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Fern Leaves

Going Out of the Way to Save the Day

Updated: Jan 8

~ 12 Months of Travel Kindness ~

December Guatemala


To start off this new idea of '12 Months of Travel Kindness', I'm starting with a beautiful memory of a stranger who went out of their way to help a stranger.

 

18 years old and on an adventure; a mission to make it from Mexico to Panama and back! This idea formed after finding a cheap flight to Cancun, Mexico. The plan was to begin there and take buses all the way to Panama, stopping in each country along the way. After some amazing adventures in Mexico, I crossed into Guatemala for the first time. I was about to learn the lasting depths moments of kindness towards strangers can have.

Guatemala City street breakfast

Guatemala City is a sprawling city; noisy, colourful, bustling, and chaotic. I decided to spend almost a full week exploring it, but I also needed to find a specific office to book the next bus to El Salvador. This was before the days of everyone carrying phones that give quick access to maps and directions. Back then, it was all about guidebooks! My guidebook was for all of Central America, so the maps in it were scant and of city centres or attractions only. The bus office was in a residential area of the city that I didn’t know. I had a general idea of the direction so I went walking towards it. On the way, I came across a small and dark hairdresser shop. I looked in and made eye contact with the woman inside. Next thing I know, I’m on a chair getting my hair chopped. Tourists are not common in Guatemala City and I have pretty crazy hair. People walking by stopped to stare and giggle; it was such a fun and silly moment! This became the start of a tradition of getting haircuts in random places while travelling. I continued walking afterwards, but with a huge grin on my face. I was in my own world contemplating this new idea and way to make connections, it took me a while to realize I was completely lost.  

guatemala city

The best thing I find when lost in a foreign place is to not look lost, tuck any panic away, and actively rely on intuition. So I walked up and down streets, searching for clues and intentionally trying to cover expressions of worry. I eventually came across an elderly man who seemed to be in his 70's or 80's. He was slow-moving and this gave me time to decide to ask if he knew where this bus office was. My Spanish was basic, but he stopped and decided to treat a stranger like a friend. We figured out where I was trying to go and he explained I would need to take a city bus. He turns around and off we go to find the right bus stop. When we get there, he waits with me and then gets on the bus with me! To top it off, he insisted on paying the bus fare for him and me. There was nothing I could say about it, it was a matter of honour and of welcoming. It may not have been a ton of money, but to him it might have been. We sat on the bus for a long while, and when we got off, he kept walking with me. Down these stretching streets that seemed to go on forever. He didn't stop until we could finally see the office. He told me which bus to take to get back to the city center, and then he turned around and started walking back. Presumably retracing all of his slow steps back to where he was before he bumped into me and decided to care.

 

Kindness doesn’t have to be something grand to be real. This human gave time, money, and energy and wanted nothing back. He saw a stranger in need and reacted with kindness. I don’t know his name and it’s doubtful that he’s still alive today, but his kindness lives on and certainly made a lasting impact on me. It was my introduction to this country that I fell in love with - Viva Guatemala! 💜


guatemala hair cut

Have you gone out of your way like this for a stranger before?

  • Yes

  • No

  • I've had someone do this for me


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