The Happiest Place on Earth

Vanuatu “Prosperity is a way of living and thinking, and not just money or things. Poverty is a way of living and thinking, and not just a lack of money or things.”  Eric Butterworth

Vanuatu, “the happiest place on earth”,  is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have  had the privilege of visiting. Its charm is in its people, the breath-taking beauty of the islands and the simplicity of life there.  Vanuatu is an archipelago of around 83 islands, a population of 250,000 and over a hundred tribal languages are still spoken. Sadly, it is amongst the most natural disaster – prone areas in the world. However, it has been voted the happiest place on earth from a survey conducted by the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth. (There were 3   criteria used by the researchers- life expectancy, human well-being and the damage caused by the country’s “environmental footprint”). The native Melanesians, referred to as  “ni-vanuata”  seem to have a smile as their default facial expression! Their kindness, respectfulness, politeness and  generosity is endearing. Their  simple, relaxed and carefree lives, a dream. The women go about their day to day work (no matter what or how hard) with a smile, diligence and gracefulness that would put many others in the “developed world” to shame.  (Yes, that was meant to be emphasized) They are proud of their country, their way of life.  And rightly so. And not to forget the sheer beauty of the  ocean,  tropical life within and powdery  white sand– a simple “WOW”.  An image of a Vanuatu  island with  turquoise waters, coconut trees and hammocks could look like it has been photo-shopped- until you get there and step into reality. “Paradiso” and  “Cielo” is what come to mind on this recent visit . Like any  tropical paradise,  it works on island time! Lose the watch, you won’t need it (apart from getting back to the cruise ship!) In  Vanuatu,  they do seem to  lack a few  things though- pride, envy and  there is certainly no “Keeping up with the  Joneses “. So what can some of us here in  the so called developed world learn from these islanders ? No matter how busy we are-  it only take a minute – or less to smile! It also doesn’t cost anything to be respectful, courteous  and polite – but a lot to lose without these simple virtues and values.  Again, “busi –ness” has nothing to do with this. In this world, it seems that people just love to be doing stuff and be “busy” . Perhaps it gives some degree of importance. Perhaps, just perhaps it is a reflection of a lack of self respect, self worth  and confidence? Time and how to spend it is a choice.  Respect  it. And respect those who you spend it with. Take pride in what you do, whatever you do.  And do it with joy- not resentfulness.  This is where it also helps to know your  “WHY”. Life is too short to be doing meaningful crap. Live in the Now.  Be mindful as you go about your daily life. As Robin Sharma quoted  “don’t keep looking at the rear view mirror”. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify! Lastly, it is interesting that the life expectancy of the ni-Vanuatu is in their  80’s- 90’s – comparable to a developed nation.  This is not because  of  Advanced Medicine  or Executive health checks… Yes, lots to learn from this  wonderful nation and its people.  Merci,  Vanuatu!  You are divine. “Be happy … not because everything is good … but because you can see the good in everything”