Building Evidence for a Practical, Sustainable, and Happier Future, the 8,000 mile Happiness Walk and research project resumes October 7th in Santa Monica, CA.
Los Angeles, CA, October 2, 2017
In this time of apparent divisiveness, imagine a nationwide enterprise that identifies our common values—a hands-on research project that engages thousands of people across all political, ethnic, geographic, age, gender, and economic lines. Now imagine that this project takes place on foot: a walk of more than 8,000 miles circumnavigating the U.S. designed to promote both personal happiness and collective well-being while chronicling the real human stories of everyday citizens.
This research project — the Happiness Walk — is the real deal. Sponsored by Gross National Happiness USA (GNHUSA; www.gnhusa.org), a national non-profit educational and advocacy organization, the Walk began in 2012 from Stowe, VT trekking to the Pacific Ocean, in multiple segments. After completing 4,480 miles and 2,000 interviews, the 8,000-mile walk resumes in Santa Monica, CA on October 7th, continuing up the west coast.
Crossing a big country with walking shoes and a recorder, reporting on happiness and what matters most in life.
The first half of the Walk captured front-page headlines in local media and nationwide magazine coverage (see links to media coverage below). This ambitious, humanistic project reveals strong unity and shared values in an era of headlining hate and nationalism, through interviewing thousands of diverse people along the journey. By answering the question, “What matters most in life?”, people share wisdom and confirm a growing disconnect between how we currently measure success and what engenders happiness.
“We walk,” says co-founder and vice-president of GNHUSA Paula Francis, “because the policies and practices of our systems, institutions and our government ought to support and uphold our basic right, and that of future generations: the pursuit of happiness.”
During the first segment of the Walk, 65 walkers and one cyclist conducted thousands of interviews, asking individuals “What matters most in life?”. Interviewees ranged from three 10 year-olds who replied, “water, food, and a place to live,” to a 95 year-old who once dined with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and values “friendship and community”.
“We have discovered that, contrary to what many might believe, people are very much alike,” observes Ms. Francis, who leads the Walk. “We value the same things, and most of us agree that we can do better to support what we value. People everywhere have deep wisdom to share, and we are remiss not to listen.”
2,000 interviews document the first half of the Walk. GNHUSA is working now to transcribe these vital conversations and collaborating with data scientists to analyze the information. The results will help GNHUSA engage leaders in instituting US-specific measures of well-being into policy. Expected research report in Spring, 2018.
To date, Walk participants have traversed 19 states in 508 days and stayed with 128 unique hosts. Although we have received some $25,000 in donations and monetary gifts, Walk participants often pay for their own airfare, food, and, occasionally, lodging. While walkers are typically housed by friends and people they meet along the way, they have also slept in fire departments, camping areas, hostels, and hotels.
Ms. Francis, GNHUSA vice-president, and fellow walker Ginny Sassaman, GNHUSA president, are available for interviews, in addition to other walkers, interviewees, and hosts. Media representatives are invited to join the walk to capture it in progress. View route map and current schedule.
Gross National Happiness USA works to increase economic, environmental and societal justice and collective well-being by listening to people; measuring what matters to them; educating the public and policy-makers about the practical and positive GNHUSA framework for decision-making; and advocating for practices and policies that support the conditions of happiness in the US.
Ginny Sassaman, President
Gross National Happiness USA
Paula Francis, Co-Vice President
Gross National Happiness USA
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Website and Social Media
Gross National Happiness USA (GNHUSA) https://www.gnhusa.org/
Happiness Walk https://www.gnhusa.org/happiness-walk/
Happiness Walk route and schedule https://www.gnhusa.org/happiness-walk/walk-route/
Instagram for Walk https://www.instagram.com/happinesswalkus/
Twitter for Walk https://twitter.com/HappinessWalkUS
Facebook for Walk https://www.facebook.com/HappinessWalkUS/
Media Coverage Highlights
The Arizona Republic, October 2016 “Woman on an 8,000-mile trek for ‘happiness’ reaches Phoenix”
American Press (Louisiana), February 2016 “Woman walks across states to promote happiness”
Live Happy Magazine, April 2015 “Walking the Talk”
VT Digger, October 2014 “Serious about Happiness: two women walking 8,000 miles”
Crowdfunding Campaign and Donations