The United Nations recently released their annual World Happiness Report, which included their list of the world's top 10 "Happiest Countries."
A few of the factors that contributed to a country making the list: whether people living there had strong social support (robust communities); whether citizens felt they could trust their government; and whether they lived in freedom.
The United States did not make the list. Canada did.
According to the United Nations, the 10 happiest countries in 2019 are:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
Among those paying attention to the list are people passionate about travel, since it follows that not only would it be happiness-inducing to live in such a country, but also to travel to one.
According to Travelzoo Senior Editor Gabe Saglie, "[T]ravel to the countries that made the top 10 cut allows us to tap into some of the pervasive factors that seem to make everyday life there a happy proposition: a sense of community that comes from social support, the joys that come from increased generosity among citizens, and the overall happiness of people who lead a healthy lifestyle ..."
Interestingly, Travelzoo has found that spontaneous travel itself is actually directly tied to happiness. That's right: apparently people who take spontaneous trips have more fun than those who take non-spontaneous trips.
According to Travelzoo, 34 percent of people engaging in non-spontaneous leisure travel (planned trips) agree they are happy most of the time, where as 49 percent of spontaneous leisure travelers reported joy.
That said, even if you're on a planned trip, evidence shows it'll still lift your spirits. Studies repeatedly demonstrate that traveling leads to happiness because it exposes you to novel situations (which spikes your dopamine); allows you to learn about yourself (self-discovery); and helps you build resilience--since travel so often involves overcoming challenges in unfamiliar environments.
In other words, there's nothing quite like having no cell reception in a remote area of a country where you don't speak the language to help you get creative--and learn that you really are resourceful. There's also a sense of peace that comes from learning you can depend on yourself and the random helpfulness of life, even if that means riding in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of chickens as your travel companions.
In 2018, the travel and tourism industry contributed a staggering $8.8 trillion to the global economy. Unbelievably, travel and tourism also accounts for one in ten of all jobs around the world. So when you travel, not only do you become a better version of yourself, you contribute pretty significantly to the local economy.
Looking to contribute by touring especially happy destinations? According to the list, a good bet is to take a spontaneous trip to Scandinavia--four of the ten countries are there. There are some creative Scandinavian summer cruises.
Other spontaneous ideas: If you live in the U.S., grab a few friends and go on an adventurous roadtrip through whatever part of Canada is closest to your state. Canada has gorgeous national parks; beautiful, safe, clean cities; and a population that's polite and welcoming.
Several airlines also offer low-cost airfare to Iceland, which is on the list--and if you're on the east coast of the U.S., a spontaneous trip there is realistic, given how close it is. Among other wonders, you can take a Game of Thrones tour of the country, including one where you can "relive the Wildlings' invasion south of the Wall."
Pack light; all you really need is a journal to record your joy.
"Not all who wander are lost."