The other day I decided to re-watch the movie “Eat, Pray, Love,” with Julia Roberts. You remember the one: girl ends marriage with hot guy; girl dates hot, younger guy that ends with girl leaving for Europe; girl finds pasta in Italy, spirituality in India and then finds hot, older guy in Bali. And according to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the memoir the film is based on, all of it is true. While the film is a bit long and drawn out at times (mostly in the beginning), much of it holds inspirational value, which can be helpful to anyone who’s about to head off on an adventure of some sort to another part of the world. And just so we’re straight, I loved both the book and movie! However, the real purpose of my post is to tell you what came before I picked the film out of my stack of movies about women and travel.
I had spent the day cleaning house, and not in the metaphorical way (although I did relieve my space of some needless baggage). I was physically exhausted, but too wired to sleep, and I wanted to end my day on a high note. After a comforting, hour-long Jacuzzi soak, I decided to find further inspiration for my Paris trip ahead, hence “Eat, Pray, Love.” Until 3 o’clock in the morning, I studied the film, paying attention to its message and underlying context.
Then, right before my eyes, a curious thing happened, not only did I recognize that my life is nothing like Ms. Gilbert’s — or Ms. Roberts’ for that matter — but that her traveling experience was also quite unlike the one I’ll be taking in March. Come to think of it, it also reminded me that I’m the lesser paid, lesser discovered and lesser married of the three of us. Anyhoo, the one thing Ms. Gilbert had at the time that I don’t (aside from two published novels) was the money to take the kind of trip she wanted. After all, she did receive a book advance so she could take that yearlong journey. And, good for her, I’d do it in a heartbeat if I could (perhaps, someday).
As for this trip, I’ll scrape by on whatever money I’ve saved up from my earlier writing gigs, which is not a lot I can assure you. I’ll fly on the mileage I earned over the last five years, stay with my cousin Dan who lives in Paris (thank goodness), and probably eat nothing but ham and cheese baguettes for the two weeks I’ll be in the City of Light (mostly because they’re so filling that I can cut costs by halving them to cover lunch anddinner). Not quite the same pleasurable eating experience as Gilbert’s.
The truth is I already experienced that gluttonous tour of Italy, albeit in a less-lengthy timeframe, though it was still well worth it. My sister and I, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, were traveling together on our first trip throughout Europe, and we divided our time in Italy between Rome and Venice, for the most part. We also lived in and traveled throughout Spain, and visited Norway, Ireland, England and France. In hindsight, it’s because of that experiential journey that I can now travel back to Paris with a mind for writing.
You see, my goal for traveling to Europe this time is to finally complete my first novel. Over the last two years, my fictional story of one woman’s self-discovery abroad has grown from a mere idea to a work-in-progress. Don’t get it confused; this is not a tale likened to Gilbert’s story, nor is it my story in the guise of fiction. There are plenty of differences, but I won’t go into the details here.
To prepare for my writing expedition, I’ve conducted online research, read dozens of books by authors I admire, taken writing classes, participated in writer’s groups, racked up mileage for my flight and studied French. I’ve plotted the story, nurtured its characters, envisioned the scenes, written thousands of words, thrown them away and written thousands more, and I have concerned myself so often with the novel’s first five pages that I’ve been sure they were the worst of all. This, my new friends, is the oft times schizophrenic mind and therapeutic workings of a writer.
Through it all, however, I have finally arrived at a place of peacefulness, like sitting in a boat on still waters after a storm. My mind has been inspired, my indulgences satiated, my center reached, my heart moved and now I am ready to do what must be done.
Thus, while my financial (and eating) situation may not be the same as Gilbert’s (this time around), I am now able to understand the writer’s journey she must’ve taken to get to the completion of “Eat, Pray, Love.” In the book, Gilbert writes:
“I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve.”
This is something I’ve also come to realize. Perhaps it’s my age, and the wisdom that has come with it. Or, maybe it’s that I have traveled the world, seen it for what it is and who I am through it. Or, it could be that I’ve simply settled in to a calm, stable pocket of time in preparation for yet another of life’s transitions.
Regardless, I am happy to be where I am and for the upcoming adventures that lie ahead.