Travel Writing: Journal #4

The way in which a person travels truly sets the stage for what kind of experience they will have on their journey. Regardless of the weather or accommodations, if one travels well they will have an amazing experience. One example of what I believe to be “travelling well” is that of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. Before I began the book, I anticipated a conglomerate of clichés and banal anecdotes thrown together for an audience of restless housewives. I was surprised and impressed to find that such was not the case. Gilbert’s story is one of self-discovery that just happens to take place within the backdrop of three different countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. While staying in Rome, her tongue is her guide. She pursues the Italian language, which she deems most beautiful, and any and every epicurean delight to be found throughout Italy. In this way Gilbert adapts the travel style of a wanderer. Even when she has a specific destination in mind she follows her instinct – and stomach – rather than a tour book. She embarked on that journey in pursuit of pleasure and as an escape from the devastating aftermath of her recent divorce. In order to experience pleasure, Gilbert decided to center the trip on what she wanted to do and not what was expected of a trip to Rome. She wrote, “There are so many manifestations of pleasure in Italy, and I didn’t have time to sample them all. You have to kind of declare a pleasure major here, or you’ll get overwhelmed. …I found that all I really wanted was to eat beautiful food and to speak as much beautiful Italian as possible. That was it,” (63). Her trip was spontaneous and rewarding because she did exactly as she wanted to. Along the way, Gilbert reclaimed some of her former happiness and rediscovered herself as well. That, I think, is the epitome of travel: to visit a place with a loose itinerary and to let instinct be a guide. During my time in Rome and Paris, I have had my best experiences when I have wandered the cities and visited places simply because I liked the way they looked.

I think that the form of travel that best embodies this mentality is a road trip. I view road trips as a chance for friends to bond and to see places and cities that they may have otherwise skipped over when travelling through a country or state. In a favorite book of mine, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, the protagonist and his best friend take a road trip through the United States shortly after he was dumped by his girlfriend. The trip ends up taking a stop in a random small town in Tennessee, where a bulk of the story takes place. It is the idea of a road trip, though, that inspires me to take one someday with my best friends. The thought of riding in a car, being with them, and experiencing life while on that sacred stretch of highway is something that appeals to the very American side of me. In the novel, Green writes, “One of those moments he knew he’d remember and look back on, one of those moments that he’d try to capture in the stories he told. Nothing was happening, really, but the moment was thick with mattering.” These are the kind of moments that I love to experience with my friends, and I believe that a road trip would grant us those. This type of travel is also very spontaneous, which gives the best opportunities for making memories. An overly structured itinerary can suffocate one’s experience, so I hope to follow the examples of Gilbert and Green in order to have the ultimate travelling experience.