Altruism in Travel
Recently I have spent a great deal of time pondering the amazing altruistic nature of people. There are two things I really dislike in the world: blind hatred and true cynicism (as opposed to the humorous sarcastic cynicism). However, it really turns me on to the human race when I witness, or am impacted by, moments of altruism. I really think that as a traveler I get the opportunity to see more of these moments than I would if I stayed in one place. I, in turn, try to help people whenever I can (whether from kindness or to ‘pay it forward’). Today, I am thinking of three different occurrences, in three different parts of the world, where I was affected by altruism:
As I was traveling through Guatemala, a friend of a friend named Rudy picked my friend Will and I up from the airport. I mean, dropping and picking people up from the airport is serious friendship territory. It doesn’t stop there though, Rudy took time from his work week to drive Will and I around the country, coming to pick us up in bizarre locales after we were finished exploring. At one point, Will and I met an British girl named Fran who began touring with us. When we told Rudy that we could all just take a bus and he didn’t need to worry about helping (as he had done more than enough), he just shrugged, smiled, and then said it was absolutely no problem to take the three of us. Rudy has a job, a wife, and a young daughter, but he could not have acted more selflessly to help people that he didn’t even know personally…
…and that brings me to my second story which happened recently. Last year I was living in Korea. As holidays came around, there were a great number of people who were heading across the East China Sea to go to Japan. I wrote this brief guide to touring Japan since I have lived and been there multiple times. One of the girls in the forum was still a bit nervous about traveling alone and asked if I could put her in contact with anyone. I contacted an old friend named, Mugi, who had been a close friend while I was living there many years back. Mugi, without hesitation, asked for her number and what kinds of things she wanted to see. It was amazing to me that I friend would make time for someone they didn’t know as a favor to me. Then last week, I met a new friend while I was in Siem Reap who took me on a great bike tour through Angkor Wat. She decided to head to Japan for Christmas and I told her I would ask my friends if they would show her some of the sites. Within five minutes I had received four responses from friends who wanted to show her around Tokyo. I was, and am, incredibly touched by how strong the bonds of friendship have lasted even after many years apart. I am blessed to be surrounded by incredible people in my life.
The last, and the one I always keep close to heart comes from my time in Germany. Before I flew into Frankfurt airport, I had no place to stay and I was not yet sure where I would go (as I often do in traveling). I had told my dad in a Skype call that I was just going to head into the city and find something, but within 10 minutes he had called a friend. That friend had a friend who had a friend who was leaving town momentarily and said I could stay in their house for as long as I liked. Think about that, a person four connections away from me opened their house to me (That’s 3 connections away from staying at Kevin Bacon’s house). When I arrived at the beautiful two story house in the countryside just outside of Frankfurt, the neighbor was waiting to give me the key and take me to lunch. Once I went into the house, I found a letter on the table addressed to me. It has been years since I left Germany, but I still keep that letter with me as a reminder of altruism and hospitality: “Dear Jordan, Welcome to Niederhodstradt. This house is old and not very clean (both were untrue). We hope you enjoy your stay anyway. Feel at home and please use, open, eat, drink, cook, watch whatever you want or need. More drinks are in the cellar. Bikes are in the garage, a lock is on the table -garage key is the big one. Bless you and enjoy your European freedom. Also, the money on the table is for you!”
Now, that doesn’t even begin to speak to the kindness of those I do know. Many of my friends and family friends have opened their houses to me, gotten me back on track when I was lost or down, or were just there for me as a friend.
Note: If you need one more extreme case of altruism, check out what happened when I lost my passport and money in Kuala Lumpur.