When Leon Logothetis walked away from his job as a stockbroker 12 years ago, he was depressed and directionless.
He had learned the lesson so many of us struggle to accept: that money just can't buy happiness. His job gave him everything, but he wasn't satisfied with his safe and comfortable life. Instead, he left his home behind and traveled the world searching for happiness.
Inspired by a road trip movie called The Motorcycle Diaries, Logothetis started hitchhiking across America, but set a special restriction to make his journey interesting. He could spend $5 a day, but had to depend on the kindness of strangers for everything else.
That meant his food and shelter every day depended on friendly and charitable people to look after him. At the start of the trip Logothetis says he felt "like I was living someone else’s life," but by the end the generosity he had seen made him feel much better.
He's kept his project going to this day, traveling through more than 100 countries and sharing his experiences in books and a TV show called The Kindness Diaries. After traveling more than 25,000 miles, he has a endless supply of incredible stories about the humanity and love of the people he's met.
But which of these stories mean the most to him?
Today, Logothetis always travels on his vintage yellow motorbike called "Kindness One," and he keeps his sidecar open to help strangers who cross his path.
While the adventurer says 9/10 people he asks for help turn him down, strangers have shared meals with Logothetis, filled Kindness One with gas and opened their homes to him. A chance encounter with Pittsburgh's homeless population still stands out in his mind.
While no one in the city seemed willing to help him, the city's most vulnerable people shared their shelter with him for the night, proving that people who have the least can be the most generous. He says experiences like these have taught him to look beyond headlines about our "unfriendly" country and planet.
"You would imagine that America is a mean place," he told Today. "You would imagine that ... people don't care about each other. That is totally untrue. There is connectivity out there, and there's kindness out there. And that was one of the greatest lessons I learned.”
Now, Logothetis is using his project to pay back some of the kindness others have shown him. He's helped build homes in the world's poorest communities and payed for plane tickets to reunite families in different countries. For this friendly world-traveler random acts like these are what kindness is all about.
"Kindness is about getting to know someone, getting to relate to someone, connecting with them and figuring out … an opportunity that could truly change their lives,” he says, just like the people he met have changed his life.
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