The subtitle of this book is What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth. And here we were, thinking it was Disneyland. I read this book after seeing the author, Lisa Napoli, interview Gretchen Rubin. What a cool and interesting person, with such a cool and interesting job. That isn’t the half of it. Radio Shangri-La is the story of how a chance meeting can lead to serendipitous events that can change the entire course of a person’s life.
If you had the opportunity to pack up and go overseas for six weeks, would you do it? Napoli refers to her initial trip to Bhutan as a midlife crisis around her 40th birthday. (Note: We both live in the same area, and I’m turning 40 next month, so it’s easy for me to identify with her). Most people would pass up a chance like this due to details like spouses, kids, pets, or simple anxiety. It’s particularly interesting to me that the possibility of the trip came up after a six-week happiness course and Napoli’s practice of keeping a gratitude journal. Maybe we only become open to noticing and considering these sorts of things when we are prepared with a certain mental attitude.
In the postscript, Napoli describes talking with a friend who wants to know where she wants to be in five years. “I didn’t want to make her feel bad, since she seemed to be one of those people who liked plotting her life. I just knew you couldn’t do that.” She goes on to talk about happiness, saying, “I didn’t feel good because I had a new romance or a new job that paid tons of money, or anything visible or measurable…. I wasn’t waiting for something to fall into place so that life could get started.” I’m definitely one of the plotting types, but I do agree with this to an extent. It’s the difference between fate and destiny. We can’t control things that happen to us. We can control our attitude, our actions, our speech, and our personal environment. We can control whether we make health a priority, whether we are accountable and responsible, whether we are reliable and emotionally available to the people we love. Part of why Lisa Napoli experiences Bhutan the way she does is that she’s dedicated to her work and a good friend to so many people.
The book is part travelogue, part memoir, as Napoli works out a terrible personal trauma and divorce. It’s a great example of subduing anxiety and emotional burdens to move forward and make space for adventure. It’s a terrific read. It’s funny and filled with gossipy details and a pinch of romance. I highly recommend it.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.