“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive”
I’m sure that you have all heard of the pay-it-forward movement, the idea that you do something kind for someone in the hopes that they in turn will do something kind for someone else. And for those of you who have been with me for a while, you already know about our debt to the world (which we will happily pay back for the rest of our lives) because of the amazing hospitality we have received through homestays, and the kind acts which seem to happen to us on a daily basis no matter where we happen to be. It’s these experiences, both big and small, which have made this lifestyle into the successful endeavor it has become, and so, to cap it off, here are a few pay-it-forward experiences that we have recently received, most of which came from other cyclists like us.
The day we arrived in Istanbul Kevin did an inventory of our bikes in order to figure out what new parts we needed to buy before South America. It was a long list – chains, break pads, tires, a new handlebar, cables… – and as you probably suspected, it wasn’t cheap. We were typing everything into the website (to place our order) when I received an email with an offer. In short, a German cyclist who has been following me for a while told me that he was willing to donate the gear we needed (he owns a bicycle company) as a way to pay-it-back for all of the kindness he has received throughout his various cycle tours, as long as someday we return the favor to someone else. “The deal is: I help you, because I can (and like to). And you help others at some time, when you can. That is what always happened to me, and I am just passing it on to you.”
And it’s not simply the money (though to budget travelers like us, a donation like this is huge since the money he saved us will last us an extra month or two on the road), but the thought that makes us want to pay-it-forward as well. The fact that he was willing to help someone else out because he remembers being helped out so many times before shows just how well this notion of “paying-it-forward” works. It shows that when we help other people, those people really are more inclined to help someone else, who in turn pass it on to continue the chain that makes our world – not to sound too cheesy – a better place.
This isn’t even the first time this has happened to us either. I purchased all of my cycling gear at wholesale price (which saved me five hundred bucks right off the bat) because a small bike shop owner in Bend, Oregon decided to help me out. He didn’t make a cent off of me, in fact, he even gave me some of the gear for free, but to him, it was worth the loss of income to set me up as best he knew how because, in his words, he believes I’m the kind of gal who will change our world. And then there was Joel, a former racer/bike enthusiast who I met (cycling) outside of San Diego who later surprised me by walking into the cycling shop I was in to pay for all of my new gear. These amazing guys have saved us money, therefore increasing our time on the road, but most importantly, they have opened our eyes to the kindness of strangers, and to the idea of giving back when you can.
But money isn’t the only way to pay-it-forward. When we arrived in Istanbul we stayed with an absolutely amazing guy: a Turkish art student who lived in Italy for a year before cycling back home and who has hosted people nearly constantly for the past few years. Though he hasn’t kept track, he has probably hosted over 100 people, from a cycling family of six to solo backpackers from South Korea, all on top of befriending every Erasmus (exchange) student he can in order to assist them when they need it since he knows how it is to need help when you are far away from home. He was the perfect example of a respectful, fun, intelligent, and kind guy who has taken the idea of helping others to the extreme, making it a part of his daily life as he positively effects all of those who are lucky enough to meet him.
I could create a never ending list of pay-it-forward moments. While in Pokhara I received an offer from an English traveler/paraglider (who has driven around the world among many other adventures) who offered to take me, for free, as a pay-it-back for all the help he has received as long as someday I promise to pay-it-forward. Then there are those who have donated a few bucks to the site with a note which explains that they are either paying it back from past trips, or paying it forward for a trip they are about to begin. There are those who have invited us to share a meal, who have taken us in, or have pointed us in the right direction. Though we may never be able to pay these particular individuals back, Kevin and I know that we will spend the rest of our lives inviting strangers into our home, buying new tires for those in need, and carrying on the pay-it-forward legacy since we know how wonderful it is to be at the receiving end time and time again.
Happy New Years Everybody!