Book Love: I Love Eat, Pray

While I was in Italy, I listened to a few audiobooks, but due to my aforementioned rubbishness, my thoughts never quite made it onto the blog.  After the disaster that was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I tried Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also narrates the audiobook version – a nice touch, I thought.

I had listened to a couple of other audiobooks (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Stephen Fry’s autobiography), and the national treasure that is Stephen Fry had convinced me with his wonderful narration that the audiobook format wasn’t my problem.  I just really didn’t like that book.  So by the time I got to Eat, Pray, Love, my optimism had returned and I had high expectations.

Happily, I wasn’t disappointed.  Or not at first anyway.  For anyone who managed to escape the mass-media publicity when the film came out, the book is a memoir of a 30-something American woman who heads off to travel around the world and get her life (and head) back together after her messy divorce.  It’s in three sections, as Liz travels to Italy, India and Indonesia, corresponding to the Eat, Pray, Love malarky.  Clever stuff.

Now, this was a bit of a strange choice of book for me, given a good third of it (probably more) is dedicated almost entirely to God and spirituality.  I’ve talked about my feelings on religion before when I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but essentially I’m a very convinced atheist, happy to let everyone believe what they want, but curious about why they do.  I have a tendency to find books about people “finding God” and “going on a spiritual journey” frustrating, because I can rarely understand what is motivating them in this, or why they believe what they do.

I did not have this problem at all with Liz Gilbert.  She explained beautifully her view of God and why she felt reassured by feeling close to him.  There is no way I could possibly report her views as eloquently as she writes about them, but I will say that reading this book was one of the times I felt jealous of true, honest, 100% believers.  I was jealous of Liz’s faith, and the calmness and happiness she managed to find in her search for God.  Sometimes I wish I was capable of that kind of belief, but then I accept that my logic simply won’t let me and determine to find my own peace and happiness.  In Liz’s words:

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.

I agree with this woman in so many ways.  Her determination to be confident and at peace really resonated with me.  I also really related to her metaphysical crisis at age 10 – wanting the world to just stop so she could get her head around the concept of time and its passing.  I feel like this so often, especially when I’m happy with my life.  I want to freeze my favourite moments forever, and am almost sad knowing that my happiness will be over soon.

In fact, I related so much to Liz Gilbert’s ideas, and found them so relevant to me and my life (despite being a 21 year old single university student, not a 30-something divorcee journalist), that I’ve re-listened to this book while I’ve been travelling in Central America.  Or some of the book, anyway.

I mentioned that I wasn’t disappointed by Eat, Pray, Love at first.  I adored the first two sections in Italy and India.  Unfortunately, the section in Bali when Liz finally finds love just (dare I say it?) bored me a little.  It wasn’t the greatest slog to get to the end of the book, but on my second time round I cut off after India.  After all, what’s the point wasting time on something you don’t love?

Despite this, I can’t help but recommend this book, and I get the feeling it’s going to be one I keep coming back to when I need a little pick-me-up and someone to put life into perspective.  The tone is not remotely self-pitying and I found it very motivational to keep trying to improve myself.  Well worth the read.

Travel Love: Things I’ve learned about Italy

I’m a languages student in my 3rd year of uni (on a four year course), which means that I’m currently on the dreaded Year Abroad.  It has to be capitalised because, according to my uni department, it’s one of those very Important Life Experiences that you absolutely must make the most of.  Not at all intimidating then.

Because the languages I study are Spanish and Italian, I’m starting off the Year Abroad with 8 months living in Milan, Italy.  I arrived at the end of September, meaning I’m about halfway through.  So, since I love a good list, I thought now might be a good time to share a few observations I’ve made since being here.

  1. Not all of Italy is the beautifully warm and sunny holiday destination we think it is.  In fact, a lot of the weather in the north (where I am) is depressingly similar to the UK.  Though happily without the rain.
  2. Yes, they really do eat that much pasta.  Normally at least once a day.
  3. Same goes for pizza.  Though perhaps not as often.
  4. As a general rule, Italians are terrifying drivers.  From what I can tell, the rule of the road is that whoever is bravest (be they car, moped, bike, bus or pedestrian) gets to pass.  So if you walk purposefully across a pedestrian crossing, you probably won’t die.  But only probably.
  5. The further south you go, the more terrifying the driving is.
  6. Italians (or at least the Milanese) dress better than us.  When I boarded the plane at Manchester Airport in my baggy grey hoodie I felt totally comfortable.  As soon as I stepped off at Milan Bergamo, I felt completely out of place.  And they will never, ever, leave the house in trackie bums.
  7. Italian kids are way more spoiled than British ones.
  8. Everyone thinks they should speak English and are always shocked when they find out I can speak Italian.  I’ve had a pharmacist apologise to me for her lack of English – imagine that happening the other way round in the UK!
  9. It’s impossible to get a word in edgeways in any conversation, you just have to keep speaking over the other person until they stop.
  10. They all think Berlusconi’s insane too.