'Kindness Diaries' shares an inspirational tale from global journey

Greg Tasker
The Detroit News

The premise of "The Kindness Diaries" (Readers Digest) seems preposterous: A well-off, middle-aged guy, restless and dissatisfied with his life, hops on a vintage yellow motorbike and circumnavigates the globe, fueling his trip by — get this — kindness. That's right; he doesn't pay for gas, food or lodging, relying only on the kindness of strangers to make his way around the world.

Inspired, in part, by the film "The Motorcycle Diaries," the story of Che Guevara traveling South America by motorcycle on little means, Leon Logothetis plans a similar journey in a quest to "ignite goodwill and transform lives around the world." Logothetis, a former London financial broker living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, had already completed a variation of the trip across the United States on $5 a day. This time around, he plans to return kindness, too, and sees his worldly venture as a chance to come full circle in his quest to commune with his fellow man.

Even before he leaves his L.A. home, Logothetis hits a road block. "The one thing that could definitely stall my journey on any given day, in any given location, was gas," he readily admits. And that's exactly what happens. The first few passersby he approaches, dismiss him as a lunatic. "You need to stop dreaming. Go home. You're wasting my time and your time," one man tells him. A young couple shopping with Louis Vuitton bags in hand also turns him down.

Finally, while sitting on a bench near a gas station, a guy resembling a young Jamie Foxx agrees to buy gas after hearing about the author's plan and becomes his first "angel." And with that act of kindness, Logothetis and his vintage motorbike, dubbed Kindness One (an ambassador to the world like Air Force One, he writes), embark on an a remarkable adventure. He heads east through Death Valley to Las Vegas and then cuts across the middle of the country to New York City, where he arranges for a ship to transport him to Europe. And then it's onward to the Pacific.

While the six-month journey is abundant with acts of generosity, it's also ripe with setbacks, bouts of loneliness and despair about the mission, and mechanical breakdowns. Logothetis, for instance, encounters trouble crossing into Albania from Montenegro (until he convinces the drunken guard he is a Manchester United fan) and his bike is initially denied entry into Cambodia (he lacked proper signatures for such a vehicle). And the author occasionally sleeps exposed to the elements — with a homeless man in Pittsburgh and another time at Lake Como (of all places!).

Although Logothetis visits one dynamic location after another, "The Kindness Diaries" is a travelogue in only the loosest sense. It's more about the people — the "angels," as he calls them — along the way, from Middle America to former war-torn locales such as Bosnia. It's the chance encounters with generous souls — most of whom live sparse existences, yet willingly offer meals, shelter, gas and mechanical repairs — that move the story along. One of the more sobering moments occurs in Calcutta, where Logothetis runs into a man named Barik, who oversees an orphanage. Barik offers a room at the orphanage and when Logothetis goes to take a drink of water there, he warns him it's not safe. "But the children are drinking it," Logothetis counters. It turns out the children are getting sick, but it's the only water they have.

The true-life journey brings Logothetis full circle. He makes it all the way back to L.A. without spending a dime of his own money, and delivers on his promise to repay kindness. Gifts are bestowed on his "angels" scattered around the globe. Among them is Barik and his orphanage in India. Logothetis buys sports equipment so the children can play games, stocks their library with 1,000 books and sends water purifiers so they will no longer get sick.

In the end, Logothetis not only completes his mission, but also shares an inspiring story.

Greg Tasker is the Arts & Entertaintment Editor at The Detroit News.


'The Kindness Diaries'

By Leon Logothetis

Readers Digest


Rating: ★★★