Elizabeth Gilbert’s yearlong journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia was fodder for her 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love (Penguin), but today she’s settled with her husband, Jose, in Frenchtown, New Jersey, and runs Two Buttons Imports, an unassuming warehouse–cum–curiosity shop packed with artifacts from their travels. Fantasies about flying to Luang Prabang, Laos, for dinner aside, Gilbert finds pleasures close to home—scouring flea markets and chatting up visitors. Next up: a memoir about her unexpected venture into a second marriage, due out next year. Here, she shares some choice words of worldly wisdom.—
Last great read?
I’ve been going through everything Clive James has written in the last three decades, most recently Cultural Amnesia.
Museum or gallery you keep returning to?
The New York Public Library, my holy of holies.
Ideal travel companion?
Ben Franklin. I imagine he’d be up for trying (and enjoying) just about anything. Plus, he spoke superb French.
What won’t you travel without?
Pajamas, slippers, eye mask, earplugs. Comfortable sleep is everything. And here’s what I refuse to travel with: checked luggage. Even if I’m setting off for two months.
On your iPod?
I never even got cool enough to buy a cassette-playing Walkman. I wouldn’t have the first idea of what to do with an iPod.
Best way to unwind?
Legs up against the wall of the hotel room, towel over eyes.
What do you collect?
Oddly, it seems I now have a small collection of old Laotian opium pipes. I’m always a little worried about shipping them to America.
The Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok. The building has all the character and nuance of a great novelistic personage. And the food is wonderful.
Unlikely shopping destination?
The Golden Nugget Antique Market, in Lambertville, New Jersey. It’s the best place to shop for anything, especially on Sunday afternoons in the autumn.
Near home: Wondee Siam in New York, a cheap Thai place with a secret menu for Thai speakers. Abroad, it’s Les 3 Nagas, in Luang Prabang. It makes a venison stew with spices you’ve never heard of.
Favorite movie for its sense of place?
Y Tu Mamá También. Mexico gets overromanticized in American film. This feels like the real deal.
Where will you travel next?
To the mailbox and promptly back into my house. For the first time in my life, the only place I want to be is home.