204. North of Normal

I met Monica and Ange first thing after I got to KL post-Langkawi, complete with my huge backpack and fresh-off-the-plane face.


It has been about 2 years since I last met Monica – we met during Supercamp Thailand in July 2011. I have always admired her strength in character and positive outlook in life, snippets of which I managed to glean through our scattered private conversations during camp and her Facebook updates thereafter. Having been through her fair share of rough patches in life, Monica graduated from Harvard and pursued a career in education, before starting her post-graduate degree in Positive Psychology. She also went on to marry the love of her life, Ange, in a stunning beach wedding in Maui. Ange is a former environmental lawyer born and raised on the plains of South Africa via Aotearoa, New Zealand and London.

When Monica contacted me to inform the both of them will be in town some time in September, I knew I had to make time to meet them.

Over good food and coffee at The Loaf, we got each other up to speed on what’s been happening in our lives before they shared the AMAZING PhD research they are conducting. It involves going to 6 continents in 6 months and meeting 200 individuals and focuses on what is North of Normal – the best of human potential, experience, happiness and love – and how to amplify these.

Now doesn’t that sound interesting already?

Labelled ‘North of Normal: Exploring the peak of human experience and love’, the both of them are on a quest to find out what do people around the world love? And why? How would they describe the peak experiences in their lives? Are these experiences about loving other people, pursuing their passions, or being in flow?

Our goal is to interview people from the cafes of New Orleans to the Outback of Australia, from the markets in Bangkok to the wild of Southern Africa, from Machu Picchu to the south of France. We want to know what “peak experience”, “love” and pursuit of “passion” means to different people around the globe. So much of what we know about optimum experience is derived from Western college samples and online surveys. We think there are extraordinarily interesting voices beyond these categories that deserve our attention.

Their goal is to produce a documentary, a hardcover book detailing their pictorial journey and a book containing an in-depth analysis and coverage of the findings of their research.

Throughout these 6 months, they have and will be conducting public and private workshops on Positive Psychology – out of these, 6 will be free of charge, focusing on men, women and children who would not ordinarily have access to these events.

Our intention is to reach and learn from people close to home as well as abroad, bringing our research into the “real world”.

When they asked me if I would like to be a part of their research, of course I said yes! They set me up with a mike that was attached to my hijab, they had the camera running and then Monica started interviewing me. They didn’t give me the questions beforehand so I was giving answers that were truly instinctive.

And you know what I realised? It’s only when we verbalise our thoughts, beliefs and value systems that we fully understand them. Saying them out (or writing them down, for that matter) gives them form – it’s no longer airy-fairy stuff. It forces us to process these core beliefs and what makes us up as individuals.

While sharing with them my peak experiences and what I truly love, what my North of Normal experience is, I began to see myself in a clearer light. It was a two-way street – I was giving out and at the same time I was gaining something in return. I finally felt certain, for the first time, of where I was heading, what I was meant to do and what I can give back to the world. As much as I felt like I was contributing to their research, I was also growing from it. I guess I can say it was definitely one of the key moments that led to the birth of TheTudungTraveller. 🙂

It is true then: when we give out light and love, we will get them in return. It may be immediate or it may be delayed, but get it back (multifold), we will. There is always wisdom in the timing.

Anyway, Monica and Ange are running a blog where they update their travels and snippets of their research. I am personally so so so proud of them and excited for what they are doing! Travelling the world to do research – how amazing is that?!

To find out more, head to http://waddayalove.com/Blog.html

It’ll be worth your time. 🙂





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