Tim’s Travelogue- Free Hugs

We traveled to Greece to continue our movement for Free Hugs! Myself and a couple of friends thought it would be fun to do Free Hugs in another country.

Free Hugs is a movement started in an age of “social disconnectivity.” It was started to brighten a strangers day by giving a free hug to whoever wanted one. It is something that I first did in the San Antonio area near the Alamo. Since we were traveling abroad, we figured that bringing it to Greece near the Acropolis would be just as fun.

What really captured my attention was how social and huggable people in Greece are. Similar to my own culture, they receive people with kisses on both cheeks and hugs. However, with people they do not know, or suspect harmful behavior from, they are more hesitant to hug. I found this out when we were running Free Hugs. Many of the local Athenians and even  other tourists were not very accepting to the whole Free Hug idea. We got many glares and looks at first, possibly because we were in areas of higher rates for pick pocketing and areas where people often hassle people to buy things.

Much of what we were doing was seeing how open they were to the idea and movement of Free Hugs. One thing that we did not take into consideration or know was that many of the locals do not know what a “hug” is or how that is translated to Greek. It was not until they saw other people hugging us that they then had a better understanding of what we were doing. Even then, many were hesitant to hug because of fear of being pick pocketed.

We did the Free Hugs in a highly populated area right in front of the Acropolis, which is one of the more popular and beautiful sights in Greece. An area of rich history and a social present. It was beautiful place to have a nice view, but not as good for Free Hugs as we might have hoped. The lack of response from locals and other tourists however did not discourage us from continuing doing Free Hugs at that location. We did make people’s days better with comments about how great this was, which made doing this in Greece worth it.

Greeks in general are social. When it comes to going out to clubs and bars or eating together they are good about not being on their phones, like Americans. I observed most of the locals eat and you can quickly tell who they are compared to tourists. I would have liked to do Free Hugs in and around a club area to see how differently people would have reacted to it. This stems from the idea that people are more outgoing and social in places like a bar or club. However, that was not able to be done.

It still surprised me that the response was not very high for Free Hugs, or at least as high I as had anticipated that it would be. Free Hugs is a world-wide movement, so lack of knowledge about it would not be the case here in Greece. being able to do something like Free Hugs in Greece is an experience that I would do over and over again. When I found out we would be doing this I was happy to be able to spread the movement to another country.

In the United States we take for granted the fact that we do not always have to be on the look out for people who steal or pick pocket. In Greece the rate for crimes that like fairly high. Many people don’t carry their wallets in their back pockets and are always on guard for their things being stolen. I know I always had my wallet hidden and was on the look out for people who got close to me. This could be another reason that many people did not want to hug us while we held a Free hug sign. It was more fear and lack of trust that kept people from hugging us. As for the United States, we do not always have the fear of being pick pocketed so we are more likely to give a stranger a hug and are more gullible and less cautious.

All in all, the experience of traveling abroad to Greece was one that will never be forgotten. It was something that no amount of money could ever really pay for. Meeting locals and being able to talk about culture with them, eating new foods that taste amazing, and seeing sites that most people will never in their life see all made this trip worth it. Greece is a beautiful country and I plan to visit again in the future. The impact that the country as a whole made on me is one that is hard to put into words when I tell my friends and family about my experience there.

-Tim Sanchez

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