The Coast That’s Happy to Help.

I’ve traveled to some fun, interesting places around the world, but most of those ‘holidays’ have been with family. I don’t like travelling with others, when I want to go somewhere, it usually includes me, my Peli case filled with camera kit, and a book. Anything else would weigh me down too much, and considering my Peli weighs 20kg when fully-stocked, I think I carry enough weight as it is.

However, something always goes wrong.

Naturally, I don’t plan ahead. That would just be boring. But there are problems which rank much higher on the shit-o-meter than stepping in dog poo, losing $10, or dropping a sandwich down your front while you ogle the extremely attractive buxom brunette across the way. Losing my credit card in New York Penn Station is definitely ‘up there’ on said shit-o-meter.

It begins on a sofa in Brooklyn…

It’s 3am, and I’ve just dashed back from Pennsylvania to New York because my plans for Virginia and Washington D.C. fell through. That was a week and a half planned, gone with a phone call. I get a call from a friend in New Orleans who exclaims “You have to get your ass down here!” I have $680 cash in my pocket, and don’t hesitate to grab the first taxi I see, go to La Guardia, and catch the earliest plane for a total of $620. I can wholeheartedly say it was worth the money, because I’ll never have the chance to be so crazily frivolous again.

I spend a week in New Orleans, drinking myself to death, throwing beads off balconies (Mardi Gras,) and admiring the French Quarter. The time to fly home comes around, and my route takes me from New Orleans to La Guardia into a taxi to New York Penn Station onto Amtrak to Boston into another taxi and then onto a plane to England. Quite the journey, and to this day I’m sure I left my credit card in an Amtrak machine during the fluster of busy New York.

When I arrive in Boston to discover I have no access to money, I panic. I cancel my card, pull out all the cash from my pocket, $30, and hail a taxi. The driver picks up on my mood and asks why I’m not talking. I explain, he sympathises, and next thing I know I’m standing in a hotel lobby with the same driver paying $150 for a room on my behalf. He scribbles his details on a scrap of paper and walks away, trusting that I’ll pay him when I get home. I did, and I’ve always felt good about it.

The next day, I still have 24 hours until my flight leaves. I can’t get any money, I haven’t eaten for 18 hours, and I’m certain I won’t be able to go on for another day until delving my face into the atrocity that is airplane food. My plan; Get to the airport. Even if I have no money, it’s a safe haven, nothing more can go wrong there, and I’ll be one step closer to home.

I arrive, tiredly dragging my luggage behind me, and approach check-in. I get greeted by a delightful lady who also picks up on my tired, dead-to-the-world mood, and after a short conversation about why I’m checking in 23 hours early, she upgrades me, for free, to a flight in just 6 hours. “Doesn’t that cost money?” I ask, surprised. “Yeah, but it’s fine, you deserve it” she replies, handing me my ticket.

I’m overjoyed, but still hungry. Really hungry. I find my gate, sit, and sit, and sit, and sit. Then I notice people disembarking from a plane, and one lady catches my eye. I notice she’s trying to find a local Walgreens, but can’t connect to the airport WiFi. It’s free, but it has a stupid advert system which would confuse any non-technical person into thinking it just doesn’t work. I walk over with my iPad, help her find what she’s looking for, and also get talking about the fact I haven’t eaten for so long. Expecting nothing from it, she replies “Oh, do you need $20?” She reaches into her handbag, pulls out a note, and stuffs it into my hand. I’m speechless, and thank her like I’ve never thanked anyone before. That burrito and Earl Grey was amazing.

It ends. I board, eat some more, sleep across three entire seats on an empty plane, and land.

I’ve never known such a display of kindness in my life. Not only has it encouraged me to help strangers, but maybe losing my card was a blessing in disguise. I spent four weeks travelling through amazing cities, meeting amazing people, and came away having learned an important fact:

There is good in the world.