Taking ‘advantage’ of the kindness of strangers


We all come across it while traveling: Strangers that are incredibly kind to you. An Indian family in the train who offer some of their home made food to share with you, a person you just met on the road in Malaysia who offers you a free place to sleep, a driver in Sweden who wants to pay for your meal, someone who goes out of their way to show you where you need to be or people who just simply offer you cash to continue your travels.

It makes us restore our faith in humanity, but.. accepting the kindness can make us feel a bit uncomfortable as well..

Especially if you are from a ‘rich’ country, and your family has it much better at home than the people who are insisting on letting you sleep in the best bed of the house or giving you the best dishes of a meal, while they are being content with less.

People can be incredibly kind, which is really nice to experience. I always find meeting people the best part of traveling. They might change your stereotypes and views of the world. They want the best for you, as you want for them as well. It creates unique experiences for the both of you.


But then, when you are traveling super low-budget or even without money, and a family somewhere in quite a poor country offers you something that goes wáy beyond normal kindness. It brings them in a very bad position, and you feel bad to accept it. You even seee them even suffer because of you. The question is.. aren’t you taking advantage then of the kindness of other people? You know you can choose a different life, and work in the country you came from for a monthly salary that could feed their whole family for half a year.

It’s a moral situation I am struggling with for a while now. What would you do?


You can try to refuse the offer, of course. When people offer me something I really feel I cannot accept I try everything to refuse it, but it doesn’t always work.

The other way around

What if it was you offering something to someone else, just to be kind? For example, I host many couchsurfers and I really don’t mind doing something extra for them as well. I really like to cook for them, have a good chat and make sure they are okay. Because I know how it can be, that traveling can be difficult as well and sometimes you just long for a warm shower, a good meal and a comfortable place to sleep. I love giving this to my guests and want them to be treated right. I even feel offended when they offer to pay me money for the meal that is already cooked and ready to share when they arrive. It’s a gift! I don’t mind and for me it’s more than good enough if they just like the food I made. Even if they don’t like it, I would just be glad to do something for a fellow traveler. As one human being being to another, I just really like and want to give someone else whatever I can. Not always necessarily to help them out, but just to be a good person.

Different perspective

After having said that, I think we should look at this from a different perspective. We focus too much on money and how much something would cost for a person. We want to be able to return the gift, preferably with something that equals the amount of money they spend on us.

But accepting a gift, being just sincerely thankful and giving the other the chance to do something good can already be enough, even if you don’t see it like that.

Money are just paper strips. Its the emotions and meanings you give to it that make it different. Why would you being able to receive their gift not even out them giving the gift?


As Xiao Wei says in this interview: ”To pass on the love and help to other strangers. To those who need my help, now or in the future. That will compensate it and actually make it a much greater thing as well.”

Instead of paying it back, we can pay it forward. We receive and will give away the acts of kindness. Be compassionate, like the Dalai lama is trying to teach us ;). Receiving and giving becomes the same and together, we will make a better world.

Because in the end, only kindness matters.

What do you think? How do you feel of taking advantage of the kindness of strangers? Would you like to pay the acts of kindness forward?

1 comment

  1. Kellen26 April, 2015 at 19:04 Reply

    I have only been travelling for for 4 months in Asia. It really is hard to accept kindness.
    Especially from those who are less fortunate than you. If I cannot return the favour I always pay it forward. Although i always strive to offer kindness. It’s the best feeling being the one that offers kindness.

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