FAQ: Are you writing the family version of “Eat, Pray,Love” on your Round the World Trip?

People keep asking.

I understand the reasoning behind the question.  I am a writer and I’m taking a long trip. Surely I must be running from/trying to find something.

But the truth is less glamorous. And while I’m certain that the  journey we are about to set out on will feel as epic to us as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat,Pray, Love did to a nation and that there will be epiphanies (personal and professional), whether I’ll come to the conclusion that they need to be in book form is iffy.

EPL book

The book

And so I usually answer with, “I don’t know yet.”

That usually leads to a discussion of Eat, Pray, Love.  When I admit that I have a “love – less love” relationship with the book, brows get raised even higher.

It wasn’t the words – she’s a brilliant writer and if you get the chance to read some of her essays you shouldn’t miss it.

No, my issue with Eat,Pray,Love was expertly articulated  in this weekend’s NY Times Sunday Magazine by Sam Anderson. And I quote:

For me, the most profound moment in “Eat, Pray, Love” comes early on, when Gilbert reveals that her year of healing and self-discovery was, in an important sense, manufactured. “I can actually afford to do all this,” she writes, “because of a staggering personal miracle: in advance, my publisher has purchased the book I shall write about my travels.” (The word “miracle” is particularly sneaky here: vaguely spiritual jazz hands waving away complex issues of class and authenticity.) Gilbert paid for the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love,” in other words, with the book advance she got for proposing to have the year described in “Eat, Pray, Love.”

 

The author nails the discomfort I’ve had with the book from the beginning. And it’s why my answer to the question of whether our family trip is “book worthy” has to go unanswered for now. The truth is “We don’t know” and I like it that way.

I don’t want this year to be predetermined. I don’t want to script out for editorial consideration the emotional issues I’ll face and the life-changing moments I’ll have,  before I’ve even left home. What spontaneity would be left? What would be the point of having a round the world adventure if we knew what needed to happen to match my promised plot lines every step of the way?

The author goes on to say:

This doesn’t necessarily invalidate Gilbert’s magical year of healing, but it certainly complicates it in a way the book doesn’t acknowledge. When Gilbert howls to the universe about her solitude, for instance — “I am alone, I am all alone, I am completely alone” — it’s a paradox: she’s self-consciously performing that aloneness for hundreds of thousands of readers.

Exactly right.

And so, yes maybe when we return from this year there will be a story to tell that is worthy of a few hundred pages and the time necessary to reflect and write them.

But I’m not going into this trip with that as an end goal.

I’m going into this trip with an open heart and mind, a promise to detail our adventures and emotions as best I can and with three of the people who mean the most to me on this planet.

For me that is more than enough.

Did you read Eat, Pray, Love? Did the fact that she had the book deal first bother you?

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{ 18 comments… add one }

Mom2twoboys May 17, 2011, 12:39 PM

 I’ve never read the book and have never been interested in reading it.  You will find story-worthy episodes.  Book-length?  Maybe in essays.  Who knows.  When I travel, I always keep a journal, at least.  I guess your blog will serve the same purpose.

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 17, 2011, 8:42 PM

I’ll write the blog and I’ll journal and I’m encouraging (forcing?) all three of my travel partners to do the same. It’s the “Who knows” that I’m hanging on to. Let the chips fall where they may, you know?

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Lori Miller Pike May 17, 2011, 3:55 PM

 ABSOLUTELY it bothered me.  Made the entire trip that was supposed to appear whimsical and free-spirited, contrived.  I did like the book (hated the movie) b/c it still managed to unleash some of my own thinking.

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Heather May 17, 2011, 4:41 PM

Thanks Lori! So glad it isn’t just me!

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 17, 2011, 11:18 PM

Agree. I still haven’t read India in the book. Might force myself to do so before we go to India just to see.

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Maria May 17, 2011, 11:09 PM

I read it and I loved it. She shared from the heart.  I feel you would love and respect the writings and writer more if you identified with the crisis she was having in her personal life journey. I could certainly relate and found comfort in her experience.

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 17, 2011, 11:23 PM

The book club I discussed it with agreed that what you got out of it depended on your life experiences. I have nothing against that. It’s the fact that her she would’ve had to describe what her emotions/experiences would be before she started and my suspicion that those then formed the story she lived out. Interesting discussion either way.

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Tasha Gibbs May 17, 2011, 11:16 PM

 I actually went to see her this past April when she was here lecturing. She actually said that she had had a book deal, but her normal writing genre was very male oriented so this was not the book that she was supposed to have written. It just so happened that those events happened to her and voila the book that literally changed the trajectory of my life. Truth or circumstance, we will never know. 

Thanks for the shout out Heather!! I am actually planning a trip to Italy for September, with Duane. So not so much an Eat, Pray, Love journey but a journey nonetheless.

If you have any travel tips and have time before you leave on you ginourmous adventure, pass them along.

Again, all the best, and there is a dinner/lunch/coffee waiting to hear all the stories when you get back!!

Did you know that restaurant Tru closed down??!! That was a great time..

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T Miedema May 18, 2011, 2:09 PM

 I haven’t read the book.  I often struggle with books that have received a lot of hype and media coverage.  There are too many expectations.  But maybe I will have some time this summer to pick it up and see what everyone is talking about.  In the meantime, I can recommend a great book (The Tiger) about a tiger that stalks a Russian town…oh wait, are you going to Russia?  Maybe you should wait until AFTER your trip to read The Tiger.  The book is pretty scary…heh heh…

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 18, 2011, 4:04 PM

Ha! Good tip re: The Tiger. I’ll add it to the list.
Luckily I read it before the hype went crazy but I still felt the effects of it. It’s an interesting, introspective read though. And everyone who has read it seems to find something in it they can relate to.

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Auntietonya May 18, 2011, 4:41 PM

I loved the book and I came into with bias. I was like oh, here we go another privileged white woman’s story of woe about how all the privilege is too much…but honestly….once I got into it, i was past all that. it’s  an universal story about self-acceptance, going against the expected norms and living your life based on your own internal values. it’s also a love story about how loving yourself and finding happiness within is so valuable if you want to find love with another. i guess it would depend your life experience but i found it quite affecting and i loved the movie, too.  

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 19, 2011, 12:11 AM

There was much about the book that I liked (in Italy and Bali). I am curious about whether if I were to revisit it the parts I related to would change. And I agree that clearly it resonated with a whole lot of people and that has to mean the story had some universality. The woman is very talented. (Appreciate the comments.)

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Anne Patrone May 20, 2011, 3:02 PM

 Yes, I read the book and yes, I put it down once, then twice, until finally I finished it.  It bothered me immensely that she already had an advance for the book and frankly all her choices felt contrived – Italy, India, and Indonesia – all “I” countries.  Blech!  

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Heather May 20, 2011, 12:03 PM

Oy! I hadn’t even thought of the “I” factor. So hope that wasn’t how she picked them :S

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 22, 2011, 2:58 PM

Oy! I hadn’t even thought of the “I” factor. So hope that wasn’t how she picked them :S

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Heather Greenwood Davis May 22, 2011, 2:58 PM

Oy! I hadn’t even thought of the “I” factor. So hope that wasn’t how she picked them :S

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CamelsAndChocolate June 11, 2011, 7:54 PM

Ha, I’ve said this same thing about EPL from the year it came out! Gilbert was actually my professor in 2004 right after she had come back from doing her trip, and while I love her writing, the whole book was a poorly-written sham (a sham that made her millions, though).

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Heather June 12, 2011, 9:23 AM

Wow. Would’ve been interesting to have her as a teacher though. And yes, there are the millions to consider…;)

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