Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Finer Things in Life

I'm sitting here at my computer on a Thursday evening, and instead of watching the National Championship game between Texas and Alabama, I'm reflecting on an episode of Oprah that my wife, Teresa, recorded because she thought I might be interested.

It turns out she was right. In general, the show was about women around the world and how they live. Oprah talked to women in Copenhagen, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Tokyo. It was the segment with the women from Copenhagen that most interested and and intrigued me.

Apparently, a recent study or poll concluded that people in Denmark are the happiest people in the world. This, despite the fact that they pay the highest average income tax rate in the world of around 50-percent.

What makes them so happy? First, everyone has access to health care. People get paid to go to school. Women get six-months to a year of maternity leave. Most jobs pay similar incomes, so people go into fields because they enjoy them and not simply because they pay well.

There is almost no homelessness, almost no crime, and people who lose their jobs are supported for up to four years while they look for new work and get government help to learn new skills. As one of the Danish women put it, she is happy to pay the high income tax rate because she looks at it as people helping one another and taking care of each other. Some in America would look at these things and label Denmark socialist. The Danes interviewed by Oprah look at it as being civilized and being humane.

One other thing the Danish women said that I think speaks to the heart of why the Danes might be so happy is that they have less stuff. They are more interested in living life and spending time with friends and family than they are working to get more stuff, which seems to be the American Dream or at least the American way of life. Could there really be more to life than money?

I think that is one reason the full-time RV life appeals to me so much; it is more about living life and doing things and less about getting stuff. One Danish husband put it this way when describing living in Denmark: "less space, less stuff, more life."

As I sit here typing this and enjoying a glass of wine, I think the idea of "less space, less stuff, more life" has much to recommend it.

1 comment:

Karen said...

What I find interesting, is that most countries in Europe people have at least 6 weeks of paid time off each year for their vacations. The average worker in the United States has the least time off of any in the world. On my job working at the entrance station to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I see more people from foreign countries than I do from the United States. The people from other countries not only can affored to come, they have the time off to do it. I find that to be very sad.

My husband and I have been full time RVer's for almost 10 years. We have less--less room to live in, less money earned in a year, less stuff than we had when we worked 9-5 and lived in a real house. But, we have more--more happiness, more freedom, more time, more adventure than we had then. The trade-offs are very worth it to us.