The generosity of people who selflessly aid foreign travellers (often then refusing payment) is a familiar component to many travelogues and expedition journals, and perhaps one that is too often glossed over. It is only when those specific moments are carefully snipped out from the wider journeys in which they occurred, and laid out back-to-back in a book such as this, that the essential role these ‘kind and generous strangers’ play in all manner of travel experiences becomes truly apparent.
Sometimes, kindness comes from being given chocolates and a roof over your head in an alien country (as happened to Levison Wood). Sometimes it’s providing vital companionship that you didn’t even realise you needed (Ed Stafford), welcoming you into a tight-knit community despite obvious language barriers (Pip Stewart), or rescuing you from a dire situation in an extreme environment with vital care and affection (Rebecca Lowe). Sometimes, it’s even as simple as a warm bowl of tomato soup to start your day (Steve Fabes). ‘They say that travel broadens the mind, but travel also opens the heart,’ notes Fearghal O’Nuallain in the introduction. ‘Our brave adventurers were aided on their quests by kind strangers who were uneasy seeing others in distress and discomfort.’
The book is packed with stories of kindness from all around the world, in all imaginable circumstances. Overwhelmingly, the kindness comes from people who have less, given to people to have more, in the grand scheme of things. However, the one situation that is repeatedly returned to is the refugee ‘jungle’ in Calais, where the boot is on the other foot, and those who have more are asked whether they can stomach providing that same kindness to those who quite obviously have less. The continued existence of the camp suggests the answer may not necessarily be in the affirmative, a situation this book – in raising funds for Oxfam's work with refugees – aspires to change.
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