The dream of many travelers: to spend a year traversing the world searching for the meaning of life. Elizabeth Gilbert takes on that challenge in her well-known travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Following a difficult divorce and the traumatic end of another romantic relationship, Gilbert decides that it’s time to search for something more and she takes her search around the world, but she’s looking for more than just adventure, she’s looking for herself:
“It wasn’t so much that I wanted to thoroughly explore the countries themselves; this has been done. It was more that I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that was has traditionally done that one thing very well. I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India, and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”
And so she sets off on her search, taking readers with her on a personal journey as Gilbert rediscovers herself in the best ways she knows: pasta and pleasure, meditation and personal inquiry, and pure joy and contentment.
Gilbert deftly weaves the history and culture of each destination with the fascinating people she meets into the story of her personal journey—her fascination with the beauty of the Italian language is combined with witty (but pretty accurate) descriptions of Italian men, soccer, and, of course pizza and gelato. She searches for her connection to a higher power while confronted with the poverty of India and forming friendships with young Indians and other inspiring yogis from all over the world. In Indonesia, Gilbert’s relationships with an old medicine man, a holistic healer and her daughter, and the expatriate population bring the Island population and culture to light against a long history and ideal paradise.
Some readers criticize the book for being self-indulgent and self-pitying; if you’re looking for a travel story that examines the world and all its issues or one that takes you on a light-hearted journey through three countries, you won’t find it here. But, if you’re looking for a well-written personal journey that details one woman’s search for herself (it is a memoir, after all), Eat, Pray, Love sets that journey against the backdrop of three interesting countries, providing insights into the history, culture, and personalities of each destination.
To me, Gilbert not only inspires us all to journey within ourselves, but she also inspires exploring the world:
“Just for a few months of one’s life, is it so awful to travel through time with no greater ambition than to find the next lovely meal? Or to learn how to speak a language for no higher purpose than that it pleases your ear to hear it? Or to nap in a garden, in a patch of sunlight, in the middle of the day, right next to your favorite fountain? And then to do it again the next day?”
So why not travel the way she does or at least through her eyes?
Title: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year Published: 2007
ISBN number: 0143038419, 978-0143038412
Formats available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Nook, Audio