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To get to American Samoa from Samoa we took the smallest commercial airplane I have ever seen. 20 small seats squashed into a tiny propeller plane. I was sitting in A1 (first class baby!) and subsequently had my knees halfway into the cockpit. It was a jittery but fun experience.

No smoking, fasten seat belts and keep your legs tucked in.

It barely fits 18 people squashed together for a 30 minute flight to American Samoa. I guess I won't expect any drink trolleys coming down the isle on this on!

Flying can of sardines

Arriving in American Samoa we had a few hours before we had to fly out again so time was precious. Our hosts took us straight up into the hills where we could get a beautiful view of the coastline and vegetation. As opposed to Samoa, which is very flat, American Samoa has a beautiful landscape marked by green mountains and giant rocks jutting out from the sea. After taking in the breathtaking view and enjoying a ride on the winding roads that course through jungle, we headed back to the town where we were set to meet locals for lunch. After talking to the people we realized that what is most important to them is family. Now ‘family’ is a common theme when talking about happiness, but in this place the family bond is stronger than anything we have seen before. This bond and the very religious culture culminate in this one peculiar tradition (which can also be observed on surrounding islands) : burying the dead in one’s back yard. When a family member dies he or she is laid to rest close to the family home. Death does not mean separation in this culture. The deceased family member is still part of the household. “Sometimes when the children are misbehaving they are sent outside to spend time with their grandparents!” says our host.


We enjoyed our little time spent on this beautiful island and were enchanted by the easygoing nature of its inhabitants. Every conversation I had was interesting, deep and yet lighthearted at the same time. I left feeling enriched as if some of their magical spirit had come with me.



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As we arrived in the airport we were welcomed with an important cultural ceremony, the drinking of the Cava. Cava is a sort of alcohol made with the ground up powder of a type of plant. They mix the powder with water in a bowl and retrieve the sediment straw. The drink tastes like wood and makes your tongue go numb. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience and it was an honor for us to be received in such a traditional manner.

Happiness in Fiji? Well first of all, you just have to look around at all the island beauty to realize that happiness is not hard to find here. But there is something more in Fiji, that little extra thing they call the ‘Bula spirit’.

The ‘Bula Spirit’ is something you encounter the moment you get to Fiji. ‘Bula’ means ‘hello’ but it also means so much more. ‘Bula’ is the warm welcome you get from the Fijians. It is in their big smiles. It is in the way they greet you.

‘Bula spirit’ is a philosophy. It’s a way of living. The Fijians say they have happiness within them. This happiness is meant to be shared and transferred to all their visitors. It is something you receive when you visit Fiji and something you carry around with you long after you have left the island. 

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“You see this?” said the lady pointing at a cell phone that was lying on the table. “Happiness in Zambia is not about cell phones, cars, money, having this or that; happiness in Zambia is about togetherness. Is about our capacity of being together, looking for each other regardless what.” After having this meaningful conversation we headed with our host towards the city. We went to some markets, then to a Cultural Village and then to eat Zambian traditional food. In every single place we went to we witnessed different manifestations of happiness. From the guys that are telling jokes and talking about their lives while they’re outside of the markets trying to make a living selling different things, to the artisans of the Cultural Village that are proud of their creations and to have a creative way of living, to our new friend, our host, that’s willing to take the decisions he has to take in order to be happy. Certainly Tony and I had a wonderful time while being in Zambia and we’re looking forward to go back there.


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While in Australia we went to an Australian rules football Stadium. We met a well-known Aussie rules football player and he tried to teach Tony and I some Aussie Rules Football. I can tell you this: we had a blast while trying to perform to our bests and it was really special; but I can tell you this as well: I don’t think Tony and I have a future on this sport, haha. Later on our coach/new friend shared with us about his happiness: he loves playing Aussie Rules Football (or "Footy") and he’s really grateful because he’s had the chance of becoming a professional player and earn a living doing what he loves the most.

Then he told us about the friendship he’s developed with his teammates and how they share a very special bond: how it’s almost like being a family. After that we had the chance to share with some crazy, creative kids from “Beyond Empathy” -an australian foundation engaged in doing very positive projects. During our time with the kids we shared jokes, some dance moves, we talked about music and skating (skateboarding) and we showed our creative sides by painting some Coke bottles. It was really cool to share with these guys such a positive energy and moments of happiness. 

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We went for a day outing from Zurich to Liechtenstein. It is only a couple of hours away and the border is so discreet you hardly notice you’re in a different country. The capital Vaduz is a small town lost in a beautiful landscape. The landscape IS one of Liechtenstein’s prominent features.

In our short time their we visited an artist called FauZie As-Ad. He is an Indonesian artist who has been living in Liechtenstein for quite some time now. It is very difficult to actually become a citizen of this elusive country. He prides himself on being the second Indonesian to become a citizen of Liechtenstein. FauZie was in charge of decorating the Coca-Cola bottle to represent Liechtenstein. But he did not stop there. He made one ‘official’ bottle which will be on display at the World of Coke in Atlanta. But he also made a twin bottle which he had other plans for. On this twin bottle instead of ‘Coca-Cola’ he wrote ‘Lucky-Cola’. He then put currency from a whole lot of different countries in the bottle followed by a note. He asked us to write a note as well. Then he sealed the bottle and asked us for a favor. The next time we would be by the ocean would we drop this bottle in the water? Of course we obliged. His idea was to grant someone somewhere some pure luck. He believes that happiness has a lot to do with luck. He considers himself very lucky to be where he his today (even his name means ‘Lucky’). ‘I am lucky to have met a beautiful girl form Liechtenstein and to have been able to follow her here. I am lucky that I am able to live off my passion, my art. I am the luckiest man in Liechtenstein!’

Fazie, un artista indonés que lleva 15 años residiendo en Liechtenstein, nos habla de la suerte que le ha brindado la vida y cómo ésta le ha brindado felicidad: el haber tenido la oportunidad de estudiar arte y conocer a su actual esposa, originaria de Liechtenstein; el haberse mudado a Liechtenstein y formar una familia; el haber renunciado a un trabajo de 9 a 5 para dedicarse a su gran pasión, el arte... Me siento afortunado de poder estar en su estudio compartiendo y escuchando sus historias. Me hace recordar la importancia de ser libres y asumir nuestras responsabilidades para poder ser felices.


  By the way, in German ‘luck’ and ‘happiness’ are the same word. 

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We arrived in Switzerland during a very (very!) hot day. Zurich is simply gorgeous: the sight you get is a clear blue sky, a beautiful city with really cool architecture (a mix between an old and a modern vibes) and nice people walking down the streets.  We were lucky to get there the same day that the World Cup Final was going to be held. So you can picture the sense of celebration that was all around the city. “But wait a second: Switzerland wasn’t playing that match! It was España vs Nederland!” you may say. But this is one of the things we’ve come across the entire world: there are top answers when it comes to happiness and one of them is football (also known as soccer in some countries). Regardless the fact that Switzerland wasn’t playing on that match, a general feeling of celebration and exhilaration surrounded the city of Zurich. The match was about to start… and the party as well!

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Llegamos a Moçambique provenientes de Swaziland. Hicimos un viaje por carretera y una vez llegamos a la frontera nos encontramos con un grupo de personas que nos estaban esperando. Eran nuestros anfitriones que estaban deseosos de conocernos y que nos recibieron con mantas decoradas a la usanza tradicional del país. Platicamos un rato y celebraron el hecho de que puedo decir un par de cosas en portugués. Al día siguiente junto con nuestro anfitrión nos fuimos a conocer diversas partes de la capital, Maputo. Una de las cosas que más me fascinó de Moçambique fue la escena artística y la felicidad que ésta representa para sus habitantes. De alguna manera por dondequiera que se vea hay una u otra manifestación artística: música, artesanías, literatura, pintura, escultura y así hasta el infinito. Cuándo pregunté de dónde surgía tanta creatividad me contestaron: “Estamos orgullosos de nuestra cultura, de dónde venimos, hacia dónde vamos… y después de circunstancias adversas por las que hemos atravesado, cómo la pobreza o la guerra, hemos buscado medios de convertir esas cosas negativas en cosas positivas”. Ejemplo de ello son las esculturas de uno de los artistas plásticos de Moçambique que se ha encargado de recuperar armas de la guerra para convertirlas en hermosas esculturas. Definitivamente parte de ser felices es tener la capacidad de transformar incluso aquellas cosas negativas en cosas positivas.


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Ukraine was simply amazing.  How can I explain what was felt there?  How can I describe the feeling I walked away with?  How can I explain the people?  The only attempt I can make is by saying simply that you cannot understand Ukrainians, you have to feel them.   

For lunch, we walked to a restaurant for a traditional meal where we met a host of great people and had some delicious food as well. The first traditional dish we had was borsch, which marks at least the fifth place that has claimed this tasty beet-based soup as their own creation and traditional staple. (That list includes: Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and, of course, the Ukraine.)  After the main course, our host grabbed a cherry-filled dumpling and proclaimed, "Now THIS is happiness," before gingerly popping it in her mouth.   

The day we visited, there was a large festival going on which we were told was a great gathering of Ukrainian happiness. We were told that during Russian occupation, many forms of the Ukrainian culture were outlawed and that this festival was a place to celebrate and enjoy all those things that made Ukrainians, well, Ukrainian.  This was a chance to immerse themselves in and celebrate their culture.   To say that this festival was amazing would be like saying Mozart was decent. In this place, you truly felt what it was to be, to live, to feel Ukrainian. Traditional shirts where worn, the older the better, crafts where sold and the crowd was beyond lively.   It rained like hyenas and lions for the concert, the rain shorting the sound equipment out, but that stopped nothing. Standing in the crowd, listening to the music, you got swept away by the dancing, quite literally!  As a line of people sped past you, someone would grab your hand and without a choice off you would go, a part of the never ending dancing line, snaking through the crowd.   Being at that place... Wow!  The vibe, the environment and the people, especially the people, were unexplainable. Like I said, you can't explain the Ukrainians or their happiness.  You have to feel it. 

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Lithuania – Expect the unexpected.

This wonderful lady is known across Vilnius. She comes into the city every day by train, sporting her most colorful clothes. She walks around the streets and begs for money with a great lipsticked smile and a friendly greeting. The locals are used to seeing her on their paths and often have a few coins ready as they get close. She told me in a tiny sweet voice that happiness to her was being in good health. 'Without health you have nothing' she said with a serious look in her eye. A few moments later her expression softened and she said with a coy smile : 'I also find happiness in my wardrobe', following a childish giggle,'I really love my clothes.' 

 The lady of Vilnius

Things you didn’t know about Lithuania : They have some of the best basketball players in the world, they drink hot beer and in their capital Vilnius is a small little republic called Uzupis. 

‘Huh?’ You ask? Well, Let’s explain shall we. First of all, basketball. It is the Lithuanian’s favorite sport. They name it as one of their happiness factors. There are many Lithuanian players that play around the world including in the NBA. 

Now, hot beer. It is not something I had ever heard of before but I guess if you’ve got hot wine and hot spirits then why not hot beer? It is after all a cold country. By the way, it’s not great… 

Thirdly, Uzupis. You’re wondering what that’s about? Well in the middle of the city there is a small bridge over a river. At the entrance to this bridge is a sign that says : ‘Welcome to the Republic of Uzupis’. 

In the capital of Lithuania lies a small district called Uzupis. The area is inhabited by many artists that leave their mark all around the place, paintings on walls, sculptures along the river, statues in the square. In 1997 the residents declared the Republic of Uzupis with its own president and its own constitution. Their national day is on the 1st of April. As you can see on the sign welcoming you to Uzupis there are four important rules to follow : Always smile, stick to the speed limit, appreciate art and you will fall into the river if you do not respect the first three rules.

Who knew there was an extra country to visit? expedition 206 just became expedition 207!

Republic of Uzupis

It is a small town that started out as an artist community. Now they pride themselves on having a certain independence and even an army (well, if you can call two men with clubs an army) Their Independence Day falls on the 1st of April, make of it what you want. The town houses many renowned artists but also regular families. There is art on every street corner. It is actually a requirement that you be able to appreciate art to enter the republic. Their constitution is mounted on a wall in a public street and translated into four languages. It is simple and fair, having article like : Everyone has the right to love, everyone has the right to be happy, everyone has the right to be unhappy, a dog has the right to be a dog, everyone has the right be creative… My personal favorite : a cat is not obliged to love its owner but must be there in time of need.

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Simply put, Turkey is amazing. It is such a vibrant country with a deep rooted culture and a family oriented, religious society that has happiness around every corner.  We were lucky to have good friends in Turkey, E.Z. and her husband Joe, who agreed to be our guides for the day. 

In Istanbul we met up with Zeynep, a Expedition 206 finalist we met at the interviews week, and her husband Jo. They play host for us and showed us around the city. The place is amazing. It's got a great vibe. You can easily understand why this awesome couple chose to live here!

We started by visiting one of the largest and oldest mosque in the city.  In a city that is dominated by the sight of mosques, this place was magnificent.  Seeing the extreme amount of people inside, it was easy to understand how well religion unites Turkey and holds one of the keys to their happiness. Later that evening, we took a stroll through town to get some dinner.  We found out very quickly how far up food shared with friends is on the list of happy things in Turkey.  There were many mazes of alleyways filled with tables and chairs from cafes and restaurants dotting the city and all of them were packed.  People were everywhere, enjoying coffee, appetizers and meals with friends. For dinner, we stopped at a rooftop restaurant to enjoy Mezes, which are typical Turkish appetizers.  You could think of it as being something like Turkish tapas. There were many different types of dishes, from beans, squid and fish to cheese, breads and other things I couldn't readily identify. One of my favorites was a mussel on the half shell, stuffed with some type of rice and this sweet flavor I couldn't identify.  (Although, my grandma uses that same flavor in her sweet potato pie!)  You find stands selling them all over the streets and for good reason as it was delicious!  Sitting on the roof, listening to Turkish music and laughing and joking with good friends, it was easy to see why the street and alleyway restaurants were packed with people.  The world over, you can never go wrong with the happiness recipe of good food, good friends and good music. Throw in a good view and you could call it paradise!                           


Starting January 2010, three happiness ambassadors will begin an unprecedented journey to all 206 countries where Coca-Cola is sold. That's 14 more countries than are represented in the United Nations! Their mission is to seek out "what makes people happy" around the world.

These "happiness ambassadors" will search for and share the optimism and happiness of Coca-Cola from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between. Their route will include some pretty amazing venues including- the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the World Cup in South Africa and the World Expo in Shanghai.

Throughout the year-long journey, these Happiness Ambassadors will be sharing their blog posts, tweets, videos, interviews and pictures so you can follow their adventures in every country along the way.

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