Elizabeth Gilbert’s examination of home in Eat, Pray, Love becomes a worldwide search for something that seems to have lived within her all along. This is a theme we have encountered before in our Homelands texts, but Gilbert’s memoir focuses on the power of the journey to bring us to this self actualization. As we travel along side Gilbert to Italian restaurants, Indian Ashrams and Indonesian rice paddies, we must consider the kind of dedication this journey requires, and question if we can achieve it in our own lives. While everyone’s journey to inner peace is different, it leads us to the threshold of fear, and then the common homeland within the self.
Gilbert encounters this homeland on several occasions before seemingly settling there at the close of the book. Frankly, I thought Gilbert’s dark journeys into her self were kind of frightening with all of their otherworldly transcendence, which is why I find it so difficult to relate to this particular homeland. I actually find it easier to understand the homeland of a young dreamer (East, West) or a Maori native (Potiki) then to comprehend the almost supernatural sensations that overcome Gilbert during her meditation. As I find myself rolling my eyes at yet another account of her plunge into almost delirious spirituality (and I do not mean that disrespectfully) I remember Gilbert’s description of those coming to the Ashram for the first time for the week long retreat of silence and solitude. What unites all of these new comers and links them to Gilbert and every other human being is their initial fear. I found this idea the most striking and, for me, it has become the most relatable concept of the memoir. In bead 65, we see the fear of the new arrivals manifest itself in trivial complaints and concerns. These acts and distractions are all hiding the deep and raw fear of having to face yourself.
Whenever we embark on a new journey, whether it’s the beginning of college or the end, the beginning of a relationship, or the end, we must take a good look at ourselves in order to understand how our journeys transform us...and this can be a pretty scary thing. We must consider the things which distract us from examining ourselves—alcohol? The opposite sex? Vanity? As I pondered these questions, I was struck by my obvious opposition to explore my own self. I have historically never liked keeping a journal; in fact, I’m pretty much against it. I always hear that journaling is a great way to alleviate and organize your mind, but all I could think of was cringing at what I looked like on paper... “Did I really say those things? Did I really think and act that way?” I was, and still am, afraid to see myself.
Gilbert’s self discovery led to the recognition of the homeland within herself. Many of us are still struggling to find our medium of self discovery, but by at least contemplating our various journeys in life, we may have some idea of how things morph us into the people we are. It took Gilbert quite a while to surmount her fear, which kept creeping up throughout the memoir. What we learn from those new comers in the Ashram and from Gilbert’s memoir in general is that it is okay to be afraid, because after all, fear is the first part of the journey.