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How To Be Generous On Holiday

By Alexandra Khan | 12 August 2015


"A beach, a book, and a bottle of SPF."

"Zip-lining across the Austrian Alps."

"Eating a different flavoured gelato in every major city in Italy."

All of us have different ideas when it comes to having 'the perfect holiday'. For most of us, holidays are our gift to ourselves. A time to be served; to take a break from all the doing and being; to relax or explore; to take photos and make memories. In other words? There's a lot of scope to leave the concept of generosity at the airport and make our holidays completely me-centric.

We arrive with our tick-lists and our wanderlust (“1. Sun tan 2. See the sights 3. Buy a wildly overpriced poncho that I'll never wear again...”) but, usually, the most memorable moments of our trips are the ones that happen unexpectedly. Perhaps they're found in the moments of human connection and kindness that we can't anticipate when we're obsessing over Trip Advisor reviews.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to be generous while on holiday: leave great tips, be friendly, share your sun cream, say thank you, be gracious about the screaming toddler on your 14-hour night flight...

But is there a space that sits between self-indulgent and altruistic travel that can teach us something vital about ourselves, others, and God?

It’s true that you can't really give unless you've learned how to receive. Well, holidays are typically a really great time to learn how to actively receive. To be open to difference, kindness, new culture and experience - and not only to absorb those things with gratitude, but to allow yourself to be changed by them. When we find ourselves in new environments, we sometimes have no choice but to depend on the kindness of strangers. And that forces us to re-evaluate our own capacity for generosity.

Eight years ago I travelled to Egypt. My mother and I made friends with the staff that ran our hotel water-sports facility, after two days of snorkelling with them. The most memorable part of the trip was when they invited us to eat with them in their town, and then asked if we'd like to meet their families. They showered us with good food, great coffee, stories, family photos, local recommendations and kindness, with no expectation of reciprocity.

When I asked my friends, many of them had similar stories to share. Small or sometimes quite extravagant acts of generosity from unknown people on holiday had made a significant impact on them.

As we flew back from holiday that year, I knew I would probably never see those people again, but I also realised I'd never forget them either. They had taught me something important about hospitality and extraordinary generosity.

And left me with a challenge as to how I could give with the same readiness back at home.

Posted by Alexandra Khan

Alexandra is a digital marketing executive for Stewardship. Originally trained in music, she went on to spend a few years in the videogames industry before making the leap to the NFP sector. Follow her on Twitter: @alxkhn


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