When you’re in love, it’s difficult to remember the joys of the lone traveller.
Bidding farewell to her perfect life in New York, complete with a successful writing career and a suffocating marriage, Liz Gilbert – author of “Eat, Pray, Love” – decided to follow her dreams. Hidden in a box under her bed where hundreds of travel articles about places she wanted to visit before she died. She journeyed to Italy to eat, to India to pray, and to Bali (Indonesia) to find love.
I was impressed by the title of author Ngo Thi Giang Uyen’s book “My fingers still smell like lavender”, in which she documents her experiences during a trip to Italy. The author considers herself a foodie and takes her readers around the country to enjoy rich and creamy dishes in the North, olive oil and herbs in the Centre, and spicy and tasty dishes in Southern Italy.
One thing Giang Uyen and Liz have in common is that they both love a warm, black cup of coffee with tiny golden-brown bubbles. Through this drink, Liz met a Swedish girl who shares her love of espresso and Napoleon cakes, and with whom Liz shared some delicious moments in Italy.
The most beautiful corners in Rome and Naples have Liz’s footsteps imprinted on them as she went on her culinary journey: sweet scoops of gelato in front of Sant’Agnese in Agone (Piazza Navona, Rome), lunches filled with laughter with Liz’s Italian instructor at Caffè Della Pace in Via Della Pace 3-7, Rome – a gathering place for talented artists, entertainers, and politicians.
The beautiful Italian lifestyle of “Dolce far niente » (sweet idleness) helped Liz relax, and find peace within herself, and realise that her sadness resembles the mausoleum of Augustus. The quiet ruins hidden in the heart of bustling Rome represent the scars in her heart that will remain there forever.
For the first time, Liz felt grateful for the ruins, because they’re the reason for the change, the reason for the trip of a lifetime.
Find forgiveness in India
After Italy, following the footsteps of millions of yogis from around the world, Liz visited an Ashram in India to find peace of mind through meditation.
It’s odd that India, home to the Taj Mahal, which was a gift from Shah Jahan to his late wife to express his love, still arranges marriages like thousands of years ago.
Liz’s encounter with 17-year-old bride Tulsi before an arranged marriage was a memorable moment for her during her journey through India. Despite her failed marriage, Liz remains optimistic and reassures Tulsi that her new marriage will be a happy one. The secret of a lover? “Smile at one another with love and kindness.”
Another special friend that Liz meet at the Ashram is Richard, who shows her a way to clean up her mind, forget about the past, and shared with her his deepest thoughts. “I came here to forgive myself. Everything will be okay,” he told her during a beautiful sunset on a terrace. Moments later, she imagines seeing her ex-husband in a wedding suit, saying his vows to her and dances to Harvest Moon (Neil Young).
Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon
From this moment, Liz told herself to send love and light every time she thinks of her ex-husband. This was when she forgave herself.
Travel to Bali, where love heals
Anyone who has seen “Eat, Pray, Love” remembers the scene where Julia Roberts cycles under a canopy of coconut trees, excitedly join a beach party at night and finds valuable advice and life lessons from Ketut, an old healer and fortuneteller.
Just from their conversations, you understand the true meaning of love: “To sometimes lose balance for love is part of living a balanced life.”
The old friend Ketut teaches us to “smile with face, smile with mind, and even smile in your liver.” Meditation sessions that Liz learned from her Guru in India, and friendships that she made along the journey help her realise the “physics of the quest”:
“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
If you have a broken heart, treat yourself with a new journey, just like Liz’s.
There is no better gift than a trip to a new destination, tasting dishes you’ve never heard of, and make friends with people that fate has led to you.
Who knows, maybe among those you’ll meet, there will be one who makes you realise why your past relationships did not work out.
An Hien | Wanderlust Tips