One thing that will make you a better traveller – The importance of paying it forward.
Everybody needs a hand at some point. This is a few stories of people who helped me out, without expecting anything in return and why I am the first one to offer to help a lost looking traveller.
This post is dedicated to the lady who checked me into the Air New Zealand business class lounge last week. I was working on my laptop waiting for my flight (I was super early for possibly the first time in my life) and a professional looking women stopped mid-stride on her way past me.
“Are you flying Air New Zealand?”
“Do you want to come to the business lounge, it's way easier to work there and I have a plus one”
I grabbed my stuff and hurried after her, she flashed her card at the door and waited till they scanned my boarding pass.
“Have some food and a drink, enjoy” She said.
Disappearing almost before I could offer my profound thanks. I parked myself in a big comfy chair with an internal squee (yes I’m poor, I have never travelled business class, this all new for me) and started really banging out a post. About twenty minutes later I looked up at my surroundings and suddenly realised the buffet and drinks on offer were all FREE! I squeed out loud in a much less dignified manner. Free food, a movie room, lots of space to work the other half definitely know how to live!
After I had recovered a little from my importune feast (where I come from one does NOT turn down free food!). I settled back to writing, full of feelings of gratitude for this woman whose name I didn’t know, who had given me this experience.
The whole encounter sparked my desire to pay it forward. A desire built on hundreds of interactions with people, who had gone out their way to help me all over the world. I cannot possibly recount all the time's people taking two minutes from their day has changed mine entirely but here are a few.
A lady in New York who swiped me onto the subway and gave me a hug when I was in hysterics because the machine wouldn’t take my card and I had to be at a hostel in 15 min or lose the last bed (she told me I wasn’t alone and I still want to cry every time I remember her).
Countless locals I have met on buses and trains who have shown me around towns and monuments and taken me to amazing local restaurants.
A man in Thailand who was the first English speaking person we had encountered in four hours when wandering lost. He not only got us a taxi home and told the driver where to go but paid for them without us realising.
A distant friend’s father who put me up for a month in NYC when I lost my accommodation at the last minute.
Couchsurfers all over the world and especially in Egypt who opened their homes to me.
An elderly Chinese couple who took us into their shop, let us charge a phone and found a map without a word of English when we were dumped by a taxi in the wrong part of town in the middle of the night.
A man who handed me a bag of Macca’s while waiting for a bus on the side of the road (he thought I was homeless, I wasn’t but I hadn’t eaten in long enough not to care).
And every person who has ever stopped to help me, looking confused at a map or timetable but too scared of my lack of language to ask for help.
Some of these people gave me two minutes, some gave me months. I remember every single one of them, some of them still make me want to cry in gratitude. They are the reason I will always stop and ask if someone needs help, offer a couch to a friend of a friend, or explain which bus to catch.
One day I hope to have the means to do more, but for now, I have to satisfy myself by paying it forward, one little gesture at a time. Give it a go. Make it a goal to help a stranger once a week, even if it’s only offering a stick of gum or a smile because you never know when the two minutes you give changes someone’s day, their trip, their lives.
Author of Stress Free Adventure Planning