How seeing 2500 beautiful moments in 24 countries changed me

The last rays of sunshine flick on my face and I’m laughing. Because I’m writing this blog. A year after I left my home town I’m in Sydney Australia, a destination which seems nearly impossible a year ago, just as being on the road for a year. In this year more than 2500 people in 24 countries drew a beautiful moment. How did it affect me that I saw so much happiness of people?

First off, seeing so many people smiling everyday certainly affects my mood. It’s contagious. It’s not that I start off collecting while being grumpy, that doesn’t work, but it definitely keeps me smiling.
Especially because quite a lot of persons show a change in their mood while approaching them. A Serbian woman didn’t want to join because she didn’t have any moments and then remembers her son playing football. A shy girl in Vietnam thought she was too shy to approach strangers but helped me with translating. A suicidal man in Copenhagen smiled while singing a song from his childhood. A young man in Sydney thought he had a miserable week until he remembered he got his Australian citizenship. It’s quite fulfilling to see these kind of changes in people and it’s the reason why I do this. Remembering beautiful moments can make you happier.

The moments itself show a lot of diversity and unity. Drawing that you’ve got a compliment is something which is only drawn in the Netherlands while family dinners are most drawn in Singapore. A lot of the beautiful moments reflect relationships with other persons, whether it’s your boyfriend/girlfriend, family or friends. Another big part is being in nature and doing things you like. How exactly the moments look like differs from place to place. It showed me how happiness can be found everywhere. In each country and almost every situation people could come up with beautiful moments. It struck me that in Nepal alphabetics still went drawing, although they seldom hold a pen. The significance of the project differs also per country and it’s not only limited to happiness. In Nepal it was an important part of the story I was doing it as a woman. In Serbia people were amazed by the fact it was possible not to have a nine to five job. In Slovenia where the economical crisis has hit hard the project gained more importance, since people there where more reflecting on what the important things in live are.
I learned that this project has something to offer in each place.

Getting so many people to draw requires some endurance. And this year I’ve learned how to boost my perseverance.
One of the tricks is to go back to my values. Why I do this. Which values are important to me. If for instance I don’t feel like collecting on a certain day I repeat in my head the following sentences: “I want to know what happens and whatever happens is okay.” These phrases spark my curiosity and give me the right attitude and enthusiasm to go and ask strangers.
Another way is to is to stop for a little while and do something else. Sometimes an afternoon is enough, in Vietnam I had to take a month. In Saigon my motivation for the project had become very low. Mainly because I was tired, I missed having friends around me and I wasn’t using my analytic mind enough, so I didn’t feel challenged in an intellectual sense. The decision to take a break from collecting and focus on making friends and other parts of the projects like giving lectures was an easy one. And the first days it really seemed to work. My motivation went up, but in general it stayed on a lower level for a couple of weeks. The difficult part was keeping faith my motivation would go up again. When I left Saigon I wasn’t really enthusiastic about continuing but I thought we’ll see what happens. And that openess saved me. In Cambodia my curiosity was sparked again and in Malaysia my motivation was sky high just by approaching people on the street.
This open “we’ll see what what happens” approach helps me to deal with insecurities. If things go wrong often good things happen, if I can switch my perspective on the matter. This is something became even more skilled at. When I forgot my key and had to go to a hostel to spend the night I was a bit down. But I started laughing after the hostel owner told me I had to spend the night on the street. The story had become too weird and turned into a real adventure. A missed airplane turned out to be the best thing I did that week when somebody read I was still in Singapore and wanted to meet up. With the words “every year I support a dreamer” she gave me an envelope with quite some cash.
I don’t think I’m overly optimistic. Let’s face it. I’m on the road for 12 months while when I left I had a budget for 3 months. With my current budget I can last 1-2 months. My insecurities haven’t risen though. I’m more confident in my own capabilities and the opportunities which will arise.

The thing which overwhelmed me this year was how many people helped me, the number is around 500. From offering a place to sleep or a meal to building a website. And from supporting me in the crowd funding or giving me an unused laptop to translating or making a video. It makes me humble and sometimes feeling small. The only reason I can do the world tour. The further this project progresses the more I’m relying on the kindness of strangers to make this project happen and it works. It’s an awesome feeling to know how great people are.
Thank you all.

Collecting in Hyde Park Sydney, Australia. Photo taken by Katrina James
Collecting in Hyde Park Sydney, Australia. Photo taken by Katrina James

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