When Traveling the real ‘Good’ People never want your Money

Traveling Ted smiling faces travel photo

There is a scene in the movie Babel when the Brad Pitt character finally is able to secure a helicopter to airlift his injured wife to safety. His wife in the movie was accidentally shot on a bus by some children playing with a gun on a lonesome stretch of highway in Morocco.

Before getting into the copter, Pitt turns to a young Moroccan man who was instrumental in helping him get medical attention to the remote corner of the world and tries to hand him a fat wad of cash for his assistance. The man steadfastly refused it even though this cash might have represented a year’s wage.

Watching this scene unfold, I got chills down my spine because it reminded me an experience in my travels when I once needed help. I was never in as serious of a position as this one, but at the time it felt like a tight spot.

It all started at a guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I met a girl from Venezuela, and she was renting a car and wanted to explore the Chiang Mai countryside. She asked if I wanted to join, and I was game.

Traveling Ted smiling faces travel photo

Fast forward to the adventure and the rented car was sputtering up a hill on a remote road approaching the village of Mae Om Som. Before we could summit the hill we had run out of gas. I pushed the car over the top and we sailed for two miles down the steep hill into the outskirts of a Thai village. We both prayed we would coast to a gas station, but instead we stalled right in front of an outside bar filled with raucous drinking Thai villagers. We had hardly seen a person for miles, yet here we were stranded and embarrassed in front of perhaps fifty people all drunk and all enjoying our predicament.

I jumped out of the car and started to push it to the delight of the merrymakers underneath the thatched roof. An older fellow came out and started barking directions to me in Thai. I tried to get close thinking he might have some words of wisdom to relate. Instead, I was knocked back and overpowered by high octane whiskey breath. I should have had him breathe into the gas tank. Our problem would have been solved.

This diversion made the revelers cheer even louder. I wish I would have had the wherewithal to take a picture of the bar at that moment as Nomadic Samuel’s smiling faces site would have been filled with fifty ear-to-ear grins. It may have made the home page for the site.

From out of the mayhem a young man asked in a sober voice in clear English “do you need petrol?” Out stepped Lex, and he said, “I will take you.” I jumped on the back of his moto-bike, and in minutes we sailed into a gas station and filled a barrel full of petrol. We were back to the stricken stranded jeep in no time.

Traveling Ted smiling faces travel photo

I tried to give Lex money for going out of his way, but he flatly refused. Instead, he asked us to join him for a drink. When we had to move on, we offered to pay for his drinks. He would not hear of it and firmly refused our money. We tried to pay for our drinks, but he had slyly paid the bill and would not accept our baht.

The stories of travel in all countries including our own are widely distributed. Not enough is heard about people like Lex, who like the character in Babel, refused any thought of being compensated for helping a fellow human being. When honest, good people do what they know is right, they do not want to be paid for the act. Their reward is knowledge that they did a good deed and helped a person in need.

This is a guest post from my ‘Windy City’ mate Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted Tv – an adventure travel portal that is no idiot box. Ted’s one of my favourite travel bloggers and one of the first I really connected with on social media. I’ve featured him once before, as one of 8 unique travel bloggers worth following. Believe me, the guy is always up to something! Follow his adventures on this travel blog, connect with him on twitter and check out his facebook fan page.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie February 14, 2012 at 10:08 am

I can relate to this. At first, I would get very suspect however the process of sitting down for a drink is so enjoyable as you meet other people. If they don’t want a drink, I feel bad as I should give them something but I have learned that no matter how hard you try, they won’t take it.

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John Bardos - JetSetCitizen February 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

I have found that the richer the country or the business, the more likely you are to be cheated.

In rural locations, where everything is dirt chip, I have never been over-charged. In nicer restaurants, hotels or tourist spots you can almost expect to be cheated.

It might be the $15 a day for internet in a nice hotel, when a $5 a night guest house can give it for free. In Hungary, it was the English menus with higher prices than the Hungarian menus, or not getting back the correct change. In Istanbul, the most famous cafe chain doesn’t give what is promised in the English menu. In Thailand, Tuk Tuk drivers are more expensive than the metered taxis.

I agree that “good people” don’t want money, the problem is that too many less than good people have been corrupted by money and will do anything to get a little more.

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The World of Deej February 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Great story…

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Abby February 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Wonderful story. People like Lex really do make the world go ’round.

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Liv February 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I wrote about this sort of thing a while ago as a guest post here: http://www.tourabsurd.com/kindness-strangers/

I am often deeply moved by the generosity of strangers when I am on the road. It is easy to be a bit cycnical and paranoid when you keep hearing from the media about the bad things people do, so it is really nice to hear the heart-warming stories too.

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JoAnna February 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I love stories like this. When things are looking down, something always shocks me back into reality and reminds me that there are still good people doing good things in this world.

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Laurence February 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm

A lovely tale, heart warming stuff on Valentines Day :) Thanks for sharing! I’ve had similar positive experiences around the world, and they always stick with me :D

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Reena Ganga February 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Great story. I have definitely experienced the kindness and generosity of strangers when traveling and I’m always blown away by how it’s some of the poorest people in the world that are the most generous with both their time and money. It’s tough not being suspicious of people’s intentions, but there are some truly kind-hearted people out there.

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Traveling Ted February 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Thanks everyone for the lovely and insightful comments. This happened back in 2005 right after the Asian tsunami. A goal of mine is to return to this village and find Lex and buy him a beer. It will be difficult, not because it will be hard to find him, but he is so nice I know he will fight over the tab.

Thanks Nomadic Sam for featuring me on your sight. I love the smiling faces idea. A very uplifting and genuine travel niche.

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Dayna February 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

So true – we’ve had several encounters of locals going incredibly out of their way to take care of us, without accepting anything in return. Some good people may want money in exchange for any of these things, but sometimes it’s because of their situation which we may not understand. We would have missed Christmas if not for a Roma woman stepping up and paying 10 Euro for a reservation we didn’t know we needed… she literally saved Christmas, and when we asked for her address, it turns out it was a vague street name; couldn’t have paid her back if we wanted to (which we did). Truly good people are out there!

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Micamyx|Senyorita February 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Nice story :) I do believe that there are really nice and sincere good samaritans everywhere. That scenario is also quite familiar in my home province in the Philippines.

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The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) February 15, 2012 at 12:39 am

Great story, and so true! One of my favorite parts about travel is making friends randomly all over the world.

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 15, 2012 at 3:40 am

I loved this post, thank goodness you were okay Ted!

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Nomadic Samuel February 21, 2012 at 1:57 am

Ted’s invincible, I’ve heard :P

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Stephen February 15, 2012 at 4:52 am

Definitely a travel truth. The best people out there are the ones that are just interested in a conversation–the ones who’ve got nothing to gain from you, or vice versa.

Nice story. There are a lot of good people out there in this world.

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Nomadic Samuel February 21, 2012 at 1:56 am

Stephen, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Waegook Tom February 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

This is a great story. I think that we often forget that the world is full of people like Lex. I believe that most people are essentially good – they’ll point you the right way to the bus station or give you a tap on the shoulder if you’ve dropped your wallet on the floor, or go above and beyond like Lex, and expect nothing for it. We don’t hear enough about people like him, but it’s worth remembering that plenty exist. Thanks for sharing, Ted. Hope you manage to track him down someday! :)

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Nomadic Samuel February 21, 2012 at 1:55 am

I agree with you Tom. For the most part people I encounter on the road are very decent.

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Candice February 16, 2012 at 2:55 am

Love these kind of stories!

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Nomadic Samuel February 21, 2012 at 1:54 am

So do I! I really appreciate Ted sharing it :)

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cheryl February 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Oh sooo true! I had such a hard time in Cuba as it seemed that everyone I met wanted money from me and after a while it got tiring! Nice to hear some positive stories like this ..

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Nomadic Samuel February 27, 2012 at 1:52 am

Cheryl, I understand where you’re coming from. The constant haggling can wear you down which makes encounters such as this one all that more precious.

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Deb March 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Love this story. There are amazing people out there in this world and it is wonderful to hear someone share such a positive story about travel. Thanks for telling us about your time with Lex.

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Traveling Ted March 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Thanks Deb for the comment and the nice tweet. I think stories like these are important to share to get more people who are afraid to travel out there. I recently had a similar experience in Trinidad & Tobago. We were locked out of our car and had to walk 3+ miles to get the keys and then back in the pitch dark to the car. On the way back, Lex pulled up in his moto bike and took us back to our car. He is my personal savior. Just kidding, Lex is still in Thailand most likely, but a Lex like character helped us out. To read about that adventure just click on the comment luv article below :)

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Jason Jones October 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Awesome post Sam,
It seems that everyone in the traveling community is so nice and generous. Just like how you don’t really have to worry about your bags in a hostel because everyone else is in the same boat as you are, poor and just trying to have a good time.
Best of luck man!

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Nomadic Samuel October 12, 2012 at 7:16 am

Thanks, I think you will find most in the community very helpful Jason. Good luck with your new site and upcoming adventure!

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