In the midst of my whirlwind university years, I picked up a book on the recommendation of a friend. I was struggling with anxiety and a lack of clear direction in life. “Read this book,” my friend told me. “It might help.” The book was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. For a young woman who hadn’t yet had the chance to travel extensively, the book was eye-opening. Here was someone shirking expectations in order to get out and experience the world in ways that she hoped would help her understand her place in it. It was, in short, exactly what I needed at the time.
Years later, when I began working with Nathan at Intrepid Times, we found ourselves disagreeing on Eat, Pray, Love’s significance and influence on the genre of travel writing. Was it popular nonsense, as Nathan assumed, or was it an integral piece to the travel writing puzzle, as I believed? Were we, perhaps, both wrong?
During our conversation, building off the theme of our current writing competition, “Romance on the Road,” we tell the stories of how the book came to land in both of our laps at very different points of our travel lives and what that meant for how we perceived its importance. We also discuss the things the book does (and doesn’t) do well, the role of emotion in travel writing, and how a personal story can shape and inform a travel story.
Nathan and I love to discuss travel and writing (and travel writing!), and we often find ourselves agreeing on these things. So, it can be easy to forget that the stories of how we learned to love travel writing are very different and shaped us as writers in distinct and important ways. This conversation was a push and pull of ideas that reminded us that travel writing thrives when it throws us outside our comfort zone and into a space where opinions can be exchanged and even debated. Because, after all, we don’t travel (or write) to be comfortable, do we?
Listen to the full conversation here: