False advertising

I read Eat Pray Love and thoroughly enjoyed it. A year or two later I sat in the movie theater, enthralled, tearing up at appropriate moments and gasping in awe at the “isn’t it just wonderful!” moments. But now, a year or so later plus 9 months into my life abroad, I have some questions.

Why isn’t my short, brown hair long and luscious and just-got-out-of-bed perfect? Why don’t I have clothes that make me look effortlessly graceful and charming? Why are my legs pale? They resemble chicken legs: scrawny from the knee down, muscular and hefty from the knee up. I thought I’d have the perfect tan and my body would be transformed into a bikini-ready work of sculpted art by now. What gives?

Oh, and the biggest insult – where is Javier Bardem? He who strolls with the elegance of a cultured man in his linen pants and aviator sunglasses. He’s, like, six months late, at least. We were supposed to take long walks on the manicured, deserted beach with the sun setting gloriously behind us as we discuss how wonderful life is and laugh like the world is our oyster and we are the pearls.

Eat Pray Love, you lie. You and all these “my life was trivial and then I traveled and now my life is perfect and I’m a better person than all you non-traveling materialistic uncultured imbeciles” travel writers have lied to the masses and romanticized travel. You lie in black ink and then in full-color wonder with Julia Roberts at the helm of an international blockbuster.

I’m so happy for you, Ms Eat Pray Love, that you got to go to Italy and stuff your face full of cheese and pasta and learn your cute little Italian phrases. And isn’t it just remarkable that you were able to go to India and have a cute little spiritual awakening. Top it off with a cute little extended vacation in Bali, which seems nice, where you meet Mr Perfect, who happens to be loaded. Isn’t life perfect. So cute. Release the doves and listen for the angels singing. Halleluiah!

Eat Pray Love is a lie. Traveling abroad for a year, unless you are rich or blessed with some incredible job, is not all sunshine and happiness.

Being abroad is about finding yourself, yes, and it’s about making the world a better place. But just because I moved from Austin, Texas, to Hsinchu, Taiwan, doesn’t mean my problems and worries and responsibilities stayed in Texas. Nope. They packed themselves in my suitcase and sit on my chest every night, weighing me down. Along with my old concerns come new ones that stem from being so far away from the people I love. Here I’ve been so concerned about the tornado activity in the States that I failed to realize the piddly little typhoon that was heading this way is, in fact, Super Typhoon Songda, currently a category 5 typhoon. Oops. Time for some rain!

When you live abroad for any length of time, you have good days and bad days, just like you would back in your home country. You’ve still got your self-confidence issues and your financial worries and your What’s the Meaning of Life? questions. You have fat days and slob days and manic days and depressive days.

Living abroad isn’t an extended vacation. It’s life in another country. Taxes, traffic tickets, reprimands from your boss, laundry, dirty dishes, upset stomachs, pimples, colds, stepping in dog poop. It happens in Texas; it happens in Taiwan.

Eat Pray Love is a lie, but life abroad can be good. Mine is good. I’m glad I’m here. The pollution is rotten and I haven’t strolled hand-in-hand on the beach with the man I love, but there’s still time. Just to clarify, though, he won’t be wearing linen pants, and we won’t laugh all hoity-toity about how perfect life is. That’s not me, and that’s not my life.


  1. But look how wise your experiences are making you! Much as I love travel, I know you are spot on. We pack ourselves into those suitcases. Sigh.

    1. There’s something I never knew existed in living abroad called “burnout”. It’s been a hot topic for Denise and I for a month now. It’s when you’d like to return home, but can’t, for whatever reason. I think I need to write about it, because it seems to affect a lot of expats.

  2. no matter what happens, you always have to deal with your own head. Sure, traveling can expose you to a different way of life, a new environment and give you perspective, but it’s not the cure-all wonder drug made popular by advertisements with corset wearing house-wives from the 1950s. They sure look beautiful and her smile and waistline make me want to buy those Camel cigarettes that “more doctors smoke than any other brand” but all of reality and your experiences are filtered through that wonderful pink mush we call “brain”.

    I think this quote from the “tao te ching” (one of my favorite books of all time) is quite appropriate:
    “Another Taoist poem, written by the philosopher Lao-Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching, reads: “The further you travel, the less you know. This is why the Sage knows without budging, Identifies without looking, Does without trying” (#47). One does not gain knowledge by actively looking for it. Action leads one in the wrong direction, away from the Tao, enlightenment. Those who do not pursue any goal but let themselves be guided will find the Tao. If inaction leads to the Tao, which is wisdom, Chance is therefore wise. He lives inactively, especially in the pursuit of worldly knowledge, choosing not to travel on that path. ” http://www.bgsu.edu/cconline/essid/paper2.html

    While it may not actually seem appropriate, the irony lies in the fact that Lao Tzu was begged to write this by a guard at the gates of the empire before he took off, never to be seen again.

      1. pish posh-i had just started re-reading the Dao De Jing and then read your blog on the same day…
        go get a copy!

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