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November 15, 2013
Vol. 55 No. 10

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Inspiration found in popular novel

While exploring St. George's Market in Belfast a few weekends ago, I picked up Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" from a secondhand book vendor for just four quid. It's one of those books I've heard good things about, one of those I-refuse-to-see-the-movie-until-I-read-it-properly books, one of those "Hey Madison, you write, you love Chipotle, you're studying religion, too -- you should read this!" sort of books. So, when this copy was tucked into a corner of his table and even on sale, I couldn't pass it up.
Now, reading a book about traveling and living abroad, while traveling and living abroad, has been an interesting process. I'm only 141 pages in (partly because I've been busy, partly because I've underlined a sentence on nearly every page and partly because I'm taking ages to digest what I read) and yet I am addicted to this story.
With this book, though, my writing and self-assessment have escalated to an entirely new level, making it exceptionally more difficult to focus on silly things such as my historiography assignment concerning public and academic spheres of knowledge when it comes to oral history.
I've started to look at myself as a traveler with a permanent home in Ireland instead of a tourist... everywhere. When Gilbert wrote of "that super-relaxed, totally-in-charge expression which makes you look like you belong there, anywhere, everywhere, even in the middle of a riot in Jakarta," I snorted out loud on a city centre bus, because I have that look down, pat.
After I read of her birthday dinner with friends in Italy, I spent more than 10 hours on a rainy rugby pitch, playing slow pitch softball complete with minute-by-minute banter. She describes being happy for no reason, on the same day I purposely jumped in puddles to splash my roommates.
Now, am I reading too much into the coincidence of picking up and starting this book while studying abroad? I'm sure of it. But I don't care.
I'm traveling, see, and I have the passport stamps to prove it. I have the memories of hot chocolate from this tavern, Kopperbarg's from this bar, trebles from that one. I have pictures of me walking through an Irish McDonald's drive-through at two in the morning, alongside shoes that are still wet from the Giant's Causeway waves.
I would suggest this book to anyone who has already studied abroad, is going next semester or is in the process of applying (cough everyone at Susquehanna cough). One way or another, between Gilbert's questioning and laughter, within prayer and gelato, you'll find something to connect with. If you're lucky, you'll even end up with memories of a midnight trip to grab Chipotle in Harrisburg. You don't have to be in Ireland to travel, you know. You can be happy for no reason in Selinsgrove, too.

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