Bhutan's insulated happiness

Bhutanese school children sing and dance during recess in the small village of Chali.

The village of Chali, located in the remote eastern Mongar district of Bhutan.

Travel to Mongar, the remote eastern district of Bhutan, is difficult. Few outsiders have the opportunity to see the region's sweeping landscapes.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The people of tiny, landlocked Bhutan call their country the happiest place on Earth. Former Marketplace reporter Lisa Napoli put her life on hold and traveled to the Asian kingdom to set up a student radio station.

She chronicles her adventure in a book out today titled "Radio Shrangri-La." Good morning Lisa.

LISA NAPOLI: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: So hear you are, fast-paced American being asked to go to this country to help up set up this radio station. What was going through your mind, what did you think?

NAPOLI: Well, I was working here at Marketplace, and I was thinking I needed a change, and I thought well, radio is radio, right? I wasn't worried about the language barrier, and I should have probably been worried about the cultural barrier.

CHIOTAKIS: And you went there with an open mind, and what happened?

NAPOLI: It was such an interesting place to be. They measure their well-being in terms of gross national happiness.

CHIOTAKIS: I was going to ask you about that -- how do you measure happiness?

NAPOLI: It's not like I can say, 'Hey Steve, fill in this form and I can tell you whether you're happy or not.' But basically, they're committed to not just making money -- they're all about wellness, well-being, balance. And they factor that into whether they're successful.

CHIOTAKIS: Why are these people happier than, say, people in China or people in India or people in Bangladesh?

NAPOLI: Well some people believe that Bhutan was happier because it was insulated from all those places around it. Television was outlawed until about 10 years ago, and tourists have only been allowed in since 1972. So you can feel very happy about your environment, and the minute you start seeing someone wearing something nicer than you, you start to think, 'Hmm, maybe I'm not so happy with what I've got.'

CHIOTAKIS: But it's changing; all these things, these metrics that are measured here in the United States and other Western countries have been introduced to Bhutan. Do you think this is sort of an avalanche about to happen?

NAPOLI: I've always thought the way we lived in this country, where we spend too much money on things we don't need, to impress people we don't necessarily like -- didn't make sense to me. So that's what we'll have to see is, as Bhutan grows out into the world, how people are able to retain that core value system.

CHIOTAKIS: Lisa Napoli, author of "Radio Shangri-La," thanks.

NAPOLI: Thank you.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major

The village of Chali, located in the remote eastern Mongar district of Bhutan.

Travel to Mongar, the remote eastern district of Bhutan, is difficult. Few outsiders have the opportunity to see the region's sweeping landscapes.

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