5 times I had my faith in humanity restored when I travelled alone

September 30, 2020

Being a young woman of colour in 2020 can be exhausting. Whether you’re in school or at work, it seems there’s no escaping the occasional sexism and racism and constantly having to prove your worth. This stuff is still there even when you’re travelling. But despite the obstacles, even when I’m travelling alone I’ve found myself in moments that have reminded me that the world is filled with kind people. Here are five times my faith in humanity was restored when I travelled alone.

1. The time a stranger returned my phone

There are two things I fear the most when I travel: one is losing my passport, the other is losing my phone. While I’d be stranded without my passport, my phone is my life; I need it for just about everything from checking into my flights to making my last-minute hostel reservations. So when I got off the train terminal at the Atlanta airport, my heart just about stopped when I realized that I left my phone on the train.

My brain was scrambled as I tried to weigh my options. Should I wait to see if the same train would return and if the phone would be on it? Should I try to find a lost and found to talk to an airport worker? After 10 minutes of heavy contemplation, I decided to ask a stranger if they’d let me use their phone to call my phone. A girl saw me nearly in tears and was happy to lend me her phone.

As I dialled my number, it rang once, twice, and on the third ring just as I was giving up hope, I heard a voice say “hello?” I think I nearly cried with relief! Not only did I get my phone back, but I still managed to make my flight on time. You best believe I never leave the train without double-checking my pockets now.

2. The time I got a free dinner (at Lou Malnati’s no less!)

I had one goal, and one goal alone when I decided to explore Chicago one weekend last fall, and that was to try deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s. What I did not expect was the huge line that curved around the corner when I arrived. But I was determined to get my deep dish, I needed to know if the pizza lived up to the hype.

It was a really hot day, and after an hour I was tired, sweaty and ready to head back to my hostel. There was a couple in front of me who turned around and offered me some water. As I drank the water, I noticed the husband was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. An avid Star Wars fan myself, I decided to compliment the shirt, which led to an intense discussion about our favourite characters and the spin-off show The Mandalorian. When I mentioned I was visiting the town and trying deep-dish for the first time, they gave me great advice on which pizza to try and other Chicago hidden gems to seek out. Time flew by as we chatted. When I went up to order and pay for my pizza, I found out my new friends had already paid for mine! They insisted since it was my very first deep dish and they wanted to make the experience memorable—and that they definitely did!

Freepizza1

3. The time someone made me feel welcome

Now in addition to being South Asian, I’m also Muslim. That means when I travel I only eat halal food. Most people don’t usually notice or care to ask. I was sitting at a cafe in Banff when the waitress and I started up a conversation. I mentioned to her how I’d only been eating vegetarian food because I was having a difficult time finding halal food.

She immediately whipped out her notepad and told me she would be right back. She went and talked to a coworker and came back with a list of five local spots where I could find halal food. Since she wasn’t Muslim, I really appreciated that she knew what halal food was and went to the effort to help ensure I could find some. It was such a small gesture but her taking the time to share her recommendations made me so happy.

4. The time I was saved from being embarrassed

I love new experiences and trying new activities. I was in Montreal for the week and I saw a group tour to explore the Saint-Leonard Cavern. I had never gone caving before so the adventure appealed to me.

The group was full of couples, so I was ready to feel like the odd one out. While most of us had never gone caving before, there was one couple who had. They saw me struggling initially and decided to help me. They took me under their wing and taught me the tricks of caving and made sure I wasn’t left behind. Plus, since this was my first time going on a group tour, I didn’t know that it’s customary to tip your guide once the tour is done. My new couple friends not only helped me through the caves, they made sure I knew exactly how much to tip the tour guide, saving me from so much embarrassment. Just goes to show a little kindness can go a long way!

Spelunk

5. The time new friends helped me get over a heartbreak

Rolling hills, gorgeous sunsets and streetcars, San Francisco is made for romance. But not for me. I had just checked into HI San Francisco when a guy I had been dating for a few months decided to break up with me via text. To say I was surprised and heartbroken would be an understatement. The magic of San Fran was ruined. Here I was all by myself, my best friend thousands of miles away without the means to comfort me.

I was getting ready to wallow for the next three days at my hostel when my roommate walked in. It took her less than 10 minutes to get the story out of me, and the next thing I knew I was being rallied by a group of ragtag individuals from all over the world whose one mission was to make me laugh. Over the next couple of days, we explored the streets of San Fran where we ate great sushi, visited the Golden Gate Bridge and attended drag shows. The trip ended up being one of the best trips of my life. Though I might have lost a boyfriend during it, I ended up making friends that will last forever.

It’s easy to feel self-conscious when you’re travelling alone, and I’d always recommend having safety precautions in place. But it’s also important to be open to new experiences and new people. It’s hard to miss all the bad in the world, but when you peek outside of your comfort zone, you’ll inevitably find that the world is full of good people.

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