A RECENT study shows our travels make most of us happier than just about everything else we do. And the people who conducted the study (booking.com, they talked to 17,000 people from 17 countries) said we should always holiday where happy people live. So where might that be?
I guess it won't surprise you to learn the top destination for happy people is - drum roll please - Australia. We are a happy lot here, especially when we are frolicking on one of our beautiful beaches or tramping our verdant parks or munching our way through our vibrant dining scene. So no wonder foreign visitors like to be around us.
Also in the top three destinations for happy people are Canada and Italy. No surprises there.
If we want a really happy travel experience, as opposed to just a travel experience in general, the people at booking.com urge us to follow three golden rules.
The first - go where the happy people are - as they have said. I think most people love their own countries and that makes them happy - apart from the poor souls in North Korea and sadly few want to holiday there.
The second rule for a happy holiday is to ensure our chosen destination provides what we want most and, according to the survey, that is food followed by perfect weather and breathtaking scenery. So where do we go for the best food in the world? Who can say, apart from your own palate?
In my experience you rarely get a dud meal in France or Italy, and the flavours of Thailand can't be beaten, except by those of Vietnam and maybe China, definitely Malaysia and always Singapore.
I reckon the best way to enjoy food while on holiday is to eat only that country's cuisine for the duration of your stay. Why eat eggs and bacon for breakfast in Beijing when you can have plump dumplings and tofu pudding?
Why go to an air-conditioned Italian restaurant in Thailand and eat fettuccini when you can stand at street stalls and eat freshly made satays on sticks? It seems obvious to me to eat paella in Barcelona, gnocchi in Tuscany and bratwurst in Berlin.
Eating the food of the country you are in should be a given, yet I know people who doggedly stick to their favourite routine foods no matter what country they are in. Who can forget the Shirley Valentine scene where the English tourists in Greece fainted at the thought of eating octopus? "If they'd been at the Last Supper they'd have asked for chips,” Shirley says to herself.
The third and last golden rule to holiday heaven, according to the survey, is to sleep our way to happiness. Now, now, settle down. It means a comfortable bed is a top priority to holiday contentment. Followed by a lovely view, free wi-fi and nice toiletries. I guess most travellers have experienced the horror bed scenario at some stage.
One of my favourite places in the world, a small resort I visit every year, has the best views, the cleanest rooms, the most devoted service... but a rock-hard bed with a paper-thin mattress. I put up with an uneasy back for two weeks because everything else is so perfect.
We all know what we want for our perfect holiday and, while we don't need a survey to tell us what will make us happy, it does make sense to follow the sun and the fun. Perhaps the best element to get out of your holiday is to love the place you are in at that moment. No good dreaming of patisseries in Paris while you are sitting on a beach in Hawaii, or wishing for a turquoise ocean while you are trawling a museum in Venice, is there?
Get in the moment, eat like a local, hope for a good bed, demand free wifi and Bob should be your uncle.
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