Traveling solo I often wind up in neighborhoods where there are no other tourists when I’m traveling simply because that is where some of the art museums happen to be located. As a solo traveler I must rely on my own navigational abilities but I often seek assistance from strangers.
When I was in Medellin, Colombia I visited the Casa Museo Pedro Nel Gomez in the Aranjuez neighborhood. I was definitely the only tourist walking along the street and I did feel a little uncomfortable at first, it just seemed a bit dodgy.
I kept walking for a while until I was not sure if I was lost or not and I passed someone on the sidewalk, pointing up the road I would ask “Museo Gomez?” and each time the person smiled warmly and assured me that I was on the right track.
I felt more comfortable in the neighborhood simply because I had interacted with some of the people along the way. I saw kindness in their faces.
With everyone’s help I found my way to the museum and spent the afternoon taking in the extraordinary collection of work by Colombian artist Pedro Nel Gomez.
Time and again during my travels I have been warmly welcomed by strangers, helped with directions, sometimes even before I knew I was lost.
I remember standing on a train platform in Paris with my sister. We were trying to figure out if we were on the correct platform or not when a Parisian man passing by informed us that the train to Brussels was in fact the adjacent platform. He saved us from missing our train.
I probably never would have discovered the wonders of SCUBA diving if not for the kindness of strangers. I had gone snorkeling off the coast of Bali with a group of divers and afterwards I was chatting with some of them. They asked why I hadn’t gone diving instead of snorkeling. I explained my fear of diving and my fear that I would become very claustrophobic while under water.
“Well try it now!” offered one of them as he motioned towards the water and then enthusiastically explained that I could put on his gear and check it out to see if I would be claustrophobic. Sure!
He explained the basics and helped me to put on the gear, which felt a little awkward while on land but once I waded into the water it was all fine as I became weightless.
Breathing underwater is a bizarre sensation. My brain knows I can’t breathe while submerged under water but I was breathing and I was underwater.
It was euphoric!
Later in my travels to Thailand I spent three weeks on the island of Koh Tao and received my PADI open water diver certification. I wouldn’t have done it without the kindness of the diver in Bali allowing me to try out his gear.
When I was in Indonesia I became ill after eating a chicken salad sandwich for lunch one day. I should have stuck with the local food, some nasi goreng (fried rice dish) or bakso (soup) would have been a wiser choice. I was nursing a bad case of food poisoning instead.
For a couple of days I couldn’t hold any food down and I was thoroughly exhausted. Sitting alone out on the veranda of the guesthouse in Padang Bai I must have looked truly pathetic.
No one came near me. I felt like crap. I’m sure I looked like crap too.
I am very grateful to the German woman who took notice and came to my rescue. She said I needed to get some salt into my body, to rehydrate and get my appetite back. She gave me a couple of little packets of chicken broth, one of which I prepared and happily drained the cup.
I felt better immediately, not just for the basic nourishment but also for the kindness of the woman who took notice and helped me out.
I will always remember these acts of kindness from strangers.
A journey through the alphabet with ABC Wednesday Project where people from around the world create a weekly post – landing on the letter K this week.
One of the things I have found I could rely on while traveling solo is the kindness of strangers. Have you had similar experiences?