The movie Eat Pray Love has hit the big screens around the world (yet sadly not where I’m currently at in Belgium), however it has caused a flurry of activity in the world of travel writing as people pick apart the adaptation of the book-to-movie, Julia Roberts’ laugh/smile, and the story in general.
When I first started travel blogging in 2006, every other email I received compared me to Elizabeth Gilbert – I was flattered, but also a bit jealous I didn’t have a book deal! With the movie being released, it has brought up all of those questions again. I recently was asked to answer a few questions about EPL and my relation to it for another website, so I decided to share my answers with my readers too since you all seem to be so intent on comparing me to Elizabeth Gilbert!
How often has someone recommended EPL to you?
Quite often. Many women who read my website will often start off with the sentence “You are just like Elizabeth Gilbert”. This always confuses me because I don’t think I’m anything like her – except for the travel part. And the fear of commitment part. And the wanting no kids part. Hmmm…maybe I need to give this more thought.
Have you actually read EPL and what did you think?
Yes, I read the book before it really became a phenomenon in early 2006. A friend who knew I was preparing to take a career break and travel gave me the book as a gift. I didn’t really know a thing about it at the time, but was immediately absorbed into the story. I loved the first part, ‘Eat’, so much I would highlight sections I felt I could relate to or agree with. I was skeptical about ‘Pray’ since I’m not really into yoga or meditation, but it surprisingly won me over. However the book lost me at the ‘Love’ part. I honestly loved the book so much up until that point and then I thought Nooooooo – don’t do this…don’t make this about a relationship and finding a man! It pained me to think the story about a thirty something woman going out and finding herself through cultural travel wasn’t enough; they had to throw the romance in. I have nothing against romance, but I thought it was good enough to stand on it’s own before the ‘Love’ section.
How often has someone compared your travel experience to EPL?
Many times people try to compare it but I’m not thrilled when they do it since my 15 months of travel certainly had no love connections in it. I used to have people tell me before I left that I would meet a husband somewhere exotic in the world. But when you travel solo, I find that it’s hard to meet the opposite sex as you always have to have your guard up, be in control and aware. That’s especially the case if you move around a lot.
I think if you slow down and spend more time in a place like Elizabeth did, then you an start to let down your guard as you become familiar with the area and make friends.
I’ve had many people tell me I should write a book about my travels like Eat Pray Love; this makes me laugh because I know it’s already been done and my story doesn’t have a Hollywood ending which is really appealing to the general public who are always looking for fairy tale endings. However, I think if I did write a book it will be called Eat, Pray, Reality.
What makes your travel experience different from EPL?
First, I didn’t do it to run away from anything, I did it out of a huge sense of curiosity and an overwhelming desire to live every day to the fullest. I thought there must be more to life than my commute and cubicle. Second, I was on the move a lot more covering 23 countries in my career break travels. I also did a variety of cultural exchanges and volunteer work.
Is there any book, movie or traveler that inspired your own journey? If yes, who/what?
My inspiration to travel evolved over a long time and many different small inspirations. It started strangely with the adventure race show called Eco Challenge which in which people would do adventure racing in parts of the globe I had never heard of. Since I was a marathon runner I was intrigued by the athleticism AND the strange, exotic places they raced in. Then I read the book Honeymoon with my Brother and loved the thought of escaping it all. I loved reading about Africa. But most of my inspiration came from my short ‘vacations’ abroad where I would meet Australians or Europeans who were traveling long term. They fascinated me and I realized how narrow minded my culture had made me. I looked up to these grizzled travelers and then it became a challenge to me to see if I could do it. I wanted to really understand the mindset of traveling long term and not worrying about what was to come next. Ultimately it was the mix of curiosity, desire to be different, and the mental/physical challenge that were my inspirations. However, I will admit that I did go to Ubud in Bali thanks to reading EPL – so I guess it did have some influence on my itinerary!
In addition to this interview, I recently did a guest post on how the story of Eat Pray Love teaches you 5 important travel lessons. Please go check out the post and leave some comments on The Indie Travel Podcast – it has sparked some good conversation!
Finally –Eat Pray Love was the inspiration for my co-creation of Meet, Plan, Go! If you are looking for more ‘real life’ travel inspiration, then check out Meet, Plan, Go!