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A Different Way to Travel

A Different Way to Travel

I’ve just started taking a trip around the world. And I’m doing it relatively inexpensively and definitely easily–by reading a book called The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to be Happy, by Helen Russell.

The author, a British journalist, now living in Denmark (she also wrote a book called A Year of Living Danishly), writes about what constitutes happiness in 30 cultures around the world. She selects a word or phrase that particularly characterizes “what it means to live a good life” in that culture. The phrase she chooses for Italy is “dolce far niente,” a sweet “soul-expanding celebration of doing nothing.” For Japan, it’s “wabi-sabi,” which is “an appreciation of things the way they are; a reveling in the texture and complexity of real life and the beauty of imperfection.” And on it goes.

The book pops–it is colorful, with delightful illustrations and graphics, and each section is a nice bite-size length for an easy read–about 6-8 pages, including how to use this particular approach in our own lives. Inspired by  Bhutan’s focus on Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross National Product, for example, the author suggests, “Remember: there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. The journey is it, so travel well.”

Each section is sprinkled with interviews with citizens who give their take on how their lives are influenced by the phrase. But I’m also learning more than just about the phrase. In the section for Germany, for example, whose phrase is “gemutlichkeit,” meaning “‘cozy,’ ‘comfort-inducing’ or relating to a sense of belonging and social acceptance,” I learned about the importance of hard work  done well. And who knew that the Germans have something called a balcony vacation…enjoying life on your own balcony instead of flying off to another locale.

I like Russell’s style–it’s light, funny, conversational, jaunty, and informative. I’m reading the book by choosing what country I feel like visiting that day, enjoying the short “upper” hit of learning that ensues.

I’m only about half way around the world, so to speak, and I’m excited to continue the journey. Today’s visit? Who knows…it might be “Craic” in Ireland or how about “Jolly” in England? Or maybe even “Federerism in Switzerland?

8 thoughts on “A Different Way to Travel”

  • What fun…leave it to you Lynn to find yet another way to “travel”. Sounds like a sweet and positive book. Now you will have to visit each country described in the book and practice their happiness philosophy. That sounds like fun! Ciao, Ciao….Buon Viaggio. xoxoxo

  • Sounds lovely! Enjoy the rest of your global happiness trip! I often take a “deck vacation”. It’s inexpensive and oh, so convenient!

    Love your weekly nuggets of joy!

  • You had me at Federerism. Love it! Buying two copies right now!
    Thanks Lynn – your book reviews are dynamite.

    • I, of course, thought of you when I heard the term “Federerism”…and wait ’til you read the section on it in the book. Great fun!

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