Lonely Planet releases uplifting anthology, The Kindness of Strangers

  • 21 October 2003
  • USA

“A wonderful idea beautifully realized. I enjoyed it immensely.”
— Bill Bryson

From returned lost wallets and passports to a hot meal and a place to stay the night after a breakdown, almost everyone has experienced an unexpected act of compassion from a Good Samaritan. The Kindness of Strangers (October 2003, $14.99 US, ISBN 1 74059 590 4) is a remarkable anthology of 26 true stories that celebrate the theme of kindness while on the road and the connections kindness creates.

Edited by Lonely Planet’s global travel editor, Don George, and featuring an inspirational preface by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Kindness of Strangers presents original stories by an extraordinary array of contributors, from best-selling writers such as Dave Eggers, Tim Cahill, Jan Morris and Simon Winchester to never-before-published talents.

In his introduction, George describes the premise of the book: “In twenty-five years of wandering, I have learned two things: The first is that when you travel, at some point you will find yourself in a dire predicament – out of money, out of food, unable to find a hotel room, lost in a big city or on a remote trail, stranded in the middle of nowhere. The second is that whatever the situation, dramatic or mundane, some stranger will emerge to save you.  The moral of this is simple and clear: Human beings care about each other. Whatever their background, religion, culture, and condition, on a person-to-person level, just about everyone everywhere wants to be good to others.”

Chez Panisse founder and mega-star chef Alice Waters describes a meager but life-changing meal offered by a boy in rural Turkey. Thomas Cook Travel Book Award winner Stanley Stewart uncovers peace and generosity in the heart of war-ravaged Uganda. Kindness strikes Tim Cahill when he tracks a rare tiger on the Turkish border with Iraq, and Dave Eggers on a simple stroll along Havana’s Malecón. For Simon Winchester, it is personified in an English vicar and his wife on a remote Atlantic island; for Jan Morris, it’s a bedraggled senior citizen who comes to her rescue in Leningrad. Sometimes the kindness connection is fused with humor, as Carolyn Swindell discovers when she tries to buy a pair of suitable Argentinean underwear. And sometimes it arrives in a more threatening guise, as Jeff Greenwald realizes when he embarks on a joy ride through the Southwest with an odd couple – who turn out to be much more dangerous than he dreamed.

Richly varied in locale and tone, the stories in The Kindness of Strangers all portray one of the primary reasons we travel and one of the core elements of Lonely Planet: human connection.

In an age of global distrust and divisiveness, The Kindness of Strangers presents an urgent and inspiring alternative. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes in his eloquent and moving preface: “I greatly appreciate the theme of this book that gathers stories of kindness received when it was most needed and perhaps least expected. I am sure they will inspire everyone who reads them, encouraging each of us to take whatever opportunities arise to be kind to others in turn.”