The Truth About Holly Corbett and Eat, Pray, Love

Extras, Leaving & Coming Home, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Spiritual Travel, Travel Books & Movies — By on July 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Awhile back I met a freelance writer for Page Six magazine who later asked if she could profile me about my travels. I thought it’d be a short piece, but the magazine’s editor turned it from a profile into an “as told to” feature story complete with a photo shoot. Apparently, the editor wanted to get publicity by framing me as following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert in her famous memoir Eat, Pray, Love. And then she titled the story with words that would never come out of my mouth, “My year-long trip changed my life-FOR THE WORSE.”

I never fully addressed the article or the gossip blog that later commented on the Page Six story because I didn’t want to fan the fires, and it seemed ridiculous to me that anyone would believe travel could ever ruin someone’s life. I decided to post only a short blog in response after my colleagues gave advice such as, “Let it lie because it could become much worse. What happens is they create a stock character and keep flogging them over and over.” In a previous blog entry, I said I had no regrets. But now I regret that I didn’t address the lies in depth sooner. As the opening quote in Eat, Pray, Love says, “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” So I wanted to set the record straight.

1. The title of the story is 100 percent false. I found it odd that the writer of the story asked me, the interview subject (not the writer!), for title suggestions because that’s usually the editor’s job. But I did what the writer asked, and looking back through old emails saw a title I’d submitted: “On The Road to Inspiration: One New Yorker Ditches It All To Travel the Globe With Her Friends.” That’s obviously a very different angle than the one that was spun.

2. I did NOT take the trip because I read Gilbert’s book. I also found it odd that the writer kept asking me to comment on Gilbert’s book, saying the editor thought I could be “an inspiration for the Eat Pray Love generation.” Though the story writes that I “followed in [Gilbert’s] footsteps” and got the idea to travel while reading the book, it could not be farther from the truth. The idea to go on a yearlong trip actually came from Amanda when she, Jen, and I were on our first vacation together in Argentina. Few people get to explore the world for an entire year, so when the opportunity was in front of me, I made it happen.

Though a gossip blog covering the print story titled the post, “Eat Pray Loathe: Editor Follows Eat, Pray, Love Around The World-And Hates It!,” that’s yet another ridiculous statement that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Like I said before, travel is one of those life decisions that I’ll never regret. And I didn’t follow Gilbert’s journey, though I fully respect it and agree with this mention from the Bhagavad Gita in her book, “…it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”

I am on no one’s journey but my own.

3. I believe Gilbert’s writing is among our generation’s most influential. All that being said, Elizabeth Gilbert’s account of the pilgrimage she took both within her self and the world at large has inspired many, many women. I don’t think she’s trying to be a spokesperson for an entire generation, but her personal tale runs into the deeper issues that Western woman face today: Given the freedom to blaze our own path for one of the first times in history, which way do we turn? Every woman must decide for herself whether to take the road of marriage, or motherhood, or career. Or all three. Or something else entirely. Our grandmothers and mothers worked hard to get us to this place, but left us no map in which to guide us. Gilbert’s personal search offers a real-life example of taking all the amazing (and sometimes confusing) choices we’re given and crafting a life that fits with what matters most to us.

The deeper, universal theme of her story is, of course, the search for peace. Whether you are born a man or a woman, rich or poor, healthy or sick, I believe that sense of peace is what we all want.

4. No, I did not get paid for the story, and the Burberry jacket I wore in the picture wasn’t mine. Among some of the colorful comments posted on the gossip blog were that I received money for the story (you don’t get paid for being interviewed), and that my expensive wardrobe/suitcase choices for the photo were tacky (actually, when editors set up a photo shoot they have the wardrobe already picked out for you and hire makeup artists to style you). However, the comment referring to a picture of me in Africa while on the trip saying I’d gained weight was true (“workout clothes don’t equal cardio”). Thanks for noticing!

5. I’ve learned to trust myself more. There were many things about the whole situation that felt wrong to me, but I didn’t think it’d be right to back out of something after I’d agreed to it. It may have been a hard lesson to learn, but it showed me the right thing to do is to always, always listen to my instincts. If something feels wrong, I can change direction and walk away.

The thing I won’t change, however, is to always believe that people are good until they prove me otherwise. That belief may get me into trouble sometimes, but I’d rather fall on my face (and break every limb doing it) than stop trusting others. Travel taught me that.

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