Book Review: The Kindness of Strangers

Kindness of strangers book cover

I knew that traveling solo for the first time would open up opportunities to meet new people but I also knew there would be moments of alone time and Lonely Planet’s The Kindness of Strangers was the perfect companion in those instances. The anthology is edited by much loved travel writer Don George and features essays from greats such as Rolf Potts, Pico Iyer, and Tim Cahill but also features new and talented writers like Fran Palumbo, Sarah Levin, and Laurie McAndish King.

No matter the resume of the writer, each of their unique stories remind travelers that there are many good people in this world, especially when things turn sour. Douglas Cruickshank lost all of his money in a British cab, but before he knew it a fellow drinker at a pub knew the cabbie and tracked down the cabbie’s family to get the money back. Amanda Jones decided to take an evening stroll in the Sahara only to become lost in the pitch black night. She came across a Wodaabe tribesman and despite the fact that they had no common language between them and significant cultural differences, he guided her safely back to her camp.

We shouldn’t be deterred by these incidents in our quest for travel because they are few and far between. However, it is nice to know that someone will come into your life when you really need him or her and their small but significant gesture of kindness can make a world of difference.

While I fortunately did not experience any mishaps on my solo journey, I had friends and strangers alike show me kindness that were ever more apparent since I was reading The Kindness of Strangers at the time. In Copenhagen, my cousin’s boyfriend, who I had never met before, rearranged his work schedule to come into town and walk me around all day showing me the sites.

And in Stockholm, a group of Swedes were staying at my hostel for a ladies weekend and offered me a glass of champagne and to join in their “Cheers” after I had come back from a long day of walking around the city. Just minutes before the drinks, I read the following passage in The Kindness of Strangers that made me appreciate the seemingly insignificant moment with the ladies even more. I think it sums up the important message of this wonderful book:

“Here’s what I love about travel. Strangers get a chance to amaze you. Sometimes a simple day can bring a blooming surprise, a simple kindness that opens a chink in the brittle shell of your heart and makes you a different person when you go to sleep – more tender, less jaded – than the one you were when you woke up.”

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