Haters Gonna Hate

The internet has been making me cranky lately. I’ve been sensing this growing resentment towards travelers and it’s making my skin itch. There’s the snotty comments scattered across the interwebs, there’s some weird infighting drama going on in the travel blogosphere (which I’m not going to touch), and then there’s the Eat Pray Love backlash. That’s the one that I can’t escape and can’t agree with.

Now I haven’t seen the movie yet but I did read the book a couple of years ago when it came out. I didn’t love it, but I thought it was pretty entertaining and I liked Elizabeth Gilbert’s personality and her emotional honesty. So I’m somewhat stumped over all this criticism. On twitter, in the mainstream media, even on my favorite feminist blog Jezebel people seem positively offended by the book and movie. Why?

Some people, like my mom, just didn’t care for Gilbert’s voice and writing style, and that’s understandable. Some found her story boring, which is fine. Some people don’t like the way she glamorizes third world countries (although in my mind Bali was already pretty glamorous, so whatever). The majority of criticism seems to be about Gilbert herself. People are offended by her “rich white girl problems” and her solution, which is essentially “navel-gazing.”

Here’s where I start to get offended.

First off- there’s something hollow about that accusation. Gilbert was NOT all that rich to begin with (although I’m sure she’s doing well now). Anyone who read the book will know that her world adventures were supported by a writer’s advance. She had a dream, she figured out a way to work and make that happen. Personally, I find that admirable.

As for the “navel-gazing” accusation, maybe I’m biased due to the nature of my own writing, but in what world is insightfulness a bad thing? Who wouldn’t love to spend some time getting to know themselves better? The book is a memoir- really what else is she going to talk about?

I’m not writing this to defend Elizabeth Gilbert, because she seems like she probably doesn’t care what people on the internet think of her anyways. And I’m not writing this to defend the book because I didn’t even LOVE it all that much. The reason I’m talking about this is because when I read these criticisms about her, and about full time travelers, they are not so secretly criticisms of MY life choices as well. After all, I’m a (relatively privileged) white girl, I’m eschewing societal norms to go travel, I’m writing about it. Hell, I really love pizza too; Gilbert and I are practically twinsies.

Eat, Drink, Sleep

Luckily I haven’t gotten a lot of push back on the issue. Most people I’ve met have been friendly, supportive and curious about my trip. Part of this may be a facet of age: it’s far easier to understand a young twenty-something traveling the world then a middle aged woman who leaves her marriage to do the same. Is it okay because I don’t know any better? Or because someday I’ll “get it out of my system” and settle down and be normal?

But that’s not really true either. It’s not just ageism, and it’s not just sexism either. Just look at the internet thrashing 29-year old Nomadic Matt is getting. Some of the comments on that piece are downright venomous criticisms of his constantly traveling lifestyle. Every long term traveler will have at least one story of encountering serious criticism. The internet now makes it easier to judge each other’s life than ever.

There is a certain self-policing aspect of society that has a real problem with people doing things outside of the norm. It’s threatening. When that someone is a major blogger, or a bestselling author, or Julia Roberts, well then it’s that much easier to want to tear them down and put them back in their place.

My major life philosophy, that I am constantly reminding myself, is to live and let live. You want to quit your job and travel the world? Right on! You’re happy with your life and career and content to stay where you are? That’s great too! More power to you. I have my own goals and desires but I am not so one track minded that I can’t see that DIFFERENT people need DIFFERENT things to make them happy.

I think that last thing is what’s hard for a lot of people to grasp. My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.

There is no veiled criticism of you in my choice to quit my job. When I joyfully talk about my travel plans, I’m not implying that your life is boring. Just because I want to backpack around the world doesn’t mean I think you should (unless you want to- in which case: YOU SHOULD).

So in the end it’s probably a waste of energy to get myself worked up on the comments of anonymous internet users. I’m going to keep on doing what I’m going, and people can keep on hating if they want. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a lot easier to knock people down for their choices then it is to look at our own lives and examine whether we are living them as effectively as we can.

98 Responses to Haters Gonna Hate

  1. Daniel August 24, 2010 at 8:28 AM #

    This was getting bashed a bit over on the everything everywhere forums as well. A number of people described her as self indulgent. My response reproduced below

    Isn’t world travel always self indulgent? I suppose those volunteering might be an exception, but why not help inner city kids learn math?

    I think a lot of people in the travel world who I’ve read responses from are being rather hypocritical. Just because it doesn’t fit into the traditional shoestring, destitute vagabond stereotype many are dismissing her as self-indulgent. Isn’t anyone with a blog self indulgent? Otherwise they would keep their thought to themselves. One of the key motivators to keeping a blog moving are the comments that let you know people care about what you think.

    That said, it isn’t the way I would or do travel and I thought the movie was bit too long and chick flick-ish. The wife thought the same, she actually likes it less.

    I also later clarified that I don’t think being self indulgent is a bad thing in the context of blogging and travel. Of course self indulgence can be bad, it just isn’t in this context IMO

  2. Daniel August 24, 2010 at 8:58 AM #

    Let me preface this by saying that I’ve neither read the book nor seen the movie. However, I don’t buy that travel by its very nature is self-indulgent, although it can be. See self-indulgence is governed by unrestrained appetite but travel isn’t simply about desire and it’s not entirely motivated by pleasure. Of course, we travel because we find joy and pleasure in it, but we travel because it is transcendent. That is, travel is at once both difficult and pleasurable.

    What is gained in travel that cannot be secured by staying home, reading books, and watching films? Kathryn and I believe that one of the most important aspects of travelling is a greater understanding of the place one calls home—and the understanding that surfaces in interactions with other people and cultures. This juxtaposition of beliefs and ideals elevates one’s awareness. And it’s this heightened awareness that provides one with greater insight into their place in the world.

    As travelers we are both outward looking—aware of the country to which we are ‘foreign’, our place in the space of crowds and the reactions of local residents—and inward looking, forever seeking that place where they are able to connect to something bigger than themselves. At any moment, they are one and the other. Travel, indeed, is a bit of a contradiction.

    • Daniel August 24, 2010 at 11:35 AM #

      Fair point, thanks for the thoughtful response,

      Just be aware, that for me, travel isn’t about introspection and I suspect that this is true of many travelers. What drives me is a strong desire to understand the world I live in, seeing outstanding things and meeting interesting people that are so very different from what I see on a daily basis.

      Perhaps I’m shallow or ignorant, but I have little desire to as you say “forever seeking that place where they are able to connect to something bigger than themselves”.

      • Daniel August 24, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

        I’d argue that your desire to understand the world you live in is to understand your place in the world, which isn’t too far from introspection. But that’s just semantics.

        People travel for a multiplicity of reasons — and as far as I’m concerned they’re equally valid. But I see where you are coming from.

        My motivations, I think, are a combination of indulgence, escapism, a desire to understand the world and see it before it — or myself — are gone.

  3. ayngelina August 24, 2010 at 10:31 AM #

    I read the book and like you, found it entertaining but not life changing. I’ll probably download the movie and watch it.

    But I’ll be the first to admit that I am privileged. Not everyone can simply take off for a year. I had a good job and was able to easily save the money.

    And my travel is indulgent. Yes at some point I was to volunteer but this year is really about going wherever I want and doing whatever I want. I’m okay with that.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:14 PM #

      We are definitely privileged to be able to do this but I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss Liz Gilbert just because she was able to take a nice trip (as I’ve seen in a lot of reviews of the movie). Like us, she still worked for her dream and made it happen, and I respect that.

  4. Anil August 24, 2010 at 10:56 AM #

    Totally just got sucked into that comment thread. I don’t like those kind of subjective arguments because they’re just that. Do what you do I say, there’s a lot of room in the world for all sorts of lifestyles 🙂 No need for anyone to be hatin’!

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:12 PM #

      Those comments on Gadling definitely got out of hand! I found them slightly infuriating, but in the end, nothing to do but get on with one’s life. You are right, there is room for all of us!

  5. Nomadic Chick August 24, 2010 at 11:45 AM #

    Since I am in Gilbert’s demographic, thought I might throw in my two cents. I faced some resistance solely based on my age, mostly from family. Their stance was, shouldn’t you be worrying about retirement, and not some far flung idea? That’s where the self-indulgence comes in. Daniel’s eloquent comment is fitting – travel is transcendent, a state of looking inward and outward simultaneously. A hard feat to accomplish in daily life. In the end, I had to listen to myself, which is what really matters. Am I privileged? Sure, but I’m also grateful to have unending moments to just be. If that’s self-indulgent, too bad, so sad. I speak about my experience, others either relate or not. I can’t control those factors.

    Considering I am Elizabeth’s demographic, you’d think I would have eaten up her book. Haven’t read it yet, nor seen the movie.

    At the moment I am living it – so a book or movie is probably not what I need. 🙂

    Anyone in the public sphere will face envy, disdain, along with immeasurable support. Your philosophy to keep doing your thing is the the right path, that’s my motto, too. I personally think genuine beasts emerge, while the haters slink back into their caves. 🙂

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:11 PM #

      “I personally think genuine beasts emerge, while the haters slink back into their caves.”

      I love that and I think that going up against resistance only makes us stronger and more resolute so in the end it’s probably a healthy thing.

  6. Laurence August 24, 2010 at 11:58 AM #

    It took me a while to realise that doing the career thing wasn’t making me happy, and that travelling was something that would. That said, I am all for other people doing whatever in life makes them happy. Live and let live, as you rightly point out. All you can do is the try to make the right choice for yourself. I went through my reasons in a recent blog post as to why I chose to travel, but I can’t imagine that they would, could or should apply to many more people than me.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:09 PM #

      Yeah, everyone needs to find their own path, and I think that tends to get lost in a lot of the enthusiasm over travel. It seems like it should be implicit, but a lot of people don’t get that just because something is right for me doesn’t mean I’m judging you.

  7. Gray August 24, 2010 at 12:35 PM #

    Good for you for bringing this up, Steph. Sure we’re privileged to travel. Lots of people who don’t travel are also privileged. Once you start down the road of “these people are privileged and therefore their opinion doesn’t count”, where does it end? There’s always going to be somebody who is less privileged than the person complaining about “those people over there who are so privileged”. My philosophy has always been “Live and let live”. I don’t care what somebody else does with their life, so long as they aren’t hurting anybody.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:08 PM #

      While I hate being told “you’re so lucky,” I feel i must also constantly remind my self that I AM lucky in a lot of ways. But I also work really damn hard to get things done and that definitely doesn’t make my opinion less valid.

  8. Emily August 24, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

    I know, I’m also surprised that so many people are hating on Eat, Pray, Love! I enjoyed it quite a bit. It did start to feel a bit whiny and overly dramatic, and at times, a little too self-indulgent, but hey, it’s a memoir! The whole point is that she’s writing about herself and her journey. I thought it was inspiring and interesting to read about someone’s quest to find inner peace and happiness, especially by means of experiencing other cultures and their practices. There were times in the book where I could seriously relate to her. I’ve heard the movie isn’t great, but I’m not surprised–it’s hard to cram a year full of slow growth and transformation into a two-hour flick!

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:04 PM #

      Definitely parts of the book touched a nerve with me, maybe because I was on my way home from traveling and coming off of a break up at the time. Not sure why everyone expects it to be all things to all people though.

  9. JoAnna August 24, 2010 at 2:37 PM #

    I read the book several years ago when it came out and just enjoyed it for what it was – a fun read. I liked the book; it was an easy read, entertaining, quick paced. I’m excited to catch the film when it comes out on DVD.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:03 PM #

      Yeah I think I’ll probably see it next week. Fun book, fun movie I’m hoping.

  10. Terri August 24, 2010 at 2:48 PM #

    As someone who is about to have a birthday and actually be the age that Gilbert was when she started on her trip (33), I can say that I understand why people have issues with the book. My issues with her are not actually travel related at all. I think there are many women like me who simple can’t identify with her for a variety of reasons or simply just didn’t jibe with her writing style. That being said, I think the first third of the book was some of the best travel writing that I’ve ever read. Kudos to her for her success.

    As for Nomadic Matt hullabaloo, my sense from the little I have read was not that he was being bashed for being a long-term traveler, but rather I think it exposed a fault line in the travel blogger community namely the division between those who travel continuously and blog vs. those for whom that is not possible or do not want to travel long-term. I think some of the commenters felt that some (emphasize SOME and I don’t know if it was Matt b/c honestly I don’t read as much travel blogging as I should) people in the former group (the constant traveler group) may have insinuated that being a constant traveler makes their blogging more “authentic” than others who don’t. That by living a more settled life, non-travelers were not whole, fulfilled people (’cause they were doing the 9 to 5 and the soccer carpool) and definitely not good travel bloggers. Hence, the backlash.

    I agree to each person their own. I like being a pseudo-boring but well-traveled 30-something and looking back at my 20’s and the traveling that I did then and hope to do in the upcoming years. 🙂 I think the travel blogging community is still defining itself and the Nomadic Matt “contreversy” is just a part of that growth.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 3:02 PM #

      While the article was about an attitude, a lot of the comments descended into long-term travel bashing, which I just found kind of ironic. Complaining about being criticized by criticizing the people you’re complaining about.

      I definitely think there’s room in the great big world wide web for all perspectives.

  11. Kim August 24, 2010 at 3:38 PM #

    As a casual travel blog reader (rather than blog writer), I can’t relate to a lot of this controversy, but I did want to throw in here that I don’t think this difference in opinion is exclusive to travel blogging. In every hobby I have there’s a faction of people who are very vocal about one way being the right way. I run marathons and there’s a vocal group that bemoan the growth of the sport and the people who “run for fun” rather than for Boston qualifying times. I’m an avid hockey fan, and according to some, less of a fan because I live in a Southern city and root for a Southern team. I’m not an avid reader until I read War and Peace, and yes, there are the travel snobs who are condescending towards anyone who doesn’t get far enough “off the beaten path”.

    What’s a girl to do? Me, I focus on the things I can control and let everything else sort itself out.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 5:14 PM #

      Yes, it’s not just a travel issue, people just love to judge any and all of life’s aspects. Good for you for ignoring it.

      • Laurence August 25, 2010 at 5:58 AM #

        and the internet is a handy, easy, and often, conveniently anonymous way to do so. the best thing to do is try to rise above it and not get dragged down, tricky though that may be…

        • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:36 PM #

          Yeah the internet certainly has the potential to bring out the worst in people. Definitely have to remind myself not to take it too seriously.

  12. Melissa August 24, 2010 at 3:44 PM #

    Love the little animation, that’s awesome! There is a ton of bashing going on all over the place right now, and I see it as a lot of jealousy. Everyone’s choices are half chance, and hating usually comes from discontent with one’s own choices.

    On the other hand, Gilbert was well off already when she wrote Eat, Love, Pray. She had a country home in New York plus an apartment in Manhatten, and she was at least partially supporting her husband. It takes a lot of money to do that. The problem I had with Gilbert’s story is she went soul-searching, but she ended up back with a man, which she said had been a constant problem for her during her entire life. I was left feeling that while she accomplished a lot, her old habits wouldn’t die. However, I did see the movie yesterday and I thought it was a pretty good adaptation. If you haven’t seen it, do!

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 5:13 PM #

      I dunno, I always thought the point was she realized she didn’t need a man- became a fuller person on her own and then was able to truly fall in love as an equal because of it. Definitely open to interpretation though- and Gilbert is flawed like all humans!

  13. Wendy August 24, 2010 at 4:19 PM #

    I read a good number of travel blogs because they go places that I can’t or won’t. I love being able to read about all those experiences. At the same time, I feel that there’s been a proliferation of posts by long-term travel bloggers trying to defend their decision to travel the world, and can get irritating sometimes. I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes to try to put into words about what I mean by that, but I don’t think I can do so without sounding bad. I guess there are just times when I read these posts and can’t help but hear a really defensive and passive-aggressive tone to it.

    This is by no means against the post that you wrote. I just saw that this was a good opportunity to speak the non-traveler side of things.

    (By the way, I loved EPL, which I read three years ago when the book first came out. I saw the movie the other day, and didn’t think it was as fun and emotion-filled as the book. I’m glad I didn’t pay anymore than $6 to see it!)

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 11:06 PM #

      I think that maybe those bloggers feel the need to defend themselves to the point of annoyingness is because there is a lot of both outright and subtly judging of unorthodox life choices. These people are probably so used to the criticism that given their own platform the can’t help but speak up. I always mean for my posts to be informative and encouraging, rather than preachy, and I hope I hit that note more times than not.

  14. Anna August 24, 2010 at 5:24 PM #

    For the last few weeks I’ve heard harsh, upsetting words from people I love toward things that make me, well, me. I’ve literally asked aloud, “why are they so angry?” and that’s just it: Haters gunna hate.

    Thanks for this and let’s powwow at some point.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 9:28 PM #

      Sure thing! Shoot me an email sometime.

  15. Dan August 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM #

    You can’t win, whatever POV you take. But I’m not going to say that whatever your POV is doesn’t matter because they are all valid, I think that is BS just to make everyone feel happy, sorry but in the real world not everyone is happy and some points of view are more or less valid than others, of course the thing about POV is that they are all relative so ultimately no one gives a shit what you or I think if it different from their own.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 8:35 PM #

      That’s fine, but I’m talking less about point of view and more about life choices. If you are making the life choices that make you the happiest, then it’s really none of my business whether I agree with them or not. It’s certainly not my place to tell anyone they are living their life incorrectly- which is something people seem to love doing. Nobody HAS to agree with anybody else, but tolerance is an admirable quality worth pursuing.

  16. ehalvey August 24, 2010 at 9:09 PM #

    Because I’m a visual person, I’m going to start off that I LOVE the grumpy cat.

    As a person who is 26 and still undecided about what I want to do in life, I can recognize the things that are triggers for “oh, I want to do that” versus “you can keep that, no thanks”. I think some people can’t fathom why you would want to do something differently or on a different schedule. Which was one of the core issues in that NYT 20 something article.

    Not everyone wants to travel, not everyone wants to hit 30 countries in 2 year, not everyone wants to visit the same couple of countries over and over. So why do some people feel it’s necessary to impose their system on others? Stop reading or following people you don’t agree with if it’s so irritating. Haters need to find something the make them happy so they’re not driven by a constant need to cut people down. I mean if they’re so happy with their choices, why are they wasting time arguing with people? I personally wouldn’t want to travel nonstop for years, but I’d love to go to one or two new places every year.

    Oh, I didn’t read the book and won’t see the movie. I know Julia Roberts drives me nuts, and that I favor classics over new books. But I’m not out to proselytize the superiority of my tastes. Great post and way to tell it like it is, Steph 🙂

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 10:52 PM #

      Isn’t that cat the greatest? Such attitude.

      That NYT article really made me think. Our generation seems to be pretty good at examining our options, thinking outside the box and making the best, most fulfilling choices. I felt like some of that article was hair-pulling over “what’s the matter with kids these days,” when really, our introspection is probably a good thing.

  17. Nick Laborde August 24, 2010 at 9:39 PM #

    Haters are gonna hate, not much I can add to that. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, not exactly a title that jumps out at me and forces me to slam some cash on the counter.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 10:52 PM #

      Nothing wrong with that!

  18. aelle August 24, 2010 at 10:26 PM #

    Rght on.
    I was particularly annoyed to see Eat, Pray, Love being bashed in feminist circles because:
    1. the whole point is that Gilbert felt miserable in today’s female gender role (as a suburban wife and future mother) and she went out there to find out and do what *she* really wanted. Hello? That’s what my feminism is about!
    2. there *are* ethical issues with traveling the world, and Gilbert’s book could have been a good starting point to discuss them, but all the criticism I read completely missed them. Instead, they rehashed the old tired cliches on how it must be nice to have so much money lying around, don’t you have anything better to do with your time, and how wrong to go to a third world country and navel gaze about your first world problems.
    And by the way, 3. calling India and Indonesia third world countries is outdated and possibly as offensive as the entitlement they accuse travelers of (not to minimize the hardships of their respective working classes, but they’re both G20 members for crying out loud!). So is assuming that only rich white women can suffer from heartache, or from not fitting society’s expectations, or from living an aimless life.

    Blah. Enough ranting. tl;dr version: people are stupid, should get out of the house and sweep their own doorstep first.

    • Steph August 24, 2010 at 10:50 PM #

      YES! You are so awesome for hitting the nail on the head. Feminism is about choices and Gilbert choosing to leave an unhappy marriage and to remain childless is exactly that. So much of the backlash seems to be people taking issue with Gilbert’s choices and her socioeconomic status in a way that completely misses any useful point.

  19. Amanda August 25, 2010 at 2:41 AM #

    I refuse to judge how or why people travel. Everyone is different and has different motivations, and I just know who I am and why I, personally, travel. And if someone else can’t accept that, well, then, they’re probably not someone I want to associate myself with anyway.

    I did go see Eat Pray Love because the previews looked awesome. I was, admittedly, disappointed with the movie (read my review here: ), but it wasn’t because of any of the things you mentioned. I just felt it was a rushed, uninspiring film. I wanted to love it, and I just thought it was okay. But I’d never judge Gilbert for what she did, because it’s her life. (And it’s made her lots of money, and for some people that’s important.)

    Don’t let anyone judge you or belittle you for your decision to drop everything and see the world. If it’s what you really want to do, then it’s the right choice for you.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:35 PM #

      I think it’s important to differentiate between criticism of the movie, or of the writing style of the book, and criticism of Gilbert and her life.

      And goodness, I would LOVE to be as rich as Gilbert!

  20. Jade August 25, 2010 at 3:17 AM #

    I too was surprised by all the attcks with the movie coming out- mainly surprised by those people who seemed angry that the movie was inspiring people to travel. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of a travel writer? To encourage and inspire people to get up and explore the world?! They just come off scared. (and I’m not sure of what?)

    I didn’t read the book but I did see the movie. And while it wasn’t my favorite- To me the themes that spoke loudest were ones of letting go of guilt and accepting that some relationships don’t work and that that is okay! The fact that she discovered that while traveling – great. I think we’ve all discovered something new about ourselves while on a trip.
    Thanks for sharing- I’m happy someone put this idea out there!

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM #

      It almost seems like some people felt that Gilbert’s experiences weren’t “authentic” enough to be worth of inspiration. I agree that anything that gets people traveling is worth while.

  21. anthony August 25, 2010 at 6:21 AM #

    ” My happiness is different from your happiness”

    Perfect. Shame ALOT of people don’t and won’t even consider this.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM #

      Simple concept but hard for a lot of people to accept.

  22. Claire August 25, 2010 at 9:33 AM #

    I think the haters you reference are people who are simply not happy with their own life choices. They resent the fact that you (or Nomadic Matt or whoever) have made a choice that makes you happy, and they feel the need to spew their thoughts and derision directly to you. I distance myself from those types of people, because they are infected with something I don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole. Now in my most recent post, I bemoan the fact that for the first time in 10 years I have no major trip planned. That is where my little jealousy problem comes into play. However, the life choices to travel that I read about every day, do not cause me to hate the traveler or scoff at their decisions! Because the truth is…I would join you or any of them in a heartbeat! Travel makes the world go ’round. If we are all stuck in out little safe environments, we never are able to explore the richness of a life other than our own. Then we become like those people referenced in the title of your post!

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM #

      I would definitely agree that if you are happy and satisfied with your life, you shouldn’t feel the need to spew negativity all around. I think it’s great that you are self-aware enough to realize where your feelings are coming from and to temper that.

      Also, your article is really great and insightful!

      • claire April 30, 2011 at 10:10 PM #

        very late on this reply, but thanks 😉

  23. Kimberly August 25, 2010 at 12:30 PM #

    “The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.” -Written by Kent M. Keith-

    Always remember that! I admire you and am obsessed with your blog! =)

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM #

      Thank you Kimberly!

  24. DTravelsRound August 25, 2010 at 12:34 PM #

    Amen. Everyone has said everything I wanted to say. Therefore, Amen. Great post, great points. Go see the world. And write about it! xx

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM #

      Thanks D! As someone pursuing both travel AND career, it’s good ot have your perpective.

  25. Kelsey August 25, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

    I’m not a fan of the book, but that’s neither here nor there (and it has to do more with its position in the genre of privilege-lit than its contents). I do agree with you that a “live and let live” attitude is what is best to have, and it’s what I have, but a lot of bloggers can be construed as having a view which looks down on those who *aren’t* traveling. Sure, other “normal” folks look down on travel bloggers, but I have also seen travel bloggers bitch endlessly about folks who don’t volunteer enough, who take package vacations, who only travel a week out of the year, whatever. Sometimes, it’s cattier than the popular girl table at a suburban middle school, and I really dislike the fact that it can sometimes be a somewhat homogeneous and insular group. If you’re not in the group, it can be easy to get angry, and I think that that is what has been prompting this recent outburst.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM #

      I keep hearing this complaint, but I honestly don’t see all that much of this travel snobbery you speak of. Sure once in awhile someone will say something insufferable, but I seem to run into more people complaining about the problem then actually perpetuating the problem. I’m a pretty positive person so maybe I’m missing something, but I’m wonder how many of these insults are implied versus implicit.

      And I also don’t think the solution to the problem is people retaliating but putting down the long-term travelers, which seems to be the bulk of the response. There’s room for all of us here.

      • Kelsey September 2, 2010 at 11:30 AM #

        You don’t see whole posts about it, but you do see throwaway lines in posts quite frequently that are jabs at short term travelers/vacationers/tourists/non-backpackers/9-5ers/etc. It’s not blatant, but it’s definitely still there. It’s less noticeable when you’re part of the group, but more noticeable when you’re not.

        • Steph September 2, 2010 at 4:29 PM #

          That’s fair, but I still think the bulk of my post applies. Hater’s are gonna hate on your choices- no matter WHAT they might be. Only thing to do is to shrug it off and keep on going.

  26. Stacy August 25, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

    So glad you touched on this. I’m not sure where this growing hostility originated, but Eat Pray Love sure did become a lightning rod for criticism related to everything from gender issues to ethnic dynamics. All this over one individual’s personal experience. After a while it just seemed arbitrary and reactionary to me.

    I’ve always been careful in my blog posts never to disparage other folks’ choices or to imply that I’m taking some enlightened path. I’m not hurting anybody. If someone doesn’t like my choices, they don’t have to follow my lead. In the end, all you have to do is say “thanks for your input” and keep on traveling.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM #

      I agree, I always try to be very clear that while my life makes me really freaking happy, I’m not putting down anybody elses choices.

  27. Rebecca August 25, 2010 at 4:11 PM #

    It’s funny that you have issues with long-term travel, I am a SHORT term traveler (meaning no more than 6 weeks at a time) and I’ve gotten a lot of backlash for it in the form of petty comments “Wow, you must be rich to be able to do that” and downright jealous remarks. I really like what you said here and nailed it on the head with it:

    “More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.”

    I think that’s where it comes from. A lot of people who make snide remarks are deep within themselves uncomfortable and unhappy. My own BFF makes such remarks when I make life choices that she later admits she wishes she could make too.

    I think if we keep these things in mind, those remarks and comments will be belittled. Onward and upward.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:04 PM #

      Yeah, you just can’t make everyone happy (and some people you just can’t make happy no matter what).

  28. Michael Hodson August 25, 2010 at 5:03 PM #

    I read Eat, Pray, Love. Thought it was quite well written. Helped make me realize (among many other excellent travel writers like Iyer, Theroux, Chatwin, Bryson or Morris) that I have a long way to go in my writing, if I ever want to get anything published. I thought the first and last third of the book were quite good and the India section was boring and preachy.

    I don’t “hate” Gilbert, but I do envy the heck out of her. My dislike with everything Eat, Pray, Love in the world today is grounded in plain and simple jealousy. She’s hit it big. Not that she didn’t deserve it, as I said, I liked the book. But having Julia Roberts play you in a blockbuster movie? Clothing, jewelry and perfume lines as a result of your book? The ability to write anything you want for the rest of your life (and likely get it published).

    Damn straight I’m jealous. Totally and completely. Color me green…. with envy, not with cash. 😉

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:09 PM #

      I think that a lot of the criticism I hear about Gilbert is thinly veiled jealousy. Yeah she leveraged her book deal into a year of travel and made huge bucks off of it. If I could figure out how I would do the EXACT SAME THING.

  29. Lauren Fritsky August 26, 2010 at 1:03 AM #

    Right on, sister. I love your “my happiness is not a threat to your happiness” mindset. I actually really liked that book, and I do think that a lot the crap Gilbert got involved other people, particularly women, being miserable in their own lives. When people don’t take risks and others around them do, they love to think those people had some sort of luck or magic to make their dreams happen, which is most often not the case.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:16 PM #

      Very well said. It’s a lot easier to tear people down than to fix whatever is bothering you.

  30. Audrey August 26, 2010 at 4:47 AM #

    I love this sentiment: “My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.”

    We’ve encountered people on opposite sides of the lifestyle spectrum who could benefit from reading this and trying to incorporate it. Prejudice or judgement on both sides is bad.

    Just keep doing what keeps you happy.

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM #

      Thanks Audrey, I think it’s a good sentiment for everyone to remember!

  31. soultravelers3 August 26, 2010 at 8:30 AM #

    I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so can’t really comment on that. As far as the haters, I think the best thing to do is just ignore them. It really doesn’t matter who “gets” what you are doing, except you and opinions are like noses, everyone has one. 😉

    • Steph August 26, 2010 at 2:19 PM #

      Haha, well said.

  32. Sasha August 27, 2010 at 1:21 AM #

    The biggest problem I have are with boxers. Often travelers get put in a box as people running away from the world or just unsure about the direction of their lives. And I’m sure this is true for some people but it’s really not fair to generalise that across all long term travellers. But the thing that irritates me the most is travellers putting other travellers in boxers and playing the game of who’s the better traveller. I think this is so petty, pointless and really just feels like high school, it’s like please people grow up! No form of travel is more superior than others, not all travellers travel for the same reason and certainly all those people who choose to only travel for short periods of time or not at all don’t have any less of an enriching life than any one who travels. Enriching experiences come in different forms the same as travel can be done in different styles. And at the end of the day who really cares, I wish everyone could just let everyone be and get on with their lives in the way they choose without criticism and playing the superiority card! Lets just drop the labels, no travellers, no career breakers, no gap students, no 9-5 workers, just people living their lives!

    End Rant

    Oh n BTW haven’t read the book but i’ll c the movie just because Julia Roberts is in it! lol

    • Steph August 28, 2010 at 10:38 AM #

      Well said. You’d think people who travel would be a bit more enlightened about stereotyping.

    • Kevin October 10, 2011 at 5:43 PM #

      I believe these so called Boxers are generall those with no desire to learn or don’t “Think” they have the means to do so.

      Sorry, but people like that are weak minded and have no drive to enlighten themselves through travel to enhance their Life Experiences. So, they critize and hate on those of us who do make the jump and free our mind of everyday routine life. Screw that, I left Corp. Management to travel. Yea, the cash flow is a huge drop, but guess what, “Jimmy Crack Corn, my Master has gone away.” Now, I’m a Happy Camper!

  33. Christian August 28, 2010 at 6:23 AM #

    I’m partly with you here Steph. Yep, haters will hate, and there’s not too much point in worrying about it. I didn’t realise your travel plans would be considered to be outside US societal norms – in the UK no-one would bat an eyelid at RTW gap years, with just the odd raised eyebrow if they’re using daddy’s amex rather than working to pay for it.

    That said, I wouldn’t like to see is the whole world turning into an early 70s coke advert love-in with everyone agreeing with everything – a bit of an EDGE is good in the blogosphere. I’m British, which means an average night in the pub means trash talking, cynicism, sarcasm and downright cruelty – it’s just the way we roll and partly explains why we’re one of the most creative nations in the world.

    On the Nomadic Matt issue, I don’t think this would have kicked off quite so much if he’d titled the post “Why I travel” rather than “Why WE travel”. I enjoy his site and his perspective, but he did kinda put a target on his own back in the middle of the post – it’s difficult to empathise with someone with only a few years’ of work experience talking about the crushing ennui of mortgages and driving the kids to soccer…

    So, ignore the haters – you’ve earned it – learn some good put-downs and use them!

    • Steph August 28, 2010 at 10:37 AM #

      Hey Christian,

      I worked in the UK for awhile and was very impressed with the British and Australian attitude towards gap years. It’s definitely not true of the US at all. Most Americans would never dream of taking a year off of work- plenty manage to not even take the standard two weeks a year. It’s definitely an attitude in need to changing. Matt is American too so I can kind of see how what was probably defensiveness came off as condescending.

      That said, I can certainly be snarky at times and I do think the blogosphere is an important place for argument and debate. What I’m not so into is petty personal attacks in the public sphere. It’s not fair and it’s not right.

  34. Kate August 28, 2010 at 8:13 AM #


    Thanks for this blog post. I’m another 20-something white girl, expat, traveler, and I also just don’t get what the critics want from Elizabeth Gilbert. Would they have preferred that she stay in an unhappy marriage? Would it have been better to stay in the US? Are you mad that she traveled to Italy and ate a lot a pizza or mad that she went to India and did yoga or mad that she went to Bali and fell in love? Or all three? I mean, seriously. I want to be like WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?! And then I remember what you said. Haters gonna hate.

    • Steph August 28, 2010 at 10:39 AM #

      Exactly! Not sure what she could have done to make people happy, except perhaps nothing at all.

  35. Steph September 1, 2010 at 11:17 AM #

    I just wanted to update and say that I finally got a chance to see the Eat Pray Love movie last night. While it certainly wasn’t my favorite, and I thought the book make more sense, I STILL do not get the antagonism surrounding poor Liz Gilbert. I think what a lot of people – both fans and detractors, fail to notice is that the movie isn’t really advocating travel as a life changing experience. Travel is just the lense Liz uses to work on her life and problems. Some of the message gets lost in the scenery, but it’s really a movie about self-improvement, not travel.

  36. Jen September 3, 2010 at 1:55 PM #

    I think it’s AWESOME that you love traveling. I think some people don’t understand how amazing it is to see the world and experiences new cultures. I LOVE it! It’s addicting and expensive, but so eye opening and rewarding! I am single, in my 20s and taking advantage of it while I can! =) You never know what life will bring, so enjoy every moment to the fullest! I hope you have awesome travels! =)

  37. Lisa Lubin September 4, 2010 at 6:03 PM #

    Great post. I admire how you’ve expressed your thoughts here…thank you.
    I won’t say much here as it has obviously all been said.
    I didn’t love the book – but so what? I’ve read many travel memoirs and of course like some more than others.

    I have been labeled in many ways: privileged, lucky, con huevos, courageous, crazy, etc. But overall, i have actually mostly felt a true sense of support from friends and strangers for my choices to go travel.
    And I try to stop and appreciate my good fortune and what i HAVE earned by being able to work to travel and make the choice to GET OFF the well worn path…for nobody else but me. Selfish? Self-indulgent? Well, yeah…it’s for me.

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself and feel your words bear repeating/pasting:

    My major life philosophy, that I am constantly reminding myself, is to live and let live. You want to quit your job and travel the world? Right on! You’re happy with your life and career and content to stay where you are? That’s great too! More power to you. I have my own goals and desires but I am not so one track minded that I can’t see that DIFFERENT people need DIFFERENT things to make them happy.

    I think that last thing is what’s hard for a lot of people to grasp. My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.

    Perfect. Thank you.

    • Steph September 5, 2010 at 11:27 AM #

      Thanks Lisa_ I like that you get that it’s not about hte book per say. It wasn’t a favorite of mine either, but the criticism has more serious implications than just that.

  38. bunsongpayat September 22, 2010 at 1:17 AM #

    I read the book and I enjoyed it. Although I have few comments on it, I appreciate it more. Maybe people are just too judgmental and they think that whatever they have in their lives or whatever they think is good applies to everyone.
    And there are comments to travelers, indulgence. People who are ‘privileged’. And they sometimes refer themselves as “less fortunate” and all negativity. Sometimes, I get affected with these comments but I just ignore them.
    As travelers, we just want people to know that there is a world bigger out there. And if these people cant get through your senses, well, nothing will be lose to us either. Because we’re just doing what makes us happy. And we just want to share the joy of travel to people. If they dont get it, we can just leave them.
    I just try to look at it as there are still people who we can inspire to do great things, not just by traveling, but taking the risk of getting out from their comfort zones. Traveling is adventure and it takes a lot of courage to do that. And we all live by our own means.
    People, sometimes, likes to be haters.

  39. mayank October 5, 2010 at 3:54 AM #

    Well said, especially “My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness”

    To be honest, i love the travel stories for vicarious pleasures… i know i cant do so much of travel and not coz i am no more 20ty something.

  40. Charlie Peverett December 22, 2010 at 6:19 AM #

    Nice post Steph – useful for anyone who ever did anything!

    Found this yesterday, which I think sums up the intractability of the issue quite well…

    Merry Christmas! 🙂

  41. Paul King January 6, 2011 at 12:01 PM #

    “My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.”

    I agree – I think that your happiness and your decision to travel is a threat to other people’s UNhappiness and dissatisfaction which they might not care to admit to themselves! I tend to think if people are happy with themselves and with what they’re doing, they don’t feel any need to go and bash someone else.

    Just a thought.

    • Steph January 7, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

      Well said. I have often found that people who are negative towards me are really unhappy with themselves.

  42. Julia February 6, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

    I’m with you — I read the book this past winter, and while I find Gilbert grating, I also support anyone wanting to travel and do their own thing.

    I haven’t liked getting the “eye” from people when I tell them I spent last spring backpacking through Asia. I especially don’t like that money is always part of it — I worked my butt off to pay for that trip! If people really want to travel, they can find a way to do it. And if people wish they were traveling, then they should support the people who are. At the end of the day, traveling IS a hassle — and I also understand not wanting to go through it if you have a good thing going for you at home.

    Haters gon’ hate. And I’m gon’ fly.

  43. Chana Lesser November 29, 2011 at 1:10 AM #

    I love this line!

    “It’s a lot easier to knock people down for their choices then it is to look at our own lives and examine whether we are living them as effectively as we can.”


    • Steph December 4, 2011 at 5:01 PM #

      I have to remind myself of that whenever I meet someone super negative. It’s always more about them than you.

  44. lozintransit December 9, 2011 at 11:21 AM #

    I write down memorable quotes from conversations I’ve had in my travels. The one I’ve been referencing the most recently is – “I’m not jealous of your stories. I’m jealous of your happiness”.

    I like the sentiment expressed in this post.

    • Steph December 9, 2011 at 10:23 PM #

      Well said!

  45. Vacay Girl March 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM #

    In my book, it’s okay to be selfish and do what you want. No one traveling is asking for government assistance to do so. No one is protesting that people aren’t helping them travel the world. So what business is it of theirs if that’s what Gilbert as well as all of us want to do? It’s not.

    Do we call others selfish when they pursue a top-level position in their company? Do we say people need to settle down more or live a sedentary lifestyle? No, because everyone has their own idea of what their life should be. And some people travel in order to figure that out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

  46. coco July 21, 2012 at 4:09 PM #

    I really liked “Eat Pray Love” and didn’t get the whole “rich white girl problems” thing that so many people seem to have a problem with. Like you, I thought it was admirable that Elizabeth Gilbert decided to pack in her usual life and go travelling for a while. And plus, she funded her own travels with a book deal. It’s not as if she took her daddy’s money and went travelling around the world.

    I agree with you that people are threatened by things outside of the norm, probably because they are jealous that they couldn’t handle or enjoy the same things.

  47. Ally November 19, 2012 at 1:37 AM #

    in australia we call this tall poppy syndrome. Sometimes people just dont want others to be successful :s

  48. Charli l Wanderlusters February 12, 2013 at 11:50 PM #

    I sympathise with your musings Steph.

    I’ve been nomadic for the past two years and am starting to receive mixed reviews of my lifestyle choice from family and friends. It vexes me that a small few do not recognise that I am simply following my dreams. Is it any different to my pursuing a career in nursing because it brings me enjoyment? I feel it isn’t, just because the four walls of my office are also nomadic doesn’t take away from the success I achieve.

    I love Ally’s suggestion of Tall Poppy syndrome. Very apt. Growing up I was always told I was rather tall for my age!

  49. Kaitlyn @ Wanderlust Kait July 18, 2013 at 9:08 AM #

    I am getting ready to move to Spain to teach English and have already received criticism from my family. It is so refreshing to read posts like this and for other people to understand that not everyone wants to graduate college and begin the cookie cutter life!

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