I adore Elizabeth Gilbert. I haven’t read all of her books, but two years ago, as a fresh 25-year-old divorcee, I consumed Eat, Pray, Love like a delicious piece of chocolate cake—savoring every last crumb.
Her witty and honest account of heartache and recovery had me enamored, entranced and laughing out loud in public places.
Recently, I discovered that a sort of sequel will soon be released, called Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It—an anthology of journeys inspired by the original book. This got me thinking about my own version of this story.
Two years ago, when I first read Eat, Pray, Love, I was in Hawaii on a reclamation vacation. The previous year, my ex and I had gone there for our first (and unfortunately last) big vacation as a couple. In an effort to overcome my history and exhibit my newfound independence, I returned to the site of our one and only joint vacation to make new memories of my own.
Upon returning home to Canada, I decided it was time to seize every moment of this beautiful life so that I too could find happiness.
People are always saying things like, “if you don’t know what to do, do what makes you happy.” In this spirit, I began to indulge my every whim in an attempt to “figure myself out.” I started working a fun and lucrative bartending job, experienced many fleeting romances, practiced yoga regularly and explored different aspects of spirituality. Then, just to prove I could do anything on my own, I dipped my toes in the vast ocean of travel by backpacking on my own through Nicaragua.
Despite all of my daring acts of independence and growth, I still suffered from a sense of being in limbo. I was happier than I had ever been, yet I felt I was still waiting for my life to begin.
This is when I decided there was nothing left to do but take off to Europe for six months to eat, pray and love. After all, wasn’t my tiny city suffocating me? Didn’t I need to expand my horizons? Surely happiness was waiting for me on another continent and, hopefully, in the arms of a tall, dark and handsome European.
In September 2015, I quit my job, stored away my belongings and bought a one-way ticket out of the country. Since I had traveled solo before—to a third-world, non-English speaking country, no less—I imagined Europe would be a cake walk, involving nothing but romance, adventures and affirmations.
Over the next three months, I ate, I prayed and I loved…and no miracles occurred.
I met some beautiful people, saw some beautiful places and had some beautiful experiences, but in no way did this trip meet my expectations of grandeur. In general, my feelings throughout this time were those of overwhelming loneliness, inadequacy and absolute disappointment.
To make matters worse, I experienced unexpected and somewhat extreme homesickness, which ended up bringing me back to Canada for Christmas. I was overjoyed to spend time with my family and friends in familiar places, but this elation also soon wore off. I hadn’t felt at ease in Europe, but I no longer felt a sense of belonging and ease in my hometown either. The feeling of being directionless and purposeless was deeper and darker than ever.
I had not planned to be back in Canada so soon, and despite my sense of defeat, over three months of desolate winter still remained and sticking this out did not seem like the best option. On the other hand, bouncing from hostel to hostel, making new friends and new homes only to depart and restart every few days was becoming tiring. With this in mind, I repacked my bag with shorts and swimsuits and flew down to Sayulita, Mexico.
I arrived and (luckily) found a house available to rent for a few months. My plans involved reading for hours, writing every day, nourishing my body with delicious food, practicing yoga on my own time, playing guitar and singing my heart. Most importantly, I longed to sit on the beach every day soaking up soul-nourishing rays of sunshine. Here I would be settled and able to create space for the mysterious missing pieces of my life to reveal themselves.
Okay Universe, I’m ready. Anytime now…
As I write this article, I have one month left before I am scheduled to return to Canada. In the past few months I have done everything possible, seized every opportunity, to create what I perceived to be the ultimate life experience. In many ways I feel no different than when I first left. I have had no profound revelations on where my life is leading or even what my next step might be.
I am not in any way demeaning the journey I have taken. Every moment has been essential to where I am at in this moment, and if I hadn’t taken this route, I would have always wondered where it led. I have learned first-hand the things that will not bring us happiness: partnership, money, travel, “freedom”, lack of responsibility, responsibility…I could go on indefinitely.
I am grateful, because through this process of doing exactly what I’ve wanted for the past five months, I have realized how little our happiness relies on circumstance and how much on our own perspective, choices and willingness to be happy.
My next month will be spent practicing gratitude and turning this perspective upside-down. I am choosing to acknowledge the power that is within me to create the world I want to see around me.
So, even though my story hasn’t come to a neat and tidy close, filled with fat pants, inner peace and game-changing partnership, I am happy to say that my choose-your-own-adventure is well on its way. I hope the power to choose rises up in you too.
Author: Stacey Medwid
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Author’s own