You may have noticed a couple of posts recently about the encounters on my travels. I shared some of the encounters I had when I first got to Istanbul, the first place I had travelled to alone, and the emotional encounter I had at the Srebrenica-Potocari memorial site in Bosnia.
The way encounters enhance the travel experience, be it a brief conversation, a show of local hospitality, or a chance meeting, has really interested me lately. To delve further into it, I asked a number of my favourite travel bloggers to share their stories about an encounter that made an impact on them whilst travelling.
Some stories are heart-warming, some are inspirational, and others are humorous, but each one confirms the idea that it’s the people we meet that make travel so special.
Because I received so many lovely responses, I will split them up into a couple of posts. Look out for Part 2 (and 3!) soon.
Without further ado, I’ll hand over to some of my favourite bloggy people!
“Strangely enough, a dung beetle is the basis of one of my most memorable encounter with a local!” Says Laura from Laura the Explorer.
“On a family holiday to South Africa we stayed at a beach resort where our rooms were luxury tree houses. To get to the beach each day we had a guide driving us through the jungle (plush, I know!). One day he spotted a dung beetle at the side of the road and spent the next 15 minutes or so teaching us all about it before moving on to a huge spider the size of a dinner plate. He took us fishing, built me a sandcastle car and fed us the most incredible meal of freshly caught kind fish. I think the fact that I remember things about a dung beetle 13 years later shows how much my tomboy self loved it. It certainly set us up well for the next six days we spent on safari!”
Next, Simon from Ladventurers talks about how initial perceptions can be deceiving:
“When I was in New Zealand about 5 years ago, I was wandering a neighbourhood with my friend. Not intentionally however. We were lost. I honestly can’t remember what we were looking for, but I do remember wandering for a long time. The area was quiet but certainly not a welcoming one. Cars were beyond worn and houses were relatively tatty with grimy windows.
We wandered some more hoping for find an exit or just something that would lead us back to something that we could recognise actually. I looked into one house and saw a large burly man stood glaring out. He appeared to have tattoos covering his face. I held eye contact a moment too long I thought and swallowed nervously before returning my attention back to the street.
A few moments later we heard a “HEY.” It must of been him. My friend said we should walk a bit faster. The problem being we had a lot of baggage on our backs so speed wasn’t going to be our trump card this time. A quick glance around and the man was closer. It was now confirmed, his face was completely covered with Maori tattoos and his build was more representative of a truck than a human being.
He caught up and shouted “HEY” again. This time we had to stop. We turned around accepting our fate in the process. There is no way either of us would stand a chance against this man. Because that’s what he was. A massive man! We were feeble children in comparison.
But then something unexpected happened. He asked “Are you guys lost?” Apprehensively we replied with a “yes.” He told us that he’d seen us through his window and because he’d never seen us here before we must of been lost. He told us he was going into town and can give us a ride in if we like.
We had completely been tricked by his demeanour. We went back to his house and waited for him to gather his things. He made us a cup of tea each and chatted with us. After a short while he drove us into town and shook our hands before continuing on his way, wishing us the best of luck in the process.
It just goes to show that perceptions really can be deceiving.”
Here, Laurence from Finding the Universe shares a heartwarming story about his time in Thailand.
“Vera and I were travelling in the Thai city of Ayutthaya, where we were just finishing off a long hot day of temple exploration on foot. We had already walked countless kilometres, and were ready to return to our hostel, which was just a few hundred metres away. The only problem being that those few hundred metres also included quite a large portion of water, being as we were on the wrong side of the Chao Phraya river.
Our cunning plan had been to catch a boat across the river, but time had run away with us, and as the sun set all the boats that had seemed to be everywhere during the day had mysteriously vanished into the nothing. The prospect of a multi-kilometre hike back to the nearest bridge in the dark didn’t seem so appealing, and we stood and stared at our map forlornly, hoping for a miracle bridge to appear.
Around about this point, help arrived in the form of a Thai lady on a yellow scooter. She queried in sign language where we were trying to go, and I waved my arms desperately at the other side of the river. She laughed at our predicament, and motioned us on. Seeing no choice before us, we bundled ourselves onto the back of her scooter, and set off into the darkening night.
She transported us to the nearest actual operating local ferry port, which for a few pennies took us across the river. She then refused any money, and sped off into the night. We wandered around with giant smiles on our faces for the next hours, wondering as to the kindness of this stranger who had saved our feet from further walking.”
Talon of 1dad1kid admits that he was met with a culture clash in Morocco, but it was interesting to hear the other side of the story:
“I recently met an expat French woman. She wears a hijab covering her hair, but otherwise dresses as a Western woman. She does not hesitate to touch a Western man’s arm when chatting and is very vivacious.
She spent much of her younger life traveling the world and trying on different religions before she adopted Islam and became a Muslim. She found it to be ‘the only religion that truly respected me as a woman.’”
Next, Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds shares how a teacher, friend, and mentor made his experience in Sri Lanka one he will never forget.
“I was fairly nervous about my first day teaching in Sri Lanka. I had previous experience teaching on placement at uni and when volunteering in South Africa, so the art of teaching itself wasn’t an issue, but communicating with my students was. My Sinhala at this point was non existent and I was told that few of the pupils at the school I was lined up to work at spoke English, ‘tricky’ was the word that sprung to mind. Upon arriving at the school with my volunteer liaison we were greeted by the School Head and a short, stocky gentleman with a big old smile. This fellow with the pearly whites and vice like handshakes was Tyrone, my fellow teach, mentor and soon to be friend.
Tyrone was at least double my age and with a family of his own. He worked two jobs, one as a teaching job and the second as a carpenter. He was a busy man, but never too busy for me. We were obviously two very different people but hit it off almost immediately. I loved teaching alongside him and found working with the kids a breeze because of the help he offered.
Over the next 7 weeks Tyrone introduced me to all manner of people and activities outside of the school environment. I met his family and had dinner with them. I met his friends and went to play football with them once or twice a week followed by a quick drink after each session. I met his carpentry staff and helped out in the workshop occasionally. I also got an invite to a wedding (!!) which I was lucky enough to be able to take a few fellow volunteers to. That was an unforgettable night, we had our pictures taken with the bride and groom who looked totally bemused at us being there, and at one point i’m pretty sure the groom got a lapdance off of the very sweaty best man haha.
Without Tyrone my Sri Lankan experience would have been very different, dare I say it a lot less interesting and exciting. Next year I turn the big THREE ZERO, 30 years old … gulp! My hope is to return to Sri Lanka in 2014 and see my friend again.”
Thanks so much to everyone who took part – there will be more encounter stories coming up in the next few days.
Have you had an encounter whilst travelling that has impacted you? Let us know in the comments!
(NB: – All images supplied by the bloggers themselves)