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of kindness, mindfulness, & awareness.

I believe, above all else, in human goodness.

There have been some horrific stories in the news lately: states banning the right to women's health, anti-vaxxers taking over the news channels, climate change deniers roaring about "alternative facts," and the constant fear of war looming over the heads of millions around the world.

Sometimes I have so much I want to say, to scream, I feel like my throat is going raw without ever making a sound.

So today, instead, I would like to share why I still have faith.

It should not be news to those of you who know me: I like to travel. I feel like I am my best self when I am plopped in the middle of a foreign place. When I walk through a park in Spain or in Russia or in Ireland and think to myself, "We are not so different after all." A park is a park. The foliage might be a bit different, but a tree is a tree, no? A trail is just that, no matter what it is called in an alien tongue. We still need a path to place our footsteps.

The vendors with their metal carts may look unfamiliar, but the flavor of the ice cream they sell still tastes sweet.


2013, Scotland:

I was on a train, alone, fidgeting and looking at Edinburgh disappearing in the windows behind me. Trying to stave off panic, I rummaged through my giant backpack to look for my phone for the fourth time since sitting down. I stared down at my ticket in horror.

Not only was this my first time traveling alone abroad, it was my first time taking a train with a stopover. Edinburgh to Glasgow. Glasgow to Liverpool. I hadn't known when I was booking, however, that I would not only have to change trains, but also train stations. And had but 15 minutes to do it once I got to the first stop.

I could feel my mouth getting drier by the minute and the all-too-familiar sensation of anxiety sending hot flashes down to my stomach. I clenched my teeth, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine a balloon inflating, then deflating, matching my breathing to the rhythm.

This, too, shall pass.

I opened my eyes to see an Englishwoman sitting in the seat in front of me.

"I hope you don't mind my asking," she said, "But are you alright?"

She wore a scarf around her head, a purple cardigan, and had the kindest eyes. They kept darting between my backpack, my shaking hands, and back to me.

Instinctually, I said, "Yes, thanks! How are you?"

That was when I discovered a certain facet of my personality: that I am at my core, fight not flight. I panic, truly panic, only once the danger has passed. My fear triggers my personality to be brighter, bolder, and more fantastical than it is in actuality. Upon first meeting, I am a shining star. Upon knowing, I am just a comet, to disappear once I have passed by.

"You are American!" she exclaimed, relaxing into her seat, "I was worried you wouldn't understand me."

"I am American, so maybe I still won't understand," I flashed a smile. We were in on a joke together. She'd be much less likely to murder me if I could make her laugh...right?

We spent the next half hour chatting about the weather, about differences between English and Scottish cultures, about my solo traveling (she was surprised to hear that I was alone), about her sister that she was on her way back from visiting. I had almost forgotten my dread until my phone buzzed, reminding me that my stop was coming up in just a few moments.

I must have gone green in the face, because she reached over the center table and asked again, "Are you alright?"

The earnestness in her face, in combination with our previous chatter, made me open up.

"I'm alright, just nervous. This might sound dumb, but I haven't taken many trains, and I don't know if I will get to the next station in time." I looked up at her, waiting for her to scoff at my fears.

Instead, she asked, "Which station are you going to? You can always call a cab. Do you have enough money?" She then reached for her phone and pulled up a map to show me the easiest way to get to where I needed to go.

Just as the train pulled into the station, just as I pulled my backpack onto my body and turned to say goodbye, she pushed 20 quid into my hands and said, "You will be just fine. Take a cab if you need to. And don't fight me on this, take it."

Rashmira, wherever you are, I think about you often. I wish I could tell you that I got to the train just fine and in good time. That I made it to Liverpool in one piece. That I've since taken countless modes of transport past international borders, alone, and have been alright.

Rashmira, I remember your kindness and your laughter.

Rashmira, thank you.

2014, Oahu, Hawai'i:

The humidity was almost too much to bear after sprinting for the bus. I had gotten off on the wrong stop and was stranded on the far side of Honolulu...and my plane to Australia was going to leave in less than an hour.

I had been staying with an old friend during my one night layover and she didn't have a car. I was young, I was broke, and I couldn't afford a taxi from her place in the suburbs to the airport. So, I had hopped on a bus that I thought would take me to an airport shuttle stop. Instead, it had rolled around for 45 minutes (seemingly to nowhere) and had dropped me off closer to the bougie resorts on the edge of town. The wrong edge.

Millionaires drove past in their rented convertibles and I envied their smiles. Sweat nearly consumed me and I could feel a sunburn starting to develop in the part of my hair. The familiar anxiety started to claw at my belly, but I pushed it back with thoughts of my other misadventures.

This, too, shall pass.

As I stood at the stop, praying for another bus to come soon, more people began to line up at the curb. I considered this to be a good sign until I heard a young woman begin to grumble, "The schedule said it should have been here 5 minutes ago."

"We'll wait a few more and then take an Uber if it isn't here," answered her husband. He wore two beach chairs strapped to his back and sandals that screamed frat star. I looked away, squinting again at the flashing sign that listed the bus lines in red above me. My heart sank. The bus I needed was not going to come in time.

I gritted my teeth to keep from cursing in front of the older couple standing behind me. They were decked out in their resort wear, leaning against their fancy suitcases.

"Were y'all headed to the airport?" I broached. A good chat would stave off the fear.

"We were, but it looks like this bus isn't coming," the older gentleman smiled. His white hair, nearly gone, so deeply contrasted with his sunburned head that it almost made me laugh. He reminded me of my father.

"Well, I was headed there, too," I laughed, "Looks like I may be missing my flight."

"Oh! Why don't we just split a taxi?" his wife, an older Asian woman with perfect teeth, exclaimed.

"What a wonderful idea!" he replied, his phone already to his ear, "Great minds think alike."

Before I knew it, I was in the backseat, sitting next to the woman and talking to them about my travels. As people always are, they were shocked at the fact that the small girl sharing a taxi with them had traveled alone to such far places. (This is something that I will never stop giggling at. Why wait? Why not go alone? Why are people always so surprised?)

They, themselves, had visited more countries than I could count. Kenya, Brazil, Singapore, Iceland....there was no place too remote or too frightening for them to explore.

"You know what the teens would call you? Relationship goals," I told them.

Their laughter at that still sits vividly at the tip of my memory.

When we arrived at the airport, the charge was over $200. I balked at the price, but reached into my wallet to see if maybe I had any cash backup. The man waved away my hand as the woman laughed at my attempt.

They did not let me pay.

Instead, the woman said, "Enjoy yourself in Australia, dear! To be young and as brave as you...I wish I could hear more of your stories." I thanked them 10 times over, then said, as I always do in times of parting, "May we meet again!"

And then they were off, the well-oiled wheels on their suitcases making no sound.

2017, Israel:

Dear reader, I wish I was making this up. But in my experience, life is more exciting than fiction.

I sat with a friend in a restaurant in Tel Aviv's airport. I was deathly ill and we were about to embark on a 2-week trip around Europe. I had been living in Israel, far from my family, for nearly 8 months. My grandmother had died two days prior. I had never felt so alone. I had never wanted to cancel a trip more in my life.

I dunked a tortilla chip in the queso in front of me. My friend was telling me something, but I was only half-listening. My nose was congested, my head felt like it was going to explode. I felt clammier than a bowl of chowder.

This, too, shall pass.

The back of my neck prickled and I looked up at the table a few feet away from us. My breath caught. A balding man with shock-white hair and a burned scalp was shaking with laughter, pointing at the TV screen above the bar. His wife, an Asian woman with a perfect smile, giggled at whatever he was saying, then turned to face me.

We stared at each other, as if in a dream. As if trying to remember if we had met in a previous life. I quickly looked away and back down to my chips.

"Paige," I whispered to my friend, "I think I'm crazy, but I'm pretty sure I know that couple."

"That's wild," she whispered back, "I'm pretty sure I saw her staring at you a few times. She even nudged her husband once and pointed at us, I think."

I couldn't for the life of me remember why I would have recognized them. But I did.

"You should go ask," Paige smiled, "I'm sure they wouldn't mind."

"No, I'm not feeling great," I responded, "Let's go sit at our gate."

As we walked past them, I stole another look behind me. The woman was still staring.

It wasn't until we got to our seats that I remembered the time they had saved me. That I remembered I owed the woman more stories. It is one of my biggest regrets to date. The one time my extroversion had failed me.

I hope, someday, I will see them again in an airport in some far away place. I hope I can buy them a drink, sit them down, and tell them about everything that has happened to me since.


These are but two (and a half) stories in a series of many.

I have met people on buses, on snorkel tours, in the middle of a park in Madrid, in an alley outside of a hostel in Dublin (sorry, mom), in a cafe I had popped into to avoid getting caught in a downpour. People who have given me faith.

People who embody the characteristics of spirit I strive for: kindness, mindfulness, awareness.

These stories, these memories, remind me that even though we traverse this world solo, we are never alone. This, too, shall pass. And the spirit of the good outweighs that of the evil.

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