Business Traveller

An alternative list of the world's happiest places

Rob Crossan, CNNPublished 19th September 2017
These vacation spots are the perfect places to let rip.
Editor's Note — Rob Crossan is a disabled journalist and radio presenter based in London who writes about travel and food as well as disability affairs. The views expressed here are the author's own.
(CNN) — Take a look at these three words and give me your immediate gut-instinct emotional response:
And now, take a look at these three adjectives:
Now which one of these sounds more like a vacation? And which one sounds like paying penance for something?
The truth is, there's no real evidence from the scientific or the psychological community to suggest that a quantifiable amount of money spent on vegan shakes, Pilates, brown rice and a total lack of Wi-Fi access will make you healthier, happier or more mentally equipped to cope with the realities of 21st-century life.
There is however, plenty to suggest that indulging in pleasure on a moderate, occasional basis can make you as happy as Keith Richards in an open-all-night guitar store.

Embrace hedonism

Take a long weekend for yourself and enjoy cocktails and sunshine.
Take a long weekend for yourself and enjoy cocktails and sunshine.
Courtesy pexels
As a travel journalist with both physical and mental health conditions, I've personally found that the answer to many issues relating to moderate levels of anxiety and depression is to reserve at least one long weekend per year to leaving home and taking a vacation where I absolutely refuse to feel guilty about not engaging with anything cultural, self-improving or vegetarian.
Instead, I embrace hedonism, calories and laziness in equal measure.
This is possibly the only time in your calendar year where, should you book a "guilt-free break" you'll give absolute free reign to the desires of your "mesolimbic pathway."
This is also known as the brain's "pleasure pathway"; when activated by a rewarding stimulus like a glass of wine, satisfying sex or a flight upgrade, information travels to the nucleus accumbens and then up to the prefrontal cortex areas of the brain.
Get too dependent on these feelings that the pleasure pathway gives you and addiction beckons. Listen to your pleasure pathway at least now and again and you may just start feeling a bit better about a sybaritic mini-break.
Stuck for inspiration? None of the below places claim to offer you flatter stomachs, added intellect or more intuitive emotional responses to injured puppies. But they are pretty good at sunshine, cocktails and parties.

1. Las Vegas

Pursue pleasure in Las Vegas.
Pursue pleasure in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The inevitable winner. Of course if you move here to live then there's a strong chance that, if the desert heat doesn't get you down, then the Elvis impersonators might.
But, for a short, sharp, intravenous injection of no-nonsense, unapologetic escapism then Sin City truly excels. Just make sure your experience is more "The Hangover" than Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas."

2. Grand Cayman

Deep blue nothing: Grand Cayman is the perfect Caribbean getaway.
Deep blue nothing: Grand Cayman is the perfect Caribbean getaway.
Getty Images
There's absolutely nothing on this tiny British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean to distract you from the main event: namely the most pillow-soft, silky sand beaches lapped by bath water temperature ocean. The interior of the island is a pancake flat, bone dry, cultureless void of coral and limestone.
Forget about any worthy excursions and simply order another cocktail from your sun lounger -- Grand Cayman does its best to make sure that there's almost nothing else to do.

3. Hong Kong

Hong Kong: A great place to fill your face.
Hong Kong: A great place to fill your face.
The heat can be stifling. The traffic bewildering. The costs often painful to the average pocket.
But for sheer high-quality gluttony then HK delivers on every front. How happy does a visit to one of the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants make the average diner? The answer would appear to be "extremely" as Tim Ho Wan, from its original location in Kowloon, has opened up branches across Asia.
Even if you can't handle the line to get in here, you can simply stop at the the street food stands with the most locals crowded around them and indulge in the finest fish balls, fried squid and deep-fried cuts of pig that you'll ever experience.

4. Munich

Like a beer -- or four? Munich is the place for you.
Like a beer -- or four? Munich is the place for you.
Johannes Simon/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Perhaps Oktoberfest has gotten a little bit too big for its lederhosen these days.
But at any time of year, the Bavarian capital offers up a non-judgemental attitude towards the consumption of sausages and beer that, to the formerly guilt-laden, can make one feel that one has been transplanted to some kind of hops- and yeast-filled Camelot.

5. Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the capital of one of the world's happiest countries.
Copenhagen is the capital of one of the world's happiest countries.
The Danish capital is always flying high when it comes to global happiness measurements.
And even on the most superficial level there's something immediately engaging about a city which takes the motto of "live and let live" and applies it to everything from city center communes (the incredible Freetown Christiania) to nightclub dress codes to the "honor system" of the public transport network.
And let's not even start on how you'll never be judged for eating a gargantuan hot dog from one of the numerous street vendors at nine in the morning.

6. New Zealand

Take time for yourself in New Zealand.
Take time for yourself in New Zealand.
David Hallett/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Even if you're not overwhelmed with the desire to strap a backpack to yourself and haul your aching carcass up a mountain before bungee jumping off a bridge, New Zealand still delivers on the guilt-free happiness front by being one of the safest places on Earth.
So safe, in fact, that land on the South Island is being bought up at a startling rate by ultra-rich Americans as a place to hide should a modern-day Armageddon take hold.

7. Dublin

Dublin: A fine place to sample the black stuff.
Dublin: A fine place to sample the black stuff.
The ultimate antidote to the lonely traveler.
This is a city where doing something as prosaic as popping out of the hotel to buy a newspaper can turn into an experience where you'll gain two to five new friends and engage in conversations which run the gauntlet from the merits of James Joyce's lesser short stories to the relative price of shoe polish.
In other words: people are very friendly. For a lesson in the art of convivial social interaction then you're in the world capital.

8. Amsterdam

Amsterdam residents have maximum chill.
Amsterdam residents have maximum chill.
timothy clary/afp/getty images
Appropriately given the artistic legacy of the city, Amsterdam is also an Old Master in the arts of hedonism.
Walk around dressed as a giant condom.
Shout out your favorite phrases from "The Godfather" in Basque.
Wear a lampshade on your head.
Do press ups on a bridge whilst whistling Shakira.
Try all of these things and the locals will, brilliantly, and consistently, completely ignore you. No matter how weird you think you are, be assured that the natives have seen weirder. And they probably saw it before breakfast.