Non-running commentary: why I hate the ‘white lady journey’

So the other day there was a story in the New York Times about a woman who traveled to Newfoundland in order to recover from her “first adult crisis.” I obnoxiously commented, “Eat Pray Love II: a white lady’s journey of soul-searching, self-discovery and cod.”

Now, maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like if you can afford to just take off on a road trip, things aren’t all that desperate (terminal illnesses notwithstanding).

The NYT piece also made me realize that in all these years of blogging, I’ve never written a blog post about how much I despise Eat Pray Love. Incredible.

Okay, so I did not actually read the book or see the movie, but the whole concept of traveling as a means of coping with your problems is a privilege afforded to almost nobody. Many of us have problems. Many of us would love to escape them. Many of us have never been to Provence. Many of us would be homeless if we quit our jobs to go there.

I call this the “white lady journey,” but there are men who do it too.

We treat these people as if they’re so brave and courageous for “leaving their comfort zones” to “follow their dreams” but it’s actually only people with serious reserves (or wealthy parents, or a ton of job flexibility) who are able to do these things. For the rest of us pathetic losers living paycheck to paycheck, it seems patronizing and cruel to recommend to us that we not settle for anything less than our ~*wildest dreams*~

The woman in the Newfoundland story says says she spent the “dredges” of her money on “ferry passage and a rental car; a driving atlas of Atlantic Canada; bread, tomatoes and tins of anchovies,” yet somehow she comes up with the funds for sea scallops and beer. And a place to come home to.

“Sometimes you just have to leap and the net will appear,” said this dreadful woman in a humblebrag-laden Cosmopolitan essay about how she quit her $95,000 writing job to move to an island. Except for most people, it won’t. (Did she mention she went to Yale? And was making $95,000? Yes, yes she did.)

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You too can be an inspirational white lady doing handstands on a beach. Photo cred: cosmopolitan.com

A lot of bloggers have also tried the whole permanent tourist gig and I was pleased to learn that some of them end up scrubbing toilets (an activity suspiciously omitted from their instagram feeds until their blog profits inevitably dwindled and they needed another boost in page view$).

And let’s not forget about those wholesome YouTube couples! Turns out internet stardom is also not an attainable goal. Not everyone gets a reality show.

I think you get my point already, but just to hammer it home one more time: if you quit your job on a whim but you have a bank account, a home, light skin, a college education, rich family members, you are not brave (DID SHE MENTION HER SALARY THO?).

You’re just lucky.

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11 thoughts on “Non-running commentary: why I hate the ‘white lady journey’

  1. I read the book and saw the movie. (And although I feel like you should have read it before kinda dissing it)… I agree. My friend works at a library in a very poor area. She leads a book club and when they read Eat Pray Love the book club ladies thought the book was so dumb. We joked that it was “White Girl Problems Part 2”. I guess it’s all about perspective – those didn’t seem like problems to those ladies. I get being at a crossroads in life and needing change and needing to find meaning. So, I do like reading about self discovery – but I guess agree that it’s a little dramatic to say it’s so brave? I don’t know.

    I have to admit I ended up really liking EPL after seeing the movie (just last year). Maybe that’s because Julia Roberts is adorable. But it did make me wanna drink that weird soda in India…

  2. I don’t think I’d find these things so problematic if we didn’t have just as prominent stories from people who have actually struggled and not been in such privileged positions and weren’t overwhelmingly white, attractive, straight, etc. But those stories aren’t “marketable.” Ugh….

    • Right. Most of those “success stories” we hear about aren’t willing to acknowledge all the advantages/privileges they had to help them get there.

  3. I grew up in Newfoundland and was a little annoyed at some of her conclusions. To clarify one point a meal of cod and scallops in Twillingate wouldn’t have been expensive because it’s caught locally and there are great craft brewers in the St. John’s area that wouldn’t have been available in the smaller inlets where she was given Coors Light. If she had asked the same question in St. John’s the answer would have been different.

    As for running away to escape your problems, I agree you need a source of income and the freedom of responsibilities (mortgage, job, kids) to make that possible. 🤗

  4. From one of the articles: “Why would someone with 90,000 Instagram followers be serving brunch?”

    Ummmm … really? I don’t understand how anyone thinks you can translate 90K social followers into a liveable income. But the fact that people do makes me weep for the future.

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