Scandinavia continues to be the world’s happiest region, with Finland, Iceland and Denmark firmly holding on to the top three spots in the World Happiness Report of 2020 – despite the uncertainty of the pandemic. That same year, the Finnish sauna was added to UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list, a sign of how integral the sauna is to almost every Finn’s household.
Is there a correlation between happiness and warmth? Perhaps.
On Christmas Day in 2013 I was wheeled out of the Georgia Aquarium by two very nice people. One was a man named Met, as in I “met” you today, the day your back spasmed so intensely that it numbed your leg and rendered you paraplegic. The other was a woman named Halle who insisted on offering me an entrance voucher for a future visit, as I had only seen two exhibitions before my visit was cut short.
Between winces, I let her know that I had no plans to return. Ever. And she nodded her head and smiled even though I was being unreasonable.
This post is part of a throwback series to my cruise ship days.
When working on a ship, I hardly sleep. It’s a 24 hour job. My phone can ring at anytime and I have to be prepared to accommodate the request, whatever it may be. I’m usually up and about at 6:30 in the morning, as it’s the quietest time to walk the deck. Just the sound of the waves crashing against the bow and crackle of my cigarette with each inhale. It’s peaceful and humbling. My version of a morning prayer.
Photo credit: Adoramassey – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
I speak English and Spanish separately and together, as well as broken Italian, elementary French and can utter two phrases in German. Yet none of these linguistic tools are absolutely any use to me in Southern California. Every sign across every highway, and every street in every city is pronounced exactly opposite of how it naturally comes out of my mouth.
Sure, I’ve been to places. I’ve traveled by car and plane and ship and train. I’ve experienced new cultures, tasted their food and danced to their music. But, even after visiting the most amazing cities in the world, I return to my birth place with an indescribable feeling of joy and yearning, which I keep to myself.