AFAR Stories: The Most Heart-Warming Help We’ve Ever Received from a Stranger Abroad

AFAR staffers share their accounts of varying acts of kindness and humanity they’ve experienced from strangers around the world.

AFAR Stories: The Most Heart-Warming Help We’ve Ever Received from a Stranger Abroad

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Photo by Sarah Buder

Now more than ever is a time to seek diverse perspectives and be kind and open-minded toward all people, no matter how dissimilar. AFAR’s premier issue in 2009 featured an inspiring story in which writer Tim Cahill reflects on the lasting impact of kind gestures. Since then, AFAR stories have continued to illuminate the many ways travel can connect us. “Hospitality is about more than picking a hotel,” says AFAR editor in chief, Julia Cosgrove. “It is fundamental to how we humans treat one another.”

The AFAR team took some time to reflect on the most generous help we’ve ever received from a stranger abroad. These stories serve as a reminder that there is plenty of humility out there, and that in the end, it’s our differences that make this world a vibrant place worth exploring.

Continue reading for first-person accounts of the most heart-warming help AFAR staffers have received abroad.

“When I was in Cairo, while trying to find a street address in a quiet neighborhood, I found myself walking in circles amidst a web of crisscrossing streets. A middle-aged Egyptian man noticed my confusion and approached me, offering (in very broken English) to help. He not only pointed me in the right direction—he walked alongside me until I reached my destination to make sure I found it.”—Jill Greenwood, Director of AFAR Experiences

“The first time I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I decided to take a local bus from the airport to my hostel. I obviously looked extremely lost and completely out of place, because a young woman came up to me and asked me where I was headed. When I told her, she replied, ‘Come with me.’ She took my hand, led me off the bus, waited with me until another bus came, and went with me all the way across the city to the correct stop. She was headed to work that morning and spent at least an extra hour of her morning commute to make sure I made it to where I needed to be and made it there safely.”—Tara Guertin, Director of Photography

“My wife and I were a couple days into a multiday hike in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We’d left our backpacks at a trailhead to lighten our load while we did a short hike on a side trail into the Valle Frances. The valley was spectacular, but when we returned to the main trail, we found that someone had stolen our sleeping bags from our backpacks. We spent the afternoon fuming as we hiked the remaining miles to where we would spend the night, and finally arrived at the refugio having basically given up on humanity. We sat in the dining area, met a poet named Scott from Chicago, and told him our tale of woe. He had a box of Gato Negro red wine, and poured us each a glass. It tasted like human kindness.”—Jeremy Saum, Executive Director

“Two girlfriends and I arrived late one night at the Brussels airport from Ireland. This was in the days before the Euro—there wasn’t an ATM available at the airport and we only had Irish Pounds. We thought we were going to have to spend the night in the airport when an Irish man offered to share a taxi with us into the city. He paid for the cab, dropped us off at our hotel, and wished us a good trip. The next night we walked into a random restaurant, and the man was sitting there by himself having dinner. We all sat to eat together, and we were able to repay him for his generosity the night before.”—Jordan Robbins, Corporate and Donor Relations Development Office of Learning AFAR

“In Jamaica, one of the things I really wanted to do was go on a catamaran sail. I got my wish when a local yoga instructor offered her boat to sail with a 16-year-old Jamaican boy named Imani. Imani ended up spending the day with us as an unofficial tour guide, taking us to local attractions and great places to eat while he drove in front of our car on a motorcycle. Did he have a license? I’m not sure. But I’ll never forget how nice it was to experience Jamaica through the eyes of a local.” —Katie Galeotti, Marketing and Special Projects Director

We hope these stories encourage you to think of times you’ve been shown generosity by a stranger and inspire you to remain curious, kind, and compassionate.

>>Next: The Author Who Went Around the World to Discover How Travel Can Heal Hate

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