The Kindness of Strangers: Why Travelling Alone Will Never Be Lonely

09/05/2016 16:55

I'm lying in a hospital bed in Bangkok with a drip pumping antibiotics and IV fluid into my arm.

It's exactly one month since I packed my rucksack, jumped on a plane from Sydney and set off to travel Southeast Asia alone.

I wanted to explore places off the usual tourist track but spending the night in a Thai hospital was not exactly on my 'bucket list'.

When you're travelling solo and have lost your voice (I'm on day four of silence) you have a lot of time to think. And what I can't stop thinking about is the kindness of the strangers I've met along the way in the places I've been to so far.

It was an empathetic Bangkok hostel owner who called the hospital to find out how I could pay for treatment and then hailed me a taxi this morning when he noticed I really hadn't improved overnight.

Previously, it was a selfless American student who lent me her sarong for the day to cover my 'modesty' when I slipped down a muddy bunk and ripped open my elephant pants, while looking for orangutans in the jungle in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

And a caring local tour guide who carried my bag and held my hand for the rest of the slippery walk before offering me the chance to stay another night in the magnificent jungle village of Bukit Lawang for free - simply because our group got on so well that I didn't want to leave.

On the picturesque Gili Islands, in Indonesia, it was the British gin-lover who gave me his copy of Gone Girl to keep when I said how I was suffering from a lack of reading material.

Then there was the solo traveller from the States who introduced me to Tiger Balm and gave me a tube of Benadryl when my leg got ravaged by mosquitos.

And the Irish best friends who invited me to see a band with them when I arrived in Bali's culture capital Ubud and needed some fun.

In Singapore, a sweet hostel receptionist offered to wash my clothes for me despite a sign above the desk saying "we are not your mother". Please note: I do ordinarily wash my own clothes.

In Krabi, in the south of Thailand, another hostel worker gave me a free air conditioned room upgrade when the mercury hit 40 degrees Celsius.

And in Thailand's north, in Chiang Mai, a German traveller loaned me some extra cash to go to an elephant sanctuary.

The next day, a Pakistani chef at a night market generously cooked up a free feast of food after befriending someone in our group. Sadly I had to run to catch a flight and never did finish that plate of spicy fried rice and chicken with mint yoghurt sauce.

Boat workers have hauled my large 13kg rucksack onto my back, taxi drivers have insisted on showing me temples while stopping the metre and men in the street have helped me figure out how to buy train tickets or pointed out a good photo opportunity.

I never asked or expected any of these things and the kindness of these people from all over the world has meant I've never really been alone, despite travelling solo.

Yes there have been some scammers too but they aren't the people I will remember from this trip.

Finally, it's the sweet smiling nurses who have treated me with the best possible care during my two nights in hospital. We may not speak the same language - in fact I can't speak at all right now - but sometimes you really don't need words.

So if you're waiting for the perfect travelling companion (i.e someone who doesn't snore, matches your budget and has the same time off work) before you start your adventures... don't.

You'll be just fine on your own.