HAPPY TRAIL; 'Karma Chameleons' Search World to Find the Secret of Contentment: PAIR LIVE AS NUDISTS, MONKS AND MAORIS

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Byline: DONNA WHITE

YOU might not expect a search for happiness to lead you to a medieval abbey in the Highlands.

But that's where Ben Dirs found himself when he and blogger pal Tom Fordyce began their quest to find true contentment.

The pair spent four days living with Benedictine monks at Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin, Moray, while researching their book Karma Chameleons, which focuses on different beliefs which people claim are the route to happiness.

The pair spent a year experiencing a host of different lifestyles - including the delights of selfsufficiency in France and the decadence of the millionaires' paradise that is Dubai.

They also bared all at a nudist camp in the Kent countryside, joined a new-age retreat in Italy and lived with an ancient Maori tribe in New Zealand.

But the monks of Pluscarden made the biggest impression on the pair.

joined a in Italy Ben said: "To see these guys floating around in white habits, singing Gregorian chants was quite magical - but incredibly oppressive at the same time."

Days started at 4.45am with vigils and lauds. There were prayer services throughout the day, meals taken in silence and manual work in the gardens before they retired to bed at 9pm.

Ben, 36, said: "It was a grim experience but interesting to get another viewpoint on happiness, which is completely at odds with most of the rest of the world.

"Being good and virtuous was enough for these guys, many of whom spent 50 years tucked away from the rest of the world."

Essex pair Ben and Tom, 36, became friends after spending seven weeks together in a camper van, covering the 2007 Rugby World Cup for the BBC. …