Richard Avis quit his humdrum job in a London office to travel the world in a most unusual way.
The Scotsman is currently engaged in an international search for his “Time Twins” — people born on the same day that he was: December 1, 1974.
In previous interviews, he has described his quest as motivated by a desire to discover how culture and nationality influences and shapes us–particularly our ideas of success and happiness.
In short, Avis is seeking to answer the question “what if I had been born in a completely different country?”
After a few weeks in Vietnam, Avis has only really succeeded in finding a church that shares his birthday. He’s eager for help. So if you know anyone who shares his birthday, please contact him through his website . He can also be reached at [email protected]
I realise how lucky I am to have these experiences and want to share them with others. I am writing a book about the project with my colleagues and we are hoping to make a documentary film. Who knows how my life will have changed by the time the project is over. It is an amazing adventure
I am in Quy Nhon, only for a day or two, heading North. My journey started in the Mekong Delta where I met a Time Twin, who I found on a social media site a few months ago. Unfortunately, he only had about 15 minutes to chat, so I do not know much about him (my meetings with Time Twins usually last at least an hour – and some, who have been very hospitable have met me a few times over a number of days). He went to university in Ho Chi Minh City, is married and the greatest achievement in his life are his 2 children. It is interesting that all of the parents I have met in this project, wherever they live, and however different their lives our always state that having children was their greatest achievement.
Where else do you plan to go in Vietnam?
While I am in Vietnam, I am travelling to see as much as I can of this incredibly beautiful country and learn about its culture. The Mekong Delta was the first place I visited, after flying into Ho Chi Minh City, and that was because the Time Twin was there. The next stop on my journey was Nha Trang – not because I knew of a Time Twin there, but because I had read that the local church (Nhà thờ giáo xứ Giuse) was opened on the day I was born! This is the only building I have found on my travels that was opened that day!
What’s your next move?
There are a few ways. Some famous people are mentioned in online media that usually includes their date of birth. Some social media also includes peoples’ date of birth as well (although searching by date of birth is not possible on Facebook). I am very keen, however, to not only meet people who are famous or have internet access. Therefore, wherever possible, I like to try and find people through the media. I am very keen to meet people from different backgrounds in Vietnam and want to get the message out to people in more remote communities and the minority groups, especially in the North West of Vietnam.
Do you ever find Time Twins who don’t want to meet you?
Near the start of the project, I learned that everybody in Sweden has their name, address and date of birth listed on the internet. So I decided to write a letter to every Time Twin in the country – over 150 of them. Of these, three Time Twins replied. I visited Sweden to meet these people and learned a lot about Swedish culture from them. Since then, as the project has received more media attention, a higher proportion of Time Twins have already heard about the project and contact me. In Australia, where the project received lots of media attention, I estimate that about one in three Time Twins who heard about the project contacted me. Why some people are not interested in replying, or contacting me, is interesting as well. I would be fascinated to know why some people are not interested in taking part.
All the people I have met have been fascinating and have impressed me. Some of the people are successful in traditional ways – the Norwegian Time Twin I met competed in the Olympic Games, the Dutch Time Twin is a champion bodybuilder, the Italian Time Twin is the mayor of a city. However, the project is not just about these people – impressive though they are. The Time Twins I have met who have been wives and mothers for 20 years are incredibly impressive people too, the Time Twins whose lives have been plagued with tragedy, persecution, bereavement and disaster, but who have somehow put these things behind them and keep smiling – and who share these stories with me are hugely inspirational.
I have been paying for the project myself. I feel that the project is an important endeavor and is a cultural adventure that has never been done before. It, therefore, seems a good thing to spend money doing. That said, however, my funds are running out and I am looking for companies that may want to sponsor the project, in order for it to continue to other countries.
What does your family think of this project?
I am single and have no children. I think that if I was married, then I may not have had the time to conduct the project and leave England for so long.
Please tell me something you’ve discovered about Vietnamese culture.
Obviously, the friendliness of the Vietnamese people is a joy to everyone who visits this wonderful country, and Vietnamese cuisine is world-renowned. However, so far, I have not been able to spend much time with Vietnamese Time Twin. Hopefully, this is a question I can answer more fully once, with Thanh Nien’s help, I have met some more Vietnamese Time Twins.