Earlier this week I attended a travel writing workshop with Pink Pangea. It was a great way for me to meet writers from around the world and learn how to improve my travel writing. During the workshop, we were asked to write about an act of kindness during our travels. Below I am sharing the story I wrote about a Chilean act of kindness:
While traveling to Santiago, Chile for the first time, I met an inspiring woman who sat next to me on the plane. We made an instant connection and talked for the entire duration of our flight about life in Chile, life in the United States, and our travel experiences. At the end of the flight, I asked her for advice about how to make it safely from the airport to my hotel. She gave directions, but then invited me to meet her family who picked her up from the airport. This was so comforting because none of my peer students arrived to the airport at the same time and I didn’t want to take a taxi alone. To my surprise, her family offered to drive me to my hotel. At the time, I knew this was a risk (and most people would think I was crazy for considering this), but my gut told me that it would be okay. It was a risk for me to go in a stranger’s car, but I was comforted by the fact that it was equally a risk for the family to take me (also a stranger) to my hotel.
The car ride ended up being one of my favorite parts of my trip to Chile. I could not have asked for a better way to enter into a new culture. I spoke Spanish with the family and asked them what it was like to live in Chile. I was able to observe the Chilean family dynamics, as I shared the car ride with two parents and two kids. They were equally interested to learn about my life in the United States and why I was traveling to Chile. I was amazed when one of the kids expressed that Christmas must be so beautiful where I am from because of the perfectly white snow. It was interesting to hear this because while a white Christmas is appreciated in the northern United States, most people complain about the snow throughout the winter. According to Chileans like this little girl, though, snow is something we should appreciate and enjoy, because not everyone gets to see it on a yearly basis. Our conversation during the hour-long ride made me excited to embark on an adventure with my classmates in Chile. I was so grateful for the act of kindness that the woman I met at the airport and her family shared with me. I knew that I was in for a treat during my week with Chileans.
Two years later, I still keep in touch with the family (mostly the little girl I spoke to) via Facebook. We check in and give updates on our lives in Chile and the United States. I am still amazed that one little conversation on a flight led to new connections in Chile and a learning experience that I will never forget.
This story emphasizes the mutual trust that we can establish across cultures. While we may not always speak the same language, we can communicate through body language and as we all know, our gut tells all. Both of our guts must have made us trust that we could share a ride from the airport. A life lesson for me is that acts of kindness cross boundaries and are an international way to communicate and welcome each other.