Rita Chand is another fellow hugger from Canada on her own year long journey called 2011: The Year of Hugging Fearlessly. Often when I read about her experiences I would get chills because I felt as though I were reading my own thoughts. I became curious and wanted to learn more about potential similarities between our 2 paths. I created a list of 7 questions that we both answered separately that I have now compiled into an incredible guest post. I am very grateful to Rita for taking the time to share with me. I highly recommend following her Facebook Fan Page. I guarantee you will enjoy learning more about her.
1. How many daily hugs were you getting on average before your journey began? How many on average are you getting now?
Rita: I think it’s important to say that I am a hugger. Always have been. I love it. I love connecting with people in that way. My friends, thankfully, are mostly all huggers too. So I wasn’t doing without in anyway. What I was missing was the connection. The eye contact, the one on one, tell me what matters to you even if just for a minute kind of connection. So on average, maybe 1 a day. But for me my project is not about how many hugs I get, as long as I get one. That means I connected with someone. At least one new person every day.
Melinda: Before the journey I would get numerous hugs from my husband and 2 sons. But, I was rarely getting any from friends. Now, I average about 7 non family hugs a day.
2. What were your goals for the journey in the beginning? Are they the same now?
Rita: My goal for the The Year of Hugging Fearlessly was simple. To connect with a minimum of one person each and every day for 365 days without fail. And it had to be someone different, every day. I could hug the same people over and over, but I would only ever document it one time. So I would have met/hugged a minimum of 365 people throughout the year. The goals are steadfast. I have not missed a day, and I’ve just passed day 283. And the goal is still the same. To connect with a minimum of one person everyday, hug them and document it. Some days I hug more than 1 new person. My record is 62 people in one day, which is a lot, but I remember each of them very well.
Melinda: My goals for the journey was to spread love and joy through hugs. Anyone that I encountered was a potential hug. This is still a goal of mine, but I have added hug awareness to my goals. I want to remind or even introduce people to the power and benefits of human touch.
3. What has been your biggest challenge throughout this journey?
Rita: Hmm..my biggest challenge? Gosh. Well, to be honest, stretching beyond every one of my own comfort zones. I don’t have a problem striking up conversations with strangers, and sometimes, it’s hard to ask for the hug. If I had to pick something that was challenging, I’d say taking the project to Spain and Portugal. Although looking back, it didn’t feel challenging, It was. There was the language barrier to overcome, and not knowing culturally how I would be received. It was amazing and completely altered my experience of travel, but at the time, I had no way of knowing that’s how it would go.
Melinda: My biggest challenge has been overcoming my own fears. My fears of opening myself up to rejection, of being embarrassed, and even my fear of large crowds.
4. What have your family/friends reaction been to your journey?
Rita: My family and friends are blown away. Mostly by all the media attention. This was a project I started for me. It was just so I could connect with people every day. I had no expectation that I would receive so much media attention. Newspapers, and 2 news segments, along with a national radio interview, and now my very first speaking engagement billed as an “inspirational speaker”. I couldn’t be more excited. My friends are used to it. They know me well so, although at first it was surprising to see all the attention, they are all so supportive. It’s hard to imagine doing something like this without so much love and support. And my family, my mum doesn’t understand how hugging people can be such a big deal. But the rest of them, including both my little nephews are pretty excited. It’s fun for them too. (They have all learned to ensure they always look their best, in case they happen to end up on the news.)
Melinda: In the beginning I had a few friends who were skeptical. They weren’t really understanding what I meant by a hug journey. Over time I have become overwhelmed by how encouraging and supportive they have all been. And, then there’s my dad. When I told him about the journey he just shrugged and said, “yeah? so? I hug people all the time.” Well, at least now you know where I get it from.
5. What has been the biggest impact this journey has had on you?
Rita: I would have to say that the biggest impact has been that it has broken me open. I have always been someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, but for the most part, it was on the sleeve of the protective armour. I think we all have fears of people hurting us, and I suppose a fear of being vulnerable and open with others. With this project, I have learned many things about myself and other people. I have learned about different levels of comfort, and how people react to things that make them a little bit uncomfortable. The ones who jump at the chance for human contact. I’ve learned of insecurities, and what is important to people. Connecting with someone isn’t just about talking to them. It’s about listening to them and in the few sentences they may say, it’s about really hearing what matters to them. I’ve always been good at that, but now, I feel as though I’ve honed that way of being with people. I know you asked for one impact, but it’s so hard to pick just one. I have never been more moved by people. Sometimes, I cry when I hug someone, because I’m so moved by what it might have taken for them to hug me. To take 4 minutes out of their day to have a conversation, to hug me and to pose for a photo. It’s an incredible thing to really get how amazing people really and truly are.
Melinda: Ok, I don’t even know if I can answer this question now without crying. There has not been any one biggest impact. I have been through a complete transformation. I love the person that I have become and I know that I will just continue to grow with the experience that this journey is giving me. I am more patient, more aware, more loving, more peaceful and more alive. Surprisingly though, I am also more outspoken and confident than I have ever been before.
6. Do you approach obstacles differently now?
Rita: I have always had a different approach to obstacles, however, this project has completely altered my experience of life. There is something so magical about giving up preconceived notions of people and who they are and just plunging in and talking to them, or asking for a hug. There is something so amazing in that experience. I don’t shy away from talking to anyone. I still get a bit shy when it comes to men I think are super hot, but for the most part, everyone has their own insecurities. Every one of us is wondering what someone else is thinking about us. We’re so busy looking good for everyone else that we forget we’re spending so much time looking good for others that there’s a whole life over here to live. So I guess you could say that I’ve really taken on the “fearlessly” part of The Year of Hugging Fearlessly.
Melinda: I approach obstacles now with more confidence and self assurance. I know that there isn’t anything that I can’t overcome (with love and hugs of course). I now truly understand that I am responsible for everything in my life, including the way that I react to obstacles. Whereas before I might crumple under the weight of ‘I can’t believe that happened to me’, I now respond with ‘ok, this has happened, what steps can I take to create the best possible situation out of it for me.’ Very empowering.
7. What is the one thing you want people reading this right now to know?
Rita: That people are inherently good and awesome. If you have the urge to ask someone for a hug, ask them. They will likely say yes. Out of (so far) a total of 800+ people that I have hugged this year, only 2 people have said no. Those are some really good odds. Don’t be afraid to change the culture in your office or your home. Hugging is simply a means of connecting with another human being. Don’t get caught up in the social media of life. That is not what makes the world go ‘round. Human connection is. The more apps and platforms that are introduced, the easier it is for us to hide behind our computers and smart phones. Life is about living.
Melinda: There are so many cheesy quotes running around in my head right now. Love conquers all. Do unto others as you would have done to you. The more you give, the more you get. These are all true. The world is yours. Go out and celebrate!
Thank you so much Rita for taking the time to share your journey with me and my readers. Although we are a country apart, we are kindred spirits in our hugging journeys. I wish you all the best as you round out your year. Lucky are those that are fortunate enough to be standing in your path.