I really don’t like traveling. I get air sick, car sick, boat sick, and I really don’t do well with greasy fast travel food. The six of us (my husband, our three daughters, our dog and myself) are taking one year to travel around Europe, and I don’t like to travel. I love trying new things, exploring new places, meeting new people and world schooling our kids. But the traveling days are hard. The driving, the lines, the packing, the unpacking, the searching for a groomer to get our dog a much needed haircut. Having reservations canceled, getting lost and not having Internet can make for some not so glamorous days. There are definitely trials and challenges as we travel. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving this trip and am grateful every single day, but on the days we actually travel, I really wish someone would finally invent the teleporting La-Z-Boy.
These tough travel days have also got me thinking about something. When you’re living somewhere, you’re usually pretty self-sufficient. You know where to eat, sleep, shop and get online. But when you’re traveling, that’s not the case. I’ve realized lately how we’ve often had to rely on strangers for help — and we’ve been amazed by how kind people have been. It has truly made all the difference.
Here are just a few of the times we’ve been graced by the kindness of strangers these past few months on the road.
- A few weeks ago, I asked a man on the street for directions. He was about 25 years old, and I figured he’d roll his eyes a bit at us asking directions to a big tourist attraction. Instead, he walked with us for two blocks, took us to where we were going, chatted with us for a minute and wished us a wonderful stay in his country. He then asked for my email address. Later that day I got an email listing all his favorite places to go in the area!! It took me by such surprise that a complete stranger would take the time to do that for us.
- We were staying in Austria for a week and a woman from across the street brought us a bowl of raspberries from her yard. She knew we were just staying for a short time, but she took the time to pick raspberries and to say hello.
- We were in Switzerland and hadn’t yet changed any of our money from Euro into Swiss Francs. I didn’t think about it as we pulled into a rest stop. Our three girls and I had to use the bathroom and as is often the case in Europe, we had to pay to get in the bathroom. It was a machine with a turnstile and when you put one Swiss Franc in the machine, it lets in one person. I quickly realized we didn’t have any money. As the girls and I discussed what to do, a man came over and, without saying a word, put four Swiss Francs into the machine, smiled and walked away. I felt such gratitude at that moment. It literally changed our attitude about the entire day. We kept talking about him, about how much he helped us, how kind it was of him to notice and to pay for us, and how we would like to help others when we see them needing help too. FYI — one Swiss Franc is worth one dollar. You should see what it costs to go out to eat!
- We got lost riding our bikes — again. We stood there on the side of the road looking at our map when an older man came up to us and asked if he could help. We didn’t ask him – he came to us. It made me think – how many times have I approached someone to ask if they need help?
- We were on the road recently. Our laptop cord broke – which really is a bad thing if you’re running an on-line business and the nearest Apple Store is almost two hours away. We were exhausted, we were hungry and our dog got sick. But then, that evening, when we were able to check our Around the World Stories email again, we got the kindest note about our stories. It honestly made our day. Thank you to all of you who have written us. It truly means the world to us.
The kindness we’ve been experiencing even inspired one of our stories — A Royal St. Martin’s Day. In the story, Maja helps a homeless man just because she took the time to talk with him and treat him like a person — like everyone deserves to be treated.
We have a niece who always befriends the kids in her school who don’t have friends. She finds the kids who are new or who are sitting alone and then becomes their friend. What a huge difference she’s making in that person’s life. If she, at 11 years old, can do it, shouldn’t we all?
Our neighbors in Washington brought a meal to the elderly man next door each and every Sunday. This is rural SW Washington so next door is still quite a hike. He lived alone and had no one else in his life who helped him like that. Once he called our neighbors on a Saturday and mentioned that he “hadn’t seen a lasagne in a while.” Of course that’s what they made the next day. What if each of us could do something like that?
Lately I’ve been struck by two things. 1. How many people have been so kind to us. There are so many good people in this world. 2. How much it has truly made an impression on our family. Even a small gesture really can make a huge difference. It’s certainly got me thinking that we need to pay that kindness forward — to be more like our niece, or our friends who always had a meal for a neighbor, more like those strangers we’ve met here on the road.
I’ve always loved the idea of doing random acts of kindness, but now I realize what an impact it can truly have on someone. We’ve come up with a list of ideas of what we can do for others as we travel this year. We hope you join us. I’d love to hear your ideas.