“I like to think of it as a bank account,” Mac said in a Glaswegian accent so strong, the to became tay and the ou became ooo and I had to ask him, please repeat.
Mac’s recent run of good deeds, he clarified, was accruing credit. The grandmother he’d helped onto a public bus, the homeless man he’d shared his chips with, the free lifts he’d given me: all these gestures would accumulate, until Mac hit trouble somewhere and needed a withdrawal.
While I’m not sure you can credit and debit travel karma in this way, Mac’s idea of turning generous behavior into emotional wealth is a habit we could all get into.
To increase your own global good luck, why not:
- Shout a drink/meal. Budgets are the baggage of almost every traveler, and they often dictate the whole itinerary. Next time you meet up with visitors, buy them a beer or pay for their food. You’ll not only fill up stomachs, but help save a few precious dollars for the next step of the journey.
- Pick up hitchhikers. This ultimate act of trust will send your travel karma credit soaring. Whether it’s a short distance or a drive across the country, take notice of who’s holding a thumb out along the road.
- Share airport taxis. Are you ever overwhelmed by those first early moments in a new place? Because you know the feeling, why not smooth the transition for a fellow nomad – it may lead to a new friend, or at the least, a social excuse to meet up again later.
- Offer your couch. Begging acquaintances and friends-of-friends for a night’s accommodation can be uncomfortable. So beat a traveler to the question and invite him/her to stay. Understand that a roof is more important than Egyptian Cotton, and share your linen, bathroom, and tea kettle, too.
- Give directions. When you notice someone showings symptoms of Being Lost (forehead stuck in a frown, head buried in a paper map or phone app), premeditate their request and give directions. Better yet, escort them to their destination. Have a chat along the way, then everyone ends up in a happier place.
- Use your connections. Do you know the barista at a local bakery, the clerk at a travel agency, or the city’s mayor? Anyone who can help improve a person’s experience of your neighborhood or city? Pull a few easy strings and tie your new and old acquaintances together.
- Help out in public places. Bus stations, food stalls, banks and pharmacies invite confusion in a foreign environment. When someone doesn’t understand the language, the ticket machine or the ATM, step up and lend some advice.
- Offer to take photos. Selfie sticks (and selfies themselves) make this one harder to gauge, but it’s still a sweet thought. After all, no one wants a photo album full of forearms and magnified foreheads.
What thoughtful gestures fill up your travel karma bank?