The Kindness of Strangers

Yes, occasionally bad things do happen while traveling, but we have been amazed over and over by random acts of kindness that we have seen on the trips we have taken. These are just a few of the many times we have been the recipient of people going out of their way to be nice.


Dún Laoghaire, Ireland - I went to this town on my own and walked around the harbor. I asked a passing man a question about the town and he politely answered then asked the nature of my visit. I explained that my grandmother’s family was from this town. At this he lit up and offered to walk with me for a bit. We ended up walking for over an hour and he explained the history of the town, the changes that he had seen in the over fifty years that he had lived there, and other oddities of the area.

Singapore - Singapore’s metro system takes exact change or a Metro Card that automatically deducts the proper amount. These Metro cards are refillable, but not refundable. Our hotel offered us a complimentary loaner card at the front desk. While we were asking about the best way to get another one and whether it was worth it, a man walking out of the hotel offered us his. He said he was leaving for the airport so he was done with it and wouldn’t take anything for it. It still had over $10 in credit left on it. We made sure to return the favor to another unsuspecting traveler on our way out of town.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - There was a vendor making sweet rice coconut rolls but they only sold them in portions of five. Right after we asked about a smaller portion, another couple asked the same thing. We ended up splitting rice rolls with them and eating together.

Barcelona, Spain - After a day of walking around the city, it was time to get our bus tickets and go to the airport. We went to the kiosk by the bus stop and tried to buy a ticket, but the machine only accepted chip and pin credit cards (something the US had not started using at the time). A man (possibly a bus employee, but not sure) saw that we were having trouble and offered to help. He purchased tickets for us and then adamantly refused to take payment for them.

Krabi, Thailand - We were waiting for breakfast at our hotel when a van arrived to pick us up for our tour. We jumped up to grab our things and go. The cook held out a hand, motioned for us to stay, and went out to speak with the driver. When she came back she quickly finished up, brought out a container, and sent us off with breakfast to go.

Kowloon, Hong Kong - After getting off the train we went out through the gate in search of a bathroom. We asked an attendant where it was and she told us it was back on the other side of the gate and asked if we had just gotten off the train. We said yes and she told us to follow her. She unlocked some doors and took us to the staff washroom.

Hoi An, Vietnam - We accidentally gave a woman an extra 10k bill (~$0.45) when buying ice cream and she called us back and returned it.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland - We were setting up a camera to take a timed photo when a man (who based on all the camera equipment he was sporting, I assume to be a photographer) stopped and offered to take the photo for us. He gave us some instructions on how to stand, cracked a few witty jokes, snapped a few shots, then literally skipped away with his family. They are some of the best photos we have of the two of us.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - We bought a couple different snacks from a market vendor to try and she packed up a couple extra, saying “good, you try, you like.”

Kowloon, Hong Kong - We stopped at a crowded sweet shop in Kowloon, figuring if there were this many people it must be good, but we weren’t sure what the things were or how to order. We turned to a random woman walking down the street and asked if she knew English. She did and graciously explained the products, gave some recommendations, and told us how to order. After we made our purchase we ran into her again and she walked with us for a little bit, telling us more about the area and the shop.

Singapore - We boarded the bus from the airport to downtown, but we didn’t know that the bus only accepted exact change. Since we had just arrived in the country we only had the large bills that the ATM dispensed. The bus driver explained the system and we turned to go, but he said don’t worry, you just need to pay by the time you get off the bus and someone will have change by then. We were a bit dubious that this would be as easy as he made it out to be, but turned to find a seat. When we turned around the lady in the front seat had already dug change out of here purse and was holding it out to us. Relieved, we thanked her, exchanged our bill for her coins, and settled in to enjoy the ride.

Vietnam - In most places small children like to wave at people, especially if you look different. In Vietnam got the typical waving, high fives, and chorus of “hello,” along with the unexpected waving of many adults. Women and men, young and old, and even one group of construction workers turned to wave and smile.

New York State, USA - I was in the car on the highway with some of my family when the exhaust fell off of the car. We pulled over and called roadside services. A few minutes later a woman pulled up, got out of her car, and asked if there was anything she could do to help. We said we were fine, just waiting for the truck, so she left. She returned a little while later with snacks and gave us her number in case we needed anything.

Kowloon, Hong Kong - We spoke with a friendly local woman at the top of Suicide Cliff while we waited to take photos on the ledge. She offered to take a picture of all of us together and not only did she take a picture, but she took many, had us posing, and even took a panorama.

Taormina, Sicily - We had a bit of a scrape with another car on a narrow lane. Our Italian was too poor to handle this situation and the man in the other vehicle didn’t speak any English. A lady on scooter stopped to see if everything was alright, explained the law, and offered to translate. She had to leave for an appointment, but came back after and found us again to make sure that we were alright. This transformed a bad situation into something manageable and I am extremely grateful.

There are countless more examples, but the point is that we have encountered wonderful people everywhere we’ve traveled. We try to keep this in mind as we travel and do little things here and there that we hope will make other peoples’ day a little better.

comments powered by Disqus