Published on February 13th, 2011


Pay It Forward: Helping a Fellow Wanderlust Here at Home


Sometimes travel serendipity can happen right in your own backyard.  Leastwise it did for me today (albeit somewhat in reverse), right here in Left Seattle, just down the street in my neighborhood shopping center.  It was near dark and pouring down rain.  A somewhat rare torrent unlike our usual pathetic Pacific Northwest drizzle.  Really WET out there with gusts of wind and sheets of rain.  I was doing errands (hair cut, groceries, post office – you know the drill) and getting cranky running to and fro the car.

Rushing out of Rite Aid, I bumped into a stranger – a middle-aged man in work clothes standing in the rain.  I paused just long enough to mutter “Oh, sorry!” when he soundlessly proffered a crinkled slip of paper with some writing on it. Staring at the damp smudged note it read: “Chelan’s – West Marginal Way and Delridge”.

He hardly spoke a word of English, but I gathered he wanted to go to this “Chelan’s” place.  Unfortunately I had no idea what it was, and the Marginal Way/Delridge location was a fair ways away down amid the convoluted labyrinth under the West Seattle Bridge.  “Do you have a car?” I pantomimed, and he replied “No”.  I wasn’t sure if any buses went to that obscure area, and I was already late to pick up a friend for a class at 5:30.

“Do you know someone at this Chelan’s?” I asked.  “Do you have their phone number?”  He then rummaged through each and every one of his pockets, and finally unearthed another slip of paper with the word “Lonnie” and a phone number.  Hooray!  I swiftly dialed the number and happily Lonnie answered.  I briefly explained the gentleman’s dilemma and told Lonnie I was but a stranger trying to help.  It turns out that “Chelan’s” is a restaurant that Lonnie owns and he likewise had only recently met the stranger (who I learned is a merchant seaman named “Perara”) while traveling in Sri Lanka.  Lonnie said he’d be happy to come pick up Perara, but unfortunately he was a good hour’s drive away in rush hour traffic.  So I suggested I stash dear Perara at the nearby McDonald’s (with a Happy Meal to keep him company for good measure) where he could wait for Lonnie, all warm and dry.

Fine.  So Perara and I drive over to McDonald’s and I get him all nicely tucked into a booth.  I ordered him some grub and advised the folks behind the counter that Perara spoke little English but was waiting for his friend to pick him up in about an hour or so.  I then waved goodbye to Perara and headed out the door back  into the rain.

But Perara was soon right behind me!  He had his camera out and was dancing around in the rain trying to tell me something.  Ah… he wanted me to take his photo – with the AMERICAN FLAG there in the background beside the McDonald’s!

Such a simple random encounter with a fellow traveler, and I was happy to lend a little help.  But more importantly, it reminds me so of my own dilemmas in distant lands where I too, don’t know the language and haven’t a clue which direction to go.  So I’m just thankful that I could be there for Perara – a little “Pay it forward” for all the times total strangers have been kind enough to help me.

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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

7 Responses to Pay It Forward: Helping a Fellow Wanderlust Here at Home

  1. Wrabbit007 says:

    I love being able to help people out when they’re traveling in my neck of the woods. A) It is just good karma, and I would hope that others would do the same for me when I’m wandering in their hometown, and B) there is no better way than to meet cool people who enjoy traveling as much as you do. I’m always willing to lend a hand, strike up a conversation, give directions, etc. Good for you! If the whole world was like that – what a lovely place it would be! I’m heading to Seattle in 2 days for a few days of sightseeing – maybe I’ll see you on a street corner! I’ll be blogging about my Seattle adventures in my blog, if you’re interested!

    • says:

      Yes indeed Wrabbit, lending a hand to fellow travelers is always a win-win. And one of the best/easiest ways to do it is through Couchsurfing ( I’ve been offering my “couch” to travelers from all over the world for several years now, and have had nothing but wonderful experiences.

      Do let me know when you land in Seattle, maybe we can meet up or… perhaps you’ll need to “couch” to “surf”?

  2. When we returned from our travels we vowed we would no longer let those people standing with maps try to navigate on their own. We always thought that people could manage but, after traveling, we realized the value in a little connection. We now stop and help whenever we can. A nice story…and karma in your karma bank! Cheers!

  3. theal2 says:

    Nice story! I hope he send you the pic! Have been enjoying your posts.

    • says:

      Lonnie called me about an hour later, Sis to confirm that he’d found Perara all safe ‘n sound, munching on a box of McFries – whew! But alas nope – no pic as I neglected to give Perara my email.

  4. Awesome story! That West Seattle Bridge exchange confuses me every time I try to navigate it. I’m glad you were there to help.

    • says:

      Indeed, FS. That convoluted no-man’s-land beneath the bridge is like venturing into a black hole!

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