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My non Review of Eat, Pray, Love and why I started traveling

I also visited Bali but did not fall in love with any hot Brazilians

I also visited Bali but did not fall in love with any hot Brazilians

I finally got around to seeing Eat, Pray, Love the other night. I have not read the book (nor do I plan to) but given that I write a travel blog I’ve had many people ask me what I thought about the movie, so I figured I should see it.

To be honest I’m not a movie reviewer and I’m not sure the world needs another review of this film. As a film, its mediocre. I guess you can watch it on cable or DVD if you want to see what Italy and Bali are like.

As far as Elizabeth Gilbert, I really have no opinion on her trip. As I have stated before, I really don’t care how other people travel. If she wanted to go stuff herself full of food in Italy, follow a guru in India and seduce old, Brazilian guys in Bali….that’s her business.

I don’t understand the mania surrounding the book, but then again I am not the demographic that the book is appealing to. I will leave it to others try to figure out why women find the book so appealing.


Instead of talking about the movie I’d rather talk about something else: the movie theater. I saw Eat, Pray, Love at the Eden Prairie Mall AMC 18. Outside of being a typical suburban megaplex this theater has a special significance to me: this was my theater. This theater is only a few blocks from my old house and is where I’ve seen over 100 movies. While my hometown is in Wisconsin, Eden Prairie is where I lived for almost 10 years before I left to travel.

Home theater

This is the sweet 106 inch front projection home theater I abandoned to travel (photo was taken when I put my home on the market)

Eden Prairie is a very nice community. In fact, Money Magazine recently named it as the #1 place to live in the United States. (A distinction it earned only after I left I should note.) My house was a nice house. I had a 3,000 sq/ft (279 sq/m) house which was overlooking a lake and a nature preserve. I also had a kick ass home theater which was my pride and joy.

I had a great house, in one of the best cities you can live, in the one of the richest countries in the world. Why in the hell would I want to throw that all away to live out of a bag for three and a half years???

One thing I’ve never really talked about on my blog is why began traveling. Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, it wasn’t because of failed relationships. It wasn’t because I had a job I didn’t like. It wasn’t because of a midlife crisis. It wasn’t because I was trying to find myself and have some sort of spiritual epiphany.

To back up a bit, in 1994 I found myself at a very fortunate place and time. The web was still under the radar and I has some friends in the Twin Cities who were early in understanding the power of the internet. I started doing some freelance web design and eventually had enough business to bring a friend on board, who had a friend, who had a friend, etc. By 1998 I had a company of almost 50 people which I sold to a large multinational corporation. At the age of 28, I was financially set for life.

As part of selling my business I convinced the company I sold it to, to send me around the world to meet with their regional offices. In early 1999 went on a three week, whirlwind tour of Taipei, Singapore, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and London. It was my first real experience traveling overseas.

While I was mostly doing work related stuff, it was one of the best times I had ever had. I felt alive. Being out of my element and being in places so foreign to me was exhilarating.


Fast forward five years. I had started a new company, which bombed. (Some horrible decisions on my part). I served as an angel investor for another company (I am a horrible investor). I was completely uninspired to start another company and certainly not in the Twin Cities, where I vowed never to start a business again.

I used to wake up looking out on the lake

I used to wake up looking out on the lake

I decided to go back to school because I always enjoyed science, so I went to pursue a degree in Geology. As much as I enjoyed studying the subject, I realized that I was too old to try and spend years of going through a PhD program, and based on what I saw grad students go through I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I like learning but would hate doing research.

I found myself at a point where I had no wife, no girlfriend, no children, no job, no business, and no desire to continue with school. My friends were all moving on with their lives either leaving the area, getting married or having kids. Most of my time was spent playing World of Warcraft, which is no way to spend a life.

My thoughts kept returning to the trip I took back in 1999. That was the time when I felt most alive. There was no reason I couldn’t do that again. I had no obligations holding me back and I had the money to do it. I could continue learning without having to deal with the culture of academia.

So that is what I did.

It took me about 2 years to tie up all the loose ends, sell the house and put all my stuff in storage.


Returning to Eden Prairie is a very surreal experience. Some things have changed but for the most part everything has remained the same. The chefs at my favorite sushi restaurant still know me and what I always order. There is a new Walgreens and CVS pharmacy, the gas station has changed hands and there are a few new restaurants. Basically, your typical suburban evolution.

It is coming back here that really hammers home what I’ve done and seen over the last three and a half years. Despite the nice, comfortable life I had, I do not regret my decision to travel for a second. I wouldn’t trade all the ratty hostels I’ve stayed to go back to the comfy life I had before.

I began this trip with a set of circumstances that few people, if any, will ever find themselves in personally and financially. I’m well aware that only a small fraction of people could, or would even want to travel around the world like I have for several years.

I don’t know what your story is but it is certainly different than mine or Elizabeth Gilbert’s. It doesn’t matter. If you have the desire to travel, work to make it happen. If you can get inspiration from reading or watching Eat, Pray, Love, then so be it. If it can get some people to take the plunge to go explore the world, then I’d call the movie a success.

  • 25 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Dariana says:

    I love to read stories of why people began traveling. I came across your post, while I looked for some inspiration for a new post for my blog: eatprayloveonabudget.onsugar.com. I found this to be a great story to read. We all have different stories for why we picked up and left the first time. Yes, sometimes the motivating factor is a drastic change in our lives–I guess like you I’m not too concerned as to what gets people to but a ticket, but that people continue to do so. I feel that the book and movie did touch a lot of people (perhaps not me, because like you, I’m not her demographic) but, I heard so many people sound so discouraged after the movie, saying things like: “wow, I really wish I could do…” What seems so easy and straightforward to some of us, is not for so many people, who should definitely pack a bag and go see the world. I guess what I’m trying to do, whether many people read or not, is to share my experiences from why I left and the places I’ve been and for how much. Not sure it’ll make a significant difference, but I do certainly, like others who commented, believe that traveling allows self-reflective opportunities that are rare, while in the comfort of your home. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Robbi Drake says:

    LOL I agree on your view point of the book. I felt it was honestly a lot more feel sorry for me stuff than a really interesting viewpoint, but the travel is interesting on a lot of levels.

  3. Philip says:

    My wife and I read Eat, Pray, Love and thought it was self-indulgent crap. Soon after, we found ourselves staying in the Balinese village where that part of the movie was filmed, just outside Ubud. Don’t ever need to see the movie, but we loved the rich culture of that part of Bali.

  4. Philip says:

    I’ll try that link again:
    Gibraltar

  5. Philip says:

    In reply to Robbi Drake’s comment: Gibraltar is an intriguing place to visit if you are interested in European history. It is a real anachronism, easily visited as a day trip from La Linea, the nearest Spanish town. Your information about the climate is mistaken. The climate is Mediterranean, therefore, hot in summer but certainly nothing like as bad as Arizona. Here is an article I wrote

  6. Robbi Drake says:

    I love traveling too, but I”ve not been outside the United State a great deal. The one place that I’d love to go is Gibraltar, although I’ve heard its a lot to hot in the summer time to even deal with. Frankly, I live in Arizona, where the heat can melt you so I can’t imagine that it’s a great deal worse than that. I found a good site about Gib–coincidentally — http://Gibraltar.com Has anyone here been there and what is the best time of the year to visit that area? Are the monkeys really as wild as you hear or is that a lot of hype?

  7. jacky says:

    your story something diffrent …but it’s really very interesting ..you have a company web design and enjoy the work at travel sight . and you are interested learning science really interesting ……..
    group tour always interacteing me……..

  8. Helen says:

    Wow, a sight of the lake upon waking up is something. I guess I would have to dream again of having this environment. Your blog is awesome, I’m giving it a 10/10 :)

  9. I think maybe you were more like Gilbert than you realize – sounds like you were looking for something, much like her. As for the book Eat, Pray, Love is pretty good though there were a couple things in it I had big problems with. Her earlier book The Last American Man is outstanding and highly recommended to fellow travelers (though it’s not a travel book).

  10. Usi says:

    lol, your are saying that you are not a movie reviewer that is why you did not write a review, but you are writing a travel blog, but there are too many other travel blogs too, so why are you writing a travel blog?

    please if you don’t mind , I need answer to this. (i m just subscribed to this thread because of my answer)

    thanks

  11. Ivy says:

    life is an experience and travlling around the world is one of the best experience.

  12. Great premise, but I think i will save what little braincells I have left from another Julia Roberts spinoff.

    Heard mixed things about the book but I would rather drop some lsd and read an Anthony Bourdain novel.

  13. Your story is inspiring. Sometimes, I wanted to leave it all behind, and travel and work and survive around the world. But then again, we’re just starting to built a family. It’s a twist we’re going to face forward. I believe God has wonderful plans for each and everyone. You’re more than blessed! :)

  14. William says:

    I’ve always been curious about what led up to your decision to sell your house and go traveling. I hope you are able to continue for as long as you want!

    I most enjoy traveling with one other person. Traveling alone can be lonely; having a traveling partner means having someone to share the experience and it can also be very practical. More than one traveling partner just creates hassles. I don’t think I would want to travel in a group larger than three for more than two weeks.

  15. Andi says:

    That’s a pretty sweet home theater, wow!

  16. Jen says:

    You and the commenters sum up the quandry of answering “why do you want to travel?” The answer will always be a personal one. From the EPL book/movie to blogs such as yours, to photo diaries, the attempt to answer the question creates a mirror which at its most basic reflects our needs to validate, to share our experiences.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, I had no idea what you gave up to travel. I’m considering making the major move of giving up the life and job I have now and go travel within a year. It’s scary for me to think of all the implications of doing that, but I find it moving that you’ve done the same thing and are doing better for it.

  18. Stephanie says:

    I really like what you did here. I went to see Eat Pray Love last night and what struck me is that it’s not so much a movie about travel as a movie about analysis and self-discovery. I think a lot of people miss that point and leap right to the “travel will fix you” conclusion.

    The truth is we all have different and complex reasons for being out on the road and there’s definitely no one size fits all answer.

  19. charmine says:

    Well written Gary! Maybe I’ll watch the movie on DVD.Julia was here in India shooting this flim,not too far from where I live. You had a fine home..I understand your need to travel,it’s a wonderful experience.I too love travel,but having a husband in corporate office means I can’t stay too long on the road(In India women tend to put home and loved ones first)But he is very supportive and encourages me to go see the world. I hope to see as many places as I can.You inspire me!

  20. Syliva says:

    How freaky! I live in Buenos Aires (at present) and a friend of mine suggested only yesterday that I read this book. I had never heard of it before and certainly didn’t know that there was a film about it. I’ll have to look it up and let you know what I think!

  21. Greg says:

    My hometown is also a midwest suburb. After months or years of travel, coming back feels like a twilight zone episode. Not because the place has changed, but because I have. After a drastic switch like giving up your place and living out of luggage for an extended period you slowly forget pieces of the old life until suddenly they come rushing back in full detail when you finally come back.

  22. bunsongpayat says:

    There is a different kind of freedom in traveling. You’ll never get enough of it. I think people always want that kind of freedom.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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