Human interaction, more than even the best beaches, most glorious temples and well-stocked museums, is why I travel. Those shared moments over a smile or life story, bonding when someone brings you into their world, or when you and a stranger are thrust into the unknown together. After gathering a collection of these interactions, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are inherently kind, optimistic, and trustworthy, regardless of place or background. So as fate would have it, Livia and I were gushing about this exact thing over a bottle of wine last week in Malta, and the next day found ourselves in the midst of humanity at its best.
“We’re here to write some love letters today!” said a cheerful man as he walked into the café, bouncing with happiness and greeting the barista with a hug. Livia and I looked up from our smoothies, intrigued. Soon, a small group filled the tiny café, settling in on couches and stools and filling the central table with heart shaped paper, stickers and pink and red crayons.
“You are beautiful!”
“You are strong!”
“I love you unconditionally, for you, exactly as you are.”
These words floated merrily through the café, hanging in the air like rosy bubbles of positivity as they wrote, reading their letters aloud and addressing them, “For you, I Love You.”
Before long we were embraced into the love letter circle, where we heard the background story: One day, a guy named Miguel was coming out of a Valentine’s Day workshop when he saw an envelope on the ground addressed, “To You.” He thought someone dropped it, (it was Valentine’s Day after all), but was struck by the way it was addressed and eventually opened it.
“Even though I do not know you, and even though I might never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you or kiss you, I love you, with all of my heart, I love you” the letter read. It made Miguel’s day. He relayed the story to his friend Simon, and they were both so inspired they started the Global Love Letter Project, a pay it forward movement creating “a ripple of love,” in Simon’s words.
Simon’s face lit up as he told me how quickly the movement has grown, and how people are now spreading the love on five continents. There’s been a knock-off effect too, with similar movements popping up across the world. A teacher in the US, for example, has her students write love letters for school projects, and the lovely Hannah Brencher started the More Love Letters movement.
While the week around Valentine’s Day sees the most Global Love Letter events, you can celebrate the power of love anytime. All you have to do is write a letter, leave it for someone to find and, if you’re curious, stick around for their reaction – usually a massive smile and change of mood. There’s a bonus endorphin boost for you for making a total stranger’s day.
So Livia and I stayed and wrote letters, (which both, unsurprisingly, encouraged future recipients to get out and travel the world), and were rewarded with uplifting conversation and new friends.
We floated out of the café with huge smiles on our faces, giddy with the joy that travel and great human interaction can bring. Exploring, having your perception altered and seeing with ever widening eyes, mind and heart is what travel is all about. There’s a lot of chaos in the world right now, and there probably always will be, but people are, overall, amazing. Everyone needs anonymous love letter now and then to remember that.