“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s one of the most famous and well-crafted phrases in the English language, written over two centuries ago as the foundation of these United States of America. If we still base our lives on these ideas, we are not doing very well. The U.S. continually fails to make it anywhere near the top of the World Happiness Index. So who tops the list of happiest countries? There are the expected northern European countries, Canada fits into the list, and then there’s Bhutan. Named Druk Yul, meaning Land of the Thunder Dragon, in the native language, Bhutan ranks as the eighth happiest nation in the world and happiest in Asia. Yet the vast majority of the population lives on less than $110 a month, it is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, and democracy only recently arrived in 2007.
Despite these conditions, the country is continually one of the happiest in the world, and the government measures Gross National Happiness as an alternative to Gross National Product to measure national progress. On April 2nd, Bhutan led a high-level meeting on happiness at the 66th session of the UN General assembly to try and present their form of progress to a world which views progress very differently. The Dragon King’s advisor, Karma Ura, explained at the meeting that true forms of wealth are vibrant health, a ravishing environment, strong community, and meaning in life.
This summer, I will be traveling to Bhutan to see for myself how such a tiny and poor nation can create some of the world’s happiest people. I will be arriving in the country as Chinese development looms from the north and Indian industry creeps up from the south. Bhutan is faced on two sides by behemoths of traditional progress, and sits in the middle as a champion to the progress of happiness. This summer, I intend to learn what sets the Land of the Thunder Dragon apart from the rest. I aim to explore this mystical Buddhist kingdom and hope to gain a glimpse into what the progress of happiness means. I plan to see as much of this endangered culture as possible and help to preserve its message. This summer, I will pursue happiness.