The danger of watching travel movies (similar to that of pouring over travel blogs) is that you start to think the experience shown to you is the one you want – and even need – to have. Then you find out too late that everyone has a different travel story, it’s impossible to mimic what someone else found to be successful (whether fictional or not), and alas, you have not fallen in love with a fascinating foreigner while simultaneously finding your true self and becoming financially stable from the revenue your travel blog brings in.
Movies fantasize the act of traveling. They even fantasize the trials and the pain that can come with it. The number one fantasy noticeable in travel-themed movies: money is no object. Seriously, have you ever noticed that characters are able to throw down their credit cards with seemingly no concern over the bill they are racking up? How often in a movie does a character walk up to a ticket counter in the airport and book either the next flight to anywhere or the soonest flight to a specific place? That’s probably the most expensive way to buy a flight. How about a movie accurately portraying a character spending several hours of many days months in advance cross-referencing flight costs from multiple airlines utilizing seven different cheap-flight-finding websites? Well, no one wants to see that…
What got me started on this rant? I watched Eat, Pray, Love last night. Don’t get me wrong – it was a beautiful, enjoyable movie. I haven’t read the book, so I feel that I can’t criticize any confusing or “holey” areas of the plot, as they may simply be a result of the conversion. However, I was a little irritated by the main character, who despite telling her boyfriend she might return penniless in a week, seemed able to buy a whole new wardrobe every time she crossed a border, and, despite claiming to quite lonely as she traveled, managed to make good and apparently lasting friendships rather quickly everywhere she went. But then, maybe I was just already prejudiced from the start. I mean, come on – she’s a successful travel writer who’s been to 49 different countries, and yet she still has a box under the bed of all the places she wants to go? So go! Your job not only allows you, but pays you to go! Ugh. Don’t even get me started on the fact that after specifically describing herself as someone who is always with a man and tends to change herself to match the person in her life (a trait she sets out to cure), she proceeds to alter herself to fit in to each country (as though she is dating the culture itself) and then still winds up with a man. Because it’s not a good story unless the woman finds herself a man in the end, right?
I guess that makes it sound like I hated this movie. I didn’t hate it. Travel movies are always inspiring. I just wish some of them were a bit more realistic.
Movies feed dissatisfaction quite often actually. I think this is why I prefer to watch historical or period films – you can’t go around whining about your life being vastly different than the court of 17th century Versailles, now can you? Well, you could, but I predict that people would be annoyed or concerned for your sanity. Action movies and thrillers also lack a source of discontentment – unless you enjoy having your life threatened six times before breakfast, that is. It’s romantic movies and travel movies that create the strongest desire in watchers for a life they don’t have, and frankly, a life that no non-fiction person has. It’s so easy to get caught up in a beautiful storyline and wind up wondering why your life is apparently the dullest one in history.
Trust me, even when you are out having adventures, you can fall prey to the idea that your adventures are subpar in comparison to someone else’s. How silly. How human. Why didn’t I meet a woman in a coffee shop and gain a life-long friend? Why didn’t I learn to meditate? Why didn’t I go out to a party and meet a handsome, passionate, and surprisingly chivalrous foreigner? Why didn’t I see those underground tunnels when I was in Rome?
Or how about this question: Why would I want my life to be an imitation of someone else’s story, real or fictional? If you try to plagiarize another person’s life story, you will end up with a pretty shoddy piece of work that no one wants to read.
I get caught in this same idea when I find a success travel blog. I read about how and why this particular person started traveling, the places they have been, the way they have supported themselves throughout their travels, and I think, “I need to do that. I need to see that. I need to take that picture. I need to make money the way they have made money.” And then I have to give myself a hard slap across the face and remind myself that I am not them. I cannot, should not, and do not want to imitate their story. My story will be beautiful, precisely because it will be uniquely mine. We can appreciate and enjoy the stories of other’s without becoming depressed by our own lives. At least, we can try.
Your story is beautiful, because it is your story and no one else’s. Live your own story. Love your own story.