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iReporters share their real-life 'Eat, Pray, Love' stories

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
Mark Stephen Levy and his wife, Eliane, returned to Nepal for their honeymoon after meeting in Asia.
Mark Stephen Levy and his wife, Eliane, returned to Nepal for their honeymoon after meeting in Asia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Eat, Pray, Love" struck a chord with several iReporters
  • Some shared their stories of living moments similar to the book's author
  • A film based on the best-selling memoir has been released
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(CNN) -- Soon after the book "Eat, Pray, Love" was released in 2006, a friend of Fabiana Villamor insisted she check it out.

"I was going through a divorce at the time," Villamor said. "My friend said, 'This book is exactly what you have been telling me you are going through and you need to read it.' "

After finding herself unable to put the book down, Villamor quit her job, moved all of her belongings into her parents' basement and flew half away across the world.

The memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is now a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts, has hit an emotional chord with millions of readers for its tale of one woman's spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia.

Villamor was just one of several readers who shared with CNN iReport their stories of adventure, excitement, love and treasured memories stored from their travels.

Read about women and solo travel

iReporter Mark Stephen Levy found himself completely disenchanted with his job in the mid-1980s and longing for the fun he had traveling during college.

Video: Julia Roberts premieres 'Eat, Pray, Love'

"I decided to quit my job," Levy said after reading of Gilbert's journey. "I wasn't married, I leased my apartment and I bought an around-the-world ticket that gave you a year to get home."

He made the most of the trip, he said, spending months in Europe and Asia. It was during his time in India that he met a beautiful French woman with whom he became smitten.

So smitten, in fact, that he took a 36-hour trip from Katmandu to France to visit her after she had returned home -- with some unexpected results.

"I had written her that I was coming," said Levy, who penned a novel titled "Overland" based on his overseas adventures. "When I got to her home, she had left a note for me on the door which basically said, 'You crazy American, what are you doing?' "

Levy eventually did reunite with that young woman, Eliane, and they recently celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary. The pair spent their honeymoon in Asia, reliving the magic that first brought them together.

Robert Connors also submitted an iReport about his special connection to the "Eat, Pray, Love" film -- he and his girlfriend were living in Bali during the time the movie was being filmed, and she worked as a makeup artist on the set.

Eat, Pray, Adapt: Making a book into a film

Connors grew up living abroad and said the experiences were invaluable.

"Whatever you are doing, whatever choices or decisions you are making, you always grab from each culture on how to improve your life," Connors said. "I learned acceptance and to understand that we are all equal at the end of the day. It's the differences that make things great if we could just open our eyes to it."

It's a philosophy that iReporter Nancy Sathre-Vogel and her family are learning as well.

Sathre-Vogel, her husband and twin 10-year-old sons gave up their comfortable life in Boise, Idaho, to cycle from Alaska to Argentina. Two years later, and the family has pedaled 13,000 miles through North, Central and South America.

"The biggest challenge was to make the decision to do it in the first place," said Sathre-Vogel, who read "Eat, Pray, Love" a few months ago while on the road.

"We are raised in such a way as to want the typical, normal American lifestyle of a big house in the suburbs, plenty of cars, etc.," she added. "To finally make the decision that the American dream was fine for others but was not what we wanted out of life was tough. We had to go against everything we were raised to believe in."

iReport: More real "Eat, Pray, Love" stories

As a recently single woman embarking on a life-changing journey, Villamor understands going against the grain. But she said she had no regrets following author Gilbert's lead to travel and follow her heart after that painful divorce.

Villamor enrolled in a graduate program that allowed her to study while she traveled, and she made stops in Salzburg, Austria; Cesky Krumlov and Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest, Hungary; Split, Croatia; Amsterdam and Leiden, Netherlands; Geneva and Interlaken, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Florence, Calci, Rome and Venice, Italy, over six months.

"Since I was going through such a similar situation as [Gilbert's], it helped to give me the courage to pursue it," Villamor said. "Sometimes you do have to drastically change your life and follow your passion."