One man set out on a journey to break down barriers and start intimate conversations with strangers around the world just by asking the simple question: “Are you happy?” Now, he’s sharing what he’s learned about the human condition through his travels and the people he met along the way with a documentary series gaining viral attention on social media.
Atdhe Trepca set out in February of 2019. He got into his car and made his way from Los Angeles to New York, stopping to chat with strangers along the way. “Every state I would pass through, every person I ran across, I would ask them all the same question: ‘Are you happy?’” he explains. “And I didn't realize it then, but the question really serves as a window to the soul.”
ATDHE TREPCA: My name is Atdhe. I am a filmmaker. So basically what I do is I travel around the world and ask everyone I meet if they're happy.
- Oh, I'm-- I'm extremely happy.
- Ah, the beauty. Are you happy?
- What makes you happy?
- Life. Being black.
ATDHE TREPCA: It was just me, a camera, a microphone, and one question.
- Are you happy?
- Oh, Jesus.
ATDHE TREPCA: I started in Los Angeles. I would drive through the United States, make it to the East Coast. Once I get to the East Coast, get on a plane to India. Every person I ran across, I would ask them all the same question.
- Are you happy?
- [BLEEP], dude. Who are you, Barbara Walters, man? Without a doubt.
ATDHE TREPCA: I didn't realize it then, but the question really serves as a window to the soul.
- What brings you the most joy in life?
- I think just serving other people and living a good life.
ATDHE TREPCA: Honestly, it's a lot nicer and kinder out there than a lot of people think. Everyone wants to tell you their story. It's just a matter of your vibe and your position.
- You know what gets in the way of happiness is money. Having to take care of all the grown-up stuff in your life, that's what brings you down.
- Just believe in yourself, believe in love.
ATDHE TREPCA: Due to the coronavirus and everybody working from home, I had a lot of free time. So I started uploading raw snippets of the interview on TikTok. While I was starting to upload, I was like, oh, I remember I met this girl who told me that she ran away from her home.
- Really? Why did you-- why did you run away?
- 'Cause I was not happy.
ATDHE TREPCA: But now everybody wants to know, who is this girl? Is she OK? #FreeTheSunriseGirl. I truly believe that everyone has a story worthy of a Oscar-winning film. What I've learned is that the happiest people I've met have not had the happiest lives. They accepted suffering and pain as a part of life and moved on.
- I have peace about everything. I feel-- I feel good myself, I feel good with life, and I can-- I can know where I'm going.
ATDHE TREPCA: What's really important is that circle around you. The world is a beautiful place with beautiful people. It's so easy to be afraid or to go outside your house or to interact with a stranger. Be not afraid.
- Are-- are you happy?
- Yeah, I am.
- Yes, I am.
- What are your plans?
- I'll just sit and watch more sunsets and be happy.