Searching for Happy Valley
A Modern Quest for Shangri-La
About the Book
A global quest to comprehend the meaning of “Happy Valley” on three continents and how these mountain communities continue to survive in a world that constantly challenges the very notion of “happiness.”
Over her 17-year career as a travel writer, Jane Marshall has wandered the planet, always in search of wild, high-altitude, off-the-beaten-track places. During her travels she discovered something profound. On three continents, separated by vast oceans, she found hidden valleys known locally as “Happy Valley.” Her quest: to discover what makes them happy and learn from their Indigenous keepers.
The happy valleys share common characteristics. They are geographically isolated and protected by walls of mountains; they are home to rare and endangered plants and animals; they exist outside of protections zones — which gives them autonomy but also makes them vulnerable; their Indigenous populations name the land after human and divine body parts; and women are seen as powerful. Inside these Happy Valleys a balance between humans and nature has been struck. Sleeping on ridges, in caves, and in the traditional homes of local people, Marshall makes gruelling journeys to the heart of the happy valleys as she strives to comprehend the deep peace she feels within them.
In a world facing environmental devastation, illness, and unprecedented mental anxieties, Marshall’s book offers an alternative. She immerses herself in the land and forms deep connections with its people so she can learn sustainable ways of living their Indigenous populations have honed over millennia. From a goat herder’s hut in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, to a Sundance ceremony with the Blackfoot/Soki-tapi people of Alberta, and ultimately to her dangerous pilgrimage in Nepal where she reaches the heart of a sacred land studded with treasures hidden by a famous yogi, Jane Marshall takes readers on the greatest adventure of all: The search for Shangri-La and the wisdom that can save the planet and our own hearts.
“Searching for Happy Valley is a powerful meditation on our relationship with each other, the land and our place within it. Weaving this book with grace and courage, Jane guides us into the heart of three naturally intact corners of the Earth, enabling us to soften into the sacredness of these lands and the people who inhabit them, as well as the one sacred place which resides within us all.” —Mike Schauch, author of A Story of Karma: Finding Love and Truth in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya
“This book leads you along a humble path to a place that touches the realm of the Vision Quest — where you can look into another world. Jane has a powerful mind and heart and her story brings us back to our physical nature, which is made up of mother earth and the elements. It connects you to the land and to the core of who we are, the place where we are all one. Honestly and beautifully written.” —Conrad Little Leaf • Piita Piikaon/Eagle Being, Piikānii interpreter at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump UNESCO World Heritage Site
“I have seen what occurs when culture, spirituality, music and the Earth are desecrated. Jane Marshall’s writing conveys the importance of happy valleys and Tibetan Buddhist beyul. They are sacred places that protect Indigenous wisdom, places where we find healing and return to what is most important.” —Ngawang Choepel, musician and filmmaker
“A journey of light and love into the far horizons of the spirit.” —Wade Davis, National Geographic Explorer, author, photographer, anthropologist
“Many of us live in a fast-paced and frenetic world and we know, deep down, that no amount of money can buy happiness. It is precisely this place where our modern systems fall apart that Jane Marshall proposes we turn to ancient ways of life and Indigenous knowledge to point the way to a better future — for ourselves and the planet. Searching for Happy Valley is a poignant, beautifully written, and immersive story of Marshall’s journey into three sacred valleys to discover not only where their monikers come from but also what we will hear when we can humble ourselves enough to truly listen. In the face of an environmental crisis, rising mental health issues, and widespread loneliness, Marshall’s findings offer us hope. This book is as much a call to decolonize our narratives as it is an encouragement to lace up our boots and renew our connection to the land and our fellow humans so that we all might thrive.”—Meghan J. Ward, author of Lights to Guide Me Home: A Journey off the Beaten Track in Life, Love, Adventure and Parenting
“Searching for Happy Valley is a special travelogue that chronicles Jane Marshall’s quest for the inner and outer boundaries of the sacred. She describes her time with Indigenous people in Morocco and Alberta, but especially her heart is opened in the remote area of Tsum on the border of Nepal and Tibet. Here she undertakes an intrepid pilgrimage to a holy mountain rarely seen by outsiders. This is a poetic and heartfelt account of a search for innermost meaning reflected in an environment of vast grandeur beyond the senses.” —Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, author, international Buddhist teacher and founder and director of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery
“Jane Marshall’s book transcends cultural boundaries in its charting of the geography of happiness, and it reveals that it’s as much about what we bring to the places that inspire us as about what such places may reveal about human flourishing. Searching for Happy Valley is a timeless journey that shows us how wild and dangerous places are also the most intimate when, as Jane Marshall writes, “we touch them with love.” —Ian Baker, author of The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place
“Searching for Happy Valley is for the inner pilgrim in all of us. Intrepid and sure-footed, Jane Marshall offers a modern lens into the ancient tradition of hidden valleys that exist around the world, from Morocco, to Alberta, Canada, to the Himalayas. These remote regions offer a place of physical refuge and spiritual sanctuary. Along the way, the author brings alive the travellers she meets and the friends she makes, from First Nations elders to the delightful Nepalese Tibetan nun Ani Pema. In luminous, tender writing, Marshall invites us to step out of our comfort zone and into our courage zone. To let the land imprint itself on us, rather than for us to leave even our footprints. At this time of climate devastation, her words create a sanctuary. An urgent reminder of all that we must protect before it’s too late. By the end of the book, you’ll have dusted off your walking boots to discover the remote, wild regions near you. Written in gold-washed prose and with clear-eyed wisdom, this is a travel memoir filled with light, love, and longing.” —Dr. Claire Scobie, author of Last Seen In Lhasa: The Story of an Extraordinary Friendship in Modern Tibet
“Jane Marshall’s remarkable memoir Searching for Happy Valley unveils just what it is that makes a place “happy,” showing why the answer is so important for humanity and the planet.” —Kristine Morris, Foreword Reviews