"Are y'all out here?"
"Are y'all OUT HERE?"
"Um yes, we are out here?"
"Are you living here?"
"Oh no we've just stopped for lunch, we're travelling!"
This was one of the many encounters with concerned strangers I've had with concerned strangers since I've been travelling the United States of America. This particular interaction occurred in Charlotte after my friend and I had been unable to wait any longer to eat our hard found lunch and had sought refuge from the blistering heat in what could possibly be describe as a park but was really just a patch of grass.
This man, Robert, was concerned that we were living on the streets and tried to give us money. To be fair it was two dollars which was the change of the person who was paying him to do their supermarket shopping for them but it's the thought that counts. Off the street himself for fourteen months and on a disability benefit he was wanting to do the little he could to help others in a position he had once been in.
This kindness and concern was very touching. My friend and I had been having a frustrating time with our travel but with every obstacle we encountered, somebody went out of their way to get us out of tough spot or at least make it a little easier. Being given food by a Vietnam Veteran at Union Station is a very humbling experience from what I hear. Somebody spending half an hour ringing hotels for me and printing off bus schedules was incredibly helpful and the offers of rides to escape the heat, although not accepted, were very sweet.
Being picked up from Greyhound bus station, whisked out for dinner, being given a proper mattress, coffee and a lift to the airport from a distant acquaintance was like being in a dream. The conclusion I drew was that Southern hospitality is a real thing. However it became clear that to give the South all the credit would be doing the rest of the country a disservice.
Our intended destination was Florida and after all the disruptions, decided to accept a generous offer of a flight directly there. It was my friend's Aunt who was arranging this. A woman I had never met and had only become aware of my existence very recently. She spoilt us our entire time with her and even cut her holiday a day short to facilitate the next phase of our trip.
She arranged for us to be on the same flight as a friend of hers from Colorado. We met at 4 30 am and made our way to the airport together. We were driven three hours out of Denver to a beautiful town called Carbondale. We arrived to find that this family had opened their home to us after only having been in it for a week themselves. They had three wonderful little boys who immediately took to my (male) friend and had him skating and playing Lego.
Not only did they open their home but they also helped us plan a 4 day camping trip lending us their car, phone, pas and extensive collection of camping equipment. We were never made to feel like we were any trouble and instead felt their excitement on our behalf. We had the most amazing time and saw things we would not have been able to do had we been relying on public transport.
New York New York
I am back in New York now, rounding out the final part of the US leg of my journey. New York is maybe the one place I haven't felt particularly drawn to the locals. Everyone is too busy being busy to notice anyone else. Luckily I have my resident but not local family to stay with who are generous enough for the rest of the city.
Being so far from home has been difficult at times. I miss my family and friends and the mountains and the green. But I have been able to find these things at different times in the places I have visited. Living in the age that we do it would be easy to write us all off as self absorbed, individualistic and desensitised. I am happy to report that this has not been my experience at all. Everywhere I have been, somebody has gone out of there way for me and I feel truly blessed to have met the people I have.
Home Sweet Home
Home is where the heart is which for me is now in pieces scattered all over the world. This feels a bit painful at times but it also makes the world feel a little smaller.
When I do settle somewhere or even just when the opportunity arises I will not hesitate to help out anyone who looks a bit lost. Whether it's picking up something dropped or giving directions, something I am thankfully getting better at, even the smallest of gestures do not go unnoticed and are what make the world we live in feel like it still has hope.
Helen McIntosh is a 20 year old trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at