After being home for a bit now, I’m continuing to reflect on our experience abroad. When you’re constantly busy in a new place, it’s easy to let the days wash over you without much thought. I’ve found that I truly began to process what I learned after the experience was over and I was back to familiar surroundings. While considering what our trip meant to me, I remembered a time when I got turned around in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I took a taxi to a new area, and upon leaving I couldn’t find a taxi to bring me back to the hotel. Without the help of Uber or my own car, I was stuck. My instincts were telling me to just ask someone for help, but the language barrier would likely make any interaction difficult. Despite this, I walked into a nearby boutique and said, “taxi, help?” to the woman behind the counter. She smiled and wrote down two numbers on a sticky note, then handed it to me. I dialed the first number, but the man speaking only spoke to me in Thai. I shyly handed my phone to the woman who had helped me, and she communicated with the taxi driver. When she hung up the phone, she smiled at me again and said, “10 minutes”. She then brought me a chair to sit on, and we waited together in silence.
In the end, I made it back to the hotel safe and sound. Now that I’m home, I realize how much this moment meant to me. I believe that in order to survive in a new country, with little to no knowledge of the language or culture, one must rely in part on the kindness of others. Had I not asked someone for help in Chiang Rai, I’m not sure how I would have found a way back. The world is certainly filled with dangers, but travel reminds me that all around the world, kindness exists too. If the first person I asked wouldn’t help, I’m sure someone would have been willing to help a confused tourist. How can you expect to know the ins and outs of a country without asking for help and relying on the knowledge of locals? Believing in the kindness of strangers is like a lifeline when you’re in trouble. Of course, tourists should act with caution, but I don’t think you have to close yourself off completely to the help of other people. Sometimes, it’s the only way to make it out of a difficult situation. From home, I now realize that whether I was trusting in a stranger’s ability to help me find a taxi, the guidance of a hotel tour guide, or the support of my fellow travelers, I navigated my experience in Thailand and Cambodia with the help of other people’s kindness.