Our Story

About the Group

“What do you see from your Window?” is a great Group of people connecting from 167 countries, setting an example of the peaceful and positive way we can maintain an International, cross-cultural Community, with respect, friendship, solidarity, compassion and love.

The Group was created on Facebook at the beginning of the Coronavirus Lockdown, in March 2020. Thanks to the good-hearted spirit of our Members and the positive power of Moderation, we’ve been maintaining a unique politics-free online space, which is secure and is filled with love, positivity and optimism.

Our Community is a unique demonstration of peace and coexistence. We have been a source of happiness to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Our Group spreads joy, comfort and hope. It is an amazing achievement. We make a difference!

The Group is not only wonderful in conveying positive vibrations, but is also a great way to enjoy virtual travel around the world. Through the beautiful sights that Members share, we travel extensively, from the comfort of our homes, while we stay safe.

To see all of us, from everywhere, uniting together is amazing.

Our Members say that this is the best Facebook group ever!

What do you see from your window? Share your views and invite your friends to join us.

With lots of love ❤️

About Arik Zara, the Group’s Creator, Project Manager and Moderator

Dear Friends,

I am Arik, a 46 year-old tour guide, online entrepreneur, author and speaker. Before I took this professional path, I was a lawyer and social worker. I am a loving father, who is passionate about meditation, world exploration, connecting people, spreading love and positivity, as well as helping others see their dreams come true.

I have lived and spent considerable amounts of time in Canada, Brazil, India, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Israel, as well as enjoyed discovering many other wonderful locations. I speak, with various levels of proficiency, the following languages: Hebrew, English, Turkish, French and Portuguese. It’s been several years now that I have been based in Lisbon, Portugal.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown, in March 2020, I was sitting on my couch at home, with my daughter. All the tours that I had scheduled were canceled. My daughter’s school was also canceled. We were locked down at home, looking out of our window. I understood that like me, so many people around the world must be looking out of their own windows, too. We were all in a similar situation, confined to our homes, isolated and without freedom of movement. It was then that the idea of the “What do you see from your window?” Facebook Group was born.

It’s been several months since I created the Group, and it has been quite a journey. With all the intensity that came with it, many of you already know me quite well through the activity and discussion in our Group, but I haven’t had the opportunity to introduce myself to you properly, with the details of my life story.

This is me
and this is what I see from my window in Lisbon, Portugal

Tel Aviv, Israel:

I was born in Tel Aviv in 1974. Major chapters of my life are connected to it. My elementary and high school, as well as my Bar Mitzvah and university studies, took place there. My favorite childhood beach and hummus restaurant are in this lovely city. I enjoyed and am familiar with every street and alley of Tel Aviv. Since I was 16 I drove all around it with my scooter back and forth. My dear parents lived in Israel until their last days. My beloved brother, his wife and three gorgeous children still live there. There is no city in the world that I know like Tel Aviv and I love it very much.

Above: A photo of the Mediterranean Sea that I took on one of my visits to Tel Aviv. As I currently live in Portugal, with its beautiful but freezing Atlantic Ocean, one the things that I miss most about Israel is the warm waters of the Mediterranean!

Istanbul, Turkey:

My family’s connection with Turkey is strong. My wonderful parents immigrated to Israel in 1971 from Istanbul. In my parents’ home the spoken language was Turkish and the delicious food we ate was from there as well. As a child, my mother read me traditional Turkish folk tales. My extended family in Turkey is big and very dear to me. Over the years Istanbul has felt like my second home.

My favorite place in Turkey’s capital is a tiny island called Büyükada. It is the largest of a group of nine islands located in the Sea of ​​Marmara, a short sailing distance from Istanbul. Büyükada is dotted with historic villas nestled among the pine trees. Movement of motorized vehicles is prohibited on the island. This is where my late mom and dad first met and their childhood stories are from there. When I was a kid, during the summer holidays, my mother used to send me to her brother’s house on Büyükada, where I would spend many magical times with the family. I could easily ride five minutes on my bike to get to a beach or an ice cream shop. To this day, I still visit my uncle in Istanbul frequently.

Above: Sailing with my daughter between Istanbul and the island of Büyükada.

My Childhood Dreams:

When I was a boy, my father used to buy season tickets to the European Cup basketball home games of my favorite team, Maccabi Tel Aviv. One of my earliest memories of myself as a toddler, is sitting on my mother’s lap in the stands of Maccabi’s basketball stadium, with her explaining the rules of the game to me.

Teams from Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, France, Greece and other countries from all over Europe came to Tel Aviv to play against Maccabi. Being exposed to other cultures through basketball left a great impression on me and got me curious to explore and travel.

The experience resulted in my two greatest childhood dreams: the first, to become a professional basketball player; and the second, to be a world traveler. The basketball idea didn’t pan out, but I happily fulfilled the second dream!

Above: Playing ball with my 80’s Air Jordan shoes!

Lawyer:

My first experience of higher education was in the Faculty of Law of Tel Aviv University. At the time, I did not have the feeling that the field of Law was my vocation, and truly I didn’t know then exactly what I wanted to do in life. Studying Law was conveniently easy, close to home and also seemed to me worth checking out. I just felt that before making any alternative life decisions, I should first experience and do well in what my environment defined as “successful”. And so I did.

In 1999 I completed my Law studies with honors. For several years after that, I worked as an intern and later as an attorney, in one of the best-known Law firms in Israel, where I dabbled in a wide variety of areas of Commercial-Civil Law. The period of working as a lawyer was a great adventure that gave me an interesting angle from which to watch the world and life around me.

I was successful in the office and the income was excellent, but my gut feeling was that I could not commit to this profession and lifestyle for the rest of my life. It was time to retire from the legal profession, seek new challenges and explore what other adventures life had to offer. And so I did.

Above: With my late grandmothers, on the ceremony of admission to the Bar.

Peace-building in Canada:

In 2004 I was invited by the Canadian Academic Program – McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building – to study for a Master’s degree in social work at their campus in Montreal. The program was attended by a group of 12 members, Israelis and Arabs, from various professional backgrounds. It included content and activities related to building peace and bringing hearts together. It was the first time I had worked closely with Arabs and they became my friends. Interestingly, I had to travel thousands of miles all the way to Canada, for that to happen. It was a worthwhile and enriching experience. More information about this inspiring project and its members is available here.

Montreal was the first place in which I lived outside of Israel. Since childhood, I have traveled quite frequently and have had deep connections with other cultures, but until I moved to Montreal I had never actually lived in another country. It was an enlightening year. I discovered that living away from the place where I was born and raised, gave me space to discover, design and develop new perspectives within myself. Following that experience, I changed my traveling habits. I now prefer an in-depth experience of settling in one place for an extended period, instead of a trip that quickly covers many sites in a short time.

Above: Ice skating in Montreal

Social Work in Jerusalem:

After the school year ended in Montreal, I did my practicum at “Community Advocacy”, an organization in Jerusalem, which worked to promote and exercise social rights, reduce inequality and create community solidarity in distressed neighborhoods. In that year, I functioned as an attorney in the legal department and as an activist in the organization’s rights storefront, providing information and advice to citizens who had difficulties exercising their rights.

Above: In Jerusalem, years earlier, next to my late father, celebrating my Bar Mitzvah.

Brazil:

In 2006 I moved with my Brazilian partner at the time to the city of Recife, in northeastern Brazil.

This country has all the great elements that it is so famous for – music, love, football, joy of life – and much more. But I was not aware of the level of violence and fear. A prominent memory of my time there is a deep fear, continuously expressed by the locals, of violence. Before every car ride, we had to have all the car doors locked and the windows tightly rolled up. Shopping was never done on the streets but only at the mall, for security reasons. At the entrance to residential buildings there were locked and guarded gates. Almost every one of my Brazilian friends had experiences in which they were robbed, or even abducted.

Brazil was good to me in many respects, and one of those was that I had the opportunity there to teach myself online marketing. Obrigado Brazil! (“Obrigado” means “thank you” in Portuguese)

By the way, Rio de Janeiro is, in my opinion, the city with the most beautiful natural beauty in the world. It has a charming and unique combination of urbanity, nature, vibrant culture and beautiful people.

Above: Hang gliding in Rio, Brazil

Online Entrepreneurship and Nomadic Life:

I was first exposed to the field of online marketing in 2003, while promoting an online shop that my late father owned at the time. Back then, I was a complete novice in the Internet field and my father gave me the opportunity to take a first professional step in it.

The challenge was to promote my father’s online shop in Google’s search engine. After an intensive period of self-taught studies, I applied the knowledge I acquired to my father’s website. I analyzed and selected keywords, measured site rankings and optimized site pages. The results were excellent. The site ranked first on Google in major search results. The impact on the site was excellent, with rising visitor traffic, sales and profits.

Since then, I have invested a lot of energy in deepening my knowledge of online commerce and related fields. Through self-study, I acquired professional expertise in various marketing strategies, programming, writing, website creation, etc, and have successfully expanded my Internet business, while managing campaigns to promote diverse products and services of companies from around the world.

A unique blessing of my online profession is that it has provided me with a high level of mobility and thereby the freedom to travel. I have been on the road with my laptop for many years, dividing my time between different places around the globe.

Above: My “office” in Goa, India.

India:

India has been a blessing in my life. It is a place that is second to none. India has allowed me to dream beyond the physicality of body and location. It is a place of spirit, love and of inspiration. This country has strengthened me to look creatively inward and bring about changes in myself that have affected the reality in which I live.

For several years, I resided for long periods in a tiny fishing village located in South Goa, India’s smallest state. The village has a vibrant community of people from around the world and from different backgrounds who shape for themselves an alternative, personal and pleasant reality of cheerful life in nature.

Above: My lovely spot (and scooter) in Goa.

Greece:

Travelers told me about the Greek island of Paros, which they said was a good place to stay for a few months. After several years of recommendations and stories I had heard about the island, I finally decided to visit. Since then, I have stayed on the island for long periods of time. This is yet another place where I have good friends and in which I feel at home.

For me, the beautiful island of Paros is a wonderful place to practice yoga, meditation and good living. It’s a great location to meet people, chat, read a book and simply be.

Above: This is me attempting to windsurf in Paros.

Portugal:

Portugal has a wonderful personality, and it is for its special character that I love it so much.

I arrived in this country following love. I had met a beautiful Portuguese lady while traveling. Currently, she is my wonderful ex. Together we raise our very sweet daughter, who was born in Lisbon.

There is something in Portugal that is timid and introverted. Geographically, this country is located at the Western end of Europe, almost hidden between Spain and the Ocean. Economically, Portugal has been facing difficulty and its integration into the European Union is complex. The quiet nature of its inhabitants may appear sometimes sad and melancholic. Portugal is a mirror-image of its relative country, the extroverted, cheerful Brazil. Even the Portuguese spoken in Portugal does not roll off the tongue as it does in Brazil.

At the same time, Portugal has long decades of great glory in history as a naval power. It was a pioneer in the Age of Discovery, revealing countries, people and routes of trade that were previously unknown in Europe. Portugal discovered innovative technologies and ideas in the fields of mapping, navigation and shipping. It dominated significant parts of the world.

The result of these special ingredients in today’s Portugal is pleasant. It’s a place where the pace is slower than the usual Western rhythm. Here, the emphasis is on the inner journey instead of on the outer. The people are friendly with each other. I love Portugal!

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal is, in my eyes, the most picturesque and captivating capital in Europe. Maybe I’m not objective, because I’m in love with Lisbon, and there is also Rome, Paris, Prague, London and other beautiful European capitals, but at least I can say that Portugal’s capital city can compete with them. It has its own special character.

Above: Segway riding with my niece on one of Lisbon’s amazing viewpoints.

Meditation and Spiritual Development:

I have always intuitively believed in the truth that is found through love, sensed the importance of positivity, sought intercultural connections and asked myself deeper questions about life. Still, it was only in Montreal where I was first abundantly exposed to these areas in a structured and academic manner.

First, were the studies at the School of Social Work, which included content in the areas of personal and community empowerment, social work, improving communication, self-awareness, peace-building and more. In addition, that same year I participated in a workshop of Reiki, an alternative treatment method and a charming source of healing energies. Since then, I have loved spirituality and see it as my chosen way of life. My primary inspiration and teacher has been the beloved Indian yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, with his wonderful Yoga and Meditation lessons.

Above: A photo I shot from a temple in Nepal. Flying is possible, and it’s great!

Tour Guide: 

I had no plan to become a tour guide. When one lets goes when needs be, and also initiates when appropriate, good things just happen.

In my early days in Portugal, I decided to set up a personal online blog. Through it, I wanted to keep in touch with my friends and family, and share my adventures in Lisbon. So I started writing about little pieces of my life in Portugal, and discussed also the country’s history, society and culture. I had a feeling that blogging would lead me somewhere, and that it would be good, but I did not what the future would hold!

I was contacted through my blog by travelers who were on their way to Portugal, with questions about the place. I was happy to answer and help, and when they also asked for guided tours of Lisbon, I jumped at the chance of a new adventure!

Since then, what started as a hobby, has now become a profession. Today I am a licensed tour guide in Portugal, which is a great pleasure for me. The responses I receive about the tours I guide in Portugal are positive and encouraging. I am delighted to introduce visitors to my new home country and to the magical streets, sights, sounds and smells of the place. It is lovely to watch them, while we are touring, fall in love with Lisbon and Portugal. Guiding is a golden opportunity for me to meet new people, learn things about myself and life, and also connect closely with Portugal, its culture, and its great people. It helps me feel at home!

Above: Guiding at Lisbon’s Commerce Square

What do You See from Your Window?

At the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown, in March 2020, I was looking out of my window. I thought to myself that it would be comforting and interesting to create a community around the concept of what people see from their windows. Once the idea was born, all I had to do was click a button on Facebook, and the Group quickly went viral. Through the Community we have been spreading the importance of social distancing, while allowing people a loving opportunity to create new human connections around the globe.

On their posts and photos, the Members of the Group provide a personal window to their worlds and to their hearts. The Community doesn’t take “window” literally. For us, it is an opportunity to look through a transparent opening and see what is on the other side. Our windows help us understand each other.

With Group Members sharing their windows from all around the globe, we have traveled together extensively, while we #StayAtHome. To see everyone, from far and wide, united together around the Group’s precious values and causes has been amazing.

I have been interviewed on International media and TV channels about the Group. Even Facebook itself took notice of what we were building and the Group was kindly mentioned by Mark Zuckerberg as one that helps communities through the Pandemic. Below is one of my interviews to the American TV. If you wish to see more interviews, here is a link.

Thank you so much for reading!

Upon invitation, I would be honored to speak, teach, guide, and encourage your Group and Community. Send me email at arik@fromyourwindow.com to learn more.

What do you see from your window?

With love, stay safe,

Arik

About Layne Cain, Hero Moderator and Author @ What do you see from your window?

Hi Friends around the world!

My name is Layne. It’s so nice to meet all of you.

I have been a Moderator for this Group since May. Arik (my fearless Captain) calls me his Hero-Moderator. I get a bit glow-y when he uses that expression!

Now, Arik has asked me to step out from behind the scenes, into the “spotlight” in order to introduce myself to you, as well as fill you in on the day-to-day responsibilities that I, along with the Team, am committed to fulfilling, which help the Group to run smoothly. There is most certainly a lot going on to keep us busy! I’m really flattered to peep out from behind the curtains and connect with you.

I have so much to tell you, but I’m not going to give it all away in one big chunk, rather small chapters…

Chapter One — A Bit of my Background and Joining the Group

I’m originally from London, England. My family moved all around the world due to my Dad’s job as a producer/ director for British television. My parents divorced and Mom remarried, which resulted in my relocation to the States. I married and had my beautiful daughter. Then, I got divorced and married again…

In 2015, I came on a girly-holiday to Cyprus and immediately fell in love with everything about this beautiful island. I made up my mind that I was going to live here and made my dream a reality in May of 2017.

I’m the world’s oldest waitress! I’ve been in hospitality forever. In Cyprus, I found a job quickly in a very popular British-owned restaurant, in which I adore working.

When Lockdown began, I found myself unemployed, alone and afraid in my flat. I was terrified of what was happening all around the world, and now I had no job. I worried about everything and everyone I loved.

I’ve always been a bit of a Facebook fan, so after some wonderful friends invited me to join this Group, I did so on April 6. I got involved. I started snapping photos of my neighbor’s laundry which was different every day. And, you “liked” it! I came to depend on the camaraderie of the members and the comfort I experienced from sharing these strange times with others. Everyone seemed to be scared and worried too. We were all telling our own stories by showing what we were seeing from our Lockdown windows.

After several weeks, I noticed that my posts were taking longer to be uploaded to the feed. I realized that this Community was growing by leaps and bounds. A Group that went viral quickly in this currently viral world. I figured that the people in charge might need a bit of help.

Arik made an announcement in early May that he was looking for authors for the WindowBlog. I got a bit bold and asked him if I could contribute. He said that he’d love to add my posts to the blog. I told him that being unemployed, I had a whole lot of extra time on my hands, and that this Group has helped me (and thousands) to get through this awful time of our lives. And then I said that if he needed any help, I’d be happy to help moderate. And so the journey began …

In the next chapter, I’ll be sharing how my life has changed completely as I became a tech-savvy guru of the internet, through the many hours of training, hard work, sleepless nights and lengthy phone calls with the Captain.

Stay tuned! See you again soon.

Love and light