Happiness is…

Religions promise it, advertisers sell it and self-help books explain it, but happiness remains elusive and the subject of much speculation. Hemingway famously quipped, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Gabriele Galimberti has set out to pursue happiness, not his own but that of the people he has met in his globetrotting travels. He has asked his subjects what it is – what gives them joy, pleasure, bliss – and he has tri- ed to translate it into images. What we find out is that happiness is intimately bound to memory and that makes photography particularly well-equipped for probing it. However, we also discover that happiness is very difficult to measure. When we try to see it, it tends to escape, almost as if it obeyed Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which tells us that the things we observe are necessarily altered by the very act of measuring them.

What Gabriele did, therefore, was ask the sitters to write a short text about happiness, which he then used to create the scenario for photographing them.
The result is a series of images that have an intrinsical- ly cinematographic feel, composed of the atmosphere of dreams and the stuff of memories.

While it is true that happiness, unlike pain, leaves no scars, at least we can have photographs.

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  • Jillionaire - New York

    Jillionaire - New York

    The Jillionaire, 36 – New York City, USA

    I am a DJ – I have always been excited by music. As a child, I remember staying up late at night, listening to mix shows and recording songs off the radio onto cassette. I began DJing in my late teens, and my parents were convinced that I had some kind of drug addiction – we would keep all the gear and records at a friend’s house, and they had no idea what I was doing with my money!

    I love to entertain – I guess I get it from my mother. During the holidays in Trinidad we would have parties at our house and I would invite all my friends. She would cook and everyone would come over to ‘lime’ – our word for hang out and have a good time – sometimes over a hundred people would show up! To this day my friends still ask me, “Chris, when is the next party at your house?”Hopefully when I get off tour I can have a big ‘lime’ at my house, just like old times.

    I ran a bar in Trinidad for a few years, and despite the long hours and hard work, they were some of the greatest days of my life -walking in and seeing the place teeming with people, all smiling and having a good time, putting all their cares and concerns aside for a few hours in the day.

    DJing has taken me to the furthest corners of the globe, and now I get to entertain thousands of new friends, every night, in different cities. From Paris to Montreal, from Stockholm to San Francisco, it is such a gratifying feeling to share in other people’s happiness, to know that you touched their lives and were able to make them smile, feel good, and have a great time – it’s indescribable. It’s the thing that encourages you to give 100% every night, whether it’s a big festival or tiny club, first night of a tour or the very last show.

    Every night after the gig, whichever local promoter will come to me and ask, “so how was the show? Did you have fun?”, and I’ll say to them, “as long as they’re happy, I’m happy.” –

    Jillionaire - New York

  • Catalina - Colombia

    Catalina - Colombia

    Catalina. 32 – Cartagena, Colombia

    – I live on a small island to the north of a city full of cement and rain, “cold” people, traffic jams, buses, blackbirds, pigeons, bars and parks. My city is called Bogotà  and is in the middle of Colombia. I have lived here for 32 years and on my island for two.

    My house is well-proportioned, just like the roads and parks on which it floats, but what I like most about it is that I can hear the cars speeding by on the nearby avenue, and the background noise makes me smile at night time, it makes me feel close to the sea.The sea is about 940 km away, and even though I don’t get many opportunities to go there, living in this city where your days are mapped out by office life and routine, I try to visit about twice a year. I could say that, on my little island in Bogotà I’€™m smiling, but when I am by the sea I’€™m happy.

    I’ve been to some murky, mysterious seas, surrounded by mangroves, I’ve swum in clear waters full of fish, I’ve spent whole days by myself in complete silence looking at the sea, and I have even walked hand-in-hand down the beach with a few boyfriends.

    I’ve seen cold-water seas in southern countries and warm waters like the ones that surround my country. I’ve sailed on catamarans and wooden rafts. Sitting on the beach I started writing, many years ago. Submerged in its waters I have understood what it really means to be free.

    There isn’t one particular type of sea that I like more than the others. I can’€™t say that I prefer the dark green of the Pacific rather than the turquoise blue waters around the Central American islands on the Atlantic. I won’t say that Paradise is in La Guajira, where the desert reaches the sea, nor that I wouldn’t go kayaking again, against the current in the middle of the storm, nor could I say that I wouldn’t live close to the ocean.

    While I know that the sea is always with me, having a house from which I can see it every morning would really fill my heart with happiness. –

    Catalina - Colombia

  • Claude - Switzerland

    Claude - Switzerland

    Claude Baechtold, 42 – Aigle, Switzerland

    – I was born in Switzerland where I trained as a graphic designer. Like all self-respecting Swiss graphic designers, I wanted a nice orderly, organised world.
    When I was 25 my parents died, and my country suddenly seemed terribly empty. So I left. I travelled for 15 years, to every corner of the globe, as a photographer then as a film maker, and the more chaotic my surroundings, the better I felt. I knew that I would find happiness through adventure, and there can be no adventure without chaos and unpredictability.

    I think my favourite memory is Afghanistan, and its inextricable, incomprehensible, mind-bogglingly incoherent situations. But I also love China and Russia, which are also very strong in that department. Then my godmother fell ill, and was unable to continue living alone in her old house amid the sunny vineyards of the Rhòne Valley. So I came back to Switzerland to look after her. She was a wonderful woman, extremely wise and lived to an incredible age. Her only fault was to surround herself with a very large number of objects, most of them useless. She died a few years later, at the ripe old age of 97, as impertinent as ever, undoubtedly satisfied with the mountain of objects she had amassed at the end of such a long life, and which she left to me.

    Objects of all kinds, tens of thousands of them stuffed into her cellar, attic and above all in her barn. This barn is like an island where I can breathe in the middle of all that suffocating Swiss tidiness. Sometimes my friends can’t stand all the mess, and prefer to leave. As for me, I sit with my cheeky piles of stuff, defending my right to chaos and happiness. –

    Claude - Switzerland

  • Amy - USA

    Amy - USA

    Amy, 30 – Miami, USA

    The well-known Jewish poet, Hayyim Nachman Bialik (1873-1943), reminds us that “€œThe greatest happiness is to do our duty, and our foremost duty is to reach the place we can.”

    As a young female Rabbi I find that my calling, or as Bialik puts it – my duty, is to connect human beings to one another, to themselves, and to God through prayer. My place is to be the vessel through which this Holy potential can happen. As I stand on the bima (pulpit) in front of my congregation, I invite the congregant’s personal and collective prayers to be expressed as authentically as the individual is able. There is no judgment. No right or wrong way to pray. Simply through their sincere participation during T’fillah (prayer), I am able to find myself transformed and embodied with a feeling of complete happiness and exhilaration. I am a witness to the vulnerability of human beings in prayer and I don’t take that privilege lightly. We become partners in that sanctuary, as we, together, are able to speak to God. –

    Amy - USA

  • Grace - Canada

    Grace - Canada

    Grace, 30 – Toronto, Canada

    – When I was a little girl, what made me happy was getting presents from my mum. After she finished work at the office, she would always stop by the shops and bring me a little gift. Sometimes it was only a bag of candy, sometimes it was a children’s scientific story book. Each time it was a surprise. Her handbag was like a magician’s sack. When I was 12, my mum changed her job and became a project manager, in charge of importing high technology and cutting-edge machines for the company. She had a lot of opportunities to travel to other countries, so I received gifts from all over the world. I still keep the souvenirs she brought me: a Russian doll, a Japanese doll, an Eiffel tower key chain, a Dutch model windmill, an Italian leather jacket. When I grew up, to travel the world was a dream of mine. Happiness is exploring a new country, meeting new people, bringing home a gift for my mum.

    My name is Grace. I was born in Beijing, China. I had a very happy family. I was spoiled by my parents, but they weren’t like some other Chinese parents who crush their children’s dreams. I was brought up in a relaxed atmosphere. Ever since I was little, my parents encouraged me to explore the world. I made an electric model with my dad and brother. We travelled to small villages and rural areas in the south of China. My father taught me how to pick berries and find mulberry leaves to feed my silkworms. My parents taught me to appreciate the beauty of Nature. By the time I graduated, I had travelled around almost half of China with my family. But I knew it was not enough. I still wanted to visit other countries. I really wanted to see the places my mum had been to, and experience the cultural differences. I believe the passion for travel is in my blood. After working for several years, I’d saved up enough money to go to England to study, and to explore the rest of Great Britain. While I was there I met fellow students from different countries such as Norway, Ghana, India, Japan, Cyprus and Thailand. I didn’t just sample the English way of life, but also cultures from all over the world. At that time, what made me happy was making a photo album for my mum, to show her how happy I was. I knew she’d love it. Now I’m in Canada, and I want to settle down here. I’m still passionate about travel. Since I arrived in Canada, I’ve been to Montreal, Waterloo and Ottawa, to taste the local food and enjoy multicultural living. I am thinking about making another album to tell my mum about life in Canada. I think that for me, happiness is not just about experiencing different cultures, but also about sharing my story with my family.

    Everybody has his or her own definition of happiness, but it can change over time. Sometimes happiness is about small things: maybe a cup of coffee with friends, sharing an umbrella with a stranger in heavy rain, exchanging a smile with someone on the street, knowing your parents are healthy. I’ve experienced all these things on my journey –

    Grace - Canada

  • Beatriz - Brazil

    Beatriz - Brazil

    Beatriz, 27 – Sao Paulo, Brazil

    – There are many times when I’m happy … it’€™s really hard for me to choose just one moment! But now… now I try to find happiness in the little things in life, next to the people I love.

    When I was a little girl I often visited my grandparent’s fazenda, in the countryside. They had an orchard and a very large vegetable garden. When we went back home to Sao Paolo, we always used to take some fruit, vegetables and herbs back with us.

    Then I spent some time living in Italy, and I noticed that lots of people used to grow plants in their houses or apartments. It was part of their daily lives. Herbs, vegetables and flowers were a beautiful sight on the window sills of Italian homes. That was when I started to plant my first seeds.

    I’ve just come back to Sao Paolo, and I’ve decided to keep that contact with Nature. Each day that passes, it seems to be disappearing a little bit more from our lives. So I decided to create a little vegetable garden in my apartment. I like touching the soil with my hands, sowing the seeds and seeing them grow. My whole family is involved now, and that makes it even more fun. I use my herbs, several types of salad leaf, tomatoes and spinach to satisfy my hunger and make me feel happy! –

    Beatriz - Brazil

  • Gloria - Czech Rep

    Gloria - Czech Rep

    Gloria Lee, 21 – Praha, Czech Republic

    – The first camera I ever owned was a yellow Kodak disposable, that I received at the age of five. I remember laughing when I saw how easy it all was – the drawings I’d slaved over with pencils and crayons could easily be outdone with a simple click of a button! A few years and several cameras later, I have come to understand that photography is anything but simple.

    My happiest revelation was in a cold darkroom, glowing eerily with red light: the first time I’d printed with black and white film. Snap Snap Snap the enlarger clicked, and I was left staring at a blank piece of paper. I held it up, knowing the sheet between my fingers was far from empty – it was an imprint of the world encoded with invisible light. Holding my breath, I gingerly dipped the blank sheet of photo paper into the developer solution.

    Every step of the photographic process boils down to this moment.
    The clock ticks. The solution ripples. I wait.
    It starts.

    Black whips begin to devour the edges of the square, swerving this way and that, tracing a delicate outline. Soon, grains of grey begin to fill in the framework, and the image is complete. I stand in awe of what I have just witnessed. Textbooks say this is chemistry, but to me it is so much more – it’s magic.

    As someone who grew up during the transition from analog to digital, I see how people are slowly becoming more and more desensitized to the abstraction and value of an image. I hope one day my photos will help the world rediscover this magic –

    Gloria - Czech Rep

  • Andres - Colombia

    Andres - Colombia

    Andres, 37 – Bogotà, Colombia

    When I was a child, life gave me two surprises which filled me with happiness at the time, and which have shaped the life I am living now.

    I was 10 years old, and I have a few vague memories of the place I was in. I was with my classmates, but I wasn’t at school, it was somewhere else. There were lots of people, it was outdoors. I remember that my parents were there, and so were my friends’. Then somebody started handing out drawing materials and a few hours later, in a very loud voice, a gentleman announced over the microphone that I had won the competition, with a landscape drawing that I had done that afternoon. When I heard my name being read out in front of all those people, and I saw how my parents were smiling at me, I felt something that I can only describe as happiness.

    One night, a few months after winning that prize, I was in my bedroom getting ready to go to sleep, when I heard my parents calling me from the living room with a very excited voice. There was something in their tone that drew my attention, as if they were about to reveal a secret they had been keeping for a long time. With my pyjamas half on, I rushed down to see them, and they kept on repeating my name ecstatically. When I finally got to the living room, I saw something gleaming beneath the lamp hanging from the ceiling: there, between my parents, was a silver bicycle, and it was all for me.

    When I turned 17, I had no doubt at all about what I wanted to do. I studied graphic design but gradually, I went back to being that child who had won the drawing prize. Now I’m a painter, and I travel around on what used to be my father’s bicycle. After my father became ill, he had to give up the bike, which for him had symbolised freedom, I salvaged the bike, dusted it off, painted it and claimed it for myself.

    I don’t know whether what happened to me when I was 10 was just a coincidence or whether it was one of those signs that sometimes appear during your lifetime, but now I paint and cycle every day, and these two things together give me the energy I need to create. This is why, when I feel stuck, I get the bike out and start pedalling. When I am in the saddle I think that if for a dog, happiness means putting your head out of a car window, to me it is clambering onto a bicycle and feeling the wind on my face. –

    Andres - Colombia

  • Viola - Italy

    Viola - Italy

    Viola Cangi, 27 – Città di Castello, Italy.

    – I slide my right hand into the bag while holding it with my left. It’s so cold my breathe freezes white at each breath. Among the old receipts, coins, sweets and metro tickets, I find my house keys. I grasp the pink one, the one for the front door, and slide it into the lock as I wipe my shoes on the mat. Looking down, I usually see a toad, looking at me as it squats between the flower pots. I think he likes to wish me goodnight, but that night I don’t see him.
    I open the door with a gentle shove, turn on the hall light and climb the stairs, trying to be quiet and taking tiny ant-steps. Second door: yellow key, I fumble for the lock and there it is. One turn of the key is never enough, I turn it twice to make sure, and the door opens. The smell of home is unmistakable, I can tell exactly what Mum cooked that evening. My mouth waters at the smell of baked fish and courgettes au gratin.
    It is pitch dark. I hang my jacket on the hook and go to my room to turn the light on, helped by the glow of my mobile phone.
    I don’t want to wake anyone up, so more ant-steps to go to the bathroom. There’s a long, narrow corridor that I know like the back of my hand, and I walk down it remembering the exact position of the telephone table, the box of Ettore’s toys, the vase of fake flowers and the bookshelf.
    At the eleventh step is my parents’ room. The door is almost always open. I want to make sure I haven’t woken them up, I put my head round the door and hear them breathing. I can’t help but smile, it’s lovely to see them still there after twenty-six years, still cuddled up in the same position, as if they were in a painting.
    Sometimes they make me think of a daisy at night, when the petals curl up. Their heads so close that their hair mingles together –

    Viola - Italy

  • Beatriz - Colombia

    Beatriz - Colombia

    Beatriz Eugenia, 48 – Bogotà, Colombia

    I started studying music when I was very small. But it was only when I was at the Conservatory, aged 15, that I thought about playing the cello.
    I was very happy with my first cello teacher – he was the one who sowed the seeds of my dream of being a professional cellist, and made me give up everything else, only to abandon me later. At least that’s what it felt like to me.

    In actual fact, the political situation in Colombia had made him feel threatened, forcing him to go back to his native country. I looked for other teachers, but never found his equal: each had a different teaching technique. Years later, I went to Vienna. The professor at the Hochschule heard me play, and all he said was that my relationship with the cello had to change. We were like two separate beings, and I needed to embrace the instrument.
    I spent a long time with him, learning to embrace my cello. One day, he told me it was time to take up the bow and touch the strings. At that moment, he exclaimed: “Wunderbar!”.
    The vibration I could hear, combined with the sound of that word, made me think that from that time onwards, me and my cello would be together for ever.

    A moment of happiness is a feeling of something incomparable, it is like tasting freedom. My experience was a metaphor – I had to learn to free myself from all I had learnt, and embrace life. Everything changed. I stopped studying the cello, and my instrument became my friend, and my maestro. It silently taught me, all the time. It made me hear what I would never have heard otherwise, it allowed me to meet wonderful people, it took me to places and spaces I would never have known. During the last year it taught me how to think of a city as a huge string instrument. I am not a cellist: I love the cello, and that love makes me happy.

    Beatriz - Colombia

  • Marian - USA

    Marian - USA

    Marian, 26 – San Francisco

    – My parents are writers, my brothers are writers, I am a writer. I’ve been a writer since I was able to spell. One of my first memories was carrying a worn-out journal with me wherever I went. I thought I was Harriet the Spy. I wrote down the descriptions of trees, the houses around me, stories from school and fights with my friends. Over time I’ve written short stories, recipes, news articles, blog posts, poems, songs… Every morning I write 750 words before I start my day. It grounds me. Writing makes me happy. Writing keeps me happy. It’s my therapy, my outlet, it’s how I make sense of the world.

    There’s nothing I love more than a brand new journal. Those empty pages are so filled with possibility. Well, almost nothing. As much as I love blank pages, I love finishing a journal and flipping through it and seeing thousands and thousands of my words. A computer doesn’t cut it. I need a concrete journal I can fill. Over the years I’ve finished dozens of notebooks. Notebooks I will never throw out. And one of my all-time favourite things is to travel the world, sit in coffee shops, and write about my surroundings. –

    Marian - USA

  • Berenice - Las Vegas

    Berenice - Las Vegas

    Berenice, 19 – Las Vegnas, Nevada

    – I was in North Carolina competing for the National Jr.Olympics. It was a very beautiful experience. Getting to meet a place I never dreamed of visiting. When I was fighting for the finals I had stopped my opponent twice, giving her two standing eight counts. I ended up getting the highest score out of the whole tournament thus winning the gold metal. After attaining the medal I felt like my passion for boxing was finally being acknowledged, so much so that I received recognition from the United States senator, John Ensign. This moment of happiness has to be one of my greatest accomplishments. –

    Berenice - Las Vegas

  • Carolina - U.K.

    Carolina - U.K.

    Carolina, 36 – London, U.K.

    – As a child, I was always outdoors, playing in fields, forests, parks, isolated roads, and generally finding adventure and stories under every rock or tree.
    Since moving to London, my current job keeps me at a desk for 8 hours a day, so I find inspiration in exploring London on foot, with my camera.

    I love walking around London. Especially the City and East London, as it contains so much history, so many stories, and so much life.
    Some days I will be on my way to work, and I might decide to take a different route and discover an old forgotten sculpture or find the rusty, abandoned remains of a bicycle.

    There is something so exciting about just taking that little alley, or that street you never had a chance to walk down before; the park that only allows adults to enter if accompanied by children; the mulled wine vendor at the flower market on a cold, white winter afternoon; the Turkish shop behind Islington’s Regent Canal that sells the best feta in London; the wraps at the food stalls in Brick Lane on a Sunday; the list goes on, and so do the experiences.

    No matter where my feet take me, I always feel as though London will keep on surprising me.
    It does not matter how good or bad my day has been. My happiness comes back the moment I step out onto these streets. And occasionally I get a good picture out of it too. –

    Carolina - U.K.

  • Celine - Berlin

    Celine - Berlin

    Celine, 22 – Berlin, Germany

    It was late afternoon in September 2010, and I was strolling through the streets of a small district of Berlin, called Prenzlauer Berg. I had been in the city for a few days, looking for a room for my semester abroad. Browsing all the different websites had made me tired, and didn’t seem to be producing any results.

    I was supposed to leave the following day. Time was running out, and I decided to start searching the traditional way instead of on anonymous web pages. I talked to people of my age on the streets, handing out flyers describing myself and what I was looking for. I suddenly stopped on a corner in front of one of those bio-supermarkets you find in Berlin, and asked one guy who was finishing his pizza slice before he could enter the shop, whether he could help me. He couldn’t help me find a room, but he invited me for a drink the next evening. Before we went out the next day, I finally found a room. Later that night, I also found my boyfriend, Mirko.

    After I had extended my stay in Berlin for as long as possible, I had to return to Antwerp to finish my studies in visual communications. Having completed them, I moved back to Berlin, where Mirko and I now live happily together, racing through the streets on our bikes and enjoying our lives –

    Celine - Berlin

  • Liu - China

    Liu - China

    Liu, 25 – Shanghai, China

    – I must say this year has been really difficult for me. My grandfather died in March, and then my father had an accident and died after two days in hospital. I work in Shanghai, and most of my friends have already left the city. Some of them were exchange students, and were only working there for a year. I was suddenly surrounded by loneliness, but I don’t know why.

    One day I went to pick up a friend from the airport. I saw Hugo – he was asking how much it would cost to go to school by taxi. They were going to charge him 500 rmb. When I heard that, I was shocked. I walked up to him and said “Listen, that’s completely unreasonable! I know how to get there by metro, follow me. The taxi driver might have been annoyed with me for stealing a customer, but I think I did the right thing. Hugo trusted me and came with us. In the end everything went well and we exchanged our Skype addresses. A few days later, I got his new phone number and now we are good friends. He is French, a student from Paris, my dream city. I’ve never been abroad. This summer I went to Hong Kong, but that’s in China. So my plan is to go to Europe next year to find out something about life. Perhaps French will be the next language I learn, although I already speak it a little bit.

    JS (Jean-Sebastian) is Hugo’s closest friend at Fudan University. The first time Hugo took me to his school, I met JS, who’s from Belgium. He has a Chinese aunt, so was fascinated by Chinese culture. He has a good temper and is really easy-going. He’s my “chief French teacher”, and Hugo is his deputy. We do a language exchange every week. My friends and I already organized language exchanges, and we asked them to join us.

    It’s not always easy for all three of us to meet at the same time, but we are always in contact. On Tuesdays, I share Chinese music with Hugo online, or sometimes he’ll write an essay in Chinese, and I’ll help him to correct it. These guys are my new friends for this year and the next. I know they won’t be here for long, so I cherish our friendship and the things we are learning together. You might lose something in your life but then something new will replace it. The same is true of friendships.

    What can you always take with you? Not money, not luxury goods, not your real estate. I’ll tell you – it’s the ability to find love and happiness, these relationships and emotions. Those are the real assets in life. –

    Liu - China

  • Buckley - Utha

    Buckley - Utha

    Buckley Barratt, 32 – American Fork, Utah

    – This is not your typical story of happiness, but I have lived on this earth for 32 years and so far nothing about my life has been “normal” or “ordinary”. So it comes as no surprise that happiness for me has been found down diverted roads and in places that I least expected.
    I was married to the same woman for 10 years. It was a relationship filled with ups and downs, good times and bad, like all marriages I suppose. But I never felt fulfilled in the relationship, I never felt truly happy and I reached the point where I had to be honest with myself and what I wanted out of life. This decision was the most difficult decision I have ever made. It has brought much heartache and sorrow and has forced me to face some of the darkest and loneliest days of my life. But there is hope on the horizon and I can feel its warmth in the wind.
    Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes from different directions and unusual sources. If there is one thing I have learned in life, one of the only things I am actually sure of, it is that the best things in life come only after intense struggle and pain. Trouble brings truth, adversity brings appreciation, and sorrow brings sunlight. So I will keep fighting and for now I will fight alone. I have the companionship and love of my dog. She is always there to lift my spirits and give me the strength to go on. Through it all I have learned how to appreciate the small and simple things that make life so beautiful. I have become much more aware of what is truly important in life. I have realized the strength I have as a human being and the power I have to choose my own path in life. For all of this I am grateful. I will survive, I will move on, and god dammit I will be HAPPY! –

    Buckley - Utha

  • Danai - Greece

    Danai - Greece

    Danai, 20 – Sounio, Greece

    I am standing here, on the edge of the cliff, at the temple of Poseidon, in Sounio. A temple built from devotion and gratitude to one of the twelve Olympic Gods; to the one responsible for the vast sea, Poseidon.

    I am waiting to see the ship with the white sails carrying Theseus. I am waiting for the happiness that will make me smile. Even though King Aegeus, the father of Theseus, who awaited his son’s return following his fight with the Minotaur in Crete, deeply sad and desperate, after looking at the forgotten black sails of his son’s ship, fell and gave his name to the sea, I am still waiting to see the ship with the white sails…

    This myth has left its mark on my mind from the first time I heard it when I was a kid.
    I am fascinated to be in this beautiful place, where the temple dominates this headland. I wonder how people could have built this masterpiece in just four years, between 444 B.C. and 440 B.C. Thinking about it makes me shiver from excitement. For me the feeling is unique to be here with the people I love and to share this incredible sunset!
    The sea takes on the colour of dreams and the columns of the temple the colour of gold as the sun sinks into the boundless blue. The breeze is lifting the memories from the ancient time and mixing them with the present, becoming one to give me the strength to continue my journey.
    These are the moments that make me happy, make me dream, make me wait for a better future! –

    Danai - Greece

  • Diana - NY

    Diana - NY

    Diana Di Nuzzo, 30 – New York City, USA

    – The first day I turned 30 I entered the West Village Housing Works (one of those shops where New Yorkers go to leave things for charity, basically) where I found something I wanted to give myself to celebrate my first 8 months in NY, on the threshold of the much-feared ‘old age’. A girl had come to donate what would become my birthday present, a wooden push scooter with metal wheels, that only cost $28 and which for quite some time now has been the personification of my happiness in the traffic-clogged city streets. With music in my ears (always the Beatles), I went from the movida of West Village to the tranquil shores of Coney Island, the ultimate pleasure beach complete with funfair, hot dogs and a sea you can swim in, just 20 minutes from the concrete island. The fishermen on the harbour stopped to ask me where I’d found my little treasure, while the business people on Broadway asked me several times who had designed this push scooter: “sooo RAD”, as they say in NY. Maybe it’s because in this city, with two wheels under your feet, you feel like a winged goddess, maybe it’s because from Washington Square Park to the Chelsea galleries everything is just a great spectacle, but there’s no doubt that my ‘coming-of-age’ gift to myself made me look at things with new eyes.When you’re on the subway and the train comes out of the tunnel, you notice the murales on the road leading up to Coney, where there’s a huge painting by the Os Gemeos (famous street artists) along a wall next to the subway, that greets you as you come into the station. Transported by my passion for the visual imagery of this country, I ended up in Wonderland as if by magic, except that what followed me here was a push scooter rather than a white rabbit. In any case it took me to the centre of the world, like I dreamed of when I was a little girl.
    New York is a fairy tale that never stops. –

    Diana - NY

  • Elen - Brazil

    Elen - Brazil

    Elen, 24 – Sao Paulo, Brazil

    – When I open my eyes I see his – light blue and open wide – looking at me. All the best things in this house are his, but he is the best of all. And he’s mine, my brother, my friend and my alter ego.

    Once I was in his room, lying on his bed, stretched out like a cat. All I could think about was having a good coffee! And there he was in the doorway, with a cup of deliciously-scented piping hot coffee.

    -How did you know I wanted a coffee?
    -Because I wanted one too!

    So we share our coffee together, and our house, stories, and lives. Every day I am thankful for having found him, by chance, perhaps without even deserving it.

    I don’t think anyone deserves to be this happy! –

    Elen - Brazil

  • Katja - Germany

    Katja - Germany

    Katja, 27 – Cologne, Germany

    When I was 18 I got the idea of opening a bar all of my own. I was going to call it Café Rotkehlchen. With this goal in mind, I gradually started to take the first steps towards achieving it. First, I attended a hotel management school, and then gained hands-on experience by working in a number of hotels and bars. I travelled the world and held a number of management positions in the food industry, at the Betahaus in Cologne. In July 2012, while taking a walk through Ehrenfeld, I happened upon the perfect property, the answer to my dreams. The place, timing and position were all perfect. I rushed to see my parents, took the old furniture from my grandfather’s pub, got the kitchen together and then employed a carpenter who transformed my plans into a wonderful reality. On 1 January 2013 the deserted building became Café Rotkehlchen, and after 10 years of hard work my dream of having my own bar came true. The business opened on 5 February, and thanks to the help of a great team, things are starting to move in the right direction.

    But, through all these exciting events, one unique, remarkable moment has always stayed with me. It was 10 February 2013 and it was my first day off. After a long time I had finally managed to get enough sleep and had gone for a jog. During the afternoon I set off towards my bar, to have a cup of coffee. I went in, sat down at a table and asked the waitress, Carla, for a coffee. I was almost the only person in the bar, but I looked around and for the first time I realised what I had managed to achieve. Because of all the stress and upheaval, the process of completion and realisation had completely passed me by. Now there I was, sitting with a cup of excellent coffee in my very own bar. A chill ran down my spine while a sense of great happiness invaded my whole body. I had managed to fulfil my greatest dream of creating Café Rotkehlchen, a bar all of my own. In the end, all the hard work and strength of will had paid off.

    That was certainly one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it, because it was “special” –

    Katja - Germany

  • Maaike - Amsterdam

    Maaike - Amsterdam

    Maaike, 29 – Amsterdam, Netherland

    РThe sun on my skin, the wind through my hair and the intense, salty smell of the sea in my nostrils. Riding my bike to the coast, a good half an hour trip from my home through the typical Dutch dunes, the knowledge that I will spend the next few hours laying on the beach, sipping my ros̩ wine, eating a homemade salad and watching all the other sun worshippers, is my ultimate happiness.

    Often in summer, when I come home from work, I jump straight on my bike with a box of delicious food. Half an hour later, as soon as I see the water and feel the sand between my toes, I’m completely relaxed. When I cycle home late in the evening, I totally forget that I’ve been at work that day.

    The beach is a great place to relax, even in the winter. The cycling trip might be cold, but at the beach there’s a lovely café with a fireplace and hot drinks to warm you up before you venture out along the coastline to clear your head from all the stress. The beach, my little holiday close to home, my happiness around the corner, I’m so happy it’s there to stay. –

    Maaike - Amsterdam

  • Maria - Brazil

    Maria - Brazil

    Maria, 20 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Hi, my name is Maria and I live in the city of Petrópolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

    Petrópolis is known for being the home of the Emperor Dom Pedro, it has lots of tourist attractions and is a really fascinating place. I love photography, art and animals!

    I owe that to my family, mainly to my father who left me his camera, and now I am well-known for my photographs.

    My father used to live and work in São Paulo, while me and my brother lived in Petrópolis with my mother, a few dogs and cats. At the weekend he would come to Petrópolis, to spend time with us. My parents were separated. I remember that they always used to sleep in separate rooms but in the morning they would wake up in the same one.

    My father introduced me to music and rock ‘n’ roll, he showed me beaches, waterfalls and mountains. He taught me to be patient and always to be myself. Unfortunately, when I was just nine, he died after a serious fit caused by epilepsy, a disease he used to take daily medication for.

    At that time my father was the breadwinner, while my mother did a little unpaid craft work. From that time on, our lifestyle had to change, and my mother went from one job to another. We had to move house and rent out our home, so we could secure a little more money. It was hard but luckily we had the help of the whole family.

    As I grew up, I felt the need to get to know my father. I wanted to know what he used to like, what he used to do, how he felt, and everything else about him. So one day I came across his analog camera, a Nikon FM2 with a 50 mm lens – beautiful! I started taking photos when I was about 11, but then ended up forgetting about the camera. Two years later I discovered digital photographs and was fascinated, I wanted a digital camera to play around with. My grandmother was about to leave on a trip, and brought me one home. It was tiny with just a few megapixels, but it completely satisfied my curiosity! With great encouragement from my mother, I started taking photographs and didn’t stop! I got to know my cameras better, and gradually began to replace them with better models. I started attending courses, and always practised a lot.

    My mother has now remarried and has an excellent job, working as an English teacher. After years of sacrifice we have managed to return to our old home. I started taking photographs again using my father’s camera. I took it to a camera centre for servicing, and now it’s better than ever! I have a boyfriend who is a graffiti artist, and he’s just learning about tattoos. Our relationship is all based on art. I totally support him with the tattoos, and he does the same with my photographs, but as I am only 20 years old, I don’t yet know how to put my passion into practice. All I know is the sensation I feel when I take photographs, you can capture a moment for ever, like the times I spent with my father. That’s the most beautiful sensation of all, and I bet it will never end. –

    Maria - Brazil

  • Mariana - Brazil

    Mariana - Brazil

    Mariana, 22 – Sao Paulo, Brazil

    – I am the youngest of a family of four girls and one boy. I was born in Bahia (in the north-east of Brazil), and before I was two years old I came to live in Sao Paulo with my mother and sister. Since then, my heart has been torn between these two places, but then I began a love affair with Sao Paulo. But recently, thanks to the new friends I’ve made here, I started to look at this city through different eyes, possibly because of the influence of the culture in my native region.

    Living in Sao Paulo means living in the middle of chaos, but here and there you see little details that make you dream. Love it or hate it, this city always manages to excite you. Here, every day is different, and life always has new surprises in store.

    Walking through the streets of Sao Paulo, you notice all the different facets of Brazilian culture, in completely different people. In this city, which welcomes everybody, you can find anything.

    This is where I have found my friends – my family. Through them, I see Sao Paulo from another angle, and I am growing to love this city which has adopted me, my culture, and the cultures of many other parts of Brazil and the world. My friends have also taught me to appreciate the rich heritage of my country, our music, literature, cinema, food and history.

    These people love this city as much as I do, and they also enjoy the cultural influence of my native town, especially when it comes to art and music. They love everything about us and are always ready to show a different side of the city: to people who love it, and those who hate it.

    Living in this city full of different people and different cultures I have found true happiness. Although I can see its defects, being able to live here is a source of pride for me. –

    Mariana - Brazil

  • Martina - Italy

    Martina - Italy

    Martina Meozzi, 27 – Montechi, Arezzo, Italy.

    – As a little girl I lived in a rather dilapidated house, it was a kind of annexe to an old building in the historic centre of a little village. It had been restored by my grandparents, who were the guardians of the old estate. The house was in the oldest part of the town, where many many years ago there used to be a castle”. This is not the introduction to a fairy tale, but sets the scene for the first 9 years of my life.
    They were magical years, which I lived as if I were a princess, venturing into the castle gardens to salvage families of snails after a rainstorm, and to rescue baby tortoises who had escaped from the green enclosure amid the flower beds. I also discovered ancient stories and illustrations in the dusty, yellowed old books in the study of the chemist who lived there during the war.
    That tiny square room, smelling strongly of mould and dust and stuffed full of books, opened onto one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen – the Old Chemist’s Laboratory. I don’t remember exactly when I entered the room for the first time, but that light full of dancing dust specks, that smell, both repellent and fascinating, those strange glass objects and the countless little bottles with handwritten labels, all different sizes, full of powders, liquids and brightly-coloured fragments … it literally left its mark on my childhood.
    I wasn’t allowed to touch anything but could only wander through that enchanted place. It has always had an electrifying effect on me, making me dream of wizards, witches, fairies and a thousand smoking potions. The little cork-topped ampoules and pictures of skulls, bearing the word “poison” were always my favourites!
    I went back into the Laboratory 15 years later, and can’t describe my amazement, mixed with a renewed sense of wonder and happiness. It was just as I remembered it – the light, the smell, the objects, and my favourite little bottles! It’s strange, the feelings a place can evoke. For me, the Old Pharmacist’s Laboratory will always be a magic casket that contains sparks of happiness. –

    Martina - Italy

  • Mayu - Japan

    Mayu - Japan

    Mayu, 23 – Tokyo, Japan

    – I’m 23 years old. I live with my younger sister, father and mother. We are really good friends, and of course I love them. When I was young, I was interested in foreigners. I found them curious, with their white skin, black skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Especially because they speak different languages!
    So my favourite class was English. I studied hard in school so that one day I’d be able to communicate with foreigners.

    When I was 18, I went to England to study English. I spent a lot of time with my Spanish friends, who used to hug me when we said goodbye. At first I was surprised, because we don’t usually hug in Japan. But it made me feel warm, kind and happy. I liked their hugs. I started working for an Indian company two years ago. Through my job, I’ve learned about different cultures and approaches to work. I also started travelling the world on holiday.
    I’ve visited Cebu Island, Spain, Morocco and the USA. I’ll never stop travelling, it always gives me the chance to meet great people. They always give me warm hugs and say “You can come back anytime”. Then I feel they’re already part of my family.

    Now I usually give hugs even in Japan, because I believe it can give happiness. And I’ll keep travelling the world. –

    Mayu - Japan

  • Monica - New York

    Monica - New York

    Monica, 40 – New York City, USA

    – Flying is quite simply the ultimate joy. Up there, there are no limits or borders, no frontiers or divisions, you don’t clash with other people because the sky has never clashed with anyone. This is why I, an aerial being, absolutely love flying.

    My routine takes me up into the sky every day. But it’s not what you might think: I’m not a pilot, an air hostess or anything like that… I’m quite simply someone who loves being up there, cutting through the skies in a kind of cosmic meditation that lasts about four minutes every time. Being up there in the sky is my daily tonic, my ultimate happiness.

    This daily dose of happiness has its own name: the Telepheric, an exotic little red cabin that flies me through the air every day to work, taking me to my destiny from the sky.

    Six years have passed since I was first bewitched by the Telepheric. Since that time I have lived on Roosevelt Island, and my illusion of winning the magic but difficult challenge of living in the Big Apple has never been shattered. Welcome to this flight. Greetings from New York and its sky. The sky and me: the ultimate joy. –

    Monica - New York

  • Natalie - Cologne

    Natalie - Cologne

    Natalie, 23 – Cologne, Germany

    – About a year ago I was at a turning point in my life. Let’s say my world was a bit upside down.
    Not knowing what to do with my career in fashion, or where my destiny would take me, it was the right moment to do some soul searching. So I booked an Ayurvedic retreat in India.
    On my first day, the yoga instructor looked at me and I could read his mind: “Well, she’s blond, probably British, and sure doesn’t know anything about yoga.”
    I was quite surprised when he came up to me after class and asked me “Why don’t you become a yoga teacher? You have the guts and positive energy to teach.”
    I replied: “Why not. I’m here for 3 weeks on the Ayurveda retreat. Let’s add some extra yoga time.”
    But it was only when I went back to Europe that I really understood the meaning of my journey to India.
    A spiritual teacher once said: “Close your eyes and ask yourself – who am I?”
    Don’t answer the question, just sit in silence.
    I knew right away that I had to be surrounded by trees and Nature, before asking myself this question.
    So I went to the woods near my house and in that moment of silence I felt my heart beating, and was aware of the life coursing through my body with every breath.
    After a while I opened my eyes…I looked around and I saw beauty everywhere.
    A feeling of deep inner peace came over me as I started to understand the meaning of life.
    Of course, from time to time I still get angry, upset or sad, but then I remind myself to go back to that moment of silence, that awareness, and start to live in the present. All my worries disappear and I rediscover true happiness –

    Natalie - Cologne

  • Niklas - Germany

    Niklas - Germany

    Niklas, 30 – Berlin, Germany

    – My grandparents used to live in the DDR with my father and uncle (who were aged 10 and 3 at the time), in a small town just south of Berlin. My grandfather used to run a small furniture factory. Things weren’t too bad for them. My father had lots of schoolfriends but spent a lot of time with his favourite companion Keck von Höllenbusch, a little whippet nicknamed Fiffi.

    But one day – just before Easter in 1960 – my father had just returned from school when my grandparents bundled him and my uncle into the car, and they set off for East Berlin. The family had only had time to gather together a few essentials, but they didn’t take the dog, Fiffi. In East Berlin they stopped for a farewell coffee with some friends and then left, separately: my mother, grandmother and the younger child, and my father, his father and grandfather, heading towards the railway station in West Berlin. The reason they had to leave East Germany was that the State authorities were trying to accuse my grandfather of industrial crimes. They wanted to confiscate his factory, and his friends had been imprisoned.

    In West Berlin they stayed for a week at the home of some friends who were on holiday. They had to cope with the stigma of being “refugees”, for having transferred to West Germany. At that time there were many telephone calls from East Germany. They wanted to placate my grandfather and convince him he could return with his family, and that there were no charges against him. Shortly afterwards, together with many other refugees, they fled to West Germany.

    My father found it very hard to adapt to his new life in the West, and missed his dog very much. Six months after their departure, his father organised the dog’s escape from the DDR.

    Today, I mainly live in Berlin but also spend a lot of time in “East Germany”. The great thing is that now you hardly notice what part of Berlin you are living in. I am happy to live here, a city that is now united, without borders. –

    Niklas - Germany

  • Pam - California

    Pam - California

    Pam, 54 – Berkeley, California

    – When I was a kid, my father told me, “You can do anything you want to do.” I took him to heart. It was at the time when women’s liberation was taking hold. I think my parents thought I would marry some guy who could support me and just be an artist on the side.

    I always liked doing things that guys like to do. I liked to work on cars. I wanted to know how to fix my own engine, how to do sheetrock, how to paint and do carpentry, and just how to do practical things in the world. I spent a lot of time doing art at school, and after I graduated I became a printmaker, almost by default. As I became a printmaker, it became apparent that I had truly found what I loved and what made me happy. I had the technical skills and had the ability to advise an artist on what they should do in the print studio. Working with artists is such an exciting moment, and every artist is a whole new world.

    Happiness to me is solving problems and doing things with my hands. This is what I do every day: I have a business where that is my primary function. When people ask me, “When are you going to retire?” I always say, “Why would I ever retire?” I am happy doing what I do at work every day. It is totally satisfying to go in and face all kinds of challenges, meet them, and then see the results of my efforts. My business has become a success, because I love it and I am happy doing it. I think that is the key to being in this world. I don’t make tons of money, but I make enough and I am fulfilled doing what I do. What could be better? –

    Pam - California

  • Pancho - Germany

    Pancho - Germany

    Pancho, 26 – Berlin, Germany

    – My story is a children’s story. Although the happy ending might be unique, the beginning is not. It starts the same way as thousands of other stories lived out along the Mexico & U.S.A. border every day. I can still remember the exact date of the traumatic experience:

    Tuesday, August 26, 1997
    Age: 10

    With no understanding of mom and dad’s reasons for chasing the “American Dream,” I found myself inserted into the bowels of a mechanical bird (or was it a time-machine?) in which I was to cross the border between my past (Guanajuato, Mexico) and my new present (Chicago, USA). When I got there, I found myself immersed in a new reality, and I had no concept of its social, cultural and linguistic systems. Unable to communicate or engage with the natives about this new world, I began to wonder how those systems worked, and more often than not, I reached my own conclusions. It was at this time that my attempts to understand my new world, while simultaneously searching for internal cohesion and external control, began to manifest themselves in what I would now call art and poetry.

    The experience of switching countries, cultures and languages at such a fragile age, when my sense of socio-cultural identity had yet to take root, and my subsequent struggle to adapt to this new reality, was traumatic. I had no friends I could relate to, and without any border-crossing superhero I could use as a role model, I built a wall between myself and the outside world. I became extremely shy and fearful of any new faces and places I encountered. The reflection of myself that I would see in other people’s eyes came with the brand of “outsider” burned into my forehead. The promised dream was in fact an American nightmare.

    That is why today – almost 15 years after my story begins – I find myself in Berlin, living under the pseudonym “Pancho Panoptes”. I am one-third masked artist, one-third border-crossing superhero, and the remaining third is an everyday, normal guy. Leaving my past for a new present, and living with a mask over my face, has become a conscious attempt to confront my childhood fears and trauma. I wanted to be in the city in which a wall of repression has been removed, and where I can now find inspiration to tear down the wall constructed from my own experience.

    If you accept my mask as the wall in this metaphor, then taking it off and sharing my story over a cup of coffee with you – a stranger – becomes a special moment; it is a poetic encounter where a wall is torn down and fears are conquered. It is in these poetic encounters that I find happiness. –

    Pancho - Germany

  • Raul - Venezuela

    Raul - Venezuela

    Raul, 33 – Maracay, Venezuela

    My childhood was happy and straightforward. I grew up with a lot of comforts and privileges compared to a lot of other people in my country, and a few years ago I noticed that I’d never had to struggle to obtain anything. Everything had always fallen into my lap. I needed to put myself to the test, so I decided to take part in the “Caminata de San José”, a 42-km walk from the mountains to the sea. None of my friends thought I’d manage it. But when I got to that last kilometre, it was one of the happiest moments of my life!

    Sometimes, you don’t know if you can do something till somebody tells you that you can’t. It’s an undisputable fact, and people don’t often use it to face challenges in their lives. But sometimes it works … (laughter)
    Forty-two kilometres? More than five hours’ walking? Ten kilometres uphill and thirty downhill? These and other questions were what I expected to hear from everyone when I told them: I’M ENTERING THE CAMINATA DE SAN JOSÉ in Maracay.

    The more I heard people tell me “No, Raúl: you’ll never finish it”, the more it became a challenge for me. If more than eight thousand people can do it, why not me? That was the question that tormented me. So I decided to start proper training, two weeks before the event (more laughter).

    But there were a few things that lifted my spirits – lots of people wouldn’t finish it, but I was going to. Then there was a support team to help the walkers … Obviously, the ones who couldn’t manage or didn’t want to finish the walk.

    Lots of food for everyone, water, people with ingrown toenails, lots of “It’s hurting, I can’t go on”, more water, biscuits, pain-relieving drugs, buttocks exposed to receive the injections, lots of “Come on, not far to go”, chocolate, lots of “Ow! Who made me do this!”, fruit and more water … All of that went on continuously throughout the forty-two kilometres, to the point that you got fed up of hearing the same old refrain.
    It’s always great to do things that require a certain amount of self-sacrifice, just for ourselves. Of course, you get a great deal of satisfaction and excitement afterwards. Just thinking “Only ten kilometres to go” gives you the same satisfaction as the first coffee of the morning.

    When you reach the finish after seven hours of walking and listening to other people complaining – nothing is more reassuring than seeing that finish line, you haven’t stopped thinking about it while pretending to keep your composure when in fact you’re in a pitiful state. –

    Raul - Venezuela

  • Ria - Italy

    Ria - Italy

    Ria E. Mac Carthy, 30 – Varese, Italy

    – The two great passions in my life are photography and tattoos. By a strange coincidence, both of them have led me to my current partner, who has been my source of happiness for many years.

    I’m a model, or more precisely an Alt-model. For those who don’t know, alt-models are models who don’t conform to the usual conventions of fashion photography, either because of their style, their physical shape, or the photographic genre.

    I love posing for photos, I like thinking about the theme of the set, and make my own clothes and props. Alternative modelling often has to do with the world of tattoos.

    My love for tattooing began when I was still a young girl living with my mother in Berlin. It was the late 1980s, the city was teeming with punks, and I was absolutely fascinated by them. I’ve always been attracted by “alternative”, extreme things, despite having spent most of my life in Sardinia, in a culture that is not fond of the extraordinary. As soon as I could, I started to get some tattoos done: first by some inexperienced friends and then, with time and study, I learned how to be more selective about the artists who were inking my skin. That’s how I got to know my boyfriend, a tattoo artist and amateur photographer. In 2009 he contacted me and a group of other models for a calendar. He offered us a trade-off: photo sessions in exchange for tattoos. I agreed, and got a My Little Pony tattooed on my arm. That was our first meeting, and then we fell in love. Lots of ink has run through the needles, I now have more tattoos, and now live happily in a house full of love and animals. –

    Ria - Italy

  • Ryan - New York

    Ryan - New York

    Ryan, 23 – New York City, USA

    – Filmmaking is one of the few popular arts that brings together so many people. Initially, there are those who create the film and then ultimately it engages many others as a viewing audience.
    This block in NYC’s West Village will always be fondly remembered by me not only for the hundreds of films I have seen inside the IFC Center with friends (including incredible midnight repertoires by favorite filmmakers such as Ozu, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Lynch and Carpenter) but it is also the block where we shot key scenes for our Oscar-winning short film, GOD OF LOVE. I produced that film with friends from NYU and it would go on to premiere on the very same block of the IFC Center just a year later as part of the Oscar Nominated Shorts Program.
    The fact that the film’s journey had its genesis a few blocks away at NYU as writer/ director/star Luke Matheny’s graduate film thesis, coupled with the fact that it was created by a group of good friends is something that made the project truly stand out to me. So this location holds many special memories for me as we all moved together on the path from production to the finish-line, when the cast and crew were able to gather once again to share the film with NY audiences – just steps away from where we started!” –

    Ryan - New York

  • Stacey - California

    Stacey - California

    Stacey Lee, 32 – San Francisco, California

    – Imagine a young girl fresh out of college moving away from everything that she has ever known and away from everyone close to her in her entire existence. Yes, well that was me about 5 years ago when I moved to San Francisco right after college for a job in the bay area. Coming from the very warm and sunny Austin, TX, the cold and foggy weather in San Francisco took some getting used to. I will never forget the first time that I heard a foghorn. It was a late misty night and I was going to sleep with the sound of the waves from baker beach in the background, when all of a sudden the foghorn sounded, “BoooooooooonnnK!” I sat straight up in my bed wondering what on earth this could be! After years in the city I am well aware that the Golden Gate Bridge foghorns have guided hundreds of thousands of vessels safely through the Golden Gate Strait, and forewarned San Franciscans when fog was rolling in to envelop the city. The foghorns operate, on average over a year, about two and a half hours a day. During March, you’ll hear them for less than half an hour a day. However, during the Bay Area’s foggy season, which typically occurs during the summer months, they can sound for over five hours a day or for days at a time. This sound has become very soothing to me and I always feel happy to know that I am close to home when I hear a foghorn sound. It gives a whole new meaning to the Van Morrison song “Into the Mystic” when the lyrics say, “And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. –

    Stacey - California

  • Stefano - Brazil

    Stefano - Brazil

    Stefano, 42 – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

    – I can definitely consider myself a happy person, so choosing a happy part of my life was not an easy task. I’m optimistic and positive by nature and I love travelling in all its forms, but I decided to drop my anchor in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Rio de Janeiro.

    Here the sun is always shining, and waking up in the morning with the birds singing and the view from my bay window gives me the first moment of happiness every morning.
    I’m surrounded by wonderful people all the time, and lucky enough to discover new places, countries and cultures every year.

    I love making people feeling at home, and the most genuine, pure welcome I ever received was among the most humble, poor people.
    Living in such a controversial, uneven society, not seeing the reality of the other less fortunate people around you would be like sticking a finger in your eye. The “favelas”, or community as they call it nowadays, is where everyone always a has smile and a little kindness to spare, no matter the size of their bank account.
    I find happiness in the company of the less fortunate, and am always inspired as I learn that happiness comes from within.

    It’s not what you have that makes you smile, but what you are.
    Being a happy person I can be full of life’s gifts, by giving to people in need – even just a chat or a happy word –

    Stefano - Brazil

  • Vanessa - Texas

    Vanessa - Texas

    Vanessa Peters, 31 – Dallas, Texas

    – still remember the feeling of recording my first album.
    It was just a simple little 5-song EP, and I recorded it with some friends who were just learning how to use their audio equipment. I was their first “client,” and it was such a scary but exciting moment. It’s very different to record your songs than it is to play them live – you are suddenly aware of every possible mistake, and it feels very strange to be wearing headphones and hear your voice coming back at you, plus there’s the metronome inside the headphones, which was really hard for me to play with at first. It’s different from playing with a full band. It requires a different kind of concentration, and if you are a perfectionist like me, it can be very frustrating.
    But it can also be very rewarding! We worked so hard that weekend to record those five songs. I was actually in a closet (it was the most soundproof room available) and I just stared at men’s shirts all weekend while I tried to relax but stay focused. At the end of the weekend, they printed me a copy of the album – my first one ever – and I went straight home and stayed up all night, designing artwork for the cover and burning copies on my computer so that I could sell them at a show the next weekend. When I listen to it now, I can hear how young and inexperienced I was, but also how excited I was to finally be recording my own songs. It’s an excitement that you can hear better in that first album than any album of mine since, because it was so new and shiny and full of possibility. I like to listen to it every so often to remind myself that music is fun (because sometimes it can be quite discouraging and hard), and when I listen to it, I feel 22 years old again, full of hope and joy at the possibility that I might be able to play my songs for other people for a living. –

    Vanessa - Texas