Two Tickets to Paradise

By: Lauren Keeling
By: Lauren Keeling

On Lauren Keeling's book shelf right now? "Eat, Pray, Love." But she didn't want to read for the same reasons as most...

Like the rest of the reading world, I've been thumbing through Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love."

It's my second time scouring the pages of this book, and hands down, thumbs up and snaps in a circle...I adore it.  It's truly a beautiful story of a woman searching for something (ultimately, herself) and doing it in a way not many could ever imagine.

I'll admit I was surprised by how thoughtful and spiritually inspiring I found it- initially, I was drawn to the book simply because its title contained three things I REALLY enjoy doing with my husband, and am pretty good at...eating what he cooks, praying together and loving him!

I won't spoil the story for those of you yet to pick it up- but even without reading it, and thanks to Julia Roberts, I'm sure at this point you know Elizabeth Gilbert travels to three places in search of a balanced life: Italy, India and Indonesia.

I can't ever imagine Jim and I getting the chance to drop everything for a year and hit up three places across the globe that epitomize eating, praying and loving.  With two good jobs, three cool kids and a houseful of animals and plants that need us...it just doesn't seem feasible.

But, reading this book did get me thinking about three places that we could go, within the 50 states, that could accomplish each of those wonderful activities.  And hopefully, not take a whole year.  And our whole life savings.

To begin, Eat:

I would absolutely eat my way through the Texas State Fair.  I don't know if you saw that Oprah episode, but they pretty much fry EVERYTHING...butter, peaches, squash, air...you name it, they've fried it.  Plus, Jim taught me that the best barbecue comes from the Lone Star State...sign me up, I'm in. 

I wouldn't think about fat content, I wouldn't think about calories, and I would definitely not think about the amount of grease I would be pouring into my body.  I would enjoy every second....which would be about three weeks and a few days worth of seconds, since it starts in September and ends in the middle of October.  Jim tends to like healthier food, so I would not require him to trip down the tunnel to funnel cakes with me...I would, however, require him to keep me away from the scales! haha :-)

Next, Pray:

I love the beach.  The sand, the water, the breeze...it's all the essence of peaceful for me.  If your purpose is to pray, why not do it in the place you find to be the most peaceful? 

Jim and I have talked in the past about retiring to the northeast where it mixes the best of both of our worlds- he likes cooler temperatures, I like large bodies of water.  National Geographic lists Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod as one of the United States most beautiful beaches, and it's only accessible by bike or shuttle.  And the photo is beautiful.  It speaks to my soul.  We're there.

Remember that scene in the movie "City of Angels," where all of the angels meet down at the beach at sunrise every morning before going off to protect their people?  Jim and I would join our angels on the beach at sunrise and spend those moments being thankful and connecting to God.  We would read our way through the whole Bible, together.  There's no time limit on this trip.  We'll stay until we know it's time to leave.

Finally, Love:

When I think about love as a place, I think about Tennessee.  Jim and I were married in Gatlinburg, and there will never be a spot more representative of love for me than the porch overlooking the mountains where we said our vows.  We'd start there. 

Then we'd head to Nashville, because we love country music and Christmas lights.  From there, Dollywood, and that's simply because I love Dolly Parton.  We'd spend time up in the Smokies camping.  We'd go to Jackson, just to sing one of Johnny and June's songs.  We'd hit every little antique shop, flea market, yard sale and greasy spoon the state had to offer.  Being in love, doing things we love in a place we love- that would wrap up my story perfectly.

Which, I guess, also makes my story very different from Elizabeth Gilbert's. 

I'm not searching for anything as an individual, outside of a deeper spiritual connection to God- something I'm always searching for.  What I love and need, I'm lucky to already have.  But no matter where your story starts, we can all agree, there's nothing wrong with doing the things you want to in the life you've created.  Especially if it makes you happy.

Read the book.  Be inspired.  Find your own places to eat, pray and love.

 Lauren K.

P.S. For those of you who are or will be reading the book, the most interesting and applicable piece of knowledge in it, for me, was when the old medicine man told Gilbert the best way to meditate is to smile, and to smile with her liver.  So effective- it ALWAYS makes me smile!  Try it!

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