Yes, I remember that guy… what ever happened to him?

I must be getting old because he started giving hugs out in 2004! Wow time has flown. I never really looked into his story and thought I’d dig a little deeper into what the Free Hugs Campaign was all about. Juan Mann, started his campaign for free hugs in the streets of Sydney (did not know that).

Image – Juan Mann Flickr

He was feeling a little down after spending months living alone, his parents had divorced and fiancee broken up their engagement. At a party a random stranger walked up to him and gave him a hug – for no reason – he felt good. Hugs get those endorphins flowing because Juan, like everyone, wants to feel loved and valued.

Not long after that Juan set out to the streets of Sydney with a handmade sign offering free hugs. Then his mate Shimon joined in and they made a video about it. Of course it went viral I think it was something like 60 million views on YouTube, now up to 77 million. (OMG). And I know why, you’ll burst into tears when you watch it. Trust me!

This inspired people around the world to, well, just give out free hugs. All with handmade signs. In the streets of LA, Tokyo, London, Paris, everyone was doing it.

Image – Juan Mann Flickr

So where is he now? Well according to Business Insider Australia, he’s a professional speaker and author of The Illustrated Guide to Free Hugs.

But his legacy remains. Still to this day there are Free Hug movements all over the world, from Free Hugs Campaigns for awareness and charities to the guy, Maksym Skorubski, who travelled the world in 80 days holding his arms out for 6,783 people in 19 countries – his arms must have been sore.

More recently Free Hugs Vienna a lovely bunch of ‘free huggers’ who still clammer for hugs usually around Eurovision time.

‘Free Hugs Vienna’ is a platform made by and for the ‘free huggers’ who bring to the Austrian capital the joy of sharing happiness through this brilliant initiative.

Members of Free Hugs Vienna have opened their arms, for three years in a row now, to spread joy during the Song Contest week. They bring smiles, laughter and free hugs showing support to the country’s entrants. This hugging action usually takes place in locations like Euroclub, Eurofan Cafe, EuroVillage and the ESC Press Centre – all the places where fans and press of the Eurovision Song Contest like to hang out.

Their ultimate goal is to bring Europe together.

free hugs vienna

Image – Free Hugs Vienna Facebook

So why do we love hugs?

To connect to others. Apparently when you hug someone it releases oxytocin aka the cuddle hormone. It makes you feel good. It’s about trust, bonding and devotion and allows us to connect to others.

To feel safe. When you’re hugged you instantly feel like a super hero, you’re not afraid. Someone has your back and protecting you from harm. That’s why kids cuddle things when they’re scared, it can alleviate fear.

free hugs

Image – The Heaving Surface

We all crave a human connection. To be connected to someone or something. To feel loved and valued. To feel important. And when we are connected, we’re at peace – not war. And the world is a beautiful place.

Everybody needs a hug sometimes. 

Anna