On The Kindness Of Strangers

My musings about moments where I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers.

You know what I love most about travel? It’s the frequency of interactions where you experience the kindness of strangers. Whilst under lockdown, that’s the thing that I am truly missing right now.

Last week, I started watching the first series of Race Across the World, and it swept me away on the voyage of the competitors. It was such a great series that I was bawling when they all reached the final checkpoint of Singapore (after a gruelling 50 days of travel). The great adventure that each duo had experienced was nothing short of incredible. Clearly, the production team had found participants with very human stories that naturally tied into a beautiful journey of growth across the 6-part series.

However, the stand-out moment for me was the humility that the 3rd place duo showed to the guys who arrived last. The guys couldn’t afford the final furlong – a ticket up the observation deck to sign the book – so the girls in 3rd offered their remaining money to help them officially finish the race.

One of the girls referenced the fact that they had received so much kindness from strangers during their own journey, so why not also show their competitors that same kindness. That moment seriously pulled on my heartstrings. The tears hit a crescendo. I know only too well how amazing the kindness of strangers can be…

When I think back to those moments where strangers blessed my life, I instantly think of travel. Somehow we are more open when we have our life in our backpack and a map of possibilities. I can recall so many times when a stranger has opened a conversation with me. Some of these conversations lasted minutes and sometimes they went on for hours. Often those conversations brightened up my day more than I could’ve imagined. And occasionally that conversation led to a friendship I could never have expected.

My fondest memories are when I’ve been thrown into live-and-work situations with strangers. Like throwing dice into the box, you can only hope you’re lucky to get a six, and most of the time I think I’ve got a six. For the most part, I’ve been lucky with my dorm-mates and workmates, such that I have formed lifelong friendships from those jobs.

I’ve also had moments where I’ve been scared and I’ve needed a lifeline; like when I was dropped on the outskirts of a sketchy bus station in Paris at 3am. Or simply times where I couldn’t find my destination. Starting a conversation with a stranger (or two) in these situations enabled me to solve my problems. There is no obligation to help but often people do.

But I truly think that a simple smile is the greatest show of kindness from a stranger. When travelling you often encounter language barriers but a smile is universal. A smile is a mini dose of dopamine. A smile is freely given and fondly received.

A smile is the greatest currency for the kindness of strangers. And a smile is what I shall be taking with me on my daily lockdown walks.

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