Malaysians, we heard from the United Nations that you are a lot less happy this year. According to U.N.’s 2019 World Happiness Report, Malaysia’s’ ranking as happiest nation dropped to 80th spot from 35th a year earlier. Here’s our remedy: Travel more to feel inspired and happy again! Not that we want to keep up with the Joneses, but maybe we can learn a thing or two from the world’s top ten happiest nations.
Great social safety nets, top notch-quality education and high income aside, read on to find out our take on the basic lessons about happiness. Not only will you feel inspired to travel to one of these countries but it will also help you be more mindful about keeping yourself happy!
10. Austria: Music makes us happy
This German-speaking country waltzes easily between the great outdoors and the rich Baroque-style buildings of the urban cities. Its capital Vienna is also the musical capital of the world, and was home to some of the greatest composers ever lived including Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
What to do here: Visit the UNESCO heritage site Hallstatt, enjoy an open air orchestra performance in Vienna and visit the Sound of Music filming locations in Salzburg.
9. Canada: Wide perspectives makes us happy
Nature has a way of keeping us grounded. It’s not hard to be happy when the country has so many vast landscapes — from snow-capped mountains to idyllic lakes — where one could take the time to widen perspectives on life. Plus, Canadians are known for their politeness and friendliness, which makes traveling to this country a breeze!
What to do here: Snowboarding on Whistler’s mountains, surfing in Nova Scotia and kayaking in Moraine Lake.
8. New Zealand: Moving about makes us happy
New Zealand is on top of many traveler’s wish list, and it’s easy to see why. The country is not only famous for its picturesque landscapes, but there is also no shortage of things to do such as bungee jumping, white water rafting and skydiving. If you’re into nature, try out tramping (a.k.a. hiking) in its national parks.
What to do here: Visit Hobbiton in Matamata, watch a game of rugby, and hike around active volcanoes in North Island.
7. Sweden: Being creative makes us happy
Home of IKEA and Spotify, Sweden thrives on functional creativity. So, if you’re the kind that gets inspired from people-watching and cityscapes that has a blend of the old and new, its capital Stockholm is your place to get that Scandi-cool swagger. Sweden is not only known for its modernity. In fact, nature is her best asset, so take the chance to camp by a Baltic beach or ride a sleigh under the Northern Lights!
What to do here: Hike the Höga Kusten trail, eat open sandwich smörgåsbord, stroll around the medieval town of Gamla Stan.
6. Switzerland: Being at peace makes us happy
Switzerland is a bit of a mystery even to most Europeans, because it is not part of the European Union. But, we’re giving this country a thumbs-up for not only holding it out on its own, but also as a bastion of neutrality and peacekeeping. While the picturesque mountains are best to visit during winter for skiing and snowboarding, you can also hike or cycle along the biking trails during the warmer months.
What to do here: Hike the Swiss National Park in Zernez, stay in a fairytale-like resort in Zermatt, and enjoy a picturesque view while sliding down the alpine in Rodelbahn.
5. The Netherlands: Art makes us happy
Home to Van Gogh and Rembrandt, the Netherlands has some of the finest art and paintings housed in world-class museums. But paintings of centuries-old windmills and breathtaking tulip fields aren’t the only kind of art you’ll see here. This country is also known for its visionary architectural designs but also a phenomenal nightlife.
What to do here: Cycle along tulip fields near Keukenhof, visit the Anne Frank House, and explore the “Venice of the Netherlands” Giethoorn.
4. Iceland: Sunlight makes us happy
During the summer solstice, the sun does not set for 24 hours in Iceland! This phenomenon, known as the midnight sun, means you can be up and about exploring the cinematic landscape of geysers, waterfalls, fjords and glaciers of Iceland all day. It’s no wonder that this enchanting and otherworldly country is on the wishlist of many travelers.
What to do here: Enjoy natural spa treatments at the Blue Lagoon and hike through the historical Þingvellir National Park.
3. Norway: Being a part of community makes us happy
Norwegians are known for its close-knit communities, and often pass their family homes down to the next generation. How best to enjoy Norway’s stunning deep blue fjords, flowing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains? By hiking, cycling and white-water rafting together, of course.
What to do here: Take a road trip to the Lofoten Islands, hike the famous Trolltunga fjord and hop on a cruise for close-up encounters with polar wilderness in Longyearbyen.
2. Denmark: Being contented makes us happy
The Danes have a life concept — “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga), which describes being in a state of coziness and contentment. Denmark is also known for being the oldest monarchy in the world, and the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote many of the fairy tales we grew up reading including The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. Literature fans will be thrilled to know that Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet was set in Kronborg Castle, only one hour’s drive north of Copenhagen!
What to do here: Climb the sand dunes at Råbjerg Mile, and drive along Oresund Bridge (which is the longest bridge in Europe).
1. Finland: Having something to dream about makes us happy
Despite the subzero temperature, high income tax, long and gray winter days, there is a reason why Finland is the happiest nation for two years in a row. We think it has something to do with having dreams and realizing them. Imagine opening the door to find the Northern Lights right outside, or writing a letter to Santa Claus and mailing to him (and to an actual address, that is!) about our wishes. The Finns are also known to have a healthy work-life balance and for being nature-lovers. With beautiful forests, lakes and amazing seaside, we don’t wonder why they are such a happy bunch.
What to do here: Visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, ski under the Northern Lights (in winter) or the midnight sun (in summer) in Kilpisjärvi.
Different things make us happy. But we can definitely learn from one another how wide and fluid the concept of happiness actually is. So, travel more to learn more!
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