This post is brought to you in association with Ryvita.
Hands up who would like more happiness in their lives? Me too! One way I like to do this is through my travels. The anticipation of a forthcoming trip always brings a smile to my face. I’ve found something rewarding and positive wherever I have travelled, but some places stand out for their happiness factor.
So, which is the happiest country in the world? According to the United Nations’ 2018 World Happiness Report released earlier this year, it’s Finland, a country I’ve yet to visit. The World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries in terms of the happiness of its citizens, makes for some interesting reading and the differences between nations, even continents, can be extreme. But which places from my travels have I found to be the happiest?
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Aruba, one happy island
It is said that the sun always shines on the Caribbean island of Aruba and its motto is ‘one happy island’. It’s a wonderful holiday destination, with long white sand beaches lapped by crystal-clear turquoise water and a fabulous food scene.
What struck me most though was the sunny disposition of the many wonderful people I met here, such as the street artist Vanessa, in San Nicholas, where you’ll find a thriving art scene, and the lovely Maria, from Cacao Yoga, who runs yoga classes on the beach. And then there was Frank Kelly, a.k.a.Taki the Forager, who makes a living organising pop-up art galleries, parties and picnics, where you’ll forage for your dinner – his cactus tempura is always a big hit. He also makes sure he sets aside plenty of time to spend with friends and family, playing his guitar and surfing. I’ve never met so many positive people with such well-balanced attitudes to life.
With some of the loveliest beaches I’ve ever seen, plenty of sunshine, the best seafood I’ve ever tasted and a friendly, laid back vibe, being on the colourful island of Aruba was a relaxing, captivating and very happy experience.
Recommended for you: Top 10 Things to Do in Aruba
The Smiling Coast of Africa
Since its launch in 2012, the World Happiness Report has consistently reported that people in Africa are the least happy of any continent. One country I have visited many times in West Africa, for both work and on holiday, is The Gambia: a small slither of a country, surrounded on three sides by its much larger neighbour, Senegal.
While life in The Gambia has many positives including a strong sense of community and family, there are also many negatives, with the majority living with poor health care, minimal to non-existent job prospects and low life expectancy. It may be one of the poorest countries in the world but that doesn’t stop its people smiling, so much so that it has been dubbed the Smiling Coast of Africa. It isn’t ranked in the report (possibly because of its small size) but I suspect it would rank fairly low, however, I can vouch that it certainly lives up to its nickname.
For glorious sunshine, uncrowded beaches and a vibrant, colourful culture, plus friendly locals that will always greet you with a huge smile, look no further than The Gambia.
Recommended for you: A Traditional West African Wedding
The Laughter of Thailand
Of all the countries I have ever visited, nowhere have I heard so much laughter as I did in Thailand. Thai people have a great sense of fun and, in the brief time I was there, I noticed how they take great pleasure out of simple things. What struck me most was how they enjoy each other’s company. The Thai group I was with were work colleagues but the bond between them seemed stronger than the average bond you might have with your co-worker here in the UK. Their relationship appeared as if they were old and highly valued friends or even family.
I was certainly very happy in Thailand and it is one of the places I most long to return to. It ticks so many boxes. The food is exquisite and is without a doubt my favourite cuisine out of any I’ve tasted around the world. The temples are stunning and a joy to explore, not just because they are beautiful, but because they instil a sense of serenity and calm as you walk around them (except for the most popular ones in Bangkok).
The people I met were not only extremely welcoming, generous and friendly, there was something more… they were exceptionally interesting too. Most notably, I met many wonderful artists and craftspeople. I saw passion in their eyes as they shared, from the heart, their knowledge of their crafts.
While only ranked 32nd on the World Happiness Report, Thailand seemed to me to be the happiest place I’ve ever been to. To date, I have only visited Chiang Mai and Bangkok but I can’t wait to return to discover more. While Bangkok is a little too hectic for me, Chiang Mai (both the city and the region) is in my mind perfect, a place where laughter always seems to fill the air. And laughter is contagious and so good for you, both mentally and physically.
Thailand is a wonderful destination to visit to discover new tastes and experiences and to simply slow down, unwind, and be happy.
Featured/top image: A lady from the hill tribes in Chaing Mai wearing a traditional headdress
Ryvita, Cancer Research UK, Davina and the Positivity Panel
This year, the crispy rye bread producer Ryvita (and me!) are on a mission to empower people to lead a more positive and healthy lifestyle. They have partnered with Davina McCall and Cancer Research UK to help motivate us all, particularly women over 40, to get more goodness into our lives.
As part of this campaign, they have enlisted the help of a group of 40 and 50- somethings who, together with Davina, will be sharing tips and insights about nutrition, fitness, wellbeing, fashion and travel – and that’s where I come in.
above: Ryvita has teamed up with Kathryn Burrington, Travel Blogger, to be part of their Positivity Panel alongside Davina McCall. The panellists were handpicked to help inspire women across the nation to feel confident and happy, whatever their age, through advice, tips and tricks.
Head to Ryvita.co.uk/LivingWell/PositivityPanel to find out more.