a tiny plane and flew to Ambergris Key. The key is the launch point for snorkel trips to Shark Ray Alley. It’s an out of this world experience, easily the best snorkeling I’ve seen. Located near a gap in the barrier reef, it’s a gathering spot for nurse sharks, huge rays and more. We saw turtles, barracuda, and thousands of colorful fish.
After 3 hours of this wonderland, we boarded another tiny plane and took off with a couple crates of chickens. To our dismay the plane landed, we looked out and exclaimed, ‘This isn’t our airport!’. The pilot shrugged and said we had to make a stop at the main international airport to drop off the chickens. Then we could fly back to the municipal airport, where our driver was supposed to pick us up.
Well, this trip was already stretching the time limit and now we were delayed another almost another hour. When we landed at the municipal airport we leaped off and raced toward the parking lot. To our relief, the driver was waiting for us! Despite missing our pickup time, he waited, knowing we were due back on a cruise ship. He drove us at break neck speed to the port, where we made the last tinder back to the ship. Funny enough, that one was delayed thanks to a drunk guy who became sick.
Through a comedy of errors and the patience of one cabbie, we made our ship!
Kindness in Sardinia
The people of Sardinia are just generally friendly, but we had two special experiences. English is pretty common in Sardinia, but there are a lot of residents who don’t speak it. In fact, none of the drivers at a cab stand in Alghero did. We told one of them, in very bad Italian, we wanted to go the winery. Honestly, it was probably gibberish and the only thing she could make out was ‘vino!’. But away we went.
We ended up using Google translate and having quite the conversation with her. She dropped us off and came back for us at an agreed time. We asked to stop at the Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju, a prehistoric site along the way. Upon arrival, the entrance fee could only be paid by cash, which we didn’t have. Our driver paid the €10 fee for us and waited while we did a quick tour. She didn’t charge us to wait, and agreeably took us to an ATM so we could pay her back. It might not sound like much, but she didn’t have to pay the fee, and could’ve charged us extra for the stop. Bridging the language barrier with an app opened doors for friendly conversation that could’ve been a ride in silence.
The other Sardinian kindness came from our AirBnB host. We stayed at a lovely little, historic apartment in the Old City. When he found out we would be looking for a cab to the airport at 4am on Sunday morning, he said we’d have no luck finding one, but he would happily take us. Sure enough, when we emerged bleary eyed and groggy, he was waiting for us.
Kindness in Antigua
Contributed by Mandie from Wandering With Wills
I’ve had some incredible experiences with locals while traveling. To date the Antiguans are THE best of the bunch, and I want to share them with you for a few reasons. First, these stories will show that if you’re lucky enough to be in an unfamiliar place, there is always someone around who wants to make your stay special. Second, they’ll encourage people back home not only to visit new places but also reach out and get involved locally when they can – maybe if it’s just getting a coffee for someone on their way into work or picking up trash from their local park. And lastly, they’ll remind us all how important it is to treat others well wherever we go because kindness breeds kindness!
From the moment we arrived in Antigua, the airport staff were super friendly and pleasant, a completely alien experience! Small acts of kindness were received everywhere we went. Once outside, a competitor car hire company assistant approached us; after she noticed we’d been hanging around for a while, (yeah we were busy soaking up the sun while waiting for our hire car to appear). The friendly face offered to call the competitor company for us! She even came back 10 mins later and chased him up again! The airport porter loaned us the use of his extra large trolley to accommodate all that unnecessary luggage my husband had brought, all those outfits he didn’t need! These simple acts of kindness immediately made us feel welcome and at ease in our new warm Antigan surroundings .
And it never stopped, from the friendly waves of total strangers as we drove through the villages, shanty towns, destroyed by mother nature many times over, on this small piece of paradise. To the Bar Owner ( yeah we visited a few) who told us not to worry about the bill until the next time we saw him, Footnote … before you think we never carry any money, we had left the majority of it in our car, as the bar was floating in the ocean. And after insisting we paid him that evening, he kindly had someone taxi us back to shore (free boat ride) to retrieve more cash.
The Villa owner who gave us use of their kayak for free everyday, gave us a late check out, nothing seemed a problem for anyone. Ok; so i’m not living in a fairytale. I get that there’s always someone miserable out there, but one thing is for sure Antigua doesn’t have many! And the acts of kindness didn’t stop there, they just kept coming.
You need to get out there and travel. This is the only way you will discover all of the amazing things that make this world such a wonderful place; from people who add colour, culture, and kindness to your trip, to those that help you create memories.
For us, the locals and those random acts of kindness made our trip memorable.
Kindness in Georgia
My grandma lives alone in Georgia, and she’s had so many strangers show exceeding kindness. She was driving to Florida when her car started making a terrible noise, so she pulled off at the next exit and walked around her car looking for the source of the noise. She said she was already upset, and became even more agitated when a rough looking man approached her. He asked if she was having car trouble, and she told him about the alarming noises.
He took one look under the car, walked back to his truck, retrieved some tools, and climbed under her car, and after a few minutes, announced it was fixed. Her engine splash shield had come unscrewed and was banging around under the car, so he reaffixed it. He wouldn’t take any payment and just wished her a safe trip before he drove away. I like to think he was her Guardian Angel.
Kindness in Japan
I traveled to Japan right out of college, without having done much international travel beyond Mexico and the Caribbean. It was a bit of culture shock at first. This story is embarrassing, but I have to laugh now. I visited a temple outside of Kyoto, where I made a bathroom stop. I walked in and headed to a stall, but when I opened the door my face must have fallen, or perhaps it was just a look of shock. It was the first time I’d seen a squat toilet and I didn’t know what I was looking at. A Japanese lady tapped my shoulder, pointed to another stall and said ‘English’. She pushed the door open and smiled. I wonder how many dumbfounded Americans she’d seen… today, there’s a lot of amusing YouTube videos on squat toilets for dummies. I sure could’ve used that back then!
Kindness in Iowa
We went to Iowa for Geode Fest, a fantastic rockhounding event, and rented a lovely AirBnB on the Mississippi River. The first day of the fest, the weather washed out most of the dig sites, leaving them inaccessible. Our AirBnB host heard about the event cancellations and called to ask us if we’d like to do some geode hunting on his property! Located about an hour west, he hadn’t had the torrential storms, and welcomed us to dig in his creek bed.
When we arrived, he gave us the keys to his ATV and told us to have at it. We spent the day hauling five gallon buckets out of the river, onto the ATV and down the dirt trail back to the house. We offered to pay him by the bucketload, but he laughed and said ‘nah, I’ve got more geodes than I could want in a lifetime!’. He saved our geode trip and made a lasting impression with his kindness and generosity.
Kindness at Home
I don’t want to forget that kindness can be found everywhere, especially at home. We bought our first house (a fixer upper on a lake) and began hardcore yardwork, as we had decided to get married in the backyard. We met our neighbors within a day of moving in, and when they found out what we had planned, they all got to work.
The teenagers trimmed overgrown bushes and hauled away the clippings, two whole families tackled our massive deck with us- powerwashing and applying 10 cans of stain, another neighbor chopped firewood, one cleared waist high weeds, one helped me stain the table centerpieces, and on it goes. When I think back, I can hardly believe it. They did real, hard, work, sacrificed their time and weekends, and helped us turn a mess into a beautiful backyard venue. Boy did we all party hard when the wedding day finally came! We lived there five years before hitting the road, and we made lifelong friends.