Eat, Pray, Love – and Leave

by rosedeniz

What does leaving home to ‘find oneself’ mean if you don’t go back home? 

I was captivated reading Eat, Pray, Love. I’m eager to see the movie starring Julia Roberts if and when it comes to Turkey because I love a good story of transformation. It’s akin to the feeling I get when reading coming of age novels – a sense of cheering for the neophyte when life lessons are learned and the world feels a little bit bigger and better. 

The book Everything is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert came to my attention after reading her essay in the Wall Street Journal on her memoir of her time in Europe. The fact she references and criticizes Eat, Pray, Love makes me think it’ll be the not-so-feel-good version of EPL. There is another similarity between the books, though, beyond two women setting off on an adventure of self-discovery abroad.  

Both writers eventually go back home.  

Rachel Shukert’s website describes the book as being about “reality-adjusting culture shock that every twentysomething faces when sent off to negotiate “the real world”—whatever that may be.” Culture shock. Sending off to negotiate the real world. Those are familiar concepts to me. But rather than “whatever that may be” what about “wherever” that may be? It could be an internal shift, a change in how one looks at the world that is untethered to location 

Do stories of self-finding and transformation only resonate with us if the protagonist goes back home?  

What if Elizabeth Gilbert had decided to stay in Bali indefinitely, no traipsing back and forth to the US except for holidays? Would we have loved her story as much? Would the transformation ring as true? Why can’t I shake the notion that leaving the places you “discovered” yourself in is akin to shaking off a too-needy lover? Get what you want and then leave? The flip side of that question would be why would you stay if the feeling is gone? I admit it leaves me wondering.  

I explore transformation in my post 5 Years in Turkey and 5 Insights. Anastasia Ashman talks about creatives surviving and thriving abroad. Catherine Yigit in Mercury Brief explores being an expat mother in a legendary historical town without an expat community. Tara Lutman Agacayak lists the ten (more) things she learned living in Turkey. There are turning points and transformation stories that have nothing to do with crossing the finish line of returning home.  

What’s yours?

Thanks to My Dog Ate My Blog, this post at Love, Rose was mentioned in a discussion on the perpetual pursuit of happiness

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