Book No. 4: The Geography of Bliss
Author: Eric Weiner
Where is the happiest place on earth? Is it Switzerland? Netherlands? Qatar? India? Iceland? America? or somewhere else entirely? That is the question, the author, a former NPR journalist sets out to answer. A total of ten countries sum up this book and the stories are intriguing, witty, inspiring and above all, thought provoking. Part investigation – part hilarious anecdotes, this book is a must read for anyone who loves to wander.
Happiness is subjective and if you want to know which country is the happiest in the world, then it depends entirely on what you consider worth being happy about. India is happy being a land of contradiction as much as Switzerland is happy being the land of ultimate democracy and Qatar is for being one of the richest nations in the world. Therefore, happiness depends on what YOU define as happy, and that definition changes several times during the course of one’s lifespan.
I spent several years reading this book, yes, years, because I would only read one country (chapter) at a time and I would only indulge in the book when I was on travel, and not just any travel, but specifically a relaxation trip. Why? Because each country was so fascinating and vastly different from the one before (and coincidentally from the one after), that I wanted to give each my undivided attention, not just while reading, but during the aftermath of reflecting on it. It gave me such joy to read this at an incredibly slow pace.
There was something magical about the book that I just did not want to reach the end of in a hurry. I am so glad I took my time with it; I would do it again!
“The ability to choose where we live is, in the scheme of human history, a very recent phenomenon. Over the centuries, most people grew where they were planted. It took some catastrophe–flood or famine or the marauding hordes of Mongols who moved in next door (there goes the neighborhood!)–to prompt a relocation. With the exception of the rich, who frankly have always been a bit unstable, people didn’t move for kicks. Adventure, in the good sense of the world, is a more modern concept. For most of history, adventure was something inflicted upon you, not something you sought out and certainly not something you paid for. The old Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times” was actually meant as a curse.”
“Americans work longer hours and commute greater distances than virtually any other country in the world. Commuting, in particular, has been found to be detrimental to our happiness, as well as our physical health. Every minute spent on the road is one less minute that we can spend with family and friends – – the kind of activities, in other words, that make us happy.”
“…I desperately needed to answer: Why do so many presumably same westerners leave their wealthy, functional nations behind and travel to a poor and dysfunctional nation in search of bliss?”
“It’s possible to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time and, crucially, to do so without your head exploding. Indians do it all the time.”
If you love to travel, you have to read this book. It is an easy read, so do not let my unusually abnormal pace of reading this book, alarm you. The book is incredibly fascinating. It is well written, humorous and eye opening. I’ve learned at least one new thing about every country mentioned in the book, no matter how big or small, and that has made all the difference. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Until the next book, Happy Reading!