This week the world of career breaks and extended travel hit the big screen; in the form of Eat Pray Love. Last winter we had George Clooney living the life of an expert business traveler in Up in the Air, and now Julia Roberts is taking on extended international travel; what a boost for the travel industry! If Hollywood has embraced it – then so will the rest of the world … right?

Eat Pray Love is the runaway best seller about how one woman ‘found’ herself by going to other parts of the globe. Most people think it is a ‘chick flick’ about relationships and broken hearts. However, I choose to look past all of the sappy stuff and see it as a book/movie about travel; specifically career break travel.

Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts in the movie) is a thirty-something who left her regular life and magazine writing job in America to do extended travel for a year. Sounds like a career break to me! Granted, she did already have the book deal lined up before she left the US, so in some ways this was a working trip. However, she gained much insight into her life and career while breaking away from her normal work life in the US for an extended period. She immersed herself into cultures and really tried to learn from them going far beyond the ‘normal’ tourist trail.

To prove to you that it’s not just a love story, here are five career-break travel lessons you can learn from the story of Eat Pray Love:

Travel slow

Elizabeth Gilbert did not pack her year of travel dashing from country to country racking up her ‘countries-visited count’. Instead she chose slow travel, immersion with locals and cultures. By visiting only three countries and really living in them among the locals, she was able to experience them in a much more meaningful way.

Enjoy the local food

Don’t be afraid to really jump into a culture and its food! In Italy, Elizabeth made a point to not care about what she ate, but instead to try everything put in front of her. By immersing herself in the cultures of India and Indonesia, she was also naturally expected to eat what the locals were eating.

Choose an itinerary with personal meaning

Elizabeth chose her itinerary very carefully – based on things she had always wanted to try, but never really given herself the permission to do in her ‘everyday’ life. Whether that is eating your way through Italy, learning a language, or trying on meditation – the important thing is that this is your time to explore. If you’ve always wanted to try something – this is the perfect time to dip a toe into a new hobby (or career) – while in another country.

Build your abilities as part of your travels

Elizabeth approached her travels in such a way as to learn and further herself both tactically and emotionally. In Italy she took language lessons. In India she practiced meditation, and in Bali she originally went to help a medicine man learn English as she learned from him how to balance devotion and pleasure for a less stressful life.

You don’t always need a plan

When Elizabeth showed up in Bali she had no plan and had done no research. She hadn’t planned her accommodation; not even her visa. However, like everything in travel – it works out. By leaving herself open to possibilities, Indonesia was one of the most rewarding places she traveled to and set changes into motion in her life beyond her expectations.

One sixth thing I have to add to this list of travel lessons:

Career break travel doesn’t ruin your career, but instead it can enhance it.

Elizabeth Gilbert became a best selling author AFTER she traveled for a year. Her career successes were based on her travels. She didn’t ruin her writing career, she improved it by seeing the world and doing extended travel!

Why can’t you?

Whether you love or hate the movie, you can still take these great travel lessons away and put them to use as you plan your next big trip!

Your thoughts on "Five travel lessons from Eat Pray Love"

  • It would be nice if more and more people in the US started embracing the career break. If this movie is the thing to open people's eyes, then so be it. I know our career break was the best thing that has happened to both of us, and we are both pining at the chance to do it again, even though we've only been back for 10 months. It's amazing what you're able to learn about yourself, your relationship (if you're traveling with a spouse/partner/family member/friend), and people in general when traveling to foreign places and getting out of your comfort zone. I can't recommend the idea of a career break enough, and while I wasn't a huge fan of her book, I am a huge fan of the idea and the promotion it is giving to the career break. So many people have no idea that this type of trip and travel is possible, even for the everyday Joe like me. I know when my wife first suggested a RTW trip, I scoffed at her and dismissed her, even though I love travel. I just didn't think it's possible. Whatever it takes to open this country's eyes to the importance of travel is all right with me. With books and movies like this, the "Meet, Plan, Go" meetings I've been reading so much about lately, coupled with the loss of 401k's and the housing crisis, I like to think that we're on our way to change. Great article!!

    on August 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm Reply
  • Great to hear your support, Adam. We're really excited about Meet, Plan, Go in the States and Canada. In fact, Sherry - the author - is one of the women behind it!

    on August 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm Reply
  • You know, I thought I recognized her name as someone behind it. The Meet, Plan, Go stuff looks really cool, and I would love to somehow get involved. It's not going on in my city (St. Louis), but if there's any future plans of expansion to other cities, I'm very interested in helping out, spreading the word, hosting, or doing anything at all to help. Long term travel and career breaks are obviously something I am very passionate about, so doing anything to help would be great.

    on August 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm Reply
  • Hey Adam - thanks for your great comments! Sorry we aren't in St. Louis - but I'll definitely keep you on our list for a contact in the St. Louis area. We hope to continue these events next year and take them to new cities. Thanks for being a career break advocate. Have you seen my other site - Briefcase to Backpack - it's all about career breaks. Maybe a guest post for you some day?! :)

    on August 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm Reply
  • I liked this post. Most people have been writing posts about the negative aspects of the movie--I'm glad you chose to focus on the positive. :)

    on August 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm Reply
  • I agree that I am glad you choose the positive side of this movie as it seems the one group of people you would think that would really like this movie, seem to be ripping it to shreds (the travel community that is). I haven't seen it but will plan to and unless it has nothing but bad acting (hard to with the cast) and the dumbest plot (which I think won't be a problem) then I will like it for a travel movie that inspires! Great post and can't wait to see it myself. It comes out in Colombia on 01Oct10!!!!

    on August 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm Reply
  • sherry - i love this. i am so glad that a discussion is happening about how slow travel can be so very meaningful. if it takes a movie to get more people talking - and doing - it, then it's a big thumbs up for me.

    on August 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm Reply
  • Love your idea, story and mission Sherry. I'm with you all the way:) Haven't done any solo travel for a while - currently packing a hubby and 3 kids! But I have done it and loved it. Definitely with you on these travel tips, especially travel slow. When you rush from one place to another you end up not even being able to remember the names of the places. Much better to choose a few places and hole up, get to know the locals and their favourite hang outs:) Happy travels everyone!

    on August 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm Reply
  • Love the tips Sherry! So many people dream of taking the plunge, but never do. I say, what have you really got to lose? I quit my corporate IT job last year, during the recession, to travel and haven't regretted it. I love the freedom and my passion for life has been passions have even developed. Was it scary? Yes! Has it been worth it? Most definitely! I love the quote - Why tell your grandkids you worked 9-5, five days a week for 40 years and quietly sat in traffic jams while people went to war, suffered disease and shot their own classmates? Tell them you refused to live in fear. Tell them you crossed the Amazon, saw the Lost Cities of Gold and met your soul mate in Casablanca. Travel to the ends of the earth. Go now and live adventures that will make your grandkids proud. (Author Unknown) Peace & Blessings! ~A

    on August 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm Reply
  • Fantastic post, Sherry! A terrific reading of the film! Great stuff! As you probably know, we're doing all of the above this year with Grantourismo and have to say that it's been the most satisfying year of our travel yet - especially the learning aspects, discovering cultures through their cuisines, and connecting with locals and learning from them. Never want to travel any other way again. Thanks for this!

    on August 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm Reply
  • @Lara - yes - you guys are on quite an adventure and it has even me envious! Slow travel is the only way to go! @Annabel -locals love it when you bring kids with you. I think they enjoy meeting kids more than adults! @Andi - thanks for the nice comments!

    on August 25, 2010 at 2:23 am Reply
  • Yay for slow travel! I couldn't agree more. Though sometimes it is fun to go the more conventional route of buses, trains, and visas and all the crazy stories that come from trying to figure it all out, staying put in one place for a while is how I prefer to travel. Really nice post, Sherry. Like the other commenters, I'm happy to see that you focused on the positive after reading so many posts slamming this movie and book. If this movie gets more people to travel and experience the world, I'd say it's a huge success. And thanks to Adam, too, for mentioning Meet, Plan, Go. I'd never heard of it. Great idea.

    on August 26, 2010 at 8:10 am Reply
  • Couldn't agree more! Enjoying local food is so important. So is having an itinerary with personal meaning, which is something I don't think people do enough. I think that's why some travel partners clash, too--the itinerary is meaning for one person, but not the other. Good list!

    on August 26, 2010 at 10:36 am Reply
  • Very much liked the 5 lessons, all of them and how you interpreted them. Important lessons also to make travelling more meaningful - for oneself and not to leave the country and its people exploited at the tourism industry. Go local!

    on May 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm Reply

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