Say hello to strangers.
When we are on the move constantly, we find that it's relationships and connections that we crave most. While it's not always possible to make lasting friendships and acquaintances along the way, it's amazing how much of an impact a stranger can have on your day.
We encountered several mean strangers on our travels but have chosen not to dwell on those darker moments. Instead, it's the kindness of strangers that left us with the brightest impression. People are good. It all starts when you strike up a conversation. Be open and present. If you don't speak the language, gestures and body language get you a long way.
Here are some of our favourite moments, experiencing the kindness of strangers.
A free shower.
By the time we reached Ljubljana, it had been a long time since we'd had a shower. So when a staff member at the local gym, allowed us free access to have a hot shower it was truly magic. We slept well that night! Don't be afraid to humble yourself and ask when you need something.
Tasting prickly pear.
I awoke in the van one morning in a small coastal town of Sicily. It was still early but I could hear Dan outside trying his best attempt to have a conversation in Italian with some elderly gentlemen. Note: The extent of Dan's Italian vocabulary is about 8 words. The men were very interested in our van and proceeded to introduce Dan to their friends, showed him how to prepare prickly pear and sent him back with a handful of organic grains in his pocket. Kindness sees past language barriers.
A free walking tour of Naples.
We had to pay for secure parking on the outskirts of Naples, so took the bus in and out of the centre of town. On our first evening we bumped into a local our own age, who we asked about the bus routes. The next day we bumped into her again and she insisted on taking time out of her day to show us around her favourite parts of town. Time is your most valuable asset, so sharing it with others is a special gift.
Fun at the car wash.
We spent a lot of time at beaches and driving along dusty roads, so Aramoana was often left looking less than her best-shiny-self. It was a difficult task finding a carwash with a high enough clearance for our high top. We finally pulled up into a carwash in Northern Italy (Cisano Bergamasco) and were having a go at asking how to operate the brushes and hoses. A local man was yabbering away in Italian and started inserting his own coins into the machine and demonstrating what Dan should do. It was all very comical as neither side quite understood what the other was saying. Dan worked up quite a sweat as the man indicated that the job needed to be done faster, before the time ran out. Our van is huge! He rewarded us both with free cans of cold lemonade (not sure I was a truly deserving party). We drove away laughing in our now shiny van, sipping on lemonade.
Free parking in Zurich.
We were fortunate enough to stay with my good friends in Zurich, but hadn't spared a thought on where to park our van. We didn't have a permit, so drove around the neighbourhood looking for a free park. A nice man at a mechanic offered us his own park to use during the entirety of our stay for free and even gave us some mechanical advice.
Fixing our loose gearbox.
In a tricky situation, the gear stick dropped out while we were driving and we were unable to change gears. Dan sprinted barefoot towards an alley that advertised mechanics. We raised a lot of eyebrows but the mechanic dropped everything to tighten our gear box and refused to take any money for it. He even offered us a cigarette, which we politely declined.
Sleeping at the Pizzeria.
Constantino, a lovely Italian man let us camp outside his pizzeria when we needed a place to stay and the roads were too misty to drive safely. What a gem and the pizza was fantástico!
A free meal and everlasting friendship.
Dan first spoke to Dejan at a music festival in the mountains near Sarajevo. Several days later as we drove through Mostar we saw him at a set of traffic lights. As we took a dip down by the river, who should come paddling up to us by kayak but Dejan. He invited us to come to a music festival in Montenegro the following day. We had no plans to go to Montenegro but we thought why not, so we gave him a lift. Dejan is one of the most friendly and inspiring people we have ever encountered. He was so generous with his attitude, his possessions and his time. Sometimes the world proves to be a small place and I hope we cross paths again.
Support for the journey.
During Dan's bicycle tour across the U.S., he encountered the kindness of many strangers. During a rest stop in Montana he walked into a bar with the intention of filling up his water bottle. After receiving suspecting looks and enquiries from the other patrons he was handed a free beer, a $20 note and sent off with messages of "good luck".
The world is good, see the kindness around you.
We read headlines everyday that the world is a dangerous place. That we should live in fear of each other. But we can choose not to live in that world! If you can't see past your fears, then it's hard to see and be present in the moments of kindness. Have faith in others and be kind to strangers.