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.
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 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.