This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of DoubleTree by Hilton. All opinions are 100% mine.
On average, how many strangers do you think you encounter in your day-to-day life? One? Three? Maybe five?
Chances are, if you work in a suburban office (or at home like me), you probably don't encounter many. If you use public transport to commute to work or frequently run errands, then maybe your number goes up slightly – but it's still not a whole lot.
But compare that number to the number of strangers you encounter when you travel.
Travel is all about new destinations and experiences – and usually comes complete with plenty of new people, too. Plenty of strangers to make an impression on you, either positive or negative, that can sometimes shape your entire travel experience.
DoubleTree by Hilton wants to spread the nice in travel this spring. They believe that “nice is contagious,” and that small acts of kindness can have a big impact in the long run. Which is why they've launched the Nice Travels campaign.
The campaign “will show that the best way to have a stress-free travel experience is to give out what you want to get back… because Nice Travels.”
The campaign to encourage simple acts of kindness launches today – National Pay It Forward Day – and got me thinking about some of the small (and large) acts of kindness that have shaped and influenced some of my own travel experiences.
Acts of kindness on the road
I've been traveling regularly for more than five years, and have traveled solo, taken tours, and met strangers in more than 40 countries all around the world.
I'm a firm believer that travel helps break down barriers and crush stereotypes, and one of the best ways to do this is to talk to strangers, whether you're visiting Canada or Cambodia.
I mean, think about it – how many times has a stranger had an influence on your perception of an unfamiliar destination, or played a part in a particularly memorable experience? Chances are you can think of at least a few instances right off the top of your head.
Sometimes these experiences are negative (we've all met That Person who makes a flight miserable, or who berates a service worker, or who complains non-stop throughout a tour). In fact, according to DoubleTree by Hilton's “Nice Travel Index,” just 36% of the conversation online about travel is positive. And I get it; travel can be stressful, and it's easy to lash out at people – and especially strangers – when something goes wrong or your plans get interrupted.
But imagine how great our travel experiences could be if we were just a little nicer to our fellow human beings.
New friends being selfless
Strangers often become friends when you travel together, and I've gone on to meet new friends in their home countries all over the world. Most recently, I met up with my friend Tammy who I'd met on a tour in New Zealand in her home province of Alberta, Canada. Tammy found out via Instagram that I would be in Banff for a day, and insisted on driving down from Edmonton to ferry me around to Banff's most beautiful lakes and viewpoints.
I know Canadians are known for being incredibly kind, but this really went above and beyond!
Strangers on a train
I've traveled by public transport a lot (especially in Europe), and quite a few times have come across complete strangers who decided they would take it upon themselves to look after me. Sometimes it's just a man helping me stow my bag, or a driver letting me know when we've come to my stop.
Once in Slovenia, I had an old lady not only help me stow my bag on a train (despite the fact that she couldn't even lift it), but also sit in the row in front of me to keep an eye out for me as I took a nap. We couldn't exchange any actual words because of the language barrier, but smiles and hand gestures between me and my Slovenian grandma left me feeling good for the rest of the day.
Hanging with locals
Some of my favorite travel memories have been when locals have taken me under their wing and invited me to do seemingly normal things with them. Like the day a tour guide in Bulgaria invited me and two friends to a water park with him and his girlfriend, gave us a ride, and even paid for us to get in.
Or the time last year when my contact at a local tourism board in Norway invited me to her house for dinner and to watch the Eurovision contest with her and a friend. It's something that certainly makes me look back on my time in Trondheim with a huge smile.
Things YOU can do to pay it forward
Even the smallest acts of kindness can have a ripple effect on those around you, especially when you're traveling. You don't have to buy someone a plane ticket or open up your hotel room or anything like that, though – small gestures help, too.
Things like giving up your seat on a train if someone else needs it, or saying a heartfelt thank you to a bus driver or flight attendant. Things like buying your tour guide a cup of coffee, or lending some money to someone whose ATM card just won't work. It can even be things that don't benefit one specific person, like picking trash up off a beach, or donating travel supplies you don't need any longer rather than throwing them away.
I also donate to sustainable charities, always have ginger chews on hand to pass out on windy bus rides, and try not to waste transport passes that I buy – if I buy a 7-day metro pass but only use it for 5, I always give it to someone at the train station when I'm done using it.
Like I said, small gestures. Because those can definitely be contagious.
Share your own #NiceTravels moments
As part of the Nice Travels campaign, DoubleTree by Hilton wants to know how YOU are paying it forward on your travels. In order to do this, the brand has created the Nice Travels Index, a real-time social listening and measurement tool that tracks online sentiment towards travel.
Using this and the interactive #NiceTravels online photo mosaic, DoubleTree by Hilton will identify and reward travelers that are doing their part to bring the “nice” back to travel.
For your chance to win free stays (and to be inspired by random acts of kindness being captured all across the globe), all you have to do is snap a picture capturing the everyday kindness that you encounter and share it across Instagram and Twitter using #NiceTravels and #ContestEntry, or upload your picture directly to NiceTravels.com.
All of the photos shared come together online at NiceTravels.com to form an interactive mosaic in the form of a cookie (based on the delicious cookies DoubleTree by Hilton provides to guests when they check in). The contest is open through May 25, 2016.
So what do you think? Can being nice affect your travel experience, or that of others around you? Share some of your own travel acts of kindness (either observed or carried out) in the comments below!