I recently spent a few evening hours strolling along the canals of Amsterdam. The visit was a surprise. My flight from Italy had been delayed by weather, so I missed my connecting flight home. The next nonstop from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport to MSP wasn't flying until the next morning.
With a delayed return home, no change of clothes and the unanticipated expense of a hotel (weather disruptions qualify as an "act of God," absolving the airline of responsibility), I should have been upset. Instead, I was happy. After all, my delay took place in one of the happiest countries on Earth, according to the United Nations' recent World Happiness Report.
The report ranks 156 counties according to how happy their citizens claim to be, according to surveys. The Netherlands comes in at No. 5, following Finland (No. 1), Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The U.S. is ranked 19th; and Italy, where I'd just spent 10 days, is at 36.
I took in the pretty, gable-crowned city at dinnertime. The Dutch are so community-minded that they don't close their blinds. I nearly mistook a home, where a family sat at the dining table, for a restaurant. Bicyclists zoomed by while canal boats bobbed gently on the water. It all seemed very peaceful and warm.
But when I reflect on Rome, the warmth seems amplified. There, friends kissed their hellos. Giggling children chased bubbles in a piazza. The bustling squares, the art behind giant church doors, the pasta: It is my happy place. Why does this country rank 36th?
Perhaps a citizenship's happiness doesn't correlate exactly to a visitor's. I could read the report in depth to find out more (it's at worldhappiness.report), but the titles of some chapters are enough to make Americans unhappy: Take Chapter 5, "The Sad State of Happiness in the United States and the Role of Digital Media."
Maybe I need to look into this further — with another trip to Amsterdam and Rome.
Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.