Travel Santas aren’t red clothed, white bearded, potbellied, grandpa like figures who come bearing gifts but complete strangers who gave you something to remember them by while you were in their city. It could be random acts of kindness, something as abstract as their time, or as simple as lending their phone for an emergency call. We’ve encountered people who’ve given up on their dentist appointment to literally lead us to a personal tour of a city landmark, people who’ve accompanied us to our hotel for our safety and someone who’ve offered us their phone to call up our hotel for directions when we were hopelessly lost with a dead phone. The two cities where we met up with most of these fantastic human beings are Cape Town in South Africa and Budapest in Hungary. For us these two cities and the many individuals,we’ve not mentioned here but who’ve been givers in their own small way are our Travel Santas for 2015.
The best source of Christmas joy remains the London Christmas Markets. However, for those who can’t make it, we asked a few fellow journey(wo)men to share their stories of Travel Santa’s they’ve met on the road to spread the holiday cheers and here is what they had to share.
Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
“Whilst in Peru, Craig and I did a homestay on the very peaceful Taquile Island. To get off the island (which has no cars) we had to meet with another tour group and jump on a boat with them. Within a couple of minutes we had met a Colombian called Ricardo. Ricardo spoke in very broken English and our survival Spanish wasn’t exactly surviving the conversation but we managed to work out that Ricardo lived in Bogota and he wanted to meet with us when we arrived. We spoke for five minutes but exchanged details. True to his word, Ricardo met with us and spent eight hours giving us a local’s guide to Colombia’s capital city. It became very apparent that he had been brushing up on his English, we spoke for the full shift, asking questions about life in Colombia and answering his about Scotland and the UK. Not only did he give up his time, he also paid for our lunch! Naturally we protested but he was having none of it. If you have ever met a Colombian you will understand this situation – Colombians are extremely passionate about their country and ecstatic to see tourists visit, as it shows progress from the atrocities they have faced in the past decades. We loved Colombia and feel it was very much down to the welcome we received from Ricardo in Bogota!”
Carole from Berkeley and Beyond
“Most recently I was the giver. A young Japanese woman approached me while we were waiting for the F streetcar in San Francisco, my home town. She needed help with where to get off the streetcar and spoke very little English. Through talking slow, pointing, and sign language, I was able to help her understand where she should get off. I sealed the deal when we boarded the streetcar and I asked to the driver to announce to her when her destination was reached. I helped her with paying but she was short 25 cents. She got out her change, which was not local currency, and since I had paid with a pass I was slow to realize I could help her with a quarter, but before there was a problem the driver waved her to sit down. When I got off many stops before her to make my connection, she appeared to be calm and in good hands and I gave her with a small token gift I had been given just before I met her.”
Stefan & Sebastien from Gay couple travelling the world
“We started 2015 by travelling in Myanmar, starting with Mandalay. We stayed at the excellent Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse run by the very charismatic Nan Bwe. Nan Bwe greets all her guests like her babies and you instantly fall in love. We did. She is always so camp, smiley, happy and was the perfect introduction to this country for us. She found out we’re foodies and took us aside to show us how to make a Burmese chicken curry with her staff. The staff are all girls of poor families from the nearby villages who she has taken in to help give them the skills they need to better themselves (like learning English etc).
We were extremely touched by Nan Bwe, her attitude towards her staff, guests and the passion with which she runs her guesthouse. She definitely ranks as our Travel Santa of 2015.”
Corinne from Reflections Enroute
“The last few years, Jim and I have been using AirBnB more for our accommodations, especially if we are going to stay at least two nights. The main reason we do this is we get to meet the hosts. This past summer we wanted to explore the Lake District in England, so we booked a caravan stay. Siobhan was our gracious host, and she is one busy woman running a number of businesses. We could tell she took care of all of her guests, because waiting for us on the kitchen table was a home-baked cake alongside the tea cups. So sweet and welcoming it was. After a few weeks of travel, our clothes were in desperate need of a good wash, so we asked Siobhan where we could find a laundry mat. She wouldn’t tell us. Instead she took all of our dirty clothes (there were four of us) and she washed and folded them in her own private washer in her own house. To me this went way above and beyond anything we would ever expect. We really tried to say no, but she insisted. Siobhan really is a travel Santa!”
This festive season if you are a traveler and/or know someone who loves to travel, you might want to consult this wonderful list of Gifts for people who travel
If you have had such wonderful experiences while travelling we would love to hear about it, write to us or leave behind your story in the comments below!