After 15 minutes, I got tired of sticking my thumb up at every single car that passed me by. Desperation set upon me. I need to get to the castle in 15 minutes and there’s still 2 miles to go. I’ll never get there on time walking.
I decided to screw modesty and start to jump up and down on the side of the highway. If they didn’t see me then, they sure will see me now. Still, no one was paying this 18 year old with her best imploring face any attention.
Until I saw a car slowing down. Uh-oh, did I see an overhead light above the car? Yup, I did. It’s a police car. He rolled down the window next to me and asked “Is everything ok?” I tried to explain in my best English what was going on… see, I have an appointment to see Hearst Castle, but the bus only goes until 3 miles away from the place.
He motioned to the back seat. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’m getting a ride from a California highway patrol. This is so cool.
Looking back at it, I couldn’t believe my dumb luck. First, I didn’t realize that hitchhiking is illegal along Californian highway and two, really, what was an 18 year old with limited English doing hitchhiking along a highway to begin with?
But that was also the start of my discovery that most people in the world are well… nice and they’re willing to help each other out. Most of them are not out there looking to take advantage of lost and clueless travelers.
It wasn’t an isolated case. On the way back from Hearst Castle, I had to hitchhike again – this time the grounds keeper of the castle itself stopped to give me a ride.
Then there were these owners of a Chinese Restaurant in New York who sheltered me in their house when they found me walking around in Rochester – New York in a blizzard.
Or that Greek shop owner who was so determined to help us find a government office that he called his wife (and when she didn’t answer, his neighbor) to take us there. When nobody seemed to be available, he closed his shop and took us there himself.
Each of this random act of kindness has left a glowing footprint in my memory of the place. Beautiful sceneries fade, photos got lost, but I still remember the stress felt and the relief brought by these strangers to the situation I was in. Even years down the line.
They inspired me to to keep on traveling despite my fear of travel.
The thing is – when I really sit down and think about it, travel scares me. So many unknowns and so many things could go wrong and have gone wrong: I’ve been yelled at by Chilean cops for apparently being stupid enough to get my stuff stolen and then not understanding their Spanish. I’ve been bitten by a potential rabid dog in Ethiopia. I’ve been chased by angry villagers in Lombok for unknowingly having run over a chicken while driving.
But the kindness of strangers we’ve encountered on and off our travels are always a good reminder that when I take that leap of faith into the unknown, there will be others ready to soften the fall. Friends and families. Strangers and unexpectedly.
It makes travel a little less intimidating.
More importantly, they’ve inspired me to give back to those in need. Especially to those who are out of place, those who are lost, and those are painfully and obviously do not know what they’re doing. Those like myself, really.
So when it’s your turn to take that leap into the wonderful world of travel, I’ll be there to help you as well.
Jill is one half of Jack and Jill Travel. Jack and Jill met in college, graduated, got jobs, got married, left their jobs, sold everything, and bought a one-way ticket to Colombia for April 18th. That’s their story in short and currently they are traveling the world together.
Likes: wine, chocolate soy milk, her Kindle (dubbed ‘Kindie’), and freshly baked bread.
Dislikes: wriggly insects, sour cream, and driving.
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Jack and Jill Travel
This is an ongoing series of inspiring stories from intrepid travellers around the world. If you have an experience in travel that changed your life, made you look at the world differently or an amazing moment that you want to share, please contact us for more details and we will email you right back.. You can also read more about submitting an article to this series at Calling All Writers, Share your Inspirational Travel Story