An honest soul on the Bali road

Gunung Batur, Bali

Gunung Batur, Bali

When we travel, or prepare to travel, we can often get caught up in the safety precautions: strategically hiding our money from pickpockets, tucking passports into secret pockets of our backpacks, hiding valuables under pillows while we sleep in hostels. Sometimes, between all the hoops we have to jump through at airport security, combined with the preparation for what dangers might happen abroad, I wonder if travel is nothing more than an experiment in mistrust. And sadly, many of us travellers have had an experience or two to lead us down into that spiral of fear.

I once had my video camera stolen from me at LAX when I let my attention wander away from it for too long. Another time, on a bus in Mexico, my travel mate placed her camera on the empty seat beside her, only to discover it was no longer there when our stop came. In Venezuela, another friend was mugged in broad daylight, just a few steps away from our hotel. And then there’s the countless times I’ve been victim of theft in my hometown of Toronto: my house was robbed, my roommate’s car was broken into and my wallet was stolen from my workplace’s locker room—and that was all just in one year. (Note: I am not saying Toronto is dangerous. I adore that place. It’s just very unlucky sometimes.)

I’m generally a very trusting optimist (too much so, my friends would say), but with my track record for losing valuables to wandering fingers, even I was beginning to doubt the kindness of strangers.

So when my boyfriend and I headed to Bali, Indonesia, after all this had happened, you could say my optimistic attitude had severely waned. It didn’t help that on my first day in Bali, I was duped by a taxi driver in Nusa Dua into attending a timeshare presentation and, when I told them I wasn’t interested, I was then dropped on the side of the road about five kilometres outside of town.

Needless to say, when we hired a car and driver a few days later to take us to the central mountains to hike the sunrise climb up Gunung Batur, I was feeling skeptical. What’s more, my guidebook warned of scammers and thieves in the region, and trekking guides who threaten tourists who don’t hire their pricey services. My trust level sank even lower and I found myself so tightly wound and on edge that I was like a different person—and I didn’t like her.

We secured a trekking guide (for a reasonable rate and with no problem) and began the two-hour hike in darkness to the top of the volcano. At the summit, we watched the rising sun cast a glow over the Toya Bungkah countryside and Pacific Ocean, the island of Lombok appearing out of the mist in the distance. My tensions and fears melted away as the rays shone brighter, illuminating our surroundings that had previously been invisible in the blackness of early dawn, warming my face, my heart.

When our driver returned us to our hotel in Benoa later that day, we were so spent from our 1 am wake-up call and climb that neither of us noticed the camera we had left sitting on the backseat. It wasn’t until we had returned to our room and showered and changed, and ventured back into the lobby that we saw him. As I walked through the lobby, our driver came rushing to my side and thrust the camera I hadn’t even realized was missing into my hands. Because he hadn’t known our last names or room number, he couldn’t call up to us or leave a message. With no other option to reach us, he had simply waited and hoped he would find us. I was shocked and thrilled and could have kissed him (instead, I opted for a hug and generous monetary reward). It wasn’t so much the returned camera containing all our photos (although that was certainly part of it). It was that in a single gesture, he had restored my faith in the kindness of strangers.

This article originally appeared on TravelandEscape.ca.

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