Hoping to rebuild trust among people and film a video featuring people saying “I love Taiwan,” two 23-year-old Taiwanese women are touring the country, giving free hugs to people they meet on the trip.
On Dec. 31, Huang Wei-ting (黃唯婷) and Tseng Wan-ching (曾婉菁), stood in Xinyi District’s (信義) commercial square in Taipei and held self-made signs that read “Free Hugs,” as they gave free hugs to passers-by.
The next day, they embarked on their nationwide tour, hoping to accomplish their goal in 100 days.
Branding the plan “Touring the Island in Search of Dreams! Don’t Forget Yours!” Huang and Tseng said they hoped to remind every person they meet on the road of their dreams and not to give up.
“The plan is to encounter these dreams and share them [with the world],” they said.
“Hugging is an action that implies trust and Free Hugs aims to rebuild mutual trust among Taiwanese,” Huang said.
Starting out from Taipei, Huang and Tseng have reached Changhua County after passing Keelung, New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County and Greater Taichung.
They usually take public transportation or walk, Huang said, but hitch-hike when they have to cross counties or cities.
The two said they had been touched by many heart-warming encounters and the generosity of people who have helped them by providing food, transportation and lodging.
At the last count, they’ve hugged more than 500 people, they said.
“Family support is the only thing holding us up if we can’t make it home in 100 days,” Tseng said, adding that they were especially touched when people said “thank you” or “thank you for being brave” in response to their hugs.
The two said they had uploaded onto the Web segments of the videos they had filmed in Taipei and Keelung and that they would continue to upload more of the counties and cities where they had spread their hugs.
The origins of Free Hugging are uncertain, although one account says it was started by an American who felt in need of the comfort of a hug after his mother passed away. Another version says an Australian, having lived in England for a long time, found when he returned home that his countrymen had lost their passion, prompting him to take to the streets with a sign for “Free Hugs.”