Vancouver’s reputation runs the gamut of everything from beautiful and livable to that of unfriendly, expensive and frankly, no-fun. Being the well-traveled optimist that I am, and having lived in a number of cities across North America, I tend to side with the argument that this is one of the most stunning, friendly and supportive cities that I’ve ever been to. That being said, I’m also a firm believer that there is good to be found in everything and everyone. My friend, Colin Easton seems to share this belief with me, and is determined to find 365 good reasons to call Vancouver home. His goal is to talk to a new stranger every day, get their story and take their picture. Since beginning The Stranger Project on New Year’s Day 2014, he has already received a tidal wave of media attention, sharing pictures and stories of the strangers in our lives. Colin’s project, has brought the diversity and brilliance that lays hidden in each of us to light, and forced me to question my own attitude toward the strangers that I pass on the street everyday.
I wonder more than ever, would I stop and take the time to tell my story, or would I continue to walk on, curling ever deeper into my over-sized scarf?
Working for a technology company, Colin likes to call himself a “hobby photographer,” who often finds himself snapping pictures of architecture, scenery and anything that catches his eye as he walks around town. Like many of us, he’s often listening to music on the go, watches bad reality television and gets a little obsessive about social media from time to time. So inspired by his journey, I asked him a few questions about his project.
Tell us about why you started The Stranger Project and what inspired it…
I was incredibly inspired by my good friend Donovan, who is a master of capturing images of people while he’s out and about walking. It seems to come naturally to him. He engages the person he is speaking with and you can tell how much he actually cares about the person in front of him and what they have to say. Then, effortlessly, he snaps a picture of them. It’s amazing how much personality and character he is able to reveal in that picture; this genuine human encounter really struck a chord with me
What can you tell us about courage?
To connect is human, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work on it. I’ve been working on connecting with others for a while now: holding doors open for people, saying a simple please and thank you whenever I can, or using someone’s name when they are ringing through my groceries. Genuine connection and often genuine kindness, sometimes even surprise is returned.
What do you feel about Vancouver’s reputation as an “unfriendly city”?
Are you surprised by the attention that your project has already received?
Yes, very. It’s humbling, gratifying, exciting and completely surprising. As I said, I had intended to just post this on my own Facebook page, to just share with friends and family. On Day 10, a good friend, Jacob, sent me a message asking if I had thought about setting up a Facebook page expressly for The Stranger Project 2014. I thought maybe it would open it up to a few more people, maybe a few friends of friends sort of thing. I hadn’t really expected to get more than a couple of hundred followers, if that. Right now, I’m currently at 1,662 and growing every day!
Do you have any advice for our readers on how to promote wellness and openness in their own lives?
Talk to someone, make no judgment about what you perceive their story to be. No matter who the person, just connect. Be open to being asked about your story as well. I think most people would be pleasantly surprised to realize that it’s actually hard to find a person — after some conversation — that you’d not have something in common, or find something interesting to talk about with. Make it about more than the weather. Smile at people, do nice things for people that may not know you’re doing it. Be selfless, even just in a single act, once a day. Nice breeds nicer. One great piece of advice I got from a dear elder friend (she referred to herself as my OWL – my Older, Wiser, Lesbian) many years ago was that “one of the best ways to heal and work through our challenges, and let’s face it we all have them, the greatest way to heal and grow, is to help someone else.” I try to get out of my head, and into someone else’s heart. It’s healing.
Follow Colin’s journey and meet some amazing Vancouver “strangers”
Trevor Ellestad is a writer, an herbalist, and an ex-yoga teacher who spends his days creating plant-based magic at Vega. Trevor keeps a tidy home with his partner and their as of yet un-named spider monkey of a kitty cat in Vancouver, BC. At night, Trevor likes to surround himself with plants and obsess over the seemingly simple lives of cats and robots.