Being Lost, And Found, In Strange Lands

22 May

Being in a foreign country, especially when you have a minimal grasp of the language, is both exciting and exhausting.  Travelling on a budget means that we pretty much never hire a tour guide, and we always go for the public transportation options.  Guidebooks are okay for getting a general idea of how to get around using public transport or our own two feet, but often the book falls far short of any real help.

Once in Valdivia, Chile we knew that we could get to a small park reserve by bus, but we just weren’t sure of the times, or where to catch it.  We asked our hostel, who told us a bus number that was totally incorrect.  We asked the tourist information office. Twice. They gave us the correct bus name, but couldn’t be specific about where it stopped.  We asked 7 different people who worked in the general area and they all pointed us in different directions.

FINALLY, the next day, we found the bus stop and, surprise surprise, it wasn’t anywhere near any of the places we’d been directed to.  Once we were on the bus we asked about specific return times since the reserve was nearly 50 kilometers outside of town.  We were told there were two return times – 2pm and 5pm.  As the reserve was the last stop, the driver assured us that this is where we needed to be to get picked up.

We were at the stop at 1:30pm, just to be safe.  We waited. And waited. And waited.  Finally, at 3, we started walking.  At 4:30 we managed to hitch a ride with a very nice couple who spoke zero English and didn’t seem to understand our Spanish very well.

Justin attempts to get us a ride on the long walk back to Valdivia…we had seen nothing but these sheep for 45 minutes.

Thankfully, they were able to drop us reasonably close to a town that had another bus that could take us back to Valdivia.  It was an adventure, to say the least.

My point is, sometimes getting around can be tough.  Every once in a while though, we encounter a stranger who helps us avoid yet another fiasco.

Today we were attempting to get to one of Istanbul’s oldest Byzantine churches, which is a bit off the regular tourist circuit.   We knew we could take a bus, but the place we had to get on was riddled with buses and we had not a clue which one we needed.  After asking about 7 different drivers, all of which just waved us towards the general direction of another dozen buses, we were approached by a man who asked (in English!) if we needed help.  We told him where we were going, and as luck would have it, he was also going that way.

Then we realized we couldn’t pay the fare in cash, we needed some sort of metro card, which we didn’t have.  The man paid our way with his own card and refused our multiple attempts at paying him back.  He then rode with us to our stop, got off with us, and led us for the 20 minute walk through winding streets to this little church.  There is no way we would have found this place on our own.

The whole time he’s helping us I was thinking, “What does he want? Is he going to charge us something for this?  Is he really dragging us to a carpet shop to try and sell us something?” but no, he was just really nice.  After getting us to the church he wished us a happy day and went on his way.

Every once in a while we are reminded that in this huge and crazy world there are genuinely kind people, and we are very thankful that we encountered one of them today.


11 Responses to “Being Lost, And Found, In Strange Lands”

  1. Klaus Kommoss May 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Such a lovely anecdote. This indeed is the essence of traveling. Wonderful blog!

    • Ashley May 23, 2012 at 4:31 am #

      Thanks for checking us out!

  2. Amy Hume May 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    The kindness of strangers can be amazing. Chad and I were in Italy driving from Rome to the Amalfi Coast, and we ended up in the suburbs of Naples at dusk. We knew we had to take a side road up and over the mountains to get to the town of Ravello where our hotel was, but we were totally lost in a confusion of Friday night traffic – traffic which didn’t really seem to follow any street signs or directionals.

    We stopped and went into a bakery to ask for directions – the baker didn’t speak English and our Italian was minimal. He was pointing and making motions I was trying to interpret, but the other customer at the counter must’ve seen my confused look.

    Again, with his minimal English, he offered to help get us to the right road – by driving in front of us to lead us there. Probably out of his way by about 10 minutes, but more than willing to help out. With a smile and wave, we were on our way!

    The other important part of this story is to remember to reciprocate. We often take for granted our own cities and environs, not picking up the cues on other lost souls.

    A month or so later I was on the PCH with some friends and we saw a guy pulled over who looked perplexed. I chose to stop the car and pull over, to ask if he needed help. All he needed was a phone to make a call to get some service for a broken down car. But it felt great to pay it forward.

    • Ashley May 23, 2012 at 4:04 am #

      We’ve been helped like this in small ways countless times, the locals always seem to know where you are trying to go and we are often pointed in the right direction without even having to ask. It’s so true about the paying it forward, especially knowing how grateful you are when you need the help. It was easier to do so when we lived in NYC and there were confused tourists all over the place, but even now we sometimes get the opportunity to pass on a suggestion or direction to another traveler.

  3. Klaus Kommoss May 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    If you have the time, here is a glimpse of our travels in Turkey:

    • Ashley May 23, 2012 at 4:09 am #

      This is incredible, I hope you’ve kept that letter!

  4. Ally Centonze (@WhatsAllyDoing) May 23, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    I love this. I love the NYC skepticism of someone doing something for.. nothing….? I love Justin hitchhiking with sheep. I wonder if Roar-Naldo would have had better luck…. on second thought, maybe no one would pick up that weird American couple traveling with a dragon…! mostly I love you guys getting lost… in 2012… when no one really knows what ”
    Lost” really means anymore. I’m so glad you guys are doing this old school style, with out the help of modern technology. I talk to people that went to Italy, just a handful of years after us, and they didn’t hat the same “where the hell are we” experience that we did. and as disorienting as it could be, I think that it made our adventures that much more …. well…. adventurous! Hearts, A

    • Ashley May 23, 2012 at 4:08 am #

      I have a hard time leaving that skeptic behind….especially when loads of our encounters end with “I work at that travel agency/gift shop/restaurant/whatever”. BUT, travelling by getting lost continues to be my favorite way to do it 🙂

  5. Rock May 25, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    You prolly should keep the skepticism because there are lots of people out there when you travel looking to do just what you expect, but I think there are as many who are proud to show you around. I don’t know what’s going on but the story made me tear up a little. heh

    • Ashley May 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      I don’t think I could kick the skeptic if I tried, but it’s nice to be reminded that sometimes the skeptic inside of me is wrong 🙂

  6. risingontheroad May 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Both the frustration and the occasional lovely surprise sound very familiar!

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