The Geography of Bliss
I told you about this book last week, when I spent many happy days curled up in the comfy chair at Starbucks reading about all the places on earth that would make me happy or miserable. This book, by Eric Weiner (yes, pronounced whiner), takes a whirlwind tour of some of the happiest places on earth. And some of the most miserable places on earth. I wondered if the book would wrap the pursuit of happiness up in a neat little bow, but it doesn’t. Instead, it offers a look at how the geography of where you live impacts your life.
Place. That is what The Geography of Bliss is about. How place—in every aspect of the word—shapes us, defines us. Change your place, I believe, and you can change your life.
This quote, by the author on his website, truly sums up the book. So what did I learn in exchange for those afternoons spent with The Geography of Bliss?
- People have an innate “fit” with certain places on the globe. Unfortunately these are not always the places they are born or are living. Also, Moldova apparently fits no one.
- Iceland sounds amazing: cozy, book-loving people living on an ice cube.
- The closer you look at happiness to evaluate whether you have it, the less likely you are to be happy.
- Most happiness appears to spring from trust and the ability to give yourself to something larger than yourself, something worth pursuing.
- The author has an amazing ability, born most likely of his journalism career, to connect with local people and develop the sense of community in a short time. I envy him this ability and tried to analyze how he did it. Still working on that!
After meeting a bartender appropriately named Happy, the author offers this interesting summation of his stance.
But Happy [the bartender] is wise, for only a fool or a philosopher would make sweeping generalizations about the nature of happiness. I am no philosopher, so here goes: Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.
Good lessons to learn, and a good payoff for a few days traveling the globe vicariously with the author. I’d love to hop on a plane and follow the happy trail myself! I leave you with a quote that perhaps I should paint and hang on my wall!
The Icelandic saying goes, ‘Better to be barefoot than without a book!’
Living in the paradise of South Florida, perhaps I may change that to “Better to be barefoot WITH a book.”