By Nana Smith
If I had to pick one woman who inspires me to travel more, then it would be Elizabeth Gilbert, or Liz. Quite a few of you are probably aware of the film Eat, Pray, Love, which is one of my absolute favourites. It is based on her book where she writes about why she decided to travel for a year to Italy, India and Indonesia. Before I go any further, beware there are spoilers here. After her divorce where she nearly loses everything, she realises that she needs to find herself. I actually read the book after watching the film, but both works are hugely inspiring. She learns Italian for four months in Rome whilst reviving herself through food (this is the ‘Eat’ part) and dolce far niente (look up this saying). She meets people whom she becomes close to and who help her along the way to find joy again in simply… living. Rome inspires her, and possibly us too, to not fret too much with our lives, to enjoy what we have and just do what makes us happy and do what we deserve (as Luca Spaghetti can explain in the film).
Rome inspires her … to not fret too much with our lives, to enjoy what we have and just do what makes us happy and do what we deserve
In a complete change of ambience, Liz sets off to India (‘Pray’) to an Ashram where she practises meditation to find spirituality and to revive herself mentally after her hardship through her divorce. She meets one of the most important people in her life, Richard from Texas (his name is the only one that Liz keeps true because he helped set her on the right path to spirituality, leading her to discover what the true meaning of life is). She at first feels completely lost, but as Richard sternly guides her through what she must stick to, that is, to just ‘let things go and see what happens’, she eventually realises through meditation that her bliss was within her this whole time. She dedicates her Guru Gita as a wedding gift to Tulsi, an Indian teenager who gets an arranged marriage. She sees joy in Tulsi’s eyes when she receives such a gift and realises that immaterial gifts are already within you and give the most pleasure; it’s the case of actually realising it and to practise opening it up to yourself and to those whom you love. By the end of India, spirituality brought happiness back to Liz and made her realise that happiness comes not from materialistic things, but from the decisions you make and from yourself.
Spirituality brought happiness back to Liz and made her realise that happiness comes not from materialistic things, but from the decisions you make and from yourself
Once fulfilled by the nourishment of Italy and India, she goes to Bali to find Ketut, an old medicine man she met a few years back when editing for a magazine. He teaches her balance using the meditation she practised in India and meditation that Ketut teaches her. She finds ‘Love’ in different ways: her birthday comes up and she emails all her friends saying how normally she would have a big party and be spoilt with gifts, but instead, she wishes for donations to be given to Wayan and her daughter Tutti so that they could buy a better house. Liz realises that the act of giving someone something that would make a difference to their lives gives her happiness too as well as them. Despite willing to remain independent for at least a while, she falls in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Bali. At first, she thought she would lose her ‘balance’ if she stayed with Felipe, being afraid that she’d end up the way she did with her previous husband. However, Ketut brings her back to this balance explaining that true love, if found, can help her find her balance in life and bring happiness. Bali is the completion of her journey by tying up her appetite for life and the fulfilment of it through spirituality, which results in finding love in her life.
True love, if found, can help her find her balance in life and bring happiness
This is not to say that you have to follow the same path to find yourself, but the idea of travelling alone, giving yourself space from others and discovering different cultures can truly inspire you and open up your eyes. It helped her realise that her life was not the worst it could be: through meeting people along the way, she realised she could do so much more by giving more, loving herself and forgiving herself so that she could live the best life possible. If this small extract does not convince you to even search blogs on solo-travelling, reading Liz’s book or watching the film is a 100% recommendation. When feeling a little lost, her work is something which will always help me remember that anything is possible; it’s just the case of making yourself do it.
Photograph: Perzonseo Webbyra via Flickr Creative Commons and perzonseowebbyra.se