KOCHI: If he wanted to protect his country today, tomorrow he would want to preach the homily. A soldier first, a priest second, and whatsoever that struck him next. Eventually, the child settled on being a movie star. “I wanted to be everything possible. Being a movie star involves a lot of research on people, their lifestyles, and essentially living like another person. Even if it’s for a movie.
But I didn’t turn out to be one. So I thought friends are enough to have these experiences. Many of my friends have become architects, journalists, painters. Sharing their stories and having a part to do in their life is my way of experiencing in this limited period on earth,” says 23-year-old John Sebastian.
John is the only Indian among 30,000 applicants (of which 4,200 were Indians) across 167 countries to have qualified as one among the top six travellers of Yuujou, an international media project which aims to show the importance of friendship through a travel experiment. For someone who stresses on friendship and shared experiences, John has struck gold with Yuujou.
Swiss sisters and storytellers Corinne and Yvonne Eisenring are the founders of Yuujou. Corrine, a TV producer for travel documentaries, had wondered ‘What if we only travel from one person to another - can we make it to the other side of the world? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see where the journey would lead you and who you’d meet along the road?’. Together, the sisters, along with Oliver Herren, a Swiss internet pioneer, and founder of Switzerland’s largest online shop, digitec.ch, and online department store, Galaxus, they breathed life into their vision. In June 2018, Yuujou, which is Japanese for ‘friendship’, was born.
Their online casting call was open from November 2018 till January 18, 2019. Applicants had to create an online casting profile and upload a short video. A committee reviewed the profiles, 30,000 to be precise, and made a shortlist. Twenty-five applicants made it to the next round. Post a Skype interview, ten people were selected and personally visited by the Yuujou team. Among the ten, a jury selected the final five winners; Yvonne, one of the sisters, being the first traveller.
On April 11, after a workshop which would equip the travellers with filming their experiences, the six travellers will embark on a 100-day journey with a focus on forming a circle of friendship as their primary itinerary. The journey would begin in Berlin, Germany, and then split into two teams of three, one heading east, and the other, west. They would meet each other 100 days later in Tokyo, Japan. Along the journey, the teams stay with a friend of their previous host, moving from friend to friend across the globe. The map unravels as the travellers let their next stop be picked by the person they’re currently staying with. Yuujou covers all the necessary travel expenses for the six travellers.
“The first thing that attracts you is that one gets to travel to so many countries in one go. This has been a childhood dream. But there was no chance I could do this in my lifetime,” says John who turned in his application at the last minute. “Secondly, Yuujou is a social experiment and it’s always good to be part of one,” says the Changanassery native who feels February was the longest month of his life. “They surprised the top 10 guys by going to their respective towns.
Yvonne started from Canada, and it was a long wait. They came to me on the last day of February,” says the research engineer who currently works in Chennai.John thinks his survival instincts paved the way for his selection. “When they came to India, they were awestruck by the everyday, classic situations we deal with- the climate, navigating through the city.
They thought I could survive quite well on the road,” says John, who’s positive his photography and mechanical skills would come in handy during the trip. However, being an Indian passport holder, John is anxious about his visas. “I’m part of the team travelling to the east. Fortunately, many Asian countries have visa-on-arrival,” he adds. The other travellers are Polemitis Panayiotis from Cyprus, Jed from South Africa, Paula from New Zealand, and Joey Briggs from the USA.