Where I belong is who I am. The Search for Identity in Elisabeth Eaves' "Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2014

25 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1 Introduction: toward a definition of the modern travel book

2 Home and Identity in Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents
2.1 Relating Home and Identity
2.1.1 Constructing Identity in an increasingly mobile world
2.1.2 Home as Identity Home as a place Home as being-with-others
2.2 Elisabeth’s search for home and identity
2.2.1 Establishing multiple place-based identities
2.2.2 Establishing romantic home-relations
2.3 Homelessness as a result of Elisabeth’s search for home

3 Textual strategies for securing identity
3.1 Elisabeth’s strategies of subjectification
3.1.1 Projecting difference onto the tourist
3.1.2 Projecting difference onto the local
3.2 Elisabeth’s strategies of subjection
3.2.1 Establishing an authentic traveler
3.2.2 Establishing a masculine traveler

4 Conclusion

5 Works cited
5.1 Primary Literature
5.2 Secondary Literature

1 Introduction: toward a definition of the modern travel book

Along with a continuously growing readership, travel writing as a genre is increasingly gaining academic interest from a variety of disciplines. This development can be attributed to its literary reputation, which has improved significantly since the second half of the 20th century (Thompson 2-3). Even though travel writing is still facing heavy criticism, scholars have acknowledged the genre’s value in establishing a cosmopolitan world view which embraces tolerance and emphasizes cultural links instead of cultural differences (Thompson 6-7).

As travel writing’s popularity has risen, so have attempts at defining it. In general, what scholars denote as travel writing is “the first-person, ostensibly non-fictional narrative of travel” (Thompson 26). However, there is no agreement on defining the genre beyond this central criterion of form since it is extremely hybrid and its boundaries to other genres are permeable. Therefore, the selected approach in this paper will be to focus on the definition of a sub-genre of travel writing, the modern travel book (Blanton 2).

The modern travel book has emerged as a genre along with the last essential shift in travel writing in the late 1970s (Hulme and Youngs 8). This literary shift goes hand in hand with a shift in the purpose of travel from “political exploration or mercantile errands to travel for its own sake” (Blanton 3). This is ultimately the reason for the modern travel book’s tendency to be more autobiographical than its generic predecessors. Among its other key features is the preference of psychological issues over facts and as a consequence thereof, the foregrounding of the narrator – “a relatively new ingredient in travel writing” (Blanton 4).

To emphasize the narrative self, the modern travel book applies fictional strategies. As a consequence, it is considered to occupy a position in-between fact and fiction, authorizing its “claims about foreign places and people through recourse to ‘facts’ ” and interpreting these facts with the use of fictional means (Lisle 38-39). A mark of all travel writing is the textual construction of the other, who is objectified and contrasted to secure the narrative self (Youngs 13, Lisle 40-41). Usually, the narrator explores a world that is foreign to them, observes difference and negotiates their identity in comparison to it. Since travelling always entails a journey, this “interplay between alterity and identity, difference and similarity” is typical for travel writing (Thompson 9). It is especially typical for the modern travel book because it often recounts a special kind of journey, the journey into the self (Youngs 102).

During the physical journey of travelling, the narrator’s “experiences in the outer world can be ‘transferred’ to the self that is being scrutinized, thus converting the journey into a mode of introspection” (Blanton 3). Spurred on by a desire for self-discovery and self-understanding, modern travel writers set out to travel “in search of meaning, purpose or belonging” (Youngs 90, Lisle 45). Travel writing helps them to redefine their identity and to revise their concept of home as well as to determine its relative position in the world when using it as a “frame of reference” (Holland and Huggan 5, 15). In Wanderlust: A Love Affaire with Five Continents, Elisabeth Eaves, both author and protagonist, renegotiates these two concepts – home and identity – in her inner journey of self-exploration.

Making use of a qualitative and explorative approach, this paper investigates the question of how the search for identity and belonging is fashioned in Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents. First, the theoretical part 2.1 relates the concepts of home and identity to infer how home can function as a source of identity. It establishes two theoretical frameworks for the analysis of Elisabeth’s search for home as identity. These are then applied in section 2.2 to assess the manner and the success of her strategies of identity construction. Section 2.3 provides an answer to the question of whether her mobile lifestyle as a modern nomad leads to homelessness and lack of identity. Subsequently, section 3 breaks down the narrative techniques Elisabeth uses to secure her public identity as travel writer and relates them to the construction of her personal identity.

2 Home and Identity in Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents

2.1 Relating Home and Identity

The following sections briefly define the concepts of home and identity and relate them to each other by establishing two theoretical frameworks for constructing identity through the search for home and belonging.

2.1.1 Constructing Identity in an increasingly mobile world

The starting point of any person’s identity is the self. It is the process of a subject, the I, reflecting on itself as an object, the me. This dialectic activity generates a product: the self-concept – “variously described as what comes to mind when one thinks of oneself, one’s theory of one’s personality, and what one believes is true of oneself” (Gecas 3, Leary and Tangney 69). Identities, particularly personal identities, constitute one’s self- concept (Leary and Tangney 69). Marc R. Leary and June Price Tangney (94) define them as “a person’s traits, characteristics and attributes, goals and values, and ways of being.” Since the concepts of identity and self-concept substantially describe the same phenomenon, scholars often use them interchangeably (Leary and Tangney 74). In an analogous manner and for simplification reasons, the term identity will be used as a synonym for self-concept in this research paper.

When people think of identity, they most often associate coherence and a singular sense of self with it (Weir 5). This view, however, is problematic since the self reflects on itself from different perspectives and over different time frames. Its identity can never be completely stable; it is always context-dependent and changeable resulting in a multitude of identities (Leary and Tangney 72). Thus perceiving identity as multiple and fragmented is much more appropriate than the idea of a unified identity (Anderson 46). A person’s identity is more of a process than a static concept that needs to be revised concomitant with changes in their living conditions (Proshansky, Fabian and Kaminoff 59).

This raises the question of how a person can still construct a sense of identity in an increasingly mobile world coined by globalization and an overabundance of options to choose from. What scholars agree on is the fact that identity is a relational concept. It is always defined as the difference to others, as what others are not (Weedon 19). The others, however, do not necessarily have to be people; identity can also be categorized in relation to places (Weedon 58). Now, a common strategy besides emphasizing the difference to otherness is to look for a sense of belonging in it: a person can answer the question of who they are by determining where they belong. (Cuba and Hummon 112)

2.1.2 Home as Identity

Home is often associated with a feeling of belonging (Chow and Healey 7). Where we belong and thus where we feel at home can tell us who we are; in this sense, home can be a source of identity (Weir 82). It is specifically this aspect of the concept of home which is presented in Wanderlust and which this paper therefore concentrates on. But it is only one of a variety of aspects since the concept of home is highly complex, multidimensional and always subjective – it has different meanings for different individuals (Chow and Healey 7).

What is applicable to the entirety of the concept of home is the idea that it is more than an actual place: it is “a (stative) verb rather than a noun, a state of being which is not necessarily bounded by a physical location” (Weir 79). Home therefore implies being at home, which usually denotes feelings of comfort, familiarity and the possibility to fully be oneself (Cuba and Hummon 113).

If home is regarded as an activity to establish a sense of identity, then it can be performed in two ways: in places and in or with people (Weir 79). It is exactly these two strategies that Elizabeth applies in her search for home and identity: on the one hand, she tries to create a home in her romantic relationships, in being-with-others. On the other hand, she attempts to establish multiple attachments to the places she travels to, so called place-identities. Home as a place

Places differ from locations in one respect: they have meaning (Cresswell 1). The meaning attributed to a specific place can change, be either personal or shared and is created through practice. When a person lives in a place or uses it, it becomes meaningful for them (Cresswell 1-2). In fact, a place can become so emotionally relevant for them that they develop a sentimental attachment to it and by this means acquire “a sense of belonging and purpose which give meaning to [their] […] life” (Raadik-Cottrell 22; Proshansky, Fabian and Kaminoff 60). Home, in this case, can be referred to as a significant ‘place’ because it is “the central reference point of human existence”- it can shape a person’s identity by providing them with a particularly deep feeling of belonging (Chow and Healey 7).

If a place becomes an actual site for an individual’s identity production, then a so called place-identity is formed. The term place-identity denotes not just the previously described personal attachment to a place, it goes beyond that: place becomes a means for self-definition – in terms of what kind of person the individual thinks they are and what kind of person others might consider them to be (Chow and Healey 5).

In order for a place-identity to evolve, a place needs to fulfil four principles according to Clare L. Twigger-Ross and David L. Uzzell (205), who used a model originally established by Breakwell (1986, 1992, 1993) as a framework for relating place and identity. First, a place needs to assist an individual in establishing distinctiveness. It should function as a means for distinguishing oneself from others, for emphasizing the link to a particular physical settng in comparison to other environments. The second factor a place should provide is twofold – place-referent and place-congruent continuity. The first type of contuity refers to the place being “a concrete background against which one is able to compare oneself at different times” if the person sustains a certain bond to it (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell 207). The latter type is the “maintenance of continuity via characteristis of places which are generic and transferable from one place to another” meaning that a person will look for places that embody their ideals and are congruent with their self-concept (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell 208). Besides evoking a sense of continuity of identity, a place should foster a person’s self-esteem, referring to “a positive evaluation of oneself or the group with which one identifies; it is concerned with a person’s feeling of worth or social value” (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell 208). Finally, a place-identitiy is successfully established if the place generates self-efficacy, providing “a manageable environment” in which the individual can master their daily tasks unimpededly (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell 208).

Should, however, a place lack these four qualities, the person will be unable to develop a coherent place-identity. The result is often relocation if the place and the individual sense of identity contradict each other (Prohansky, Fabian and Kaminoff 73). Moving on to another place can furthermore represent “an opportunity to develop new identities” (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell 207).

The operative word here is identities. As the scholarly understanding of identity shifts from singularity to multiplicity, so should the view on place-identity according to Doreen Massey (59), who denotes this new concept of place as “progressive sense of place”. The still prevailing idea of rooted places needs to be revised - rootes turn into routes: as people tend to lead increasingly mobile lives, they develop multiple place-based identities depending on their heterogeneous identities and thus “multiple ‘homes’ to return to” (Raadik-Cottrell 36). Home as being-with-others

Aside from places, home can also be created in relationships with other people. In this context, Kuang-Ming Wu (193) denotes home as “being-with-other(s)”. For the purpose of clarification, Wu labels the two people in a relationship I and you. As has been referred to above, identity is always relational thus working with the notion of otherness. So does the concept of home. In a relationship, the I establishes itself as self-identical whereas the you is marked as the other, who is different from the I. A relationship in which both I and you accommodate each other can become so positive that the I regards the other as its “home”. There is, however, the risk of this original home-relation turning into a hostility-relation. In this case, the I comes to view the other as its “hell” (Wu 193).

The home-relation is successfully established if three factors of acceptance exist. First, the you fully accepts the I as a person and becomes itself an environment, in which the I can feel at home and be itself. Simultaneously, the I acknowledges the you as a person and makes room for it to feel at home, too. These two factors culminate in mutual acceptance. The I and you accept each other’s acceptance and react to it in their own way: they care that much about each other that they are for instance concerned about how they dress and how they look to the other person. An essential requirement for a functioning home-relation is that both parties must not be selfish or wield authority onto the other (Wu 194). Thus, a home-relation is always coined by self-nihilation, the process of becoming an “empty chamber” for the other person (Wu 194-195). Nihilating oneself has two advantages for the I (and concomitantly for the you) with regard to identity-formation. On the one hand, the I receives room to create and recreate itself as a person due to the other’s self-nihilation. On the other hand, through its own self-nihilation, the I loses itself in the you; it can “come home” to and wholly become itself without being ashamed (Wu 195).

Nevertheless, nihilation can have negative effects as well. If either I or you become too egoistic and abuse the power relations by forcing their will onto the other, then a hostility-relation might develop (Wu 198). Wu (198) describes hostility as “a failure of self-voiding, of other-acceptance, of being at home in the other.” If a hostility-relation might occur, the I has different possibilities: it can stay in the relationship, which might then result in mutual self-destruction, or leave the you to find a new home with another person (Wu 198). Either way, “our life is a story of the interweavings of these two – the other as home, the other as hell” (Wu 199).

2.2 Elisabeth’s search for home and identity

As has been concluded earlier in section 2.1.2, Elisabeth applies two strategies within her search for home as a source of identity: she attempts to create a home in places and in people. In the following two sub items 2.2.1 and 2.2.2, both of these methods are analyzed to assess the success of her efforts of identity and home formation. First, the most significant places she stayed in for a longer time are evaluated within the framework established by Twigger-Ross and Uzzell (for a description of the model see to determine whether she was able to develop one or more place-identities. Second, her longer-lasting relationships are singled out and examined according to Wu’s theory of home as being-with-others (for a detailed summary see to infer if any of them resulted in a home-relation or, by contrast, in a hostility-relation.

2.2.1 Establishing multiple place-based identities

The places selected for the analysis within Twigger-Ross and Uzzell’s model of place-identity relation are Spain, The Middle East (Egypt and Pakistan), Seattle, Australia, Auckland, and New York City. Some of the places Elisabeth visited during her travels are disregarded in this paper- for two reasons: first, her trips to Yemen, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Peru were only short-time visits so she did not spend enough time there to form a real attachment. Second, Vancouver, London, Washington and Paris have no significant meaning for her as places because she hardly mentions their effect on her identity formation. It is assumed in this paper that if all four factors of identity - distinctiveness, place-referent and place-congruent continuity, self-esteem and self-efficacy - are existent for Elisabeth in a place, it can be concluded that she has formed a substantial attachment to it – a place-identity.

In Spain, Elisabeth does not feel distinct and cannot associate herself with the area. Instead, she calls the people living there “Spaniard[s]” and talks about their culture in comparison to her “own culture” (Eaves 25-26). Still, Spain provides her with both sides of continuity. First, it is place-referent because she refers to it as “a happy childhood memory” being a referent to her past self (Eaves 15). Second, it is place-congruent since for her, it represents the possibility of changing her identity as she pleases (Eaves 15). Her self-esteem is also enhanced since she describes Spain as her “world” with people knowing her there (Eaves 30). Her view on the manageability of the place – her self-efficacy - is more ambivalent. Even though she has an easy schedule to go by every day, she still feels unfree and restricted in her way of life (Eaves 23, 25). In all, she is not able to establish a place-identity in Spain. Instead, she merely develops a sense of “pseudo-belonging” and already thinks about moving on to the next place while she is still there (Eaves 30, 32-33).

Especially Egypt, and also Pakistan, as representatives of the Middle East as a region make her feel distinctive because there are clear boundaries she can compare herself to (Eaves 128). She identifies as a student of Arabic and besides that, uses the place as a means to distinguish herself from others as an “adventurer” (Eaves 37, 93). Moreover, the Middle East provides her with what she herself denotes as “comforting continuity” (Eaves 199). This continuity is place-referent because she tries to keep up the link to the Middle East by choosing other Arab countries to go to, and she feels that she has lost a part of herself when she leaves Egypt (Eaves 89, 92). It is also place-congruent since the Middle East signifies a challenge for her - a place where she can prove her tough character (Eaves 37, 48). What it lacks, however, is the quality of increasing her self-esteem. Particularly in Egypt, she stands out as a foreign woman making her constantly feel a sense of fear and panic (Eaves 45). Her self-efficacy is diminished as well. As a foreign woman, she has to deal with “objectification” and an “assault on [her] (…) sense of self” which result in a fear of going out in public spaces and feelings of captivity and limitation of freedom (43-44, 47, 114). Even though Elisabeth develops a certain attachment to the Middle East – she even describes it as “home” (Eaves 54) – this identity formation is only possible through dissociation, by “splitting of self from self” (Eaves 48). This is why it can be concluded that she does not develop a coherent place-identity there either.

Seattle, particularly when she is in a relationship with Stu, lacks distinctiveness for Elisabeth. In a place in which she cannot differentiate herself from anything or anyone exotic, it is hard for her to define who she is (Eaves 128). It does provide her with place-referent continuity though as it functions as a connection to her past selves and is something she links with familiarity (Eaves 125). On the other hand, it contradicts her desire for adventure and out-of-the-ordinary experiences and can therefore not endow her with place-congruent continuity (Eaves 128, 134). In Seattle, her self-esteem decreases as well. She feels insecure and becomes reliant on Stu (Eaves 133). Since she does, however, have a convenient and easy life with him mostly making the decisions for her, her self-efficacy is increased (Eaves 124, 129). Just like in Egypt or Pakistan, Elisabeth is only able to live in Seattle through detachment from her own self by splitting her internal from her external life (Eaves 128, 132). She feels “out of place” and cannot develop an attachment to Seattle, specifically not to the “hateful house” she resided in together with Stu (Eaves 128, 172).

In a similar way as in Seattle, it is difficult for Elisabeth to distinguish herself from others and feel distinctive in Australia, particularly in Airlie Beach. Instead, she is like everyone else, “no less of a tourist than any of the backpackers who passed through” (Eaves 175). Since she does not aspire to keep up a bond to Australia, it lacks place-referent continuity for her (Eaves 178). For Elisabeth, Australia is an “all-you-could-eat buffet […] of liberty”, satisfying her constant longing for freedom and unrestrictedness (Eaves 154). In this way, it does provide her with place-congruent continuity. But with all its lightness, it also opposes her desire for challenge (Eaves 156, 178). Her self-esteem gets a boost since she feels included and has established a certain status within the group of boys she lives with (Eaves 165). The same applies to her self-efficacy. Being “far from the problems of the world”, she can lead a convenient, comfortable life with, ostensibly, an abundance of time at hand (Eaves 149, 153). Ultimately, Elisabeth is again unable to establish a place-identity based on Australia because with all its lightness, it also entails meaningless for her (Eaves 170). As soon as Australia becomes too easy and boring for her, she is willing to leave it without a second thought (Eaves 178).

For Auckland, it is not necessary to analyze it in detail with regard to the four factors of identity because it is basically a repetition of her life in Seattle. She is back to the life she had escaped before, she has “re-created [her] […] Seattle life” (Eaves 216). In Auckland, just like in Seattle, she lacks distinctiveness, place-congruent continuity and self-esteem. On top of that, Auckland cannot give her place-referent continuity. It represents no background she can compare herself to and it would be easy for her to never come back there (Eave 221). Not being able to cope with not feeling at home in Auckland, yet again, results in her dissociation of self (Eaves 219).

New York City is different from the places she has lived in before. She denotes it as “the right place” stating that she finally feels like she has “arrived” (Eaves 236, 240). It is a place where she can feel distinct. She is proud to live there and wants to be associated with it (Eaves 236-237, 241). Even though she cannot imagine leaving New York at first and she wants to “hold[…] on to” it, it is doubtable that it can give her a full sense of place-referent continuity (Eaves 249). By blurring out the rest of her life before New York, she cannot use it as a referent to former selves (Eaves 240). Despite this one missing factor, however, all others are available to her there. Her self-esteem is considerably improved: she feels special, smarter than others and regards the city as her “playground” (Eaves 236, 260). Having made friends there and found stability in her life, her self-efficacy can also be considered as high (Eaves 248-249). At this point in her life, New York is “the best fit for her”, the place she could probably feel most at home in (Eaves 249). Even though, in part lacking place-referent continuity, it can be concluded that she has established a place-identity in New York. With her financial situation changing, her self-efficacy decreases as she hardly gets by with the money she earns (Eaves 264). This negative change in her lifestyle erases her attachment to New York by making her feel trapped and dependent (Eaves 265). In a way, she feels rejected by the city and therefore it is not difficult for her to leave it behind as she wants to forget about the fact that her life there did not go as planned (Eaves 266, 275).

Having analyzed the most significant places for Elisabeth applying the Twigger-Ross/Uzzell framework, it becomes apparent that she has only established a place-identity in one place – New York City. But even this attachment falls apart as her self-efficacy there decreases. In addition, the strategy she applies for creating a place-identity is self-defeating. She develops this bond to New York merely through adaption strategies and by becoming someone she is not and, instead, who she thinks the place requires her to be (Eaves 241). A pattern becomes evident in her travels: she sees places as a chance to be someone else rather than herself (Eaves 185, 211). By trying out different identities in different places, she wants to determine the core of her identity (157). But since the idea of a unified identity has been discarded in section 2.1.1, the task of defining a single essence of identity is practically an unachievable task. Since her search for identity is based on this idea of singularity, it cannot be successful.

As a “chameleon”, she can have multiple identities at once (Eaves 89). It is this allure of a double life that makes her incapable of committing herself to any places. She prefers this moment of being “inbetween”, of not having to choose a place or identity. (Eaves 251) Realizing that there is no one place for her to stay in, she chooses to be “bondless” – a geographical polygamist whose home is not one place but the whole world (Eaves 172). This other attempt at establishing a home fails as well because she cannot string together all her experiences and “reconcile them to one another” (Eaves 89). This can on the one hand be attributed to her understanding of identity as a singular coherent entity and on the other hand to her tendency to erase the places she has visited rather than to integrate them in her sense of self.

Her search for home through establishing multiple place-based identities is unsuccessful. In Elisabeth’s case, being placeless equals being homeless (Eaves 299-300).

2.2.2 Establishing romantic home-relations

Elisabeth’s most significant and longer-lasting relationships have been singled out and serve as exemplary for her romantic relationships in general. Her relationships with Graham, Stu, Justin, the Englishman and Dominic are analyzed according to Wu’s theory of home as being-with-others. A home-relation is established if mutual acceptance is existent, no party is over-imposing and selfish and there is room for identity formation and the possibility to fully be and become oneself.

Graham is the first person Elisabeth falls in love with. But since she does not only want to be with him but also like him, she uses assimilation strategies instead of establishing her own self as difference from him (Eaves 13). Rather than marking him as the other, the you, he becomes part of her self-identical I. In her mind, they are one person sharing the same memories: „He began to tell me about his journey, and again I saw images as though they were my own recollections“ (Eaves 53). In the course of their relationship, Elisabeth does start to develop her own identity as she recognizes that their lives will go into different directions (Eaves 91). Still, even when their relationship is over, she behaves in a way that would please Graham (Eaves 93). Trying to be someone else, she can never fully be herself. Thus, even though the relationship seems to be based on mutual acceptance, Graham only acknowledges her as someone other than herself because she does not present him with her real identity. Besides the missing possibility of becoming herself through self-nihilation, there is another reason why her relationship to Graham cannot be a home-relation. By cheating on him with Pepe, she selfishly puts her own desires first without paying regard to how it would affect Graham (Eaves 30). Out of the fear of being rejected by him and because love might cause pain, she chooses travel over him and escapes the relationship (Eaves 51, 93).

With Stu, she tries yet another time to take on someone else’s identity. Repeatedly using the personal pronoun „we“, she makes them both appear as if they were acting as one person (Eaves 126-127). Instead of working with the concept of difference, she looks for similarities. She adopts some of his character traits such as his tendency to interpret everything as a symbol (Eaves 123). The cause lying behind her copying him is the fact that he represents a possible life of rootedness that better fits the life she believes she is supposed to lead than her own (Eaves 125, 214). Moreover, their mutual acceptance is only existent on a superficial level. Whereas Elisabeth acknowledges Stu as a person and makes room for him to be himself, Stu is unable to transform himself into a home-environment for her since she cannot be herself with him but only a different version of himself (Eaves 117). Aside from that, she focuses again on her self-interest: she cheats on Stu and uses him for her own advantage – to become more independent and as an escape hatch from Justin (Eaves 113, 129, 213). By imposing her will onto him and wanting to own him, she transforms their relationship into a hostility-relation (Eaves 132-133). Having become so reliant on him, she blames him for turning her into a person she no longer likes (Eaves 133). She feels like he is taking away her freedom and keeps her from “all those other possible lives” she could lead (Eaves 134). Before their relation can result in mutual self-destruction, Elisabeth escapes the relationship. After getting back together with him later on, she escapes their relationship again to regain her freedom and extricate herself from obligation (Eaves 233).

Justin is the only boyfriend who calls Elisabeth by her nickname Beth (Eaves 271). This and the fact that she does not describe them as if they were one person shows that she tries to create her own identity independent of him instead of trying to be like him. Therefore, this time the relationship is based on sincere mutual acceptance. They appreciate each other as they are and find “basic pleasure in having each other” (Eaves 190). Elisabeth also seems less concentrated on her own interests and even enjoys being happy for him (Eaves 184). She feels comfortable with Justin and trusts him (Eaves 205). But it is difficult to distinguish if she is completely able to be herself with him. When he asks her to marry her, she questions whether she was really herself in the relationship or playing a game to try out different identities (Eaves 207). Another reason why their relationship does not develop into a home-relation is her inclination to be over-imposing. Being afraid of losing him, she wants to control him and regards him as her property: “He was mine” (Eaves 203). Afraid of commitment and too much affection for Justin, she escapes their relationship but still keeping him as an imaginary escape hatch from her future lovers (Eaves 205, 208, 280).

Elisabeth describes the relationship with the Englishman as “different” (Eaves 254). Her love for him is stronger than her desire for being in between lovers and not-committing because the relationship with him feels like an in between moment itself, like “time between time” (Eaves 256). Since he represents a life of travelling for her instead of being tied to a place, she can unite both love and travel in their relationship and does not have to choose one (Eaves 255). They both accept and understand each other and can be themselves in their relationship (Eaves 253). This is why her relationship with the Englishman functions as a home-relation for her, but only for her traveler self, which she splits from her “real world” self (Eaves 256). When their relationship is moved into real life apart from travelling and he agrees to settle down with her, her longing for him is suddenly swept away (Eaves 258). As both her traveler and real self, Elisabeth can never be satisfied by her romantic relationships and is constantly longing for more (Eaves 258).

Being left by the Englishman, she tries to erase him with Dominic (262). For her, their relationship is a “happy medium”, which she pursues because it feels like it is real and has a future (276). This time, she cannot be herself with him because she only presents him with her real, responsible self. Her traveler self is bored by him and lacks desire (Eaves 277). Trying to be responsible, she adjusts to him and fails to establish an independent identity. Again, she becomes one with her lover (Eaves 265-266). Moreover, Elisabeth uses Dominic for egoistic reasons: she can experience another possible life through him – the life of a diplomat – and he is the only thing steady she has (Eaves 263, 265). Even though Dominic does care for her, he cannot fully acknowledge her as a person because he resents her for her past (Eaves 280). Their relationship soon turns into a hostility-relation. Not being able to trust her, Dominic becomes jealous making Elisabeth lie about her past (Eaves 278, 281). As she cannot be herself and feels bad about her past, the relationship turns into a “prison sentence” for her (Eaves 290). Elisabeth leaves Dominic because she recognizes that their relationship has resulted in mutual self-destruction: “Maybe we’ve overstayed our welcome with one another […]” (Eaves 299).

Having examined Elisabeth’s most prominent relationships, a pattern becomes apparent, which is intimately connected to travel: “Travel equals longing equals love” (Eaves 242). She travels because it spurs on a desire in her, and this desire is the reason why she falls in love with someone. As she cannot sustain it in any of her relationships, she remains unsatisfied and constantly longing for it. This is one of the causes for her inability to establish a home-relation with any of her lovers. Another one is the fact that she does not want to settle for one person. Elisabeth sees people as representatives of possible lives she can lead, as links to places she might be able to belong to. With each person, she can be someone else. Trying out multiple identities without having to choose one is what she prefers over committing to one person. She escapes from relationship to relationship without ever being able to feel at home. Her relationships also fail to become home-relations because she does not create an independent identity but tries to take on her boyfriends’ identities making the boundaries between I and you dissolve. She adopts other people’s lives and tries to assimilate leaving no chance for her to fully be and become herself in the other person. Owing to her selfishness and her tendency to afflict her will on her partner, she even turns some of her relationships into hostility-relations.

2.3 Homelessness as a result of Elisabeth’s search for home

As a modern cosmopolitan, Elisabeth’s life is coined by mobility. Regarding home and belonging, mobility can have two consequences for the traveller today. Possibility one is that he or she is able to feel at home in different contexts through multiple attachment and reattachment (Williams and McIntyre 397; Molz 4). Then again, the modern traveller might also be unable to belong anywhere and only develop “superficial bonds” to places or people (Raadik-Cottrell 23). This is what happens to Elisabeth as she realizes: “However far I went, I wouldn’t forget that I was a visitor” (Eaves 79). Her strategies to establish a home in people and places have failed: in the end, she longs for a home but does not have one (Eaves 299). Being homeless, she is also identity-less: “[…] I felt like there was no one at home in my body” (Eaves 146).

The causes for her search for home ending in homelessness and loss of self are plenty. First, she cannot find one specific home in a person or place because she is constantly longing for more and never satisfied. She always ponders on the other options she might have and the options that she would miss if she settled for someone or somewhere. Second, she is unable to connect her different selves and experiences since she blurs them out when she moves on to the next person or place to start anew. This way, she cannot develop a “deterritorialized identity” but only a single instead of multiple attachments at once (Raadik-Cottrell 25). Third, Elisabeth seeks disorientation on purpose, making “getting lost a deliberate goal” (Eaves 17). This desire for disorientation contradicts her longing for belonging making it harder for her to reach it. Fourth, her concept of identity is problematic in itself. Rather than acknowledging her different context-dependent selves and her identity as fragmented, she searches for a core of self, which she is not able to find. Last, her concept of home also restrains her search for it. Her concept of home is that of an ideal home, one that she links with “freedom”, “comfort” and “familarity” (Eaves 24, 148). Striving for an ideal home, however, is problematic because it is practically utopian and so impossible to reach. (Moore 148). Home is better understood as a natural home, always also entailing negativity: it “can be experienced as strange and/or familiar” and it “is neither wholly absent nor present” (Eaves 148, 152).


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Where I belong is who I am. The Search for Identity in Elisabeth Eaves' "Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents"
University of Mannheim  (Lehrstuhl für Anglistische Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft)
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identity, search, wanderlust, elisabeth, eaves, love, home, narrative, techniques, travel, writer, homelessness, subjection, subjectification, textual strategies
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Marie-Kristin Hofmann (Author), 2014, Where I belong is who I am. The Search for Identity in Elisabeth Eaves' "Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/373246


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