There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” -William Butler Yeats
Point 3 from my Helen’s Travel Taoism – how to mentally overcome travel disasters post states “Don’t be scared to ask for help; locals are a great resource.” This couldn’t be truer. There are countless times I’ve relied on locals to help point me in the right direction. This past weekend alone while I was in New York City, I asked New Yorkers questions to find the closest subway stops and to make sure I was on the correct line when I wasn’t sure myself. Travel karma is about putting back into the karma pot and reciprocating to others these small acts of kindness. These acts are limitless whether its help with directions, advice on an attraction or even letting someone crash at your place. While it’d be virtually impossible to return a favor to a person met randomly from the street who gave you directions, you can help another lost soul instead. If karma is about cause and effect, I fully believe that the nicer you are to strangers and help them out when they need it, you’ll be taken care of when you’re in the same situation…or at least positive energy in the atmosphere is working in your favor.
The very first time I traveled by myself I literally had landed in Madrid and needed to find the apartment that I was crashing at that night (thank you couchsurfing!). I miraculously got to the right subway stop but once I was above ground my poor directional skills kicked in so I asked a woman walking by if she could point me in the right direction. I hopelessly had a map and the address scribbled down on a piece of paper. She spoke very little English but refused to leave my side until she found someone who could help me. While the 5 or 10 minutes she took to do this may not have seemed like much to her, her generosity meant the world to me at that moment. She could not have known that it was my first time traveling alone never less the first day of my trip. This is only one example out of thousands when travel reinforced the universal kindness of people…and I couldn’t have been more thankful at that time to have found someone to help me somewhere in the outskirts of Madrid.
So this past Wednesday when a Chinese woman approached my aunt and I asking for directions, without hesitation we offered what help we could. The lady spoke virtually no English and was frantically trying to figure out how to get to Penn Station. The least my aunt and I could do was to point her in the right direction using a mix of sign language and charades (I was internally kicking myself for not learning more Mandarin). Off she went to the correct exit of the subway station and a little more positive karma was added to the travel karma pot.
Have there been times when the generosity of a stranger helped you out on your travels? Or a time when you’ve gone out of your way to help out a traveler? Please share in the comments section!