Tis’ the season to spread cheer and joy (as is every day we breathe and inhabit this world). However, during the holiday, I find it vital to share some stories of hope and gratitude in contrast to all the stories of horror and despair the news relentlessly spews at us. It’s crucial to give THANKS for the many blessings we do have in this life, no matter how small they may seem. Every act of kindness should never go unnoticed. KINDNESS MATTERS. KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING. In this post, various travelers + adventurers will share their tales of receiving/giving kindness and how each act greatly impacted their life in some way or another. I challenge each of you to make a conscious effort, in return, to spread kindness wherever you may wander – to lend a helping hand to a stranger or simply smile + bid a “good-day” to a passerby. Every effort to be kind is valiant. We CAN change the world, one act of kindness at a time. AND I am here to prove to you, as are these wonderful explorers below, that there is, indeed, still good in the world.
Table of Contents:
“The Aloha Spirit” written by: Mindy on the Move
“My Papa Dominicano” written by: Bohemian Soul Travel
“Little Miracle in Mexico” written by: The Blessing Bucket
“A Collection of Mountain Rescues” written by: Alex A. Herrera
“The Generous Icelandic Farmer” written by: Morgan Hilliard
“The Balinese Bus Driver” written by: Wander Often Travels
“Muy Loco” written by: Travelface Blog
“In Typical Japanese Fashion” written by: Our Travel Soup
“Lit Up with Kindness” written by: The Turquoise Traveler
“A True Friend” written by: Jay Ruzbacki
“Surrogate Family in Nepal” written by: Jocelyn Hetrick
“Walking, Side by Side” written by: Mindy on the Move
*Each photo above each tale is property of the author (to that tale).
“The Aloha Spirit”
Written by: Mindy on the Move
My husband and I have experienced abounding kindness along our travels and are forever grateful for every single act. However, an instance that momentarily stands out to me is the time Doug and I took the public bus from Turtle Bay Resort to Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. We had plans of going ATV-ing throughout Ka’a’awa Valley (where various scenes of Jurassic Park were filmed) and I was utterly stoked for this spectacular adventure. Not having much time to spare, considering we were catching our flight out of Honolulu later that evening, we were on a decently strict schedule. Low and behold, we ended up lost.
We hopped off the bus amid a small neighborhood along the single highway and, within minutes, realized something was wrong. We regarded our map and concluded that we exited the bus many stops too soon. As rain began to fall, we roamed around the housing plan looking for any residents outdoors to perhaps ask for directions or advice. Having few options (the bus wouldn’t make its rounds back to our current stop for quite some time), we could either: 1) Walk several miles to Ka’a’awa Valley and have no time to explore + ATV or 2) Wait for the bus to return and STILL have no time to embark on our planned adventure. Our afternoon was looking glum.
As we sulked and debated in front of a local’s home, a black SUV pulled up and turned into the driveway we had been loitering in front of. Half expecting the lady to scold or scoff us away (we looked pretty creepy lurking in front of her house), Doug and I waved, smiled and apologized for intruding. I further explained how we were lost and told her of our plans to go to Kualoa Ranch. In return, she smiled and asked us to stay put as she escorted her dogs out of the car and into her house.
When she came back outside, she happily instructed us to get into her car and told us that she would drive us, herself, to Kualoa Ranch – insisting that it was too good of an adventure for us to miss out on! Elated and a bit taken by surprise (we never imagined she’d offer to drive us, TWO STRANGERS, alone), we graciously thanked her and conversed with her along our entire ride. We exchanged stories of our homes and asked her all about life on Oahu – it was the most pleasant interaction. We even expressed our disbelief that she was willing to give us a ride and she replied, “people on the island are, majority-speaking, kind – it’s the ‘aloha spirit'”. I fell in love with the “aloha spirit” and it’s one of the top reasons why Hawaii has such a special place in my heart.
Thanks to this friendly woman’s act of kindness, Doug and I experienced the BEST afternoon ATV-ing throughout, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. Ka’a’awa Valley ended up being a Hawaiian highlight of mine and I owe it all to the big-hearted stranger. She didn’t think twice about helping us out; this act of kindness was second nature to her. It is people like her that give me hope for the betterment of our world.
Mahalo, my dear friend. I will always remember you and will forever seek to reciprocate the kindness you have shown us.
Since this occurrence, Doug and I have offered two strangers a ride in Iceland and have given a bicyclist a lift in Death Valley National Park. Not all hitchhiking stories end badly – in fact, MOST don’t. Most result in an uplifted spirit, a warmed heart, a newfound friendship and HOPE for humankind. We cannot allow the FEW bad to outweigh and overshadow the MANY good.
“My Papa Dominicano”
Written by: Bohemian Soul Travel
Travel teaches you about kindness in many ways, but there is one particular example that stands out in my memory. Eight years ago, a friend and I journeyed to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to rent a private villa on the beach and do some relaxing. I was constantly touched by the warm hospitality of the Dominican people in general, but Pedro totally blew me away. He worked at our villa as the security guard. He also regularly provided assistance to all guests by accompanying them on their excursions to ensure they would be safe among local scenes where tourists may not be common or could be taken advantage of. However, he did not speak good English so often it was a bit challenging for him. Luckily, I speak Spanish so I was able to communicate very well with Pedro and this delighted him. Due to this, we chatted a lot and felt very connected. So naturally, we treated Pedro like he was on vacation with us and invited him anywhere we went and to share any meal we ate. Pedro insisted on catering to our every need. He would not even let us lift a finger in the villa, which was above and beyond his duties. He told us we reminded him of his daughter and he felt like our “Papa Dominicano” so he had to take care of us.
What really blew me away though is that Pedro basically ended up saving my life. When I arrived, I was still recovering from a cold and expected I would get better. But for some reason, I ended up getting a lot worse during the visit. When it got to the point where it was looking like I had pneumonia due to extreme fever and flu symptoms, Pedro’s fatherly instincts kicked in. He took me to the Dominican medical clinic and fought for me to be seen. I will never, ever forget the look of sincere concern and worry on his face as he stood by my side and never left, just as any father would have for their daughter. I was so moved that I cried tears of gratitude to him for helping me as if I was his own child. Having a serious illness and being seen in a developing country can be very scary, but not with Pedro there to ensure I was given the best care to get better. There are not a lot of people who would care this much for a complete stranger. Pedro was a true angel.
The day before our departure, I was finally feeling a lot better due to the medicine I was given. Pedro arranged for his lovely daughter to come visit from across town to see us before we left. Since he felt we had become like his daughters, he insisted that we needed to meet her. That night, he and the other staff member at the villa went all out to prepare us a truly authentic Dominican feast that was typically reserved for holidays and special occasions. Then, they took us to the beach where they threw us a farewell party with local friends we’d made during the stay and we danced bachata all night long.
I was told by the owner of the villa that this was the first time he’d ever went this far for a guest and that we really left an impression on him. But in reality, he is the one who made the impact with us. I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of this amazing man. Even though we were total strangers, he treated us like family. It was so humbling when Pedro and the others shared with us their stories of coming from poverty, working unbelievably hard and yet never even being able to take a vacation like we were. We could not even begin to imagine the struggles and hardships that they faced in comparison to how privileged and fortunate we were. Despite coming from totally different backgrounds, we were able to connect on a human level and learn from each other. This experience showed me the real meaning of genuine kindness and compassion, and it was totally life changing. I will never, ever for as long as I live forget my Papa Dominicano.
“Little Miracle in Mexico”
Written by: The Blessing Bucket
I had been in Cancun, Mexico for a week when I lost my bag in a plaza. My friend and I were occupied with taking photos in front of a mural and forgot that one of my bags was dropped in a corner. When I realized, we had walked away for at least 10 minutes. We quickly retraced our steps to the place it was left. By then, it was nowhere to be found. “It can’t be gone.” I told myself. We called the phone. It didn’t get through. We started asking people around the plaza, including the security guard. After hearing my story, they only shook their heads and looked at me with pity. “Oh no, no. This is Mexico. It’s already taken and you won’t get it back. I’m sorry for you,” a man who spoke English said to me. My friend Marcela helped me turn on “Find My iPhone” from her phone. My hope was once again dashed when the results returned “this device is offline”. We sent a message to the phone, pleading the person to give back my things. Nothing. At this point, we concluded that the person must have switched off my device. They did not have good intentions. Everything was truly gone.
We walked back to our hostel and the rest of the day passed in a daze. I felt guilty, sad and a mess. That bag contained not only my phone, but also new camera gear I bought and most of my cash. I had two weeks left in Cancun as I was on an volunteering trip. Thankfully, I had a place to stay with the rest of my volunteer family who are the sweetest people. They comforted me and helped me look on the bright side.
Three days later, I had totally given up the notion of being able to retrieve my things. Until I suddenly got a message from my friend Marcela, “You are not going to believe this,” she said, “your stuff is safe!” By noon the next day, I was standing on a street, chaperoned/bodyguarded by my friend Eduardo, and meeting up with the person who picked up my stuff. He was a middle-aged man named Valerio, a Cancun local. It turns out that he had no intention of stealing the bag when he walked away with it. He found it and simply could not contact us because my phone was out of battery and it took a long time for him to finally charge it. Once he was able to turn it on, he saw our message. He right away called Marcela, who in turn called me.
All of my things were untouched. I thanked the man again and again for his honesty. Mexico has had a bad rap in the media. Stereotypes painted a picture of thieves, rapist, and drug lords roaming the land. But my experience here shows otherwise. There are tons of kind people here. There are tons of kind people everywhere. I felt blessed and grateful to the universe, who continues to show me the goodness in humanity.
“A Collection of Mountain Rescues”
Written by: Alex A. Herrera
I love to go hiking. I always push myself and most of the time, I hike alone.
However, I realize that I have limitations.
In my 20 years of hiking adventures, I have gotten myself into some sticky situations. Some times they were physically challenging and other times they were borderline dangerous. Most of the trouble I’ve gotten myself into usually occurred in the final frontier: Alaska. I’ve gotten myself lost twice there and nearly fell into an icy, cold river while bushwhacking in Denali.
I have twice hiked the Chilkoot Trail. This hike follows the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush Trail. On my first hike there, in 2006, I got myself into some difficulty once I crossed the border from Alaska into Canada. The crossing is on icy snow fields. Being from Texas, I am not used to walking on snow. On that day, I attached myself to a group of five fellow hikers who were from the Washington State area. I only had one hiking pole at the time and was having all sorts of difficulty on the long and steep slopes. One of the other hikers offered me their only hiking pole and did without so that I would be able to make the crossing. This helped me tremendously. No longer tentative, I was able to get myself to flatter and more stable ground. I was very grateful.
I returned to this same trail in 2013. On this occasion, I started the hike very late in the day so I had to make up a lot of ground before the sun set. I met a brother/sister combo who were also going to be on the same trail. I asked them if I could tag along with them. They replied, “Sure!” Well, they were about 20 years my junior and very good. I have never hiked with such speed and abandon as I did that day. I couldn’t quite keep up with them and whenever I fell behind, they would hold up to make sure that I was doing okay. We made it to our camp site just as the sun set. On the following day, this couple allowed me to go over the pass with them and made sure that I didn’t get into any trouble. After I got to sure ground, I thanked them and called it a day. Meanwhile, they kept up at their quick pace and finished the hike a day ahead of me.
In 2017, I flew down to Patagonia to hike the Torres de Paine ‘O” circuit. Again, I was on my own. However, on the day of the difficult crossing over an icy and slick pass, I attached myself to a friend I made along this adventure. We hiked together and kept each other calm and moving forward. I was thankful to have someone with me that watched out for me while I watched out for them.
In the summer of 2017, I took a hiking trip to the Tetons. Once again, I set out alone. I tried to get over a snowy pass by trying to take the alternate route. Boy, did I go wrong! I got myself into a tricky situation and had to backtrack and get myself off of that mountain for another attempt the following day. So, I hiked back to a campground I had passed earlier and asked if I could camp in their site (even though I didn’t have a permit). They responded with a happy “sure!” I was then given a beer by a group of Australians who would be attempting the pass that I failed to get over today. “Can I tag along?” I inquired. Sure enough, they answered with a ” Yup!” So, I put myself third in line in their group. I stepped in the very same steps that the leader created and got myself up and over that pass. I was SO thankful for their kindness and help.
I don’t remember many names of the people I’ve met on these trails but I am forever grateful to them for helping me out on these difficult and scary hikes and made me some terrific memories!
“The Generous Icelandic Farmer”
Written by: Morgan Hilliard
As I was travelling alone on a bumpy unpaved road in the the middle of nowhere, I suddenly noticed the smell of burning rubber. Yep. Amongst the vast openness of Iceland was a girl with a flat tire. I’d never changed a tire before, nor did I know how. Right after watching a “how to” video, I took a deep breath and went to the back of the rental car for tools- but they were missing. I had mobile data, but no phone calls available; my stomach was full of butterflies. No cars had passed and I’d been waiting for 2 hours. Finally, I saw a construction vehicle cresting over the hill! I stood in the middle of the road like a crazy person and waved my arms back and forth. Had I finally found my way out? Luckily the driver spoke English and I told him about my situation. He mentioned his farm was close by and that he could go back and grab something to help. As I waited patiently for his return, I wondered why I deserved such selflessness from someone I’d never met before. He came back with the proper tools and told me about his family and life in Iceland as he replaced my tire for me. I honestly had no clue how to repay him for such a generous act of kindness. I thanked him countless times and he acted like it wasn’t a problem at all. I really don’t know what I would have done without him and his authentic generosity
“The Balinese Bus Driver”
Written by: Wander Often Travels
Bali truly has some of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. Everyone I came across during my travels greeted me with a smile and always took the time to ask my name and get to know just a bit more about me even in just a quick conversation
One day, after being out in the sun for hours exploring the rice terraces, I was feeling very dehydrated and extremely over heated. The group I was with was supposed to meet our bus driver at a certain time and I was about 30 minutes too early. There was not a lot of shade at the meeting point and, since I was not feeling very well, I just sat on the ground drinking some water and trying to cool off. Our bus driver must have spotted and remembered me because he ran over and asked if I was okay and if I would like him to bring the bus early for me so that I could rest in the shade and air conditioning. It was such a nice gesture for a total stranger to go so above and beyond to help me when I looked like I needed it the most. I was so thankful and I will always remember that moment while traveling. It is so great to know that there are amazingly kind people in this world and, if we are lucky, we get to meet them!
Written by: Travelface Blog
My trip hitchhiking with friends from UK to Morocco made me truly appreciate how far an act of kindness can go, even literally so. After all, we were relying on kindness to transport us 1,200 miles to Morocco. Crazy, stupid? You would not be the first to say that. Many Spanish drivers shouted ‘muy loco’ as they passed us. However, the journey turned out to be such an adventure with plenty of challenges and lessons along the way.
One particular act of kindness will always stay with me. After several days of short lifts and long days, we were tired. And on edge. There had been a few close calls where we had considered camping on the side of the road. It appeared this day was going the same way. We were at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere with dusty plains as far as our eyes could see. Our hope was dwindling after several hours of only a handful of disinterested drivers and a limited snack selection on offer to keep our hunger satisfied. Silence descended and we all began to catastrophize. No-one will pick us up. Why are we doing this. How long would we be stuck here?
Just at that moment, a Mercedes drove up with a mother and teenage son. We had not bothered trying to get their attention, suitably defeated for the day and distracted by our anxieties. However, they approached us anyway and offered to take us all the way to Murcia. Despite it quickly becoming apparent our Spanish was somewhat limited, they ended up giving us a tour around the city once we arrived. Then, they bought us delicious tapas in a tiny bar along one of the cobbled side streets. Despite our protests, they refused any money and insisted on dropping us off at a motel on the outskirts in the evening to increase our chances of getting a lift the next day. They had no expectations of us, or any motivation other than kindness. I recall this lesson often, as a reminder of how far simple acts can go and how kindness is the only reason you need. After all, this magical act of kindness came just as we were about to give up, reminding us to trust, roll with it and push on to Morocco. Muy loco indeed.
“In Typical Japanese Fashion”
Written by: Our Travel Soup
On my first solo trip to Japan I experienced an amazing act of humanity. I had been exploring around all day and carrying a decent amount of cash just in case I needed it. As I got to the station in Shimokitazawa, I was in a bit of a rush grabbing my Suica card to scan on the way out. I didn’t think anything of it as I’m used to it living in New York City, so I continued on with my night.
At some point during dinner I realized I was missing some cash, but wasn’t exactly sure how much. I knew it was a large amount though since the money stash felt much thinner. I then remembered back at the moment in the station, and thought it must have fallen out while taking out the card.
My sister-in-law urged me not to worry, that it was most likely returned to lost and found in the station. I truly did not believe her, but on our way back we checked to find out. Well sure enough, it was there! Someone had actually returned the $260 in cash that was found on the ground. I was in disbelief. I’m not sure who this person is, but I truly appreciate their act of kindness!
I’ve since learned that this is quite common in Japan. A few friends have lost phones, and entire wallets and had them returned. So if you ever lose anything while you’re there, you definitely have great luck of getting it back
“Lit Up with Kindness”
Written by: The Turquoise Traveler
Sometimes it is the smallest acts of kindness that occur when you need them the most. I was on my very first solo camping trip in Shenandoah National Park last April and was attempting to use a propane stove to cook myself some chili for dinner. It was not going well. I accidentally held my lighter too close to the burner which melted the top of the lighter and sealed it shut. I could no longer get the lighter to produce even the tiniest flicker of flame. To top it off, I was wet and freezing from the surprise rain shower that hit on my hike up to Stony Man that afternoon.
Discouraged and dejected, I kept attempting over and over again to switch the lighter on like I was a broken record. It seemed silly, but I was almost frustrated to the point of tears and questioning my ability to feed myself, let alone solo camp. Suddenly, I was startled by a stranger directly in front of me. He was a tall, blonde man with glasses and a friendly face, holding out a lighter. I looked at him quizzically, genuinely confused as to where this genie in a bottle came from. He explained that he was at the campsite across the way and noticed I was having trouble with my lighter.
I was genuinely touched that a perfect stranger would be so considerate. Although it was such a simple gesture, I took it as a sign that my hair-brained scheme to spend a week camping alone may actually work out after all. It showed me that although I had set off by myself, I wasn’t truly alone.
“A True Friend”
Written by: Jay Ruzbacki
This is the story of an amazing human being and a sporadic adventure that tied the bond of our friendship. To premise how I met her, we both spent the summer of 2014 as camp staff at Whitehall Campground and Conference Center. We stayed good friends and occasionally hung out a couple times throughout the years. Then, after the possibility of me studying abroad fell through, I decided I was going to backpack through Europe.
In 2016, I messaged this girl that I had barely spoken to since 2014 asking, “Do you want to backpack through Europe?” She replied, “Yes, do you know how much tickets cost?” So that places us in some of the weirdest experiences we have ever had. Now let me take a moment of your time to tell you a small example of one of her many acts of kindness I experienced while traveling 14 different countries together.
Both her and I become very sick after eating some interesting street food in Morocco. By the time we had made it to Munich, I was so sick I could not leave the campground/ hostel (The Tent) we were staying in and I had been curled up with the cold rain the entire day. Not only did she stay with me most of the day to make sure I was okay (instead of exploring the city) but, when she left for lunch, she also had gone to find me organic mint tea and attempted to speak German to the staff asking to use their tea kettle. After that, she came over to comfort me and gave me the amazing tea that she went through all that trouble to provide me.
While this is a small act of kindness in the ocean of what I have witnessed her do while traveling, it shows how such a small act of kindness in a foreign country can truly go a long way.
“Surrogate Family in Nepal”
Written by: Jocelyn Hetrick
The most memorable act of kindness I have had while traveling was not a single act. While traveling in Nepal, I had the great opportunity to stay with a local family. This family not only gave me a place to stay, they fed me every day and welcomed me as part of their own family. Each night we would spend in the common area watching the local tv shows together, playing card games, doing various forms of yoga, etc. It was an experience I will never forget and one of the best parts is: I still have contact with them and plan to return one day.
“Walking, Side by Side”
Written by: Mindy on the Move
One day, when Doug and I were in Las Vegas, a dirt-covered and ragged-looking old man approached us on our walk back to our hotel and began chatting up a storm. He reeked of body odor and liquor and he smiled a toothless grin. However, he seemed very kind and harmless so we carried on with the conversation as we all walked in the same direction.
At a crosswalk, the man looked at us and asked, “What country are you guys from?”.
We replied, “Here. We live in Pittsburgh, PA.”
The man proceeded to laugh, “Thought you’s guys were European or something”.
Immediately, I felt an ache in my heart and was torn apart that this man thought, because we were simply nice to him, we HAD to be from another country. There was something drastically wrong with this scene. An American man was certain we were un-American because we listened to his stories and talked with him along a simple walk. We showed an ounce of kindness that, clearly, he was unaccustomed to.
Arriving at our hotel, we shook the man’s hand and told him it was nice having his company. Then, we wished him a good night and good luck on playing the slots. In return, he thanked us for taking the time to be decent human beings, saying: “It was nice to have someone to talk to for a change.” Total devastation wiped over me. Simultaneously, I was also filled with joy. Joy that I was able to brighten this stranger’s day, no matter how small of an act it was – it made us both feel GOOD (the stranger + us). Though, also devastated that such an interaction was such a rare occurrence in this sweet man’s life.
The man never asked for a single thing from us (money, directions, a light – nothing). ALL HE WANTED was a momentary FRIEND.
Collectively as humans, we must begin to spread kindess to others more and more each day. Be relentless in your pursuit to spread joy and happiness. It’s sad when you’re randomly kind to a stranger and they assume you’re not American. It’s SO SAD. My theory (as to why he assumed we were foreigners) has two parts:
- He lives in America (thus, is surrounded by Americans every day) and no one acknowledges his need to connect or converse.
- When someone DOES take the time to talk and walk with the man, they must typically be European = his conclusion that we were European.
In some ways, I can understand his reasoning. Throughout my travels, I’ve noticed it is common for strangers to pick up hitchhikers among European countries. Whereas, in the USA it is TABOO. It is common for strangers to sit near you at a pub and strike up conversations vs. blocking you out. Hostels and communal sleeping arrangements are a dime a dozen and sought after. Human interaction seems to be more of the norm and people are unafraid to make new acquaintances. Now, I’m not saying that there are no Americans who do the same – clearly Doug and I do! AND we know others alike, as well. However, perhaps it is more commonplace across the seas. If so, I’d love nothing more for this to change among our lands. I make it my mission to meet new people and to learn from them; I make it my mission to help them and allow them to help me; I make it my mission to connect and to reach out everywhere I go. Genuine human interaction feeds my soul. It helps remind us that we’re all connected in this crazy thing called “life”.
Oh, and the moral of the story? It’s obviously the tried and true, “Don’t judge a book by its cover“. Had we judged this man solely based upon his appearance (like I’m positive many do), we would’ve dismissed him and ran across the street – thinking he’d beg for money, stalk us or even rob us, etc. It’s basic and harmful stereo-typing that we need to free ourselves from. Even if he had begged for money, we’re inclined to help (however, it is seen on every corner in Vegas and can begin to break your bank if you help each beggar).
Regardless, had we ignored this sweet man – we would’ve missed out on a divine interaction. I believe we both impacted each others’ lives that day – proving to one another that there is still good in the world if only we open our hearts to it. We both left with our hearts feeling lighter and our spirits lifted. It really is that simple.
This concludes our collaborative post regarding the many acts of kindness we, lucky travelers, have been fortunate enough to experience. I hope these tales helped lift your spirits and brighten your day. Perhaps, it even put you in the “holiday mood” and you’ll pass on the good vibes to all those who cross your path. If you have an awesome story of your own you’d like to share, tell us in the comments below. Furthermore, be sure to check out these incredible contributors’ websites, blogs and instagram accounts – they’re all super rad.
As always, thank you for reading and happy travels! xoxo