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Does Portland = Happiness?

This week, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, because a friend of mine from the East Coast visits Portland each summer to teach a food industry business class at Portland State University. The added benefit to him is he gets to hang out in a super cool area for a couple of months. I usually only get to see him at industry events. Because it’s just a two-hour plane flight, a few weeks ago I proposed that I go up there to have dinner with him and his wife. He suggested I join him as a guest at his business class. So, it was a two-fer.

I didn’t really have any expectations of Portland, especially since I was going to be there for about 24 hours. Was I ever unexpectedly delighted!

The first thing I noticed were the greeters at the airport. These lovely people stood in the corridor as you transitioned between the arrival gates and moved toward the baggage claim. They were saying, “Welcome to Portland!” Obviously if you had a question, you could ask them. I then noticed signage as I exited the terminal: “Portland is rated Best Airport in the USA” since 2013.

As I arrived downtown at my hotel, I felt a little less stressed than usual. Everyone I had encountered seemed so pleasant and happy. And that experience continued throughout my stay.

It was a gorgeous, warm evening, so we dined outside in the courtyard of my hotel. And the next morning, as I drove around the city visiting a few grocery stores (of course I visited grocery stores!), and headed back to the airport, I found myself feeling “chilled out.”

I don’t watch much TV, so I have never seen “Portlandia,” but I am aware that Portland is a mecca of great food places, microbreweries, and lots of amazing wineries. I’ve always heard that Portland is a special place, but I didn’t expect to experience something so special during a 24-hour visit. I noticed a slower pace than L.A. and other cities. Lots of trees and greenery, and many small businesses.

Photo Credit: Flickr/David Wilson

I guess Portland just left me with a happy feeling.

What if every place you traveled to was welcoming and made you feel special…and ultimately happier?

And in the business world, what if the sole purpose of the company you worked for were to make its employees and customers happy? What would have to change? How would you have to change?

My experience in Portland actually reminded me of a recent book I read: “Delivering Happinessby Tony Hsieh of (Read about my recent visit to its headquarters here.) At the end of the book, Tony writes, “Even though this book will serve as a handbook for future Zappos employees…I wanted to write this book for a different reason: to contribute to a happiness movement to help make the world a better place.”

It’s interesting how your attitude and expectations can affect your experience, whether traveling or working.


“My hope is that through his book, established businesses will look to change the way they are doing things, and entrepreneurs will be inspired to start new companies with happiness at the core of their business models…and more and more companies will start to apply some of the findings coming out of the research in the science of happiness field to make their business better and their customers and employees happier.” – Tony Hsieh,



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