LOST & LONELY IN LAOS
While traveling alone in Laos, I caught a midday bus heading south from the capital Vientiane to the lesser-visited city of Savannakhet. Unfortunately, the bus dropped me outside of town in the middle of the night. No one was around. I checked my map and realized the nearest accommodations were at least a mile away, so I put my backpack on and headed east.
Streetlights are a rare treat in this part of the world and I quickly found myself wandering down a dark suburban road. The terrifying barks of guard dogs drowned out the crickets that had been keeping my spirits up and it wasn’t long before tears were streaming down my face as I contemplated sleeping in a ditch for the night.
Suddenly, I heard the whine of a scooter coming straight toward me. I couldn’t see the rider but I ran out and flagged him down. A young man, probably about 16 years old, pulled over looking very confused by the sight of a chubby white girl crying in the middle of nowhere.
I showed him my map and motioned that I needed a bed. He put me on the back of his bike and we sped into town through the warm night air. I was so utterly relieved by the kindness of this stranger that I actually started laughing out loud. And then he did too.
When he got me to a hostel, he banged on the door until someone came out to let me in. It was a small gesture, but the lesson has stayed with me on all my travels since then. And every time I’ve had the opportunity, I have done the same for other lost travelers – paying it forward.
“Tears were streaming down my face as I contemplated sleeping in a ditch for the night.”