Well, this last trip of mine took me to lands of great contrast. Specifically, these lands differed greatly in their degrees of hospitality.
I began my trip by exploring Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Tunisia - some of the world's most hospitable countries. It was a pleasure to travel in these countries, to meet the people and be surprised at how selfless and generous they were. Their kindness made my final year as a traveler, as an old thirty-three and thirty-four-year-old, easy. The thought of returning to these places brought a smile to my heart.
And within the countries I'd visited this year, there were some especially great places. The best places I visited were the following:
1. Nemrut Lake, Turkey
2. Matmata Mountains, Tunisia
3. Tozeur and Nefta, Tunisia
4. Tulgit, Ethiopia
5. Yerevan, Armenia
HM: Ghajn Tuffieha Beach, Malta
I ended my trip by visiting Italy, Malta, and Ethiopia. In Italy and Malta, it seemed to be against the people's religion to help travelers. It often seemed that Malta was populated with grumpy, stressed-out Ebenezer Scrooges who had no interest in the outside world and who only read make-up advertisements, conservative political newspapers, and lottery tickets. But, at least they never begged nor annoyed me, and so I liked them more than Ethiopians. Or, I should say, I disliked them less.
I was not one of those travelers who said: "The more I travel the world, the more I realize we people are all pretty much the same." If I believed that, I would've saved myself a lot of trouble and just stayed home.
I believed we were born the same. After that, we were influenced by our cultures, by our cultures' religious beliefs, by the intrusion of other cultures, by inspiring people, by our natural environments, etc.
I'd observed that some cultures raised people to be more humanistic. Some cultures created adults who were selfish as babies. Some cultures may've produced more people who were ambitious, mean, and brutal. Some cultures produced more people who were playful, friendly, and creative.
Some cultures were more conducive to happiness and produced happier individuals. I'd observed that a culture's happiness wasn't related to its economic wealth, although it was probably related to how evenly its wealth was distributed. I believed that people could be happy living under any tolerable weather conditions. But, it was essential to have access to nature.
Good food was important. A strong emphasis on leisure activities. A community that extended beyond one's family. Buildings that were artistic and/or in harmony with nature. A stress-free and environmentally friendly means of transportation.
Freedom. Safety. Freedom in love. Harmonious gender relations.
Dignity in the workplace, preferably in self-employment or farming. A low emphasis on money. A proud cultural identity, sometimes found in language or traditions or clothing. Strong personal identities, independent of corporate logos or the mass media. Freedom from addiction.
A strong spirituality.
Affordable living. Good music and other arts. A low frequency of disease. Beauty.
Above all, it was important that people feel compassion for the other members of society. When people felt an excessive love for their own families, this hurt society.
With all of that in mind, we could now take a look at my updated list ranking the countries of the world for happiness. This list was made up of: COUNTRIES I'D "THRUMPED" IN; sub-cultures of those countries; Andorra, where I spent three months; and Samoa, which left a big impression on me. They were rated on my fancy "Happiness Scale", from 0 to 100 ...
1. Samoa - 97
2. AUSTRALIA - 97
3. Tibet - 91
4. LAOS - 85
5. French-Canada - 82
6. FRANCE - 80
7. ICELAND - 80
8. ARCHIPELAGO OF THE BIJAGOS, GUINEA-BISSAU - 75
9. SIBERIA - 70
10. TUNISIA - 70
11. CZECH REPUBLIC - 65
12. MOROCCO - 63
13. COLOMBIA - 63
14. LESOTHO - 59
15. TURKEY - 55
16. MICHIGAN, U.S.A. - 43
17. SWEDEN - 40
18. ENGLISH-CANADA - 38
19. SURMA TRIBE - 34
20. CHINA - 34
21. FLORIDA, U.S.A. - 32
22. EUROPEAN RUSSIA - 30
23. BRAZIL - 29
24. GREECE - 26
25. ISRAEL - 26
26. ARGENTINA - 24
27. ENGLAND - 24
28. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - 12
29. TANZANIA - 10
30. ETHIOPIA - 5
31. Andorra - 2
If you noticed your country received a low rating, please fix it.
Sometimes, I wrote things that probably raised questions in my readers' minds. Or in my "reader's mind", depending on how many people read a particular story. I liked to put my readers' minds to rest - and not by putting them to sleep with my boring stories. Ha ha ha! But, by answering their questions.
The first one came from a little Hungarian girl ...
Q: Modern O., you once wrote that the Maltese had "low spirituality". How would you define "high spirituality"?
A: High spirituality should include four things: 1. Compassion for others. 2. Humility, accompanied by a minimalistic living style. 3. An interest outside oneself, accompanied by the realization that one doesn't know everything. 4. Enjoyment of life.
The next question came from a little German boy, who dreamed of one day being a famous journalist ...
Q: Modern O., whatever happened to your Tunisian girlfriend?
A: It made me happy to say ... I heard she got married. Yay!
The next one came from a little German woman, who liked to sit outside her hobbit-like home and drink tea with her traditional Suri friends, Bar Buro the Gentle Gardener and Bar Ole the Cute Deaf Boy ...
Q: Modern O., did you ever get your driver's licence back from the Ethiopian police?
A: Yes. It took me five weeks to track down Commander Wodacho, but I finally found him and he returned my document.
And the final three questions came from a little Michigander, who stood 1.92 meters tall and liked to travel the world ...
Q: Did I, the Modern Oddyseus, complete my fifteen-month trip without ever masturbating?
A: No. I went four hundred days without masturbating, a record I was proud of.
But one night in Kibish, a totally naked Surma woman appeared near my tent at the police station. This tall, dark statue of a woman had pert breasts, a round backside, and an interesting-looking frontside. She disappeared soon afterwards. And so did my record streak.
Q: I once criticized Catholics for being superficial. Yet, I later used an Oscar Wilde quote, "Beauty is the wonder of wonders", to explain my attraction to the beautiful Suri women. Was I a hypocrite?
A: Beauty had its value. I couldn't deny that. I preferred the affection of a smooth-skinned girl with a healthy body, to that of a wrinkled woman with a tired body, in most cases.
Beauty was a natural state that resulted from youth, healthy living, and - in my belief - the absence of accumulated vices. When one began to age, these signs of aging were an expression of his character. It was good to be handsome or beautiful. But, it was keeping in harmony with the universe to accept one's natural appearance with pride and dignity. Personally, I didn't even look in mirrors, unless I was shaving.
If someone wanted to "make herself up" to bring happiness to the world around her, I supported that. But, if she was doing it so she could ascend to an elite class of people, or use her looks to manipulate the opposite sex, then her fake beauty was bad.
Q: Whatever happened to the Chinese traveler? Whatever happened to Hong Min!?
A: I assumed the worst: His health condition grew worse after I left him in a Tulgit guesthouse. He got bullied around by the Surma Region's police and beggars. He realized that traveling in Africa was full of unimaginable obstacles. And he flew home to China.
But, I was wrong.
In truth, he succeeded in traveling to Kibish to witness a ceremony where the Suri drank blood straight out of live cows. He called it: "very exciting, completely beyond my imagination."
He continued to Kenya where he saw the Masai people, to the Tanzanian coastline, to a small fishing village in Namibia, and to the deserts of the San bushmen.
Wow. Good job, Hong Min! This just showed that one should never underestimate ...
A man with a dream.
peace and happiness,