Book: The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
A Guest Post byEllen Barone
I’ve been insufferable since I started this book. Just ask my husband. I can’t shut up about it. I highlight passages like a type-A student prepping for a big exam. I quote from it at the coffeehouse. I twitter my favorite factoids. I’m as smitten as Jared Bibler, the loveable 20-something expat from Boston the author meets in Iceland.
Equal parts travel, humor and self-help,The Geography of Bliss is as funny as it is enlightening. Weaving together analytic statistics with keen observation, Eric Weiner, a longtime foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, presents an intelligent and entertaining look at the cultural habits that contribute to, or detract from, the happiness of its citizens.
As you may imagine, defining happiness is tricky business, but Weiner lets the people he meets across four continents tell what it means to be happy in their particular corner of the globe. Even in Moldova, a decidedly unhappy place, Weiner’s dry wit has us laughing with the Moldovans, not at them.
It’s not an uncommon dream, to spend a year traveling the globe or to write a best-selling book. Weiner not only accomplished both with an admittedly harebrained experiment, but he also manages to turn our initial envy into rock solid admiration. Damn him!
I loved rambling with Weiner to places like India, where happiness and suffering live side-by-side; Bhutan, where the king has made Gross National Happiness a national priority; Switzerland, where residents believe envy is the great enemy of happiness; and Iceland, which despite its cold climate, geographic isolation and propensity for failure, is among the world’s happiest places.
The Geography of Bliss, however, is much more than a travelogue. Lurking behind a global romp, Weiner provides the reader with wise and witty commentary of that alluring, sneaky concept known as happiness.
Better yet, Weiner sprinkles the book with the type of geeky travel trivia I feel compelled to share unsolicited with total strangers.
- Did you know, for instance, that the Swiss didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971 – in one canton, or state, until 1991?
- Or, that the word “utopia” has two meanings? It means both “good place” and “nowhere.”
As I read this book a sense of delight sneaked up on me, a feeling so much like that which I experience when I’m on the road that, at home, I almost don’t recognize the sensation. But then, I got it. Traveling inspires in me a heightened awareness, acceptance and newfound appreciation for differences. And that’s the magic of this book. Without logging thousands of miles, enduring the noon darkness of Iceland and the blazing heat of Qatar, the fastidiousness of Switzerland or the chaos of India, I’m left feeling like I’ve been on a wonderful, epic journey.
Travel expert Ellen Barone did what many of us only dream of doing: at the age of 35, she traded a successful academic career for the wild blue yonder and set out to explore the world and herself. In the decade since that intrepid decision, she has turned passion into profession, journeying to more than 60 countries in search of evocative images and life-enriching adventures. For more travel ideas, tips, and deals, sign up for FREE updates at her website www.ellenbarone.com
Wow! Thanks, Ellen for an inspiring post. I love your definition of what travel does for us. And, damn it, now I’m going to have to add another book to my TBR pile!
So, reader, what is the happiest country you have been to?? Let’s make a list! I would have to say, for me, it is the island of St. Lucia, where the national motto seems to be “Every ting’s gonna be awwww-right!”