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The Kindness of Meeting Random Strangers When Traveling

I have met a number of kind people on my travels, encounters with individuals from around the world that lasted only a very short while. However, the pleasant memories of those encounters remain with me still. Here’s a list of some of them:

-Canadian woman on a bus in the Sintra region of Portugal

After a full day of touring in the Sintra region, we had finished up at the Moorish Castle and were waiting for the bus to take us back into the Sintra city center. D and I were both a bit tired and cranky from all the walking we had done and probably exuded a bit of weariness and irritability from our body language. Also waiting at the stop was a middle aged blond woman who I assumed was either German or from a Scandinavian country, even though she could have been the identical twin of a professor of mine from graduate school. While standing there she spoke to us, asking where we were from. We said the United States and soon learned that she was Canadian. What became even more eerie was the fact that she was a retired librarian from Ontario (same background as previously mentioned graduate school professor) not to mention it was my profession as well. We chatted the whole bus ride down the mountain in between sharing our itineraries in Portugal. She was absolutely delightful and made the time waiting for a bus while hot, tired and cranky much more enjoyable.

-New Zealanders in Brugge, Belgium

At the end of our guided tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery we ended up sharing a table with a couple who we assumed was from New Zealand, even though they said they were from Canada. Well, they were from New Zealand but had been living in Canada for the last 25 years (they just had never lost their distinctly New Zealand accents). What I found most fascinating about them was that they were visiting a slew of World War I sites in the area (a historical era I am immensely interested in). The woman went on to tell us that a great-uncle of hers had been killed at Ypres and they were going to see his grave. I also asked if they had been to Gallipoli in Turkey since the connection with Australia and New Zealand is so strong due to the mass numbers of soldiers that were killed during the battle; they of course said yes and highly recommended visiting there one day.

-A New Zealander and two Irish girls in Rome, Italy

I’ve written before how my first and only trip to Italy was less than memorable-a crappy hostel in a crappy neighborhood with an even crappier traveling companion (in hindsight how I wish I had gone alone). However, my hostel mates were utterly delightful. One was New Zealander who had been working as a nanny in France for the past year. The other two were Irish girls on extended break from their university studies in France due to the mass riots and other mayhem the country was experiencing during this time.  Each night we all returned to the hostel tired and worn out from the touring we had done and would just talk in our room, covering just about every young people’s topic as well as share some incredibly delicious Roman pizza.

-An American in Madrid, Spain

After returning from Italy, I flew back to Madrid where I spent the night before taking the bus back to Seville. My traveling companion in Italy (a fellow American who was in my program) and I were both at the end of each other’s “tethers” so we did our own thing while in Madrid. We ended up staying in a quad with a male roommate who spoke no English (I was leery of him the entire stay since he was a lot older than the average hostel guest nor was traveling with anyone). However, later in the evening our fourth quad mate arrived, an American college student from California. He spoke no Spanish and while he certainly could have gotten around on his own, I ended up going out to dinner with him and just walking the streets of the hostel neighborhood, giving him tips about Spain (even though I was appalled he had no idea what the Alhambra was).  For this, it was just nice having an encounter with another American who I hadn’t been taking classes with for the last couple of months.

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