Have you ever heard of Eat, Pray, Love?
Now I clearly missed the bandwagon in 2006 and then again in 2010 when the film came out. It wasn’t even as if I was dragged along by it, and I got to jump on eventually, but rather that I just straight up overslept and missed my flight kind of missed it…
So Eat, Pray Love is a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman in her thirties, who is basically going through an early midlife crisis. As a result of the monumental shit-storm that hit this woman in the three years before she embarks on this journey of self-discovery; Elizabeth Gilbert decides to up stakes and spend a year living in three different countries abroad. 4 months in Italy (Eat), 4 months in India (Pray) and finally 4 months in Bali (Love). The book is divided into 37 short chapters per section, documenting her time in each respective country.
Italy. Italia. Bellissima. Va Bene. Attraversiamo (read the book to understand the importance of this word). All right, so this is about the extent of my Italian language skills. This and ‘vaffanculo’, (it’s a naughty word, don’t use it). Elizabeth Gilbert effectively spends her time in Italy enrolled in a language school to learn Italian and eating. This woman literally lived my dream life. If someone could give me money to eat food and learn a language, I’d honestly die a very happy woman. I mean, I am all for healthy eating and I love my fitness – as you all know -, but I’d happily spend days of my life demolishing bowls of pasta, slices of pizza, gnocchi, gelato, cannelloni… ahhhh…you catch my drift.
I digress. The first part of this book most definitely reflected her need to leave. It looked back at her depression, her confinement and her difficult divorce, and highlighted why her desire to escape reality was so strong and so pivotal to her well-being.
I’ve been to Italy three times, to various different parts. Her descriptions were vivid, and reminded me of just how incredible I found Italy to be, and I don’t just mean the food. I always thought the people were lovely, and I really loved how important and central family are to the Mediterranean way of life. I think this explains why I loved living in Spain so much, and why Greece holds such an important place in my heart too.
My heritage, my people, and sadly, my least favourite part of the book. This middle section focused on Elizabeth Gilbert’s time in an Ashram. She spent her time practicing yoga, meditation and reaching a new level of enlightenment.
I am a spiritual person. While my beliefs in many ways reflect those found in Hinduism and even Buddhism, yet I am not someone to class myself as religious. Much Like Elizabeth Gilbert. I believe that everything happens for a reason, that our paths were drawn out for us, that we were destined to meet the people we meet, to touch their souls, and to have them affect ours in return. I believe in reincarnation and soul mates, and that we can liaise with god, a higher power (or whatever you prefer to call it), if we simply empty our minds and focus on the things we desire, and by desire I don’t mean the physical. (Okay, so I really am living the wrong life. I should bestow upon myself a pair of Aladdin pants, burn some incense and find myself on a flight to Indonesia to live out the rest of my days practicing and teaching yoga to expats and travellers – Tad extreme, but hey, who dares to dream…).
While I enjoyed understanding her views and her path to enlightenment, I missed the aspect of travel. I wanted to see the country vicariously through her, not just life in an Ashram. However, perhaps this was because I have an unfailing desire to travel and experience India myself, and so it didn’t fill the whole that I quite expected it to. What I did enjoy, was the relationships she made during her time in the Ashram. Namely with Richard from Texas. No it was not a sexual relationship, but rather one of a friend who helped her with the clarity she oh, so frequently longed for.
Oh, Bali. Bali, Bali, Bali. Now naturally this was my favourite part of the book. I’ve not long since been back from Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok, and I fell in love with this part of the world for a multitude of reasons, not least because of the food and the sunshine.
The real reason that I loved this final part was the part because she fell in love. Love finds her. She didn’t search for it, in fact she spent the year abstaining from any form of a personal, sexual relationship, because she needed to find out who she really was – alone. The best part, they fell in love with each other’s minds. I mean of course they found each other attractive, but the time spent together really cemented how they felt about one another… then came the physical… I also loved her time spent with the Medicine man. His stories, his eccentricity, and his vivacious outlook on life, made the book all the more pleasurable to read.
There is no denying that the entire premise of this book, her life and her memoirs all centres around self-discovery, self-appreciation and arguably most importantly of all, self-acceptance. What I obtained from the book, is much like all of our lives, and just the way in which society is, we are constantly under scrutiny about the decisions we make in life. We must be educated to degree level, we must be married before we are 30, we must be fitter, thinner, prettier, with blemish-free skin, a tiny waist and a thoroughly defined ass. Okay, so I may have gone off track for a second, but you get my point. Elizabeth Gilbert gets to a point in her early thirties where she looks at her life, and absolutely hates it. Hates how it’s panned out and ultimately hates herself for the influences that have in part played a role in getting her to that point in her life. She also had no real confidence (and this is openly admitted by her in the book) in who she was as a person. She had always had someone there. So, she escapes. While this isn’t realistic for all of us to do, I think it’s worth highlighting the main point she made is that to be satisfied in life, you need to understand who you are, and how you work.
You meet people completely different to you in life. This is good. This is healthy. Whether you agree with everything they say or not, take it on board, and try to understand their perspectives. It’s amazing what you can learn when you simply open your mind.
I recommend this book. At the very least just to admire the places she visits and the food she eats! It’s worth a read, and far, far better than the film! You can pick up a copy at Waterstones here.