When Janne started college, she loved the amazing experiences she was having, but became nervous that she would not remember them. It began with a simple goal, to draw the beautiful moments of her day. It became part of her routine, and she began to do it without thinking. It wasn’t until her mother became severely ill and passed away that she noticed just how important documenting these moments was.
“I realiZed that me taking note of all of these beautiful moments, especially in hard times, that is what made the difference. It got me through this period, and always makes the difficult days easier.”
Then, she began to collect the beautiful moments of others, mostly her friends, and started the website Seize Your Moments. She wanted to find a way to reach more people, and that’s when she began to notice how quiet the compartments were each day when she rode the train. She decided to ask people to share beautiful moments of their lives, and they immediately opened up. People began smiling, and sharing, and connecting with one another.
“I thought, ‘Woah, this is amazing.’”
Over two years later, she had collected thousands of moments during her daily commute, but wanted to push the idea further. A friend pointed out that in a few months she would not have a job and she didn’t have a partner holding her back, so why not travel the world to discover herself?
“Two hours later, I texted him that I was going on a world tour with Seize Your Moments. I wanted to make people happy and see if it was possible to cross language barriers. I wondered what the beautiful moments in other countries were, and what connects us all as humans. I wanted to find out.
Basically, my starting position was no money and not knowing people in the places I would go, let alone where I would go. That was the perfect starting position - and this isn’t cynical - because if you don’t have a clue how to do it, but you know what you want, then you just need to do one thing: ask others if they have ideas.”
She started asking her friends to see if any of them could help to make her dream a reality. People started coming up with ideas, talking to people they knew, and helped her make a crowd funding video. Before she knew it, it was 4 months later and hundreds of people had helped her in person and online. People wanted her to spread her message of beauty in the everyday. Her friends threw her a fantastic goodbye party, and in July of 2014, she took off. She thought the money she had raised would last her 4 or 5 months, it lasted 16.
Her traveling wasn’t always easy. When she had been on the road for 9 months, she had a moment where she considered ending her journey.
“At one point I was in Slovenia in a bar. It was 30 degrees out, I was sitting outside; it was really a perfect situation. I was like, ‘fuck, I am getting so much help, is what I am doing really important enough? Is the balance still equal? I don’t know…’ Next to me there was a woman who had been drawing, and we talked for a bit. I didn’t discuss any of my doubts, it was just a nagging question in the back of my head. She drew the cup of soup that was right in front of her. When she left she said, ‘Hey Janne, here is 10 euros for you for tomorrow's lunch, because it is important what you are doing.’ What I learned from situations like that is:
If there is fear or doubt, just let it be. Don’t fight it, even if that is scary as hell.
Her travels took her through Vietnam for 6 weeks, then to Cambodia. She went climbing in Thailand, and jetted off to Malaysia. She continued her travels through Australia, and over to New Zealand. And these are just a few of the many stops along her journey. Each stop she focused on collecting moments and bringing happiness out in people all around the world.
In New Zealand she met Collin. He was a Gold seeker living in the forest. He confessed to her that it can get scary at night. When he showed Janne the drawing on his card, it showed him sitting by the fire with his first Father’s Day card. Janne was confused when he mentioned it was recently, for he was in his 60s or 70s. Collin had not seen his daughter in 28 years. He had been looking for her, but couldn’t find her. When he finally was able to restore contact, she sent him a card. He told her this with tears in his eyes and said, “Thank you for helping me remember...I have some burnt chicken soup on the stove do you also want some?”
Not all beautiful moments are grand, however. Some people draw how much they love sleeping, or other simple things that get them through the day; and these are some of Janne’s favorites.
She once came across a woman in New York who was reading a book in Central Park. While speaking with Janne, the woman spoke of how she had noticed the sun shining in her face, and when she looked, she saw the sun was shining through some leaves in the shape of a smiley face. She said, “To top it all off, you came. You must be sent from God. You just listen and you understand.” She quietly offered a hug of thanks.
One of the most fantastic things about Seize Your Moments is the power it has on people: it makes them come out of their shell. In Vietnam, Janne came across a young girl in a cafe. She gave her a card to draw a moment, and she sat hunched and quiet while she drew. When Janne went to collect the card, she saw that on the card she had written “I would love to go around to people and make new friends, but I am very shy”.
“I told her, for me it is not always easy to talk to strangers, but with my cards it is, because it’s about that and not about me. If you ever want to practice talking to strangers, I need a translator everyday. I would be honored if you would help me. About a half an hour later she comes back, didn't say a word, and just took a stack of empty postcards out of my box... I looked as she took a step forward, her arms next to her body, her fists clenched; but she was translating. I was so proud of her.”
Janne is currently in Dallas, and was there the day after the American presidential election. She found that nobody was wanting to talk about the major political event.
“I would ask how their day was and everyone would say ‘good,’ when they obviously weren't. A couple of days after in Austin, people would say it was a hard week, and that things were difficult. Dallas voted for Hillary too, but the demographics are a lot more mixed so they are not as open talking about their politics.”
In January, she is heading to DC for the inauguration. She is interested to see if she can bring some happiness and connection to people on either side of the presidential choice.
“Of course I want to know more, but I decided I won’t steer the topic in that way. The best thing I can do is not to ask what they are scared about, but instead what makes them happy. It is not just happiness, it is about bringing everything back to a personal level - human to human. It is not you and me, it is we and us.”
One of the best examples of this need to come together she found in Englewood, Chicago. Janne came across two young girls around 12 and 14.
“The youngest drew how she got money from her mother to buy new shoes - what a perfect moment! The oldest one asked me at the end, ‘Janne, why are you so kind to us. Why did you come here? You know this is a bad neighborhood right?’ And those questions make me cry at night. The question is not why are you kind, the question is why are you not?! That was an emotional night for me, it is so powerful. Why can’t I walk up to everybody?"
"All I can do is share my story, have an impact on the people I meet, and make sure more people get on the streets and more people think next time I am on a bus or train, I will say hi to the person next to me. If that would happen? Perfect.”
With 16 months on the road, 30 countries, and almost 8,000 moments collected, Seize Your Moments has already made an incredible impact; but the journey is far from over. What started as something that brought her joy, has turned into a world wide movement. Janne no longer wants do this alone. She is looking to form a dream team of people that can help her along the way. Her mission is to show everyone that we are united and that we can make a difference just by listening.