Searching for Happy Valley

A Modern Quest for Shangri-La


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.


“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