If you could ask everybody you meet one question, what would it be?
It was my first week in Italy, surrounded by new faces from England, Iceland, and Bulgaria; I was as far out of my comfort zone as I could get. An empty journal was on the table in front of me, but I hadn’t yet thought of what to write. This was the first project I had ever worked on that took on a life of its own.
Asking everyone I meet on my travels one question would be a great souvenir I thought. Each page could fit about 100 words and there were over 250 pages in the small book. No matter the question, it would take years to fill up the pages. I decided the best thing to do was to choose something open-ended that I knew I would still be passionate about more than a decade later. “What Makes You Happy?” was the final product. I liked it. Everyone had freedom to write their answer however they wanted, and they did; some entries are straightforward while others are more philosophical.
What do people write?
The first three words written in the notebook are "The little things..." by Atli from Iceland and that’s the best summary of the entire book I can find. They all attack the question in a different way, but when you get to the core, they all agree on a few things:
Happiness is hard to define and very personal - It's totally subjective and there isn't a wrong answer, that's one of the reasons I love the question so much.
Happiness is the small things in life like a cup of coffee - A good song, your favorite meal, and relaxing with family have all made the list multiple times; the entries usually reveal that you don't need anything expensive or luxurious to make you happy.
Happiness is rare and precious - Almost every entry mentions that happiness is hard to find and should be appreciated as much as possible in the moment.
To fill the journal will be years of hard work, but afterward I'll have a book with a record of every important person in my life. I hope to publish it someday, all of the entries with a breakdown of what everyone said and how we can all be happier from it. Every time I ask someone to write in it they always seem really interested in reading the other entries and finding common answers from people separated by thousands of miles. It really seems like something everyone is interested in. It won’t be easy to achieve my goal, but nothing worth doing ever was.