One of the countries we enjoyed travelling through the most was Iran. Our time here was filled with generosity and hospitality toward strangers that we had never witnessed before. Arriving into towns and being approached by strangers to ask if we would be their guests for the night meant every day was an adventure in its own right. Also, this was the turning point for being able to use websites such as CouchSurfing and WarmShowers to find other travellers that were happy to host us in their own homes. As a result, we started using our tent much less often and over the course of four months, we were able to converse in Farsi and cycled through a much larger portion of the country than what would have been required to continue on our trip.
Here are five instances of kindness from strangers...
"Let me see if you need help"
These two cyclists from Ahwaz saw us cycling into their city at night and stopped to ask if we needed somewhere to stay. Later they invited us to stay at their home. We had a difficult day cycling in the wet weather and it didn't help that we arrived in the city after sunset (making it hard to find a place to camp). So it was a very lucky moment for us to have been stopped by these two kind strangers.
"Let me help an online stranger"
Using Couchsurfing we asked someone to stay in Bam but he was studying abroad in Italy at the time. Instead of ignoring an online request from someone random he hadn't met, he kindly arranged for us to stay with his parents and we celebrated Pheng’s birthday. The incredible distance the Iranian people go to help someone in need is incredible. We could never thank them enough.
"Let me pay for your food"
Fereshteh (in the red hijab) was our host in Kerman. She was training to be a tour guide and showed us the city and historical gardens. She was so generous that when we were grabbing food to make a meal for her, she wouldn't allow us to pay the ingredients. No matter how hard we tried, it was not an option for them to let us pay. This was very common in Iran.
There is something they do only here where you are not asked to pay. It was confusing for us at the beginning. At the checkout of shops, the teller would say "don't need to pay", and then we insist on paying, until then they would accept. They have a culture of not asking for money unless the customer insists. Sometimes if you know the shop owner, it takes a long time to get them to accept the payment.
"Let me show you a great time"
We spent two weeks with Mohsen who met up with us at three times in different cities: Bandar Abbas, Gerash and Shiraz. We met Mohsen through social media and he simply wanted to show us a great time during our visit to his region of Iran. In this picture, Mehdi and Mohsen spent one afternoon teaching us how to ride a horse.
Today we had the opportunity to ride an Olympic competing horse! She competed in the jumping events in the Athens 2004 Game. She was such a calm horse — we felt comfortable and relaxed in no time. Another memorable experience on our world cycling journey.
"Let us welcome you in"
These Red Crescent medics let us into their living unit when we knocked on their door, frozen and cold from the blizzard. Instead of declining us, they let us in. Furthermore, instead of asking us to leave once the storm has passed, they allowed us to stay as long as we wanted. Warm-up and dry our clothes. They even made us lunch which we thoroughly appreciated given what we had just been through. This is another experience of kindness from strangers that we'll never forget.
Nature threw everything at us yesterday. Luckily we started with a 36km ride out of #Nurabad and got dropped off at the border of Kermanshah province. Afterward that we had snow, rain, wind and occasionally sun ☀️! Thank you friends from Nurabad and the #RedCrescent for letting us stay while waiting out the snow storm (and have tea, then lunch, then tea again)
We also remembered to be kind back to our hosts. There were instances of us cooking something from our culture to share back. In this photo, we are enjoying homemade dumplings with a Kurdish family from Marivan. We tried to teach some of the women in the family to ride a bike but weren't successful. This is the city where a group of female cyclists were arrested, simply for cycling back in 2018.
See our article Our Cooking Story on @travelfeed.io to find out what else we've been cooking during our travel.
This post is our entry for @invisusmundi "Kindness I encountered from strangers" competition. Visit https://travelfeed.io/@invisusmundi/travel-writing-contest-kindness-i-encountered-from-strangers