A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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The Kindness of Strangers

I spent the decade from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s working in politics, a business where information is considered a weapon.

I learned to guard what I knew, to not share it with anyone, not even my co-workers or clients, because you never knew what piece of information might one day enable your success – or hasten your failure.

In the mid 1990s I moved into the corporate world, working primarily as a consultant to mid- to large companies. I had the opportunity to get a glimpse into the workings of companies in dozens of different industries, from aging industrial conglomerates to high-tech businesses.

Perhaps I was naïve, but I was surprised to find how closely corporate America guarded the most basic information – not just from people outside their companies, but from people within their companies, from colleagues, bosses and employees.

The thinking in politics and business, I suppose, was the same: Information is the coin of the realm – be careful how you spend it. Never share it willingly. Because you never know when you may need it to gain advantage.

What a breath of fresh air it has been to talk to travelers.

Since I started planning this trip, I have reached out to complete strangers. I have solicited advice with nothing to offer in return. I have asked stupid, naïve questions.

And I have been greeted all around with openness, honesty and a generosity of spirit. Every person I have contacted has responded thoughtfully, in detail and with a sincere desire to help.

Let me share two examples.

Rick James and his family are about halfway through their year-long trip around the world. I emailed Rick out of the blue about three weeks ago, and he responded immediately, offering great advice, recommendations and encouragement. He’s got a lot to share – he and his family are great storytellers. Check out their blog to see for yourself.

I also contacted Cristi Farrell, who has adventured around the world, most recently in South America. After Cristi left a comment on our web site, I emailed her asking for advice. She responded with a long list of detailed recommendations for traveling through South America. Her trip and advice have inspired us to extend our time there. Her blog, by the way, is a great read.

Rick and Cristi are just two of the people who don’t know us, but have been very generous with their time and unique knowledge.

When it comes to sharing information, I don’t know how to account for the difference between the world of work and the world of travel. I do believe that good karma flows when you “Pay It Forward.”

And then there is this.

From the day the first traveler set off on the first journey, that traveler had little choice but to rely on the kindness of strangers. For food, shelter, directions, or perhaps company to ward off loneliness.

It is no different today. Those who venture into the world, at some point, will need to rely on the kindness of strangers.

So I look forward to making this a recurring topic throughout our trip, sharing occasional posts about the kind, welcoming, good things that people do to help others along the way.

In the meantime, I’ve opened a new page to encourage visitors to share their travel stories, advice or recommendations. You can follow the link in the right sidebar to post your recommendations.

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