Travel news these days is peppered with trips and deals centered on the memoir-turned-movement Eat Pray Love. Agencies are hawking women-centric, yoga-filled sojourns to Italy, India, and Indonesia, the destinations author Elizabeth Gilbert visited over the course of a year. Hotels – even ones where Gilbert didn't stay – are offering EPL-themed discounts.
Hey, if all this hype inspires people who rarely venture out of the easy chair to dust off the suitcase, great. But I have to admit all the hoopla has me wanting to say, "Eat Pray Ugh."
And I'm not the only one. Some of the locals in the EPL destinations are already annoyed by the hordes of tourists clamoring for Gilbert-esque enlightenment. One entrepreneur in Ubud, Bali (Gilbert's final destination) has already come up with a T-shirt that has a mock book cover that reads, "Eat Pay Leave."
So if the idea of a quest for personal fulfillment sounds appealing, but not so much the crowds of Gilbert devotees (or the unoriginality of following in the footsteps of someone else's personal journey), then here are some suggestions where you can eat, pray, and love in peace. And not to mention, get a dose of adventure far beyond what a meditation class could offer.
Whether Mario Puzo's novels or Hollywood is to blame, this island is as steeped in its reputation as the birthplace of the mafia as it is in its traditions. Regardless, Sicily makes for an excellent off-the-beaten path destination for those looking for a little edge to their European travel. Avid hikers will delight in the opportunity to explore volcanoes along the likes of Vulcano, Stromboli, and Mt. Etna, Europe's most active. (The Wayfarers is a reputable outfitter that travels to Sicily; www.thewayfarers.com.) There are also hot springs and water sports along the island's miles of turquoise coastline.
And, yes, you will eat very well here – the cuisine is just as delectable as that of the country's mainland, and the seafood is impossibly fresh.
Instead of India, try Mauritius
This far-flung island in the Indian Ocean is closer to Africa than it is India, but it has a distinct Indian flavor thanks to its strong Hindi communities – just one of the many cultures represented. And, indeed, you'll be thanking the travel gods once you catch a glimpse of the spectacular aquamarine ocean and the sand-rimmed coasts and lagoons. But there's plenty more to this fascinating island than sand and sun: It's loaded with adventure options, from snorkeling and diving to hiking to big-game hunting. Several prominent nature reserves offer a chance to see local wildlife, while fishing enthusiasts can partake in "big game" fishing expeditions. After a trip to this captivating paradise, you'll surely be praying to return.
Rugged mountains, isolated beaches and pounding surf, raging rivers, moorlands and gorges, glaciers and even a legend of the elusive Tasmanian tiger – what's not to love about this Australian island? Tasmania's western half is a mecca for adventure seekers and is one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet. Take your pick of outdoor offerings: multiday hikes, such as the Overland Track, rafting or paddling along the Franklin River, or exploring the mysterious and intriguing River Styx Valley, where Eucalyptus regnans (swamp gum) trees grow as high as 95 meters.
But don't wait too long to visit this adrenaline-packed paradise. Last year, Lonely Planet named the island's stunning Bay of Fires area, with its miles of coastline, as one of the world's new hot travel destinations. Which means the Gilbert-sized legions of followers can't be too far behind.