Allan Dransfield contacted me through the LeipGlo Instagram account. He told me he was here in Leipzig to spread happiness, and that immediately caught my attention.
I sent him an e-mail hoping we could meet during the weekend. He told me that would be impossible, since he’d be driving to Prague that same evening. So I decided to cancel all my plans for that day, just to see what spreading happiness in a van was all about.
Allan came to my house to pick me up, and I did exactly what my mom has always told me not to do: get in a van with a stranger.
Allan is originally from Manchester, and a former car designer. He has been living in Lodz, Poland, for quite a while.
With the help of his companions, Allan has been making his way around the around in a green van and conducting multiple “experiments,” which they record when allowed to. He stops random people on the street and strikes up a conversation, about anything and everything. Then, he asks what makes them happy. The answers are varied.
How does he make ends meet with that? “The whole thing is sponsored by Freitag,” he reveals.
Yes, the Swiss bag brand. To give back on their 25th anniversary, they started a campaign to spread happiness around the world and set off to find the ideal vehicle (pun intended).
Freitag asked people from all over the place how they would make others happy. Allan applied with his idea of driving a van around the world, and was selected as one of two winners.
They are officially Freitag’s “Executive Vice Pleasidents for Global Happiness.” Quite an amazing title if I do say so myself.
The “experiments” in Allan’s project, Don’t Hurry Be Happy, reflect one of his beliefs in life: that something small and silly can be a source of happiness.
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Because of this, he asks people to jump. Seems silly at first, and I thought people would refuse to do it. But they in fact do it! And it’s magical to see how people’s faces light up, especially when they see their picture jumping.
In my very unscientific opinion, the experiment is a great success.
When I asked him why he was doing it, he said he was always the type of guy who wanted to see people happy:
I want to make people smile. The world is too chaotic sometimes; we need a little bit of happiness.
One of my favorite things to see was all the curious faces when the van pulled up near Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz, in front of Deutsche Bank. Allan quickly jumped out of the car and set up the speaker to play some music.
Sometimes people would come up to him and ask what he was doing there, sometimes he would approach people. More often than not they signaled they were not interested with a quick wave, showing their wrists, as if to say, “No time, I’m in a hurry.”
But some people did play (including me), some took pictures of the van and some even became models for the happiness van, doing “the jump.”
When I asked Allan which city he felt was the closest-minded and the least happy, he could not give a straight answer. But he did say this: “Here in Germany people are more closed off, it’s hard to get a smile out of them. Comparing to, let’s say, Morocco, where people smile all the time. They were so open to everything.”
This whole happiness adventure made me think a lot about life.
Sitting on the front seat of the happiness van, I could see how people walking around Leipzig were looking at us. I could not help myself but wave and smile. And they actually smiled and waved back.
I was happy for making people happy, if only for just a few seconds. And that is the good news: Happiness is contagious, easy to catch on. A smile or a “good morning” to the person you seat beside on the tram are enough.
The whole situation made me think that sometimes we get so caught up in life, that we forget what is really important. We forget to say “I love you” to the people we love, we forget to appreciate the little things that life offers us.
At the end of the day, getting in a van with a stranger provided me with laughs and a whole lot of fun.
I think we can all learn from Allan and make spreading happiness – and allowing it into our own days – a mission in our lives. It is, after all, the ultimate elixir of life; drink it up!
My last piece of advice is: If you’re out and about one day and an overly happy man with a huge mustache in a green van asks you to jump, jump as high as you can!