Eat, Pray, Love saved my life.
Okay, I’m being slightly melodramatic. Maybe reading Liz Gilbert’s travel autobiography didn’t literally save my physical live-and-breathe life-life. But her book saved me, as a person, as a woman, as a traveler.
I am colorful, I am happy, I am strong, and I know these things. In fact, travel brings them out in me. When I bought Eat, Pray, Love for 380 Baht at a used bookstore in Kanchanaburi, however, I did not recognize myself. I felt dull, decidedly unhappy, and fragile. Small.
I was going through some really nasty stuff, in an amazing foreign country full of amazing opportunity, that I just couldn’t see past. I won’t go too far into detail in this post, but it involves an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship that had just “ended” with me fleeing our Chiang Mai hostel room while he was out getting lunch. I got out of Chiang Mai pretty quickly (which is a damn shame, because Chiang Mai is awesome, though I would later return in happier times), first to Bangkok, then on a somewhat desperate, frenzied elephant sanctuary-related whim (elephants are like therapists, right?) to Kanchanaburi.
“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.” -Eat, Pray, Love, by Liz Gilbert
For me, traveling alone is never really traveling alone. I’m obnoxiously extroverted. Hostel common spaces are my favorite new-best-friend
hunting grounds. That week in Kanchanaburi, though, I spoke to almost no one. I woke up, ate my breakfast at the hostel restaurant, avoided eye contact with other travelers, and explored the town. I had no confidence or desire to meet new people; in those lonely moments, I felt I had nothing to offer. I was quiet. I went to the market. I went to the many WWII memorials and cemeteries Kanchanaburi is known for. I watched the train cross the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai many, many times. And I read.
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.”
I sat in a hammock on the river and I read Eat, Pray, Love.
For those of you who have not yet read this glorious, life-changing, ultimate basic bitch travel bible, let me just break it down for you. It’s about a woman in an unsatisfying marriage, who realizes she doesn’t want kids nor any part of the life she’s set herself up for, who basically up and leaves to travel the world. She re-breaks her own heart more than once and generally feels–I’m paraphrasing–like a fuck-up. She doubts herself. She’s sad. She’s lonely. But she learns, and is empowered in the end to be human and love life for what it is.
I know, I know. It sounds like Oprah book club stuff, right?
And I know, another solo female travel blog playing off Eat, Pray, Love?
Damn straight, it is! It was like Liz Gilbert was speaking directly to me. When I was at my lowest, Gilbert’s story about an independent woman inspired by travel gave me hope. It helped me pick myself up by my bootstraps and have an amazing time in Southeast Asia. Sure, no emotional transformation happens overnight, but I can remember so many powerful, poignant, solitary moments in my hammock in the jungle, shedding tears over the pages of that book because of how deeply the words spoke to me. Remembering how much it meant to me, even now, when I feel confident and whole and dandy again, is emotional.
“Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”
Eat, Pray, Love is about Gilbert learning and loving who she is. Well, the book slowly but surely reminded me who I was, too: the loud, happy-go-lucky blonde American who was always up for a hike followed by beer pong, who could make friends with just about anyone, and who is colorful and happy and strong. I will always be grateful for that reminder in that hammock by the river, and my blog title is a little expression of that gratitude. An ode to the wonderful novel and author who saved me. Here I will continue to learn and grow and have my own adventures.
“I think I deserve something beautiful.”