Dropped by a taxi from the airport in the back streets of a foreign city in the wee small hours only to find your accommodation is locked up and silent – oh, and you don’t speak the language and your phone’s running out of power.
What’s a girl to do? There are a few options – find someone who speaks your language, dig out the paper copy of your booking confirmation from the bottom of your bag in search of a number or, as a last resort, cry.
Faced with this scenario last week, I’m happy to report that I didn’t do the latter.
Equally happy to say that it was the help of strangers who, seeing my predicament, went out of their way to find out what was wrong – using the universal language of hand gestures – and directed me to a nearby hotel, where I was able to make use of an air-conditioned lobby while I had several heated conversations with a customer service centre on another continent.
I booked in for the night until it could get sorted out in the morning, which it was, without any further drama, leaving only a good holiday anecdote to retell on returning home. But it struck me that as well as the above mentioned universal language of hand gestures there is also a universal human impulse to help.
In these scary times of ongoing strive and terror attacks, it is too easy to hunker down with a siege mentality of us and them and forget that basically we’re all the same, whatever our colour, creed or religion.
If you saw a traveller in your home town in a bit of an obvious predicament, I’d bet most of us would overcome our reservations and ask if we could help.
I’m a member of a number of cycle touring groups – you know, for crazy people who like to bung everything on their bike and take off on to the open road – and it is always reassuring to find that help and hospitality can be found the world over.
There’s a fellow cyclist from Scotland – Ishbel Taromasari (aka World Bike Girl) – who has covered thousands of miles and dozens of countries on her solo travels since 2014, all without mishap until recently when she was robbed in Brazil. You might think this undermines my thoughts on the kindness of strangers but the response of others more than compensated. The local police scooped her up and took her to a hotel, which gave her free accommodation, and within hours word spread online and donations flooded in to replace her equipment.
If we act on our impulse to help others, no matter who or where, there’s perhaps hope for us all yet.