I was lost.
I stood at the intersection outside Leipzig train station flipping my map left and right. None of the curves and lines matched what I was seeing with my eyes and I felt alarmingly foreign. On the verge of giving up, I approached a business man for advice.
His name was Hans, and he checked my map for me, comparing the address to the street names shown.
“This is not in this area” he said, “and there are no tram lines going there.”
Oh bugger. What do I do now?
After 20 minutes of consulting with various people at the same junction, he returned to me ,shaking his head.
“The only way to get there is by car.”
Then, he took out a spare ticket and handed it to me.
“I have a car at home. If you don’t mind, take the tram with me and I’ll drive you there.”
The media is showing yet another kidnapping or murder of tourists in some corner of the world, yet another scam and yet another plot to milk travelers of all their fortune. The media is good at that, showing us the dangers of foreign places, dangers of travel, and dangers of stepping out of our comfort zone.
I for one, never fall for such moral panic. Yes, there are dangers out there in the world, just as much as I can get hit by a car on my way to work. I’ve met enough people around the world to know that we are all human, and in general, we are all kind to each other.
Another incident at Hanoi confirmed my faith in mankind. At a bar in Hanoi I was having a quiet drink with a few travelers I met at the hotel when suddenly, I blacked out.
The next thing I know, the group of travelers and the bar owners were all busy around me; one was putting a cushion behind my head, the other was lifting my legs onto a chair to make me more comfortable and one held a torch to my eyes.
“Don’t worry. I am a doctor. You can trust me.”
For half an hour, everyone was there for my welfare and ensured that I got back to my room safely that night.
We really are kind. This is especially so when you travel. On the road, we rely on others to keep us company, and I’ve been surprised by the kindness a stranger would show to travelers at times of need. I am grateful for all those people who came into my life briefly to be kind to me, and while all of them strangers, none were stranger when I needed them than if they were my family or friend.
Now, I try to be kind to everyone I meet, strangers or not, for I believe acts of kindness by strangers are the only way to restore our own faith in a world full of violence, hate and sorrow.
Have you experienced the kindness of strangers in your travels? Tell us your stories!