An increasing number of women are going on journeys of self-discovery
Years ago, if a woman had a difficult time, she might call some friends and open a bottle of wine, cry over a chick flick (a marathon Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice session is my mooch movie of choice) or eat her favourite comfort food.
Eat, Pray, Love
Inspired by the book and then the movie Eat, Pray, Love, an increasing number of women are now blazing a trail set by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her compelling tale of recovery from a painful divorce, recounts how she nurtures her body through food and cooking in Italy, mysticism in India and a new love and spirituality in Bali. Many places mentioned in the book reported an upturn in tourism as a result of her adventures.
Today, it’s not necessarily the actual steps Elizabeth Gilbert took, but the wider message. We are seeing a whole new breed of women who are more financially secure and less risk averse who are willing to move out of their comfort zones to learn new things about themselves as part of a life and career transition.
I met Marianne in a tapas bar in Seville this summer. A financial advisor from New York, she and her long time boyfriend parted ways in January 2014. “It was nothing dramatic at the time. We were just stuck and not going anywhere. I wanted children – he didn’t know. Six months later, he married a mutual friend and she is now expecting their first child. That really hurt. We have the same friendship group and our professional lives overlap. I didn’t want to deal with it all – the sympathy and understanding more than anything. So I quit my job and am doing a tri-continent tour.”
Me: Was Elizabeth Gilbert’s experience an influence?
Yes! I’m an Eat, Pray, Love-r! Elizabeth Gilbert proved it can be done. She paved the way for lots of 30 something women who want to get away, but to make it a positive experience and moving forward. I have savings, so I’m learning Spanish in Spain, going to India to study Ayurvedic massage in Kerala. I’m actually passing on Bali, but spending time in New Zealand. Then I’ll go back to the U.S and maybe relocate to another city. This whole experience has made me feel really free and just opened up my eyes to limitless possibilities. If I could find my Javier Bardem that would be the icing on the cake!”
I ran into Millie in Zagreb airport today! At 32, she was passed over for a promotion in London earlier this summer and the job given to one of her reports. “I felt humiliated. There was no way I could report to someone who had worked for me. I think my bosses wanted me to leave anyway.
I negotiated a decent package, which involves 6 months gardening leave, so I hit booking.com and Expedia. I love diving, so I have just finished my Master Diver certificate. I sub-let my flat, and have spent a month in Croatia and now I’m headed for Dubai and after that the Maldives or any of the Pacific Islands or even Mexico. I feel re-energised and satisfied, healthy, emotionally and physically. I’ll probably have to go back when the money runs out – but until then I’m going to take each week as it comes.”
Me: What were they key influences on you?
“Elizabeth Gilbert and Eat, Pray, Love, for sure. She made it OK for women who had a set back, to take time out to explore other options. It was no longer labelled running away and cowardice, but about self-discovery.”
So for those women who take a knock and have money in the bank, facing the music and wagging tongues isn’t the only option to figure out a life and career transition.