In late 2017 I began to share a series of stories on my Instagram which I called ‘Kindness Stories.’ These were short stories about encounters I have had with strangers around the world when I was in need.
These were stories of people who saved me.
Strangers who saved me.
Kindness Series Number I
Hostel Diagonal, Barcelona, Spain
I was 19 and this was my very first time truly solo. I’d just traveled to Israel with my family, they’d then ditched me in London to wait out a few weeks until my semester in Limerick, Ireland started. I decided to ditch London and head to Barcelona. At this point in my life, I’d traveled, I’d even been on planes alone, but I’d never stayed somewhere by myself, and I’d never stayed in a hostel. A friend of my mom’s daughter had been to Barcelona not long before I was going and had stayed at Hostel Diagonal. So that’s what I booked. I didn’t know about hostelworld or the then hostelbookers at this point in my life. I didn’t know how to do my own research.
I arrived to the hostel fairly late in the evening. After checking in and the receptionist warning me not to walk around with my bag and realistically, not to walk around by myself late at night at all (a warning I would receive many times over the next decade and never heed) I asked where to get food. At this point, as a 19 year old waiting to blow my wallet on a semester abroad, food meant a grocery store where I could buy food to cook.
It was late and there weren’t going to be many places open nearby they said.
Some guy, I don’t remember his name, nationality, or face, of which the later two I almost always remember, popped out of the little hostel kitchen.
‘I’ve got a bunch of leftover pasta’
A stranger offering me food. I mean, I guess? I hesitated mostly because we’re taught to always refuse kind gestures the first time around, (what a stupid cultural norm) and then accepted.
‘Welcome to hostels’ he said ‘all you have to do is pay it forward‘
And that first night in a hostel on my own in Barcelona I feasted on a strangers spaghetti and fell into a love which, nearly a decade later, I have not escaped. A love for a world in which strangers sleep in the same bedroom and feed one another. A love for a world which welcomed me without skipping a beat. A love for a faceless, nameless man whom I will never forget.
Since that day in 2009 I have fed countless strangers in hostels. It has never been something I thought much about, and it has never been something I’ve done to make myself feel good or because I expected something in return. It has always been quite simple. I have food, you need food, eat mine.
All I have ever asked in return is that they pay it forward.
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