Want to see how far kindness can get you? When two brothers departed on their first cross-continental trip in 2017, they left everything at home except for a bunch of t-shirts—and I mean everything, including their pants. They went out into our wild world in their birthday suits, trading those t-shirts for food, lodging, and gas as they made their way across the world! Their story begs the question: can kindness get you further than money?

Let’s head off to meet Maurice and Laurence Baltissen, two brothers from the Netherlands who can show us the true value of kindness!

Courtesy of Maurice Baltissen

The story of Birthdaysuit begins with a life-long passion for graphic design, childhood stories about helping others in need, a desire to travel the world, and a marketing plan unlike any other.

When the Baltissen brothers were young, their mother told them that the clothes they grew out of were sent to children in Africa who needed them. They would often watch for news from Africa, hoping to see other kids wearing their clothes. They never did, but they decided that if they could do something to help those children, they wanted to! So, as Laurence and Maurice embarked on their worldwide journey years later, this childhood hope stayed in the forefront of their minds.

With a whole bunch of t-shirts designed by Maurice and the most creative marketing plan I’ve ever heard, the brothers took the first step to fulfilling this dream.

The idea was pretty simple. People around the world would see the Birthdaysuit t-shirts, making the brothers well known enough to start their own apparel business. Then—with that money—they would be able to provide more clothes to children in need!

On their first trip in 2017, they traded and hitchhiked their way from Portugal to China. Then in 2018, they bartered their way from Canada to Panama!

The brothers stayed in the house of a famous movie star and comedian, a minister of Kazakhstan, inside of a deserted bunker in China, and experienced many, many more unique adventures that would have never happened without the kindness of those they came across. 1 The brothers’ shirts are now even sold in 30 cities along that original route!

So, without further ado, let’s meet Maurice and Laurence! This great video from Nowhere Men shows their inspiring blind faith that with a good story and a kind smile, people from all around the world are willing to lend a hand.

Nowhere Men creates some amazing content that highlights incredibly generous and kind people who are doing great things in New York City and beyond. Check them out to have your faith in humanity restored! A few of my favorites are about a busker who gives all of his money away to whomever needs it that day, and a challenge to ask people you come across each day a simple question: what made you smile today?

You can learn more about Birthdaysuit by checking out their TEDx talk here, where they started out in their own birthday suits—trading with the audience for clothes!

For more great content or to connect, head on over to their YouTube channel, Facebook page, or Maurice’s LinkedIn page. Maurice continues his love of graphic design today and is the co-founder of graphic design company Mitsi, based in Amsterdam.

To learn more about how they got started, where they went, who they stayed with, and the crazy places they’ve stayed from the homes of famous movie stars in Spain to deserted bunkers in China, here’s another video from Birthdaysuit’s YouTube channel describing their first journey!

“With a kind smile, a good sense of humor, and a great story, there’s no limits to how far you can go. You just have to have the courage to make the ask.” — Alex Portera, Co-host of Nowhere Men

No money, just kindness.

Watching them in action, it’s clear that the appeal of trading goods with Maurice and Laurence isn’t really about the physical t-shirt you get, but the connection. They welcome you into a larger journey and a larger story.

Imagine knowing that the t-shirt you’re wearing has traveled across continents and supported the livelihoods of some of the kindest people out there—this brings so much joy to everyone who now owns their own Birthdaysuit, I’m sure of it.

There is unbelievable power in human kindness—it can even take us around the world.

When Laurence passed away in 2019, he left a legacy of believing in the good of people and a determined willingness to take risks upon that belief. He and his brothers’ trips show us that we should never be afraid to make someone smile or to take a leap of faith, because there are kind people out there who will catch us on the other side.

For another great story about the power of kindness, have you met Leon Logothetis? He set out on a similar trip, traveling the world relying solely on the kindness of others. Netflix even gave him his own show, The Kindness Diaries!

14 minutes

Leon Logothetis is Proving the Kindness of Strangers is Alive and Well!

Is it possible to travel the country only relying on the kindness of strangers? The person we're highlighting in this piece proves it is! Take a look at the impact this has on peoples lives and how we can all tap into the kindness all around us.

Read More

Or read about these risk-taking thought leaders who are changing perspectives and the world with a few of my favorites!

15 minutes

Theo Allofs’ Paragliding: Changing Perspectives

Photographer Theo Allofs took to the sky in a power paraglider when he wanted a new perspective. Here's the story behind this niche and the remarkable tales of some of Theo's most stunning images!

Read More

29 minutes

A Wish to Change the World (With JR)

Heroes, politicians, and scientists take risks to change the world, right? See how youth and creativity can with street artist JR, 2011's TED Prize winner!

Read More

As Maurice and Laurence prove, the world is a playground. So get out there, have fun, and spread joy to others! Your kindness and your story are worth more than you think.

  • Ellen

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Notes:

  1. Birthdaysuit. “BIRTHDAYSUIT Intro English.” YouTube, 12 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7779TIJIrB8. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
  2. Nowhere Men – Brian & Alex. “They travel the world with no money!” YouTube, 6 Aug. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvl2oPtX3FM&list=WL&index=5. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.

Ellen Allerton

Sponsorship Coordinator

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2020 and returning home to Vermont, Ellen found that helping make the world a better place with the EWC team was just where she wanted to be. You can usually find her watching television while getting crafty, on the ice as a figure skating coach for 10-14 year old's, or in her inflatable kayak named Heidi. She’s quite the film nerd and quite the cook, and likes it best when those two things—movies and food—coincide.