Have you ever been to a place in the world and met someone who has told you their story and made you appreciate the charmed life you lead? I know I have met many people in different countries and cultures that have really left an imprint on my heart and even formed a long lasting friendship with. So I have asked six other travel bloggers to contribute their memorable people and places around the world.
When we received a Tuk Tuk driver details from a reader via our social media pages, we had no idea we were about to meet one of the most inspirational young men we have met to date on our travels. Meet Pisal. Pisal is a Tuk Tuk driver in Siem Reap Cambodia, he is in his mid twenties, is married and has two young children.
What we found truly inspirational is that even at a young adult age, Pisal showed maturity beyond his years. After leaving school, he went to live with his parents and couldn’t find work. 12 months later his brother was able to get him started by helping him get work at a local Guesthouse in Siem Reap as a Tuk Tuk driver. Even at such a young age, Pisal could see it was important to work hard from day one if he wanted to get ahead and secure a future for himself. He work hard for over 2 years before any local bank would give him a loan and after securing a debt of 2500 USD, he was able to buy his first tuk tuk to start working for himself.
Working 7 days per week is normal in Siem Reap. Socialising and family time is done at night and often till well past 10pm. Children still get up the next day and head off to school if it’s a school day and this is repeated daily. Pisal’s brother’s wife owns a street food stall. Each evening Pisal’s family all come together, eat, socialise and then continue on with their working day, looking after children and doing what ever they can to support their families.
I met this wonderful woman in the Todra Gorge of Morocco. She sat serenely on the rocky river edge watching, as her herd of black long-haired goats milled around the water’s edge.
Goats and I have a shared history and I was quick to snap a photo of the herd. After a short internal debate I plucked up enough courage to ask if I could photograph their minder.
Berbers, the original Moroccans, go by the name Amazigh, meaning free or noble. I think it describes this particular person to perfection.
Although their days of caravanning on the famous Saharan trade routes are over, some modern day Amazigh have transitioned to guiding tourists on desert camel expeditions and crafting items for sale.
Traditionally they live a life with few conveniences, in mud huts or winter caves and summer tents, in these astounding mountains.
Seeing Amazigh tending their animals, growing vegetables in occasional pockets of green, or moving camp with households packed on top of donkeys and camels, is an intriguing sight on the desert road from Marrakech to Merzouga.
Goris is a small town in the Syunik mountains in Armenia. It was once a prosperous place with beautiful stone buildings. Now it’s drab and run down and most people only stay one night.
We were there to see Tatev Monastery but the weather hadn’t been kind to us. Heavy fog had rolled in the day after we arrived and viewing the monastery was impossible.
I had woken early and feeling stir crazy I decided to go for walk in the hills around the town. They’re dotted with small farms and I passed sheep, cows, pigs and goats as I walked along. The fog turned to a misty drizzle, but I didn’t mind, it felt wonderful to be outside in the fresh air. I heard someone shouting at me and saw a farmer calling me over. I thought he wanted help as he was moving bales of hay, but he was offering me shelter from the rain.
His home was a single room built into the side of the hill, he showed me his bed and fire place and the tiny little stove he used for cooking. We then moved on to the stable next door where he kept cows, goats and pigs. When we were outside again, he offered me some walnuts that he cracked open with a hammer.
Neither of us spoke the others’ language, so we stood munching on walnuts in the drab greyness in silence.
Then it was time to move on and I said a fond farewell to a generous man who was looking out for me in the rain.
We met Kailash in 2013 on our second trip to India. He was a tour guide for the Salaam Baalak Trust, a non-government organisation that helps the street kids of New Delhi. He took us on a tour of the streets of New Delhi that culminated in a visit to the Salaam Baalak school and meeting some of the children in their care. It was toward the end of the tour that we learnt a little about Kailash’s life.
He was born in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. He never attended regular school as it was too far from the family home. When Kailash was 11 years old his older brother ran away from home and ended up living with Salaam Baalak. Recognising the opportunities and possibilities available for someone with an education, Kailash’s brother returned to the village and convinced their father to let Kailash return to Delhi with him so he could study.
And so Kailash arrived in Delhi aged 8 years old. However, unlike many other children with this organisation, he never spent anytime on the streets but being from Bihar he could not speak any Hindi and found it very isolating. But he persevered, went to school everyday and soon learnt Hindi, Maths and English.
He joined Salaam Balaak as a tour guide in 2012 as a way to practice his english and develop his tourism skills with a view to opening up his own tourist business. The last we heard Kailash has done just that.
We have met many wonderful people during our travels, from small business owners in Bali, to a tour guide in Vietnam, to restaurant and bar staff all over the world. For us, the people are what makes each location totally unique. But when Kathy approached me for this post I knew immediately that I wanted to write about our French friends.
Two years ago, we stayed in an Airbnb in a small village in Provence. Little did we know how delightful that visit would be. Our hosts were the totally wonderful Dominique and Jean-Noel. We spent three nights with them and immediately forged a warm relationship. We were invited to join some of their friends at their dinner table and made to feel very welcome. We spent many an hour talking about every topic under the sun.
On returning to Australia we kept in touch sporadically via email and Facebook.
When planning this year’s European trip we felt it would be fun to revisit them and the beautiful area of Vaucluse in Provence. We were warmly welcomed back, this time as friends rather than as paying guests.
We spent two short days this time and it was perfect. When speaking with one of their friends I commented that it felt like being home. I had a tear in my eye when Jean-Noel quietly said, “You are home”.
Those two days were jam packed with delicious food (mostly cooked by Dominique), wine, talking about the state of the world, and laughter. They are two of the most interesting and intelligent people we have met. Dominique is a location scout for the film industry and Jean-Noel’s many talents include water divining.
We hope we can entice these two to one day visit us in Australia.
Good and Tong are two Thai men whom I met during my first visit to Chiang Mai in 2015. A very entertaining pair with great spoken English in an array of hilarious accents. Tong lived, worked and breathed for the hostel I stayed in; while Good worked hard on his start-up tour company, and helped out around the hostel in his spare time.
I got to know them personally following a night-time incident where a local broke in and stole guests’ valuables. My wallet and phone had been taken from under my bed while I slept, and these guys went into overdrive to help my situation. They trawled through CCTV for hours, drove to and from the police station, provided food, money and translations. Even when I had to leave Chiang Mai, they promised to have my belongings shipped to me if they could be retrieved.
These men made me feel like part of their family and offered everything they could to help. They demonstrated the true kind-hearted nature of the Thai people. Yes, there are scammers and opportunists in this country, but the majority of the population are happy, generous and love to welcome those who visit.
I revisited last year. Good’s company has become very popular and he regularly shares photos of his beautiful family; it is obvious that he is providing well for them. Tong’s job at the hostel ended when it closed. He now works for Good as his right-hand man on treks: he cooks, sings, and somehow keeps people smiling during 10km jungle treks up a mountain.
Together, they’ll always make people laugh and provide a warm, Thai welcome, regardless of the situation.
On my recent trip to Vietnam we did a tour to Sapa high into the mountains of Northern Vietnam and embarked on a couple of treks. On the first day we set off from our hotel, only to have several Black H’mong ladies from Lao Chai village in the Muong Hoa valley below Sapa, accompany us on the long trek. They helped us immensely along the slippery and difficult sections of the walk by holding our hands and steadying us. Sometimes they even slipped over themselves attempting to keep us upright.
Although their English was very limited, I was able to find out a few things about their lives in the village. They would trek up the mountainside every day to “attach” themselves to a group of trekkers and then accompany them down into the valley and back to their village. I noticed they carried rather large baskets on their backs that I would imagine would be quiet heavy. Possessing short and sturdy frames, they told me this helps them walk up and down the hills all day.
Inside their baskets are handicrafts that they make in their village, consisting of handwoven and indigo-dyed scarves, bracelets and handbags. At the completion of the walk naturally they expect you to purchase some of their handicrafts. What struck me was their helpfulness and happy faces as they walked with my group of trekkers. They were such lovely ladies that one couldn’t help but purchase several items from them! But imagine having to spend all that time making craft to sell and then having to lug it on your back up to the town of Sapa each day just to make a few hundred dong?
Overseas travel isn’t always about the destination. Sometimes it really is about the people you meet along the way. I’ve met countless people in the places that I have travelled to and after seeing how they live, have made me feel extremely grateful that I live in a country like Australia.
What are your thoughts? Do you like to form friendships with people in other countries when you travel?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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merry christmas 2017