The Goldfish Bowl: Jump Out and Live a Little!

By guest blogger Julian Easterly. Photos Copyright © Julian Easterly. Le Bookshop photos courtesy Dario Viallet.

I HAPPEN TO LIVE, by chance, in Montpellier, France. Needless to say, that is amazing in itself. But baguettes, cheese and wine aside, nothing surprises like hearing two sixty-something women discuss the intricacies of certain weed side effects.

No, not those munchies. I am talking about weed munchies. It’s when you are hungry—uh—no, you are not really hungry. It’s just your mind tricking you into thinking you are hungry.

Now that my courses at the university are finished for the summer, I spend a lot of time at  Le Bookshop, a bookshop owned by my Friend Dario and his girlfriend Marit. I absolutely love those select Fridays when this particular book club of elderly English and French women meet.

Le Bookshop

Le Bookshop

I wear my headphones to keep them from thinking they are disturbing me. I listen for hours without making a word but every now and then I raise an eyebrow at a comment about narcotics; I scratch my head and wonder what translating Victoria’s Secret catalogs has to do with the Bronte sisters; and I smirk in satisfaction at their confirmations.

(At the end of the meeting today, one of the ladies expressed her eagerness to start reading Toni Morrison. The others nodded in agreement when she asserted that “Toni Morrison is the best living writer.” Love it!)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

Today’s book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, was one I didn’t expect to research immediately. I often overhear their book recommendations and rarely stop studying to look them up. However, today’s argument was too violent for me not to be a little more curious than usual.

From the passage under discussion, I couldn’t decipher what had infuriated these women. I’ll have read the book and get back to you on that. But what I did find interesting was the 12-year-old narrator. She’s a conceited brat who is as irrational as she is sensible. This is the same girl who states that people “aim for the stars” but that all adults would eventually “end up like goldfish in a bowl.”

Does this “bowl” exist?

It’s a pretty frightening thought to take something as vast as life and confine it within a fishbowl. I don’t believe I’m swimming in it yet, but the threat is real. The fishbowl is the monotony that causes marriages to fail and 30-year-old crises. It’s swimming in circles through your own shit and seeing the same plastic castle every forty-five seconds that leads to dissatisfaction with jobs or life in general.

I am 22 years old. I have friends my age who are trapped—who swim in circles.

Is There a way to avoid the “bowl”?

I was living a pretty mundane life in Terre Haute, Indiana when I remembered how I was once like that little girl in the novel. I woke up saturated in morning sunlight and, for some reason, I remembered the days when I would tell my mom that I wanted to leave; that I would travel far from here; that I would build friendships with people of different cultures.

What happened? Why had I decided to settle? From that moment on, it was a race to rediscover that drive. Maybe I couldn’t avoid the bowl . . . but what if I could prolong having to go to it? If I was destined for the bowl, was it possible to extend its boundaries or add scenery?

Le Bookshop

Le Bookshop

Student loans catch up to you. A job keeps you busy. Family adds responsibility. Diseases ail you. Age slows you down. A close friend passes. And before you know it you are pushing seventy and starting arguments at book club meetings. Sometimes, that is what life is like.

However, it is up to you to decide how vast will be the environment in which you swim. Travel a lot and read good books. Meet a sexy girl or a handsome guy and learn another language. Learn to salsa. Live with a farmer in Thailand and help sow the fields. Open doors, follow where they lead you, and leave your regrets at the door mat.

I mean, what do you have to lose if you might end up in a fishbowl anyway?

Travel blogger Julian Easterly

Julian Easterly


After finishing college, JULIAN EASTERLY decided to try his luck in Montpellier, France. He is not quite sure where or how he will find success. Maybe it’s in living in France or in finding a job that allows him to travel and write. Whatever it is, he will keep you posted. Julian writes at Between the Breaths, a private blog that attempts to combine travel and philosophy.



  1. Julian,
    I try to NOT have a routine in my life. Although It is unavoidable in some cases.
    I am lucky as I don’t need to work, and my children are grown. My husband and I try to travel as much as possible, and this helps. Reading articles like yours about interesting people, and wonderful places keeps me happy between trips!
    The “old” ladies discussing the negatives of pot was a hoot. The things you overhear, are sometimes the gems of a story!
    Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed this article.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      But remember, you judge what the “routine” on a sliding scale! It differs for people in intensity. For me, Terre Haute, Indiana was at times unsufferable, but who knows how my experiences would have changed if I was living in Chicago or New York.

      Again, thanks for you comment!

  2. I love this post! Although I don’t travel now and really do live in a fishbowl (or at least a very small town in Maine), I traveled a great deal as a child/teen. And I hope that in my mind and in my actions and my writing I get out and try to do as you say: “Open doors, follow where they lead you, and leave your regrets at the door mat.” I love that!

    • Fishbowl or a very small town? I think you mean the latter rather than the former! Just because you don’t travel any more does not mean you’re stuck. I guess what I wanted to do with the piece was show that there exists stagnation and you have to find a way around it. For me, it was traveling! Besides, I see you’ve traveled a lot when you were younger. You probably have a bunch of connections everywhere!

      and thanks for reading!

  3. I found your article very interesting, maybe since I have left my homecountry and are now living and studying in another country with a different culture.
    And a fishbowl is not that bad, as long as I know I have filled it with life at the end of my life.
    And I liked what you wrote, a lot!

    • I’m not sure who you are but I’m guessing you are a very pretty blond girl from Norway with a killer smile and a huge brain lol. I know that you are not living in a fishbowl!

      merci pour l’aide ma coeur. J’avais besoin de tout que t’en as! 😉

  4. Love this, Julian, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    I live “close by” in Romania (you up for visitors? *wink*) and sometimes it feels like that fishbowl is too small around me. It’s not always easy to live here, especially this week, but generally I’m doing my best to stretch that swimming area out as much as I possibly can.
    Doing the things I love, even if they don’t provide much of an income, is one of my sure ways of cultivating happiness.

    • If you want to visit, do so before I go back to the states in 2 months to visit the folks!

      I like your comment. It’s very relative, this swimming space. And now that I think about it, we are always swimming no matter where you are. If the world is aqurium, you want to try to experience as much of it as you can.

      Cultivate your happiness. If you are like me, we are both still searching for that slice of happiness everybody keeps bragging about. Bet the frosting is great.

      • I think yes, we’re both still searching. And experiencing as much as we can is the best way to not regret being in this aquarium in the first place *winks*

        As far as visiting goes, the earliest I’d be able to would be at the end of the year, November maybe – or next year. Not sure how long you’re in Montpellier for.

        However, if you’d like to visit Romania before I can visit France, just let me know!

        • I’ll be in France indefinately until I figure things out. I will be returning in August to keep coaching football.

          If I have a bed and a place to lay my head, you have a place to stay and lay your head!

          I would like to go to Romania too. Don’t be suprised If I dail your number in September!

          • Thank you, Julian!

            Wonderful, can’t wait for your e-mail then, you’re more than welcome! I love meeting new people, and showing them around the city.
            (Oh, and if you can cook too, I’m always up for a cooking adventure!)

  5. Jonatan Porter says:

    This is a fantastic post. because also i believe that, there is no alternative of read for learn.And for learn also want to travel and meet the people. Thanks a lot.

  6. Julian,

    Your post is delightful and touched me on different levels. I’m happy that I’ve pursued and completed a number of dreams in my goals in my life–teaching career, raised four kids, traveled some (still have many places to go,) wrote a few books and now coach aspiring authors. In between all my endeavors I owned several businesses and enjoyed many activities that intrigued me.

    When I was your age–22–I was just starting my teaching career, but even from the start I couldn’t settle on just one thing. So I straddled the fence of marriage, raising a family, writing and being entrepreneur. I always had a sense of urgency about life and didn’t think it smart to wait for some distant date to do whatever I wanted or even to wait until I finished one thing before starting another.

    Now that I’m the age of those elderly book club women, I’m very glad that I didn’t confine myself to a fishbowl.

    Still, you’ve inspired me to reevaluate where I am right now to ensure that I’m not getting bogged down. It’s so easy to do when you have a business (my youngest daughter and I just had a talk this morning about balancing my life–she thinks I work on my business too many hours.)

    Congratulations on following your dream to travel and live abroad. No matter where you go the rest of your life, the experiences you’re having in France and other places will be make rich memories you’ll treasure forever.

  7. Ashley Thomas says:

    If there is one thing I avoid at all costs in my life is having a routine. I like living the life the way it comes, in the moment. I like traveling a lot and just exploring new things.

    • And that’s the way life should be. We’ve been born into a lot of restriction that we believe we have to always adhere to. Don’t rob a bank or anything, but quetion it all

  8. Frederick says:

    I love your post. I don’t usually travel now but still I can relate on this things.

  9. Every once in a while, I escape my fish bowl but the other fish pull me back in!!

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  11. I think I did a pretty good job at avoiding the bowl, I am 34 now and have never really settled in one place for more than a few years. I got to the stage where I was exhausted with all of it and have returned to the city I was born in and now am working a 9-5 I have been in for 4 years (the longest I have stayed in 1 place for as long as I can remember). I might get itchy feet and want to move at some point but I think that the fact I can do this and feel okay about it shows that I have definitely put in a good performance so far!

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