It started in China. I was on a city bus with my team, early in the morning, on the way to the train station to travel back to Beijing. It was chilly outside so I had on my jacket and a long sleeved shirt and I had my too heavy pack strapped on my body. I was standing on the bus when I started to feel desperately warm.
I struggled to push my sleeves up and fan my face, but I started to turn white and feel sick. This was not good. I decided the only way to stop feeling sick would be to take my jacket off and try to cool off. What should be a simple task is nearly impossible when you are standing on a crowded bus and wearing a nearly 50 pound pack. I started to struggle with my pack and jacket, but there was no way it was going to happen.
That is when she stepped in. A Chinese woman standing on the bus next to me offered a smile and motioned for me to hold the straps on my bag while she helped me to slip my jacket off. Once my jacket was off, I felt the cool relief of fresh air and started to feel less like I might pass out. I turned to this smiling woman with a thank you and I think she understood me. It was a simple act of kindness that was exactly what I needed at that moment.
People often ask me if I ever felt unsafe while I was traveling. The world is such a dangerous place. I don’t disagree. But one thing that has always surprised me is the incredible kindness I have received from strangers who do not even speak my language.
In Malaysia, one of my friends and I were helplessly lost in Kuala Lumpur at night and a sweet woman from the Philippines helped us navigate public transportation to where we needed to go.
In Albania we asked a bus driver with a bus full of people if that was the correct bus for us to get on and he left his bus full of passengers to walk us around the corner to the correct bus.
Another woman in Albania actually closed up her store to take a bus with us back to where we were staying when we were walking around lost at the opposite end of the city.
Two girls in Malaysia left their yogurt counter in the mall to walk us back to the bus stop in a crowded market.
A couple in Japan walked completely out of their way to show us to the 100 Yen shop.
I could go on and on with stories of people who showed me kindness while I was lost in a strange city. I could also list numerous times people invited us into their homes and shared a meal with us, expecting nothing in return. Can traveling be dangerous? Yes. Is the world a dangerous place? It can be.
But it is also beautiful to find out that kindness is a universal language that needs no words.