In lieu of the film Eat, Pray, Love which opens today in the US (and soon in Paris I hope), I have been reading a lot of travel related blogs and stories. This film (as 99.9% of the modern world knows) is based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert in which, seeking emotional solace, she spends 4 months in Italy eating, 4 months in India praying, and 4 months in Bali resulting in love. I often, and more so these days, reflect upon my own journey, in which I spent 13 months traveling the world, Italy, India and Bali included. During my travels, I read and mostly enjoyed the tales of Eat, Pray, Love, even though mine was a very different story. I ate nearly everything, prayed often, and yes, I did experience love. The most important love affair of all.
The Journey Inwards
The best investment I made in my life was not my education, which taught me the necessity for discipline and hard work, nor was it the purchase of my apartment, which ingrained in me a deeper sense of responsibility, and it was surely not my rare acquisition of a vintage bag or designer chair. It was the journey within myself, one year spent traveling around the world.
There is nothing so beautiful and equally frightful, as complete freedom. Time which is yours to fill as you desire. There exists no agenda other than to experience life in it’s many unfamiliar tastes, smells and sights. Every day unfolds into a unique composition, captured forever by the mind.
My journey began in the cobbled streets of Buenos Aires, where the heart beats in tango rhythm, to Fernando de Noronha, one of many paradises found, a secluded island off of Brazil’s Bahian coast, to the ancient civilization of Machu Picchu. I have redefined what exist for me as the wonders of the world. And this was only the beginning of what I consider to be my greatest love affair, with the world as my suitor.
The following months found me sky-diving amidst the majestic mountainscape of New Zealand, exploring the limestone formations along Great Ocean Road, completely taken with the natural wonders that became the background of my life. My mind’s eye is rich with visions from these days in which so many lives were lived.
My most profound moments were experienced in the land of color and contrasts, India. It is here that the heart reigns, amidst the urban toil and drudgery of Mumbai, into the grandeur of the pink, gold and blue cities of Rajasthan. This land speaks of an intricate past and a blossoming modernity, unequivocally captivating and nourishing the soul.
Southeast Asia became a history lesson as much as a gastronomic exploration, amidst the floating villages and ancient temples of Siem Reap. In Vietnam I tasted an endless variety of noodles and rice dishes to satisfy the most curious of palates. Within the limestone formations of Halong Bay I experienced the grandest sunset that lit the sky in hues of red. The island of Bali became one of my most revered homes. It was here that I so deeply appreciated the simplest of pleasures; food, shelter, and what becomes the most valued to a traveler, the kindness of strangers.
Inbetween my enlightened city tours of a frenetic and evolving China beginning in Shanghai, I stepped upon the sacred soil named Tibet. The chanting of monks accompanied me into the vast open space of snow-capped mountains and serene lakes. I was living within a dream, perhaps the most vivid and surreal of all. Or was it the other-worldliness of Japan.
Europe began my chapter of friends and family. Aside from intermittently traveling with a trusted friend, I often met with acquaintances, some from the life I left behind and others which I had collected along the way. I was often alone and did my best to enjoy this time. Loneliness is a common symptom of solo traveling, resulting in strength, understanding and greater reliance in the self.
I felt undeniably fortunate to experience the lives of my friends who had created homes in remote parts of the world, beginning with the turquoise waters of the Aegean in the coastal town of Bodrum. In Turkey I also experienced Cappadocia, another great wonder of the world. I entered and exited these scenes as though they were pieces of my own life, digesting each cultural nuance and idiosyncracy. With my family In Poland I found refuge in the woods of Bykowce, a place where I spent so much of my childhood. Time to digest and reflect upon the pages that were written and the many lessons learned through my resignation to life as a traveler.
My final weeks were spent immersed in the majestic urbanism of Mexico City. I was satiated with visions of ruins that spoke of a rich history. I found my last refuge upon the deserted shores of the Yucatan. The most simple of paradises was Tulum. It was here, beneath the reflection of a star filled sky that it occurred to me that this journey was as much an exploration of the world as of myself.