Friday, October 8, 2010

Rethinking Eat, Pray, Love




Why have Americans fallen in love with this story? and why are we on another DaVinci Code style tourism trip?

I first heard about this phenomenon on Oprah and thought who are these stupid ladies flying all the way to Bali to meet some medicine man?! I truly think the appeal of the story is that it is easily written for us to empathize with the author in her self-discovery and mildly amusing adventures. But then... Then I started looking into reviews of the recently released movie, mentioning the latest Western neo-colonialist fad: traveling abroad to find ourselves- and began to think about why we travel.

Why do we spend a lot of hard earned cash to uncomfortably sit squished, get knocked into and smell our odorous neighbors in a process to get to some place where we have no familial connection? why do we have this urge to see new places? what is the reward?

Obviously, for anyone that has met a Checklist Traveler (the ones that carry around a checklist of places to see, preferably recommended by Rick Steves- no offense Rick, and spend appx. 24 hours per city), bragging rights would probably top the list. I was there, therefore I am... insert adjective (educated/enlightened/worldly/cool/down to earth etc). This is implied of course, but it does make me wonder if going to see the Duomo for half an hour in one's life is a necessary step for some people, like going to the Superbowl is for others?

Then there is the Lost Tribe. You know you've met them: they live six months in one place, 5 in another, and go back "home" for a month to appease their family. They are the ones that made some money and don't need or want to work; or the ones that didn't and prefer to live simply and cheaply; or they haven't set roots anywhere so they can work at odd jobs along the way to continue their journey. In some ways these folks are awesome, for others I feel some pity. I always wonder- what has made them stay in their twenties (arguably the peak of self-exploration for most people) for decades on end?

And then there are the rest of us...somewhere in the middle: a combination of escapist curiosity. People that "vacation" generally prefer to "get-away" in some way, shape or form. Arguably, leaving your hometown/area/country is the easiest way to forget your daily worries. Out of sight, out of mind.
For those that have a healthy curiosity- travel provides the ultimate options for exploration: culture, history, natural beauty etc.

So what about these ladies? I say it's a mid-life crisis. An excuse to get away, a way to live the life of a character in a book even if just for a few days. Perhaps they would be better served going to the movie theater. To see Eat Pray Love.

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