What You Need To Know
What You Need To Do
- Watch these episodes in order. Do not flip around to “Oh, he’s in Italy now, let’s watch that.” No. You need to go in order to witness Leon’s own growth and self-awareness. The man in Los Angeles is not the same one in Cambodia. By the time he made it to Southeast Asia, he had been beaten down and uplifted so many times. His reactions and approaches change as he learns how to navigate this social experiment in each country.
- Wear a long sleeve shirt or keep a box of tissues, whichever you prefer. You will cry. No, it’s not a downer - it’s a good cry! You will see the happiness and joy in people and a little bit of that spirit comes into your heart and makes you cry. Unless of course, you have a stone cold heart, so this will just chip away at the ice.
- Do not binge on this. Yes, it is tempting watch each 20 minute episode back to back until you’re done. Yes, you are done. What will you do then? Ride your own bike around the world? Therefore, the only way to watch this is in small batch of 1-2 episodes. This is the special Willy Wonka chocolate bar with the Gold Ticket. It’s rare, sweet and you want to eat a little bit at a time, and share it with Grandpa Joe.
What It Did For Me
I found this in February of 2017, when I was continuously absorbed with social media, consuming articles about politics and analysis about the future. It was also a particularly dark period of loss for my family, as well. This is on top of the dealing with strong personalities at work and overall physical and emotional support for family. Therefore, when I sit down to watch TV, I watch with the intent “to turn off my brain.”I found this show and it was such a respite from all the noise. I do not want to hear anything negative or wrong -- this is what is right in the world.My father once quipped, “You have the US, and then you have the real world.” I felt like this show brought the real world and people forward. It made the rest of our worries seem so inconsequential, when people are trying to survive day to day.I watched the Cambodia episode twice – the second time with my family – and I cried again. There’s no randomness in meeting strangers in your path. Leon was supposed to meet the girl who brought him to her village to help someone there.In this time of uncertainty, this was a small reminder that we’re not just floating alone. We’re connected to each other and we can rely on others. I do believe some people come into our lives for a purpose. They serve a function for as long as they stay, which may be moments or years, and then they leave us, helping us for our next step.
A greater lesson is that we shouldn’t underestimate the value of kind word or gesture. What seems small to one person, can mean the world to another.
A few years ago I did the social experiment of 29 Gifts in 29 days. I kept a list of what I gave to others every day. It may have been physical item such as bringing food to coworkers, passing extra magazines to a friend or, it may have been intangible such as forwarding a meaningful email or a compliment. After reading inspiring stories from others, I upped my giving and organized a holiday food drive at work for local organization. However, the more you give, the more you receive. After that period, believe it or not, I won the office Super Bowl pool. Now, everyone knows I do not watch football let alone bet on it. Because I was in the spirit of giving, I doled out few dollars for the pool, and I won $200 back. Yes, a lot of people were shocked and I bought pizza with the winnings. Here's a link to another blog post about other random gifts.
Anyway, this whole Kindness series just took the social experiment to the global level.
So, I found the Facebook page for the series and I chimed in on a discussion. I was shocked that Leon responded to me in appreciation of my comment and said he would send me his book if I messaged him. I was an extremely giddy fan-girl when I wrote back! I've had NPR personalities respond to me, but not a Netflix one! We chatted and he sent me a copy of his book about the tour!
Yes, I know he didn’t personally mail it, but someone from the publisher distribution department who got a list to ship. Yet, I was excited! By the way, he has a high responsive rate for acknowledging comments on the page himself, which is really a good practice for public relations.
On the Book
I received "The Kindness Diaries"book and quickly read this after I had seen most of the show. This part is tricky because the book is about the travel experiences. Having seen the series, there are parts I felt I could skip and this book could just be a companion to the series. However, he moves very quickly through some of those travel stories. The benefit to the book is that that the introspection on his motivations and soul searching. The series omits his relationship with his girlfriend, while the book brings it up freely. She feels he is “running away” from her, while he’s trying to find himself. It’s intriguing how he makes the Odysseus and Penelope connection eventually.I was happy to see him acknowledge that much of the success of this trip is due to being a white Englishman. Of course, people are open to the English accent! That is how the British conquered the world. This social experiment would not have left Los Angeles if the traveler were a dark-haired Jose or Sanjay. I also believe a woman would not have taken this much of a risk on a world tour without money. Obviously, many women travel alone, but they would probably have a backup plan for where to stay the night.
He also acknowledged the advantage of having a film crew with him, which gave him a sense of importance. I would love to see an FAQ section – where did the film crew stay, did they offer him food or gas at all, what was their experience like in the villages, what exactly is the mileage on Kindness One?Anyway, Leon was a stockbroker before, which is a career that is driven by risk and adrenaline of uncertainty. There’s also a sense of boldness – asking what polite folk do not ask. Can I be in the show? Can you teach me karate? Can I touch your gun? Because each new situation is unpredictable, humility and flexibility is key. There’s no American arrogance around him – “I cannot sleep on that” or “I need Ranch dressing or I can’t eat.”
By the way, since this book was a gift to me, I'm going to pass it along to someone else.
I made multiple attempts to engage my family to watch this show, and was able to lure them in when I was on the Turkey to India episodes. My husband, like many Indian immigrants, was dismayed at how India was portrayed. I don’t have a problem with this – it is hot, dirty, inconvenient, overwhelming. However, Indians feel it often becomes one-sided depiction and the positive aspects get lost. I mean, who wants to continually see their home depicted so negatively, that this becomes the mainstream perspective?Anthony Bourdain says in his book “No Reservations”:"There are two types of visitors to India: There are those who quickly find themselves frustrated, irritated, frightened of the food and water, intimated by the great masses of humanity, overwhelmed by the all-too-evident poverty, ground down by the heat and the crowds, perplexed by the behavior of Indians..."
"Others, like me, are charmed... You have to redefine words like 'beautiful,' 'magnificent,' and 'gorgeous' when you travel through India... I love India. I just don't know whether I can handle India. Whether I can wrap my tiny brain around its past, its present or its future."Leon definitely is the latter as he writes:
"India will always feel flat in words, because it isn’t contained by language. It is written in color. It is drawn by sound. India breaks through all of the senses because India is filled with people. So many people."He definitely embraces the culture and the people. Man, he went into the river at Varanasi! My Indian friends would never dip anywhere outside of their Marriott hotels when they’re in India. I’m actually glad he stayed with the common people, and did not venture into the high-end bubble that exists in major cities. I’ve been to bars and malls in Mumbai that are beyond what I’ve seen in NYC and Las Vegas. However, you walk out into the streets and face stark humanity at your feet.The most important part of traveling and entering new cultures and countries is put away judgments and criticism, and simply open hearts and minds.
Since I found the series, I’ve been encouraging many friends to watch this for a feel good show. I get emails that friends are crying and everything. The positive part is that even though the series is over, Leon still around. He’s also doing a number of live chats and speaking tours. I hope he does come to my town and we can be good friends.