Seize the moments

By Kim , Thanh Nien News

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Dutch woman on quest to record beautiful moments in others' lives get responses exceeding expectations 

31-year-old Dutch Janne Willems travels the world to collect people’s beautiful memory

World traveler Janne Willems approaches a 19-year-old Vietnamese girl on the street and asks her to draw “a beautiful moment” on a blank postcard.

The girl says she is too shy but after a brief chat with the bubbly 31-year-old Dutch woman, the younger girl changes her mind is not only chatting freely, but drawing her moment on Willems’ card. She then became the traveler’s local guide for a day, helping her collect other people’s “moments.” 

“I think I unearthed her inner confidence and it was amazing,” Willems tells Vietweek.

It’s just one of Willems own beautiful moments after 4 years traveling the world on her “Seize Your Moments” tour, in which she’s collecting people’s memories in the form of drawings or writings on blank postcards that will eventually be collected in a book. 

Across cultures

For Willems, what she calls “beautiful moments” are not always happy ones.

“In 2010, I was touched when I saw a woman holding a dying man’s arm in a hospital in The Netherlands… obviously that cannot be called happy moment, but it is filled with love,” she says.

Often times, people don’t draw ‘moments’ as much as ideas that seem to Willems to reflect local cultures.

“In Laos, they draw the rice field. And in Vietnam, they draw my portrait,” she said with a smile.

Willems said that most Vietnamese people she met seem to appreciate family moments the most.

“They [Vietnamese] enjoy being together, and the meal seems to be the most favorite memory. In Switzerland and Finland, the kiss and relationship are most unforgettable things.”  

Good side of the world

It all began when Willems left her small village in the southern province of Limburg to study in the city of Utrecht.

The nice times she had with her schoolmates inspired her to keep a “nice-things journal” in which she wouldn’t include any negative things. In this journal, even her mother’s death became a positive moment of reflection and life-experience as her family grew closer together.

The more her diary expanded, the more curious she became about other people’s beautiful moments. She decided in 2010 to journey around the world and discover as many other beautiful moments as she could.

A little help from friends (and strangers)

When she quit her job to trot the globe asking people to draw their memories on postcards, she thought funding would be difficult. But  Willems said that her trip came true rather quickly thanks to the support of her loved ones and lots of strangers

When she told friends and family about her “Seize Your Moments” world tour idea, those friends and family told their friends and family (and the global Internet community) and offers for free accommodation, food and transport came rolling in from around the world.

Once word got around (the world) about her project, Willems was given a card for one-month of free train tickets through Europe by Dutch Railway Company. Stabilo has also given her a collection of colored pens for the drawings

Nowadays, fans can buy Willems’ moments and others that she’s collected via the project’s facebook page.

In Vietnam, Willems is currently staying with the local “couchsurfing” community (couchsurfing.org is a website of travelers from around the world dedicated to hosting each other at their homes for free).

“It’s really interesting to stay with locals and learn more about the culture,” she says.

 “I love Vietnamese people,” she adds. “They are eager to help me, and they always give me interesting stories and unexpected events.”

One such unexpected incident was when her laptop was stolen in Hanoi.

“Thankfully I did not lose a lot of files,” she says. “This bad luck also gave me a chance to see how amazing and helpful people are.”

Indeed, a fan from the Netherlands saw a post about the stolen computer and is sending Willems a new laptop for free next week.

She reveals after Vietnam, Cambodia will be the next destination during her tour and she has no idea when her project will end.

“Just wait and see,” she smiles.

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