Happiness expedition around the world

Toño, Kelly and Tony are a team of three multilingual “happiness ambassadors” embarking on Expedition 206, a Coca-Cola sponsored trek around the world in search of happy things. Margarita Alvarez (pictured far left), president of the Coca-Cola Happiness Institute in Madrid, met with the team to share notes beforehand.

“The research we’ve done to study happy people and the causes of happiness will provide a good foundation for the ambassadors as they travel the world seeking out and documenting stories of joy and optimism,” Alvarez said. “These are three of the most energetic, uplifting people I’ve ever met, so it’ll be fun to watch them interact with so many different people from all corners of the earth.”

Expedition 206 has already begun — the three chosen ones, Kelly Ferris, 23, a university student from Brussels, Tony Martin, 30, a Washington DC native who teaches kindergarten in Munich and Antonio “Toño” Santiago, 24, a university student from Mexico City celebrated the beginning of their journey by eating the traditional “12 grapes of luck” (one for each stroke of the clock at midnight) on the stroke(s) of the new year in Madrid last weekend. Their next stop was Portugal, and they’re currently in Venezuela, heading next for Trinidad. The HAs will be attending the Shanghai World Expo in May, the Vancouver Olympics, and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Luckies.

So what does being a “happiness ambassador” entail? The team will visit 206 countries total to deliver one-of-a-kind, commemorative Coca-Cola bottles and record every happy thing they see around the world with photos and blogs on their Expedition 206 website, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Yahoo. You can also enter live chats with members of the team and other fans to talk about happiness, share tips about what to see and help build the happiness community — no Coca-Cola required.

Coca-Cola awards three contest winners epic one-year, 206-country trip

Tony Martin, Kelly Ferris, and Antonio Santiago better order a few extra passport pages. Coca-Cola announced earlier today that the trio were the winners of a year-long trip to every country and territory where Coke is sold– 206 in all.

Expedition 206, as the trip is called, will begin from Madrid on January 1, 2010, and will include stops at the World Cup in South Africa and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Martin, Ferris, and Santiago will promote Coke’s “Open Happiness” campaign by documenting and sharing scenes of happiness from their travels.

“It’s an ambitious task,” says Kelly Ferris, a 23-year-old student from Brussels, “but I can’t think of a better way to spend a year than exploring what makes people happy.”

I spoke with the three winners this morning shortly after it was announced that their team had prevailed in the contest’s online voting. They discussed how they learned about and eventually won the contest, where they’re most (and least) looking forward to going, and whether 206 countries in 365 days is way too much.

You can follow the entire expedition, through the team’s photos, videos, and blog posts, at Expedition206.com.

A map of the expedition’s planned route is below the fold…