I walked along the beach after jumping off the boat from an amazing day of SCUBA diving in Tofo, Mozambique. The white sand squeaked under my feet and the waves rolled in lazily. I had just seen a whale shark under water and I was ecstatic. It had taken me several days of long bus journeys to get there, but I made it and it turned out to be more wonderful than I’d imagined.
I wasn’t wearing any shoes, hadn’t even considered makeup in weeks, and was smiling from ear to ear on a sunny day at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
It wasn’t long before I spotted my crew of friends farther down on the sand. I met them a week prior when, on my walk back to my guesthouse, I passed by a few friendly-looking faces in the hammocks and stopped to chat with them for a while. I didn’t realize it then, but they’d turn out to be one of the best, most solid crews I’ve ever met while traveling, if not the most amazing to date. I ended up spending the rest of my three weeks in Africa with them, practically joined at the hip.
We were a crew of 20 and 30-somethings from different corners of the world; some from the US, and some from Australia, Switzerland, and Canada. Some were Peace Corps volunteers and the rest had arrived there thanks to word of mouth, just like I had.
They’d been digging a giant hole in the sand for hours that day. It was the brain-child of Jonas, a 20-year old from Switzerland whose spirit animal is undeniably a meerkat. He could not let go of the idea of making this happen and had spoken about it for days.
His master plan was to make a hole big enough to fit nine people, because that’s just what you do when you have a group of intelligent people together in paradise with a lot of time on their hands, isn’t it? He was so enthusiastic about it that everyone got on board because, why not?
As soon as I arrived, they chided, “Kristin’s here!” which I have to tell you is one of the nicest things to hear when you rock up to a group of people. Feeling genuinely welcomed is right near the top of my list of favorite feelings in the world.
The hole was ridiculously huge, and when it came time to bury them so that we could get some photos before sunset, everyone around helped, from the beach boys who had been selling us coconuts for the past two weeks to random passers by who decided to get involved. Who wouldn’t, right? It was too bizarre and wonderful to walk away from.
I volunteered to be the photographer since I love that role and don’t do well with tight, confined spaces.
It was a good choice.
Because we decided that if you want your garden to grow…
You have to water it, right?
Later that night, showered and happy in the warmth of the night, we sat in a circle waiting on our food. It hadn’t arrived yet because in Mozambique it takes at least two hours from ordering to eating. That’s when you just shrug and say, “T.I.A” (this is Africa), and learn the meaning of patience.
We decided that the true spirit of Thanksgiving, as it was November 26, that with or without a feast we ought to share what we were most grateful and thankful for.
When it got to Caspar, an incredibly well-spoken, tall, brown-haired and green-eyed Aussie who has been studying, working, and living in Mozambique for the past two years, he said something that brought tears to my eyes:
The more he has traveled the world, the more he has come to fully believe that people are fundamentally good.
He expressed that every single time that things started to look hopeless, someone would come along and change everything. He referenced times he had to hitchhike on the side of the road, got lost, or just openly appealed for help and when he needed it, and it always found him. The amount of kindness that people have shown him over and over, every single time he has had no choice but to rely on it, has reaffirmed this belief.
His words resonated because I’ve long felt the very same thing. Every time I thought things were hopeless; when I was lost and someone showed me the way, when I stood on the side of the road hoping for a ride, or I lost my debit card and someone bailed me out, I was also shown that people are fundamentally good. Nothing has ever been so catastrophic that it couldn’t be redeemed by a random act of kindness. The majority of the time, it was someone who had less than I do, or was a perfect stranger, who gave the most.
I often wondered, and was even told by others, that I was naive and idealistic for feeling this way, and that those things don’t just happen to everyone. To hear him say the very same thing that I felt down to my core finally affirmed what I know to be true: The world and the people in it are more kind, giving, and similar to each other than unkind, greedy, and different to each other. Even without speaking the same language, we can find a common ground.
It also confirmed that what you put out there is what you get back. He and I are both open and giving but also understanding and not afraid to ask for help. People will give when they feel that kind of loving and receptive spirit, and when people ask me for help, I pay it forward.
I felt so lucky in that moment to be surrounded by such positivity. It’s one of those things you optimistically hope for but know better than to expect when you travel. It’s a rarity to find such wonderful people to share your time with and the kind of thing that can only happen when all of the right situations come to pass that allow you to meet the people who create that spark.
I owe these moments to traveling solo and being open to serendipity. It brings along the spirit that travel has always carried for me: It’s an unexpected adventure with people you have only just met but who you could be you friends for life. Every new encounter has the potential to change your trajectory and you simply never know what or who in the world might come your way next. That’s the spice of life, isn’t it?
I can’t help but think that if I’d gone ahead with the original Mozambique plan with J, I wouldn’t have ever met this crew. I might not have ended up at Tofo at the same time, might not have walked up and met them that day, and probably wouldn’t have had any attention to give to anyone else.
So thank you, J. In the end, everything came into being just the way it was meant to, and I’m glad that you found love.
I did, too.