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Human Connection (with @mitchmayes95)

This week's blog is written by our friend, fellow traveler, and blogger Michelle Mayes! Be sure to check out her other blog posts at for everything from mental health advocacy to travel reflections. You can also check out Michelle's travels and life updates on Instagram @mitchmayes95!

If you would be interested in guest writing for the Travel World Culture blog, please email

This blog was originally posted on May 1, 2020.

This past week was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 50th anniversary of Earth

Day. As I thought about the significance of both days, I was reminded of an activity I

took part in last October.

Photo credit: by Sabrina Mehlitz

When I was in Berlin last October, I was asked to take part in the Berlin Handshape

Project. The Berlin Handshape Project commemorated the 30-year anniversary of the

fall of the Berlin Wall. 10,957 handshapes were formed – one for each date between

November 9, 1989, and November 9, 2019. You may be asking, “What is a

handshape?” A handshape is a clay imprint of two people shaking hands. The

projected connected over 20,000 people and built the first monument to human


The project sought to explore the connection between humans. The design of the

project was supposed to help recognize that we are all connected despite our

differences. Each hand shape represents a day, a connection, and a conversation that

took place between strangers. The Berlin Handshape website puts it this way, “Berlin

Handshape is a symbol of our collective aspiration for a better world. A world which

brings people together. A world where people connect and understand each other. A

world we want to live in.”

Photo credit: Michelle Mayes

I was so excited to be a part of this project! I met some of the project team members at

The Circus Hostel’s bar. They explained the project to me, and I immediately connected

with its message and historic significance. As I sat talking with them, they grabbed a

guy walking into the bar, and explained the project to him as well. He too agreed to

participate in the project. At that point we were introduced.

His name was Duncan, and he was from Australia. He was passing through Berlin with

friends while traveling across Europe for a few weeks. We both connected over our love

of The Circus Hostel’s home brewed pilsner beer. (Y’all it really was the bomb) We

shared a pint of brew, and then shook hands with clay in between our grasp. Again, I

love the way the Berlin Handshape Project talks about the handshake with the clay,

“...two strangers then shake hands with a ball of clay, a piece of earth, between the

hands. This forms a unique shape – a lasting impression- one of the many clay symbols

of human connection that together make up the Berlin Hand Shape.”

After our handshake, the cay mold was sealed away, and Duncan and I were given little

cards of our remembered connection through the project. The card contained our first

names, our shared connection, and the date.

All 10,957 handshapes were put on display on November 9, 2019, to commemorate the

fall of the Berlin Wall (exactly 30 years to the date). The art installation was called “The Monument to Human Connection.” Today the collection, and the individual handshakes,

can be seen online.

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Earth Day both remind me of our shared human

connection. What it has been, and what it could be. In a world full of pain, violence, and

destruction it is important to remember what brings us all together. The basic human

connection we all share. My faith has taught me to value life. I pray as a collective

whole, as the human race, despite or differences, we may all learn to value each other.

To find out more information about the project, and how you can participate visit The

Berlin Handshape website.

Photo credit:


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Hey there, we are Gavin and Jess. After graduating from the University of Texas, we quit our jobs, moved out of our apartments, sold our cars, and packed two backpacks to live life on the road. We've traveled all over the world and have learned many lessons about life and travel along the way. These experiences led to the idea behind Travel World Culture. The goal behind our business is bringing affordable travel to anyone. We create organized group trip packages with the goal in mind of growing and mentoring those who want to see the world. TWC tours give the comfort and guidance needed to begin traveling. Along the way, the travelers gain the confidence and knowledge that they need to begin creating their own trips and adventures.

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