How travel continually restores my faith in humanity
In June 2015, I moved to Shanghai, excited to be living in an absolutely alien country. In a bid to further push for new experiences, I started hosting people on Couchsurfing.
Simply put, I allowed absolute strangers to walk into my home and stay with me, in a country where I was a foreigner myself, a place where I did not speak the language. I opened my home to a mother of three kids from Uruguay, to a musician from the US, a budding cultural anthropologist stepping outside his home for the first time, a couple from a tiny village in France, two bubbly young girls from China and Japan amongst others. In all, I hosted about 40 odd people in the six months I was in China.
I gave them my house keys as I left for work, leaving behind my passport, laptop, cash and every single belonging I had. And here is the summary of bad experiences and things which went missing.
Nothing. Not a penny.
Each of the 40 odd people I hosted left me with only gifts: Of the food they cooked for me when I got back from work, of the lovely postcards and souvenirs they left, of their insights into the way they live and travel, of their curious questions about India and my curious questions about their own countries. But most importantly, they left me with a reinforced belief in the goodness of humanity. But, the story does not end here.
One particular person I hosted was an ever smiling Argentine — a man who wears many hats — Front end developer & musician — and someone who appreciated how coding and music have more similarities than one could imagine. Here we were two strangers in a strange land, thousands of miles away from our homes. We parted, hoping to see each other again, very well knowing that the possibilities are remote.
20th December, 2016. At about 9 pm, I sat at the bus station at Buenos Aires, I saw the ever smiling Argentine walking to receive me. All it took was one email from me to tell him of me visiting Argentina. For two days, I was treated to the graciousness of him and his partner, I walked into a home 15,000 kms away, to be served a home cooked meal after 36 hours of flying. We traded stories, drank Mate, discussed Indian food and Bhagvad Gita. We spoke about the future — they of their plans to cycle in South Korea and then move to New Zealand and I of my travels, reading and writing. As I slept in their comfortable home, I realized that much of humanity hinges on this unexplained trust between kindered souls. And no, I am not saying this from an idealized perspective, I say this from the very lived reality of traveling solo, hosting strangers and the warmth of such experiences. But yes, in the increasingly cynical world of ours, it is important to say it.
If you ever begin to lose faith in humanity — travel. The milk of human kindness emanates from locals and fellow travelers alike. Your faith will be redeemed many times over and you will always receive more than you give, as if the net balance of kindness is entropic — constantly increasing in your favour.