A Travelers Tale of Kindness Returned
A Travelers Tale of Kindness Returned
When the plane took off, I knew that my journey had begun. After a year of hard work and saving, I was now traveling to a tropical island paradise on a surf trip to get away from all that encompassed my everyday existence. Excited and a little scared; looking out the window I watched the ground fall away as we climbed above the clouds. “Who knows what will happen,” I whispered to myself as I drifted off into a valium-induced sleep.
I awoke groggy and startled from the loud chirp of the plane wheels hitting cement. Eyes out of focus, I became aware of the flight attendant passing out hot biscuits with a pair of metal tongs. I was very hungry from not eating for hours, and I greedily shoved the steaming roll into my mouth. To my surprise, laughter erupted down my aisle. My eyes focused and the taste of a hot rag ensued as I bit down, realizing all too late that I had been given a hand towel to clean up. What a way to start my vacation!
I was embarrassed but had to laugh at myself, and I gathered my belongings and headed to the luggage carousel to retrieve my backpack and surfboards. I had traveled before, although never out of the country alone, so this was a new experience for me. It felt refreshing to be away from home, my friends and family, and the 9-5 grind sitting in front of a computer fantasizing about perfect waves in a foreign land.
My surfboards came out intact and undamaged, but before I hailed a taxi, I desperately needed to use the bathroom. Being unable to fit my 8’surfboard bag through the restroom doorway, I asked an honest looking man if he would watch it for me. He looked at me blankly and nodded his head, so I figured that he understood. A sudden terror arose within me as I walked out of the bathroom and the man and my boardbag were gone. I had broken travelers’ rule #1: Never leave your bags unattended or with a stranger. I frantically ran around the airport looking for the man and my stolen bag, realizing that it contained everything for my vacation and without it I would have to return home prematurely.
Confused and reassesing my situation, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. “You look so sad, what is wrong my friend,” spoke a soft voice behind me. I turned around to see a nicely dressed older woman with a bright smile. “I’ve lost everything for my trip and I just arrived,” I replied in desperation. “Everything you need is within you. Come with me, maybe I can be of some assistance,” she insisted. I agreed because what was I to lose, and maybe she could help me somehow.
As we walked away from the airport into the heart of the city, I explained my story to her. Ghetto-style architecture and colorful murals gave the city an eerie look that didn’t help my mood. The woman described the islands culture and traditions as we walked. “It’s good that you’re traveling alone,” she said with enthusiasm. “Most local families will let you stay with them if you’re by yourself.” That was odd I pondered. I had been reluctant to go on this excursion without any friends, thinking that I needed someone with me in case something like this did happen. From the information and stories that she told me, it sounded like the natives were actually friendly and hospitable despite a few bad seeds.
We approached a run down apartment building with a few people looking at us suspiciously out of their windows. “Wait here,” she politely asked. She climbed the rusted stairway and disappeared into a dark corridor. After waiting for a half hour I asked myself what was I doing here waiting for this woman while she ran her errands, unaware that she was attempting to secure my possessions. I decided to leave and get a hotel for the night when to my amazement she came down the stairs with a young boy carrying what looked like my board bag! Apparently, the woman knew where the local thieves sold the things that they stole from tourists, and for a fair price, I could buy my stuff back. Relieved and mystified, I grabbed my surfboard bag and refused to give the boy any money. “You’re lucky I don’t call the police,” I threatened. “The police are in on this too so you had better give me some money if you want to stay on the island,” he fired back with maturity well beyond his age. I unwillingly handed the boy $100 and he raced back up the stairway and into the darkness.
It was getting late, and the woman offered me a place to stay for the night at her beach house, which I happily accepted. Her house was small but comfortable and she made some delicious snacks while explaining why she had helped me. “I was in a similar situation in a foreign country and the person who helped me only asked that I return the favor someday to another traveler in need.” How lucky I was to be that person and to be learning so much about the island’s history and its inhabitants. I remembered the stash of herbal goodies that I had hidden in my bag and asked her if she smoked. “Ah yes, the international aloha, of course I smoke the sacred herb,” she chuckled. We puffed and talked until I fell into a deep sleep on her couch where I felt safe and at home, here in this strange land far away from all that I knew.
I awoke to the sun beaming on my face through the window, and in the distance I could see the ocean. I walked outside to see a perfect right point break with waves peeling into a crystal-clear bay. Without hesitation, I grabbed my favorite surfboard and ran down the white-sand beach. I surfed all day, reveling in the fact that I might have been on my way home had it not been for the mysterious woman who befriended me.
For the rest of my vacation I surfed some of the best waves of my young life, and met many new friends who showed me another side of life so simple and care-free that I didn’t want to return home. This excursion into the unknown had taught me valuable life lessons and to not take life so seriously. I was thankful for the bad incident with a positive outcome, and hoped that the day would come when I could return the favor to a traveler in need.