Beyond boundaries, 
the search for happiness is a journey with a gentle soul

When we are children, we do nothing but ask thousands of questions. We try to understand the meaning of things, what the instructions for being in the world are. Some questions are particularly difficult, so we set them aside, satisfied by a creative, not very detailed answer from an adult.

Then we become the adults. And the questions only increase. Often, it is the most important of all that remains unanswered: "What is happiness?"

Happiness is one of the most sought-after things in the world. Everyone is searching for it, everyone needs it. We look for it in success, money, relationships, but true, lasting happiness seems to slip through our fingers. What really is happiness?

All the most compelling stories begin with a journey, and mine is no exception.

It was 2014, and I had just finished university, when I decided to make one of my greatest dreams come true: go on a trip around the world.

Travel is a transformative experience; it allows you to step out of your comfort zone, crossing geographical borders and mental barriers. When you go on a backpacking adventure, you have no idea what to expect along the way, but one thing is certain: once you leave home, you will never be the same again.

Twelve days of vipassana meditation on the Indian subcontinent changed my life. Cloistered in a monastery, with no distractions and no contact, I finally put my thoughts and emotions in order, after they had been disturbing my mind for too long. I was ready to look at the world with new eyes.

When I got back home, I was clearly conscious of one thing: I wanted a life that followed my dreams, that would give value and meaning to my deepest aspirations.
But how far could I push myself? Could I really overcome all my limits and become the best version of myself?

This was how my first challenge, a social media project, came about: Project Liminis. I would give myself a year to prepare for the hardest triathlon in the world: the Ironman. I began to document everything on social media and YouTube; the training, the competition, my hopes, disappointments and difficulties.
In the end, I did it. I crossed the finish line and for the first time I saw the man I aspired to be: a man who doesn't run away from fear and weakness, but embraces them, faces them and, in the end, beats them.

It was wonderful to share these emotions, to be able to offer inspiration. At that point I put aside my ego and turned to the most important question of all: happiness.

For four years I have been on a mission: travel the world to meet the most extraordinary people on the planet and ask them a simple question: "What is happiness for you?"

Project Happiness is my current project: a journey to discover the formula for happiness. I document encounters and stories about happiness from around the world, through video-reportage on YouTube. I interview women and men who can inspire us with their extraordinary stories to make our lives much more than we could ever have imagined.

I have interviewed extraordinary people from all over the world, such as Kabir Bedi, a world-famous actor known for playing Sandokan, and the astronaut Luca Parmitano, the first Italian to command the international space station.

It has been incredible to listen to the voices of the most famous, eclectic personalities in the world. However, at a certain point in my journey, something told me to change direction. It was clear that the lives of these people, full of success, money and admiration, contained happiness. I needed to delve into the darker, more difficult, poorer depths of the world. I was ready to take this project in a new direction and go to parts of the world looking for happiness in places where I was not sure it existed.

Again, I ended up in India. I interviewed the leader of the manual scavengers, the men of the sewer. Their job is to free the sewers of obstructions, and to do so they climb down inside, almost naked, manually removing blockages with their hands. They are the bottom of the bottom, the untouchables, belonging to the lowest caste in Indian society.

I went aboard SOS MEDITERRANEE's ship Ocean Viking to document their mission to save migrants adrift in the sea. I saw with my own eyes the death of hundreds of people, and the salvation of many others.

And the most incredible thing is that I found happiness even there, where I didn't think I would find it. It was a different kind of happiness, made up of little things. For the Indian scavengers, happiness was offering a hot meal to their children, the love of their family, the hope for a better future. For the surviving migrants, happiness was coming back to life, the opportunity to be reborn.

My research had now become social: I went to Iraq and Kenya. Tribes taught me kindness and how to live in harmony with the environment. For them, happiness is being in balance with others, with nature, the ecosystem and animals.

I learned a lot, staying silent and listening, tiptoeing into the lives of others. I discovered that from one pole of the earth to the other, things change a lot. While the West has a more individualistic view of happiness, the East has a collective view, of union and harmony with the whole.

We have a lot to learn from each other, and, without a doubt, training ourselves to be kind leads us along the path to happiness. Sharing good and bad and supporting each other is fundamental, especially when things are difficult: in these moments, it is kindness that truly makes a difference.

Sometimes, to free ourselves from the chains that prevent us from being happy, we just need to walk through our fear.


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