Travel Stories That Will Restore Faith in Humanity

Continuing from my last post on uplifting travel stories, here are a few more that will make you believe that people are good everywhere and restore your faith in humanity.

Thank You For You!

One of my first solo travels abroad was to Morocco. I spent three weeks volunteering at a women’s empowerment center in the capital city of Rabat. My assignment was teaching conversational English to anyone who wanted to learn. Since there was no formal structure, I made the lesson plans, and delivered them alongside one other instructor. Often times, I would come up with creative ways to engage the students by talking about Moroccan food, weddings, places to visit, etc. Now that I think about it, I myself wanted to learn about these things.

having faith in Morocco
Students at the women’s empowerment center in Rabat

My students were 18-70 year old women and only one male. Though it was a “women’s” empowerment center, men were allowed to attend classes for free as well. The reason these people enrolled for English lessons also varied – some wanted to get ahead in their careers, attend an international conference, or travel abroad, others simply wanted to watch the television show “Desperate Housewives” in its original format!

In terms of their English proficiency, the students were all over the map, from beginner to advanced. Most of my students attended class every day for the time I was there, but most likely had periods of discontinued learning.

So for three weeks, we spent a few hours laughing, learning and sharing. The women would show me their wedding photos, while I would encourage them to explain traditions involved in a Moroccan wedding to me in English. They would write out family recipes in English and hand them over as homework assignments. They did a presentation about the best weekend destination getaways around Morocco and how to bargain at the souk (market).

On my last day at the center, the students threw me a farewell party, which came as a surprise. No staff person had instructed them to do so, it was purely the students initiative. When I arrived in class that day, a table was set up and chairs moved into a circle. There were homemade cookies, fresh brewed mint tea, presents and notes.

travel story from Morocco
Farewell party in Rabat

Needless to say, I was deeply moved by their gesture. Though their English proficiency had not drastically improved through my teaching, their faith in humanity had. They asked me why I took my precious vacation time, spent my own money to travel all the way from USA to Morocco, only to teach English to these strangers who I had never met before? It sounded like a bizarre idea, but they thanked me for it. As we had our last conversations around the table, they turned to me in their broken tenses and said, “Thank you for you!” I don’t know if they meant thank you for being who you are, or simply thank you, but it stuck in my head, and nine years later, I am still sharing this heartfelt story.

Your Home Is My Home

Couple of years ago, I was invited by the US Embassy in Bucharest, Romania to represent USA at one of the biggest book festivals in Europe. I stayed a few extra days to explore the rest of the country with a female run tour company – My Romania.

Read more about my books and representing USA as a children’s book author at BookFest Bucharest.

Ramona was the the proprietor and guide for My Romania. She and I spent a week together, driving the northern and western parts of Transylvania in her SUV. On our first day, she picked me up from Cluj-Napoca airport and we headed to a small village in Maramures.

We checked into a family-run B&B in a village named Hoteni. All I could see on our way there was vast agriculture lands, hay stacks, farm houses and narrow roads. When we passed the old wooden gates (typical architecture of this region), and entered the grounds, there were two houses on either side of the lawn, as well as a farm in the back. I was the only guest staying at the guest house, while the owners lived in the other structure.

humanity in Romania
Ramona and neighbors at Hoteni

Over the next few hours, I met a Romanian lady, Ana Pop, who owned the place. She and her husband were famous singers/ musicians who recorded albums and performed internationally. They ran the B&B as a side business, mainly to host their friends when they were visiting Romania.

The Pops extended families also lived down the street. One of Ana’s sisters cooked breakfast and dinner for the guests. Another sister, who lived down the road, stopped by to “check in” on the latest arrival. With not many things to do in the sleepy village, news of anyone visiting traveled quickly. Soon, people were dropping by with fresh cut roses, cherries from their backyard trees, and bottles of local wine.

Ana and her sister didn’t speak much English, so Ramona translated our conversations. We sat on traditionally woven carpets that covered every inch of the poorly ventilated wooden home, sharing stories, and laughing for hours. Ana showed me her photos performing in every part of the world. When I insisted, she sang me some songs from her album. Her voice was beautiful! The sisters dressed me up as a traditional Romanian bride and took photos of me around their house. The clothing brand Anthropologie had done a photo shoot here so I pretended to be a model. We all had so much fun!

travel stories from Romania
The Pops enjoying dressing me up in Romanian outfits

After dinner, one of the sisters, Ileana, asked me if I wanted to visit her house. I only understood this through Ramona’s translation. I accepted her offer and went with her alone in her car. Neither of us spoke the same language. We didn’t have a translator. But the language barrier wasn’t as big of a challenge as you may think.

A few minutes later, we arrived at her place. Ilena lived alone in her family home in the same village. Her husband has passed on and her adult kids worked in the big city. She split her time living in the city and the village. I understood all of this without translation. She took me inside and showed me her white lace textiles and woolen rugs. These are considered prized possessions among Romanian women, and often passed on through generations. On a pleasant summer evening, we walked in her beautiful garden filled with fruit trees and flowers. I understood that gardening was one of Ilena’s hobbies. She plucked a prized red rose and handed it over to me, “as a gift,” she said, with sparkles in her eyes.

Then she took me around the house to show me where she kept her spare keys. She explained to me that I could return to Romania anytime, take the keys and stay at her place even when she wasn’t home. She asked me to bring my husband to Romania next time and consider her place to be my own.

Ilena and I had met for the first time only the day before. We didn’t communicate much verbally, but bonded with our hearts. In just a few hours, she trusted me so much that she offered me her home. Such is the power of a human connection.

Ileana and I still keep in touch through Facebook. She messages me in Romanian, I reply back in English. Sometimes I use Google Translator to write longer sentences. But between Emojis, GIF’s and photos, we seem to convey our feelings to each other. Someday, I plan go back to Hoteni and use my spare key.

A Driving Angel

I flew from New Delhi, India to Kathmandu, Nepal for a 10-day volunteer vacation with Volunteers Initiative Nepal. The organization helps villages in remote areas of Nepal with various initiatives such as education, women’s empowerment, infrastructure building, sanitation and more. Their coordinator had arranged for an airport pick for me.

humanity in action in Nepal
Volunteers at VIN Nepal

On my arrival, Danish, my driver, was waiting at the airport with a sign that had my name on it. In an old battered car, we drove toward Thamel, the heart of Kathmandu City, which was going to be my home for several days. On the way, we saw dirt roads, broken street lamps, and almost no traffic lights. There were traffic jams, incessant honking, chaos all around – similar to India, but worse. Nepal looked like what India would have 30 years prior – without roads and rules.

After dropping me off at my budget hotel, Danish gave me his cell phone number (he had an old flip phone) and told me he would pick me up the following day to take me to the office for orientation. But if I needed anything in the meantime, I could call him as well.

In just a few hours, I started coughing violently, possibly due to the pollution in Kathmandu Valley. Though Nepal has some of the world’s tallest mountains and vast open ranges, the valley traps in heat, exhaust and pollutants in a densely populated city.

The next day, when Danish came to get me, I asked him to take me to a pharmacy. He helped me purchase a mask, antibiotics and nasal spray. That helped somewhat, though I ended up developing fever and cold as well.

Still, I continued to take breaks and work for few hours each day, visiting villages and projects. One afternoon, Danish drove me to Nagarkot, a village at the rim of the Kathmandu Valley known for its views of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. The higher altitude would do me good, he suggested. On our way back, we stopped at a rest stop for samosa, chai and mo-mos.

travel Nepal
View of the Himalayas in Nagarkot

We had interesting conversations during our long drives together. We talked about our families, cultures (how Indian and Nepali are similar but different), religions, hopes for education, peace, and much more.

One day, Danish came to me apologetically. He said he won’t be able to drive me tomorrow because he had to travel to another village for his sister-in-law’s wedding. It was a remote location and he probably wasn’t going to have cell service there either. He promised to return the following day though, so as not to inconvenience me. I assured him that I would be totally fine taking a taxi (which are super cheap and safe in Kathmandu) and that he should enjoy the wedding for as long as needed. “No need to rush back,” I said.

When I lay in bed that evening, I received a call from Danish. I was alarmed because I knew that he would have been engaged at the wedding around that time. “Is everything allright?” I asked him. He said that he felt really bad about leaving me alone in Kathmandu, so he stepped out and went to a pay phone in the village to check on me. Because I was a guest in his home country, he wanted to make sure I was well looked after. And he felt guilty that he was attending to personal needs over professional duties.

Even though, I don’t think he could have done anything from miles away, Bhumi was more concerned about my comfort than his family wedding. I thanked him and told him to have some laddoos (sweets) on my behalf.

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Did these travel stories help you restore some faith in humanity?

Uplifting Stories Of People I Encountered During My Travels

Travel is the best teacher there is. This saying is used in many different contexts. When we travel, we step back in history, discover a new culture, try different foods, but most of all, encounter all kinds of people. Through my travels, I have realized that there is goodness in everyone, no matter how different we may seem on the outside. You may not share the same race, religion, economic situation or political opinion, but have one thing in common – humanity. Over and over, I have met people randomly that moved me. These are their stories. Hope they uplift you too and allow you to see the beauty in everyone you meet.

As travel is largely on hold and many of us are going through tough times, I want to share with you some uplifting true stories of chance encounters and random generosities that I encountered during my travels.

encounter with a child in Greenland
Ina’s story inspired me to write my book – Beato Goes To Greenland

Thriving in Isolation

I had never felt more isolated than this. It took a few planes and a private boat ride to get to Ipiutaq Guest Farm in southern Greenland. Navigating icebergs, a humpback whale, and snow covered mountains, I arrived at a very private, family-run, sheep farm that had just opened its doors as a guest house with 2 bedrooms. There wasn’t even a dock for the boat. My husband and I literally had to throw our bags over a cliff & climb slippery rocks from our boat on to land!

The farm was run by a young French-Greenlandic couple, their 7-year old daughter, Ina, and an agriculture intern. This little girl was so isolated, yet filled with the world’s knowledge! There was no internet, phone, TV, or even a school or a neighbor, for miles and miles. The closest human was 40 minutes by boat in the summer and traveling by dog sled in the winter.

Yet, this little girl, Ina, could converse in 3 languages. She read lots of books and had long mature conversations with me. During our stay, I bonded with Ina. We hiked, picked herbs, had picnics, chased her dogs, licked glaciers, and watched the northern lights at midnight. Her life of isolation seemed sad at first (a 7 year old should be playing with kids her own age), but enriching at the same time (she was resourceful, outdoors and learning about life).

When I said goodbye to Ina, she cried. I wanted to give her something she would remember me by, so took off the red ruby earrings I was wearing. She still cherishes them, I hear. But this girl in isolation gave me the biggest gift. She inspired me to write my book series.

Couple of years later, I wrote my first children’s book – Beato Goes To Greenland, based on Ina. I didn’t tell her about this, though her mom and I have been in regular contact since my visit in 2014. It took a few months for Ina to receive my book by mail (traveling from Atlanta to southern Greenland). When she opened it, she was confused to see herself in the illustrations. This little girl had never imagined someone would write about her, let alone draw stark images of herself. She turned to the page that showed her with her two husky dogs and started crying. Since I last visited the dogs had been bitten by wild fox and had been put to sleep, her mom informed me. Such was the connection Ina had with her animals, as they were her closest companions at the isolated farm in Greenland.

Random Hospitality

I first met Anwar at Delhi Haat, a popular marketplace in New Delhi where vendors from all over India come to sell their handicrafts. Anwar, a young man from Kashmir, along with his brother, ran a pashmina store in the busy marketplace.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, pashmina is a finer version of cashmere, and the wool comes from a rare goat that is commonly found in the mountains of Kashmir, a region in northern India.

Over a vivid display of scarves and shawls, Anwar and I started friendly negotiations, as it is commonplace in India to bargain. He would say “this color looks great on you!” making it difficult for me to choose just one or two shawls. I would smile and joke that my husband is going to be mad when he finds out how much I spent! I ended up buying 9 pieces and he told me he could mail more if my friends in US liked them. We kept in touch through WhatsApp though I never did mail order any more items.

A couple of years later, I was in Kashmir for work, so I messaged Anwar to see if I could purchase more shawls from him. He was very excited to hear that I was in his hometown and wanted to arrange for my stay, sightseeing, etc. I thanked him for his offer but said I would come to his shop if that was ok.

uplifting encounter in Kashmir
Anwar and I at his pashmina storeroom in Srinagar

So my friend and I drove over to a small storeroom located at the entrance of his family home in Srinagar. We took off our shoes (as is customary in many Indian homes), and sat on the thick wool carpeted hardwood floors. Anwar brought out homemade Kashmiri kehwa (saffron tea) and snacks. We chit chatted a bit, then browsed through his inventory.

After our personal shopping experience, Anwar asked us to join his family for lunch in the main house. It was still late morning, so we politely refused. Then he asked if we wanted to see where the Pashmina shawls were made. This definitely peaked my interest.We left our car and driver at his home, and drove with Anwar through improvised parts of Srinagar, visiting homes of people who have worked in this business for generations.

One of the artisans had a tiny room where he worked and slept. He had his handloom machine, a floor fan, and a wooden bed right beside it. We visited people who dyed the wool, stenciled designs, and embroidered elegant patterns. We also shopped for carpets, leather and silver filigree shops – this time Anwar doing the bargaining for me.

Anwar spent an entire day giving us a behind the scenes tour of the artists in Srinagar. After that, he insisted on buying us lunch. It felt strange to be sitting at a restaurant with this shawl vendor I had randomly met in Delhi a few years ago, but the love and generosity he showed us, was what uplifted me the most. We never know when we meet someone if there is any reason for our meeting, or if we are ever going to see them again. Yet we continue to reach out to strangers welcoming them with all our hearts.

If Not Now, When?

I went to Australia last year for a travel conference. I arrived in Perth on a weekend and had Sunday morning to myself. So, I took a ferry from Perth to Rottnest Island. This is a popular place for Western Australians to go for a day trip and camping weekends. The ferry was packed with people carrying beer filed coolers, ready for a sunny day at the beach. I was able to get a seat on the inside, facing an elderly Indian couple.

After a few minutes of exchanging friendly glances, the older lady could not resist to speak to me. I seemed to be the only other Indian person around. She asked me where I was from, who was I traveling with, where all I was going to in Australia, etc. Now it’s typical for Indians to be that nosy! She told me that she and her husband had come from Mumbai. They owned a vegetarian Indian casual restaurant there and that they loved to travel.

Story of Indian elderly couple in 
Exploring Rottnest Island with adventurers from India

I could see that her husband had read many travel guides about Australia and was carrying a hand written itinerary. He wrote it in Marathi, the native language of Maharashtra (state in India). The pages were filled with names and addresses of hostels, Indian vegetarian restaurants (as the couple followed a strict diet), ferry schedules, and sky diving confirmations. Since they were out for a month-long vacation, they had pages and pages of travel details.

This traditional old Indian couple could have been my parents age. They didn’t fit into my profile of adventurous travelers. My brain immediately started judging them. Had they not heard of smart phones or computer print outs? Should they be skydiving, bungee jumping, walking on bridges, or staying at hostels at their age? What do their kids think about all of this?

Needless to say, I had an interesting conversation with them during the rest of the day. They told me they were in their 60’s and didn’t want to hold back on life anymore. “If not now, then when?” the lady said. So they decided to take a month long trip to Australia and do all the recommended activities that first time visitors would do.

When we stopped for a break on the island, they offered me homemade gujjia and besan ladoos (traditional Indian snacks), as well as a lunch they had packed from a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Perth. We took selfies, exchanged cards, and shared memories that I will cherish forever. Most of all, they broke many stereotypes that I had of older people and Indian travelers. It set an uplifting tone for the rest of my three weeks in Australian.

The Funniest Travel Stories from the Go Eat Give Team

When you travel, interesting things happen. You may miss your flight, get almost arrested, find yourself communicating through signs, indulge in a whimsical cultural nuance, or forge lifelong friendships with total strangers. In the moment, you may feel anxious, frustrated, or pushed out of your comfort zone. Yet, when you look back and think about those times, you have a good laugh about it. Every travel memory is a learning lesson and a great story worth sharing.

While our team is working virtually during summer 2020, we decided to share our funniest travel stories with our readers. We hope that in sharing ours’ you may be reminded of your own humorous travel moments.

Melissa Ting: Always Do your Research

Melissa Ting in front of Notre Dame in Paris, France
Melissa on her anniversary trip to Paris

I always research restaurants before I travel to make sure I’m getting the best representation of a country’s food. On this particular vacation to Paris however, I may have fallen a bit short… 

It was my first time in Paris, France, and as it is a place known for its marvelous food, I knew I wanted to do something absolutely amazing to celebrate my boyfriend and my anniversary of being together for 3 years. In conducting my initial research, I discovered that Chef Cyril Lignac had a 1 Michelin star restaurant, and I just had to try it! 

I had done my research and had even made my reservations several months out; and before I knew it, we were finally in Paris. I thought I had done everything right. On the day of, however, I was on the restaurant’s website, drooling over the photos of the foods we were going to later experience, when I happened to stumble upon the menu…and the price. I was flabbergasted! I quickly converted the Euros into USD, hoping that somehow the value of a Euro had dropped and my USD was worth a lot more. It wasn’t. I debated whether to tell my boyfriend but figured it was better to let him know before we made a scene in the restaurant. When I told him, he was in shock. Lucky for me, we decided to go anyway. 

This quaint little restaurant had the most exquisite food I had ever had in my life. We had a 7-course meal with white asparagus, scallops, lobster, steak, and adorable little desserts. When the bill finally came, we had been subdued by the incredible food and the 4+ hours of impeccable service. It’s a night that we (mostly me) still laugh about to this day! 

Lesson Learned: Research beyond the pretty food pictures and definitely confirm the price in your own currency before booking a restaurant.

Laura Vo: Beware of the….Bucket? 

Laura Vo on a travel trip
Laura Vo on a vacation

I was around four-years-old when I first traveled to Vietnam. Being a Vietnamese American, I was in tune with much of our customs and culture. However, it wasn’t until I went for the first time that I genuinely was culture-shocked. It was mid-day when it was time for me to take a bath. 

Being only four, you’d think my parents or someone would supervise a child during this time, but everyone thought that I’d be okay on my own. So I walked in, ready to wash, only to come face to face with two buckets. One was small and filled with water, and the other was large enough for a person to stand in.

At first, I was confused about what I needed to do, but I decided to sit in the larger bucket for a few minutes. I don’t know when the thought hit me, but I realized that the water from the smaller bucket needed to go into the one I was sitting in, so I began dumping all the water into it. I also found a soap that I could use and proceeded to squirt as much of it as possible into the water I was sitting in. This resulted in a slippery, bubble bath concoction.

As the bucket was quite deep and everything was wet and slippery, I couldn’t get myself out and could only sit there screaming in sadness. I was in there for about 30 minutes when my mom finally came in to check on me. I remember her being so shocked to see the makeshift miniature pool and me hysterically crying. With my mom’s help, I was freed and cleaned off. For the rest of my stay, however, I was told that I was extremely terrified of buckets.

Lesson Learned: Don’t underestimate the bucket… or unexpected cultural norms.

Jordan Dunn: The Brig Is Real  

Jordan Dunn on a Caribbean Cruise to St. Thomas
Jordan Dunn on a Caribbean Cruise

I am no stranger to cruise travels. Starting with my first cruise at the age of eight, my memories of these trips are endless. I will never forget however, the day I learned that the brig is real. 

At fourteen, no one could have convinced me otherwise that I was not, in fact, invincible. With that mindset in tow, it never once crossed my mind that I should have checked in with my grandparents, or even my older sister about where I was venturing off to.

In my defense, I had simply made a new friend, a girl my age from England and we had spent the late afternoon and evening hanging out, exploring the boat, and talking about our respective cultures. Having always encouraged me to learn about new cultures, I thought my grandparents would be so happy to hear about how I had spent my time.

Never did I expect to hear “Jordan, please come to the main desk on deck 5” come blaring over the loudspeaker! I was mortified but of course, and made my way to the front desk, where I was met by – none other than my anxious grandparents and a terrifyingly stern cruise ship security officer. Expecting to speak my case and be scolded but lovingly embraced for my safe return, I was taken aback by what happened next. The security man said that if I did it again, I would be sent to the brig! My fourteen-year-old self didn’t even know what the brig was, so needless to say I was scared straight. 

To this day I have no clue if that security man meant what he said, or if it was just a scare tactic, but it can be said for certain that I never again wandered off on a cruise… 

Lesson Learned: 14-year-olds do not, in fact, know it all, and cruise security means business.

Sucheta Rawal: All’s Well That Ends Well

Travel Stories from Sucheta and Dipak in Santorini, Greece
Sucheta and Dipak in Santorini, Greece

A long time ago, my husband and I traveled to Greece. We rented a car in Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete, exploring the little villages and getting a flavor for authentic Greek life. This was back in the days before GPS and smartphones. We didn’t speak Greek and only had a physical paper map to guide us through the complicated streets.

After our road trip around Athens, we were supposed to head to the port to sleep on an overnight ferry from Athens to Crete. I had everything printed out – direction to the port, car rental papers, cabin reservations, etc. Even with all my preparation, we just couldn’t find the port! We drove for hours and hours, until all the streets started looking the same. Finally, we asked a taxi driver to lead us to the ferry port. We followed him in our rental car and found the port that was only a few minutes away. We had been so close! In our minds, we had fortunately planned enough time to get lost and still make our departure time.

However, just as we got to the docks, the ship was pulling away. Based on my calculations, we still had hours before the ferry was supposed to leave. I pulled out my printed reservation which read as “Departure 19:00.” Somehow my brain misread the military time and converted the actual 7pm departure time to 9pm!  

Since we still needed to get to the next island, we found the cheapest hotel nearby and booked the first flight out the next day for a quick flight to Crete.

Everything went smoothly. Instead of a 9- hour ride on a ferry, our flight took less than 1 hour. The hotel we had booked in Crete was walking distance from the ferry port (as per the original plan) and had a nice view of the Mediterranean. Just as we settled into the room and looked out the window, we saw our ship just pulling in. We had a good laugh at our own blunders and misadventures. At least we were right on schedule!

Lesson Learned: Know how to read Standard time vs Military Time, and just because the original plan didn’t work doesn’t mean everything is ruined.

For more unexpected adventures, read about driving into Mexico…by accident!

~By Jordan Dunn, Marketing and Communications Intern at Go Eat Give. Jordan is a Public Relations and Communications Marketing Major at Siena College in Upstate NY. She has a passion for writing, traveling, and advocacy. Follow her on Facebook and Blog for more about her personal travel stories.