If you haven’t seen the Eat, Pray, Love film yet, I won’t spoil any plot secrets. If you have seen it, and are ready to make your own adventure, Lonely Planet paves the way with three guidebooks leading you on the path to your own quest. For many of us, born with wanderlust, travel is indeed the best way to explore the meaning in our own lives, by stepping into another world.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love we speed-read through her search for meaning, as she sought pleasure, spirituality, and love in Italy, India and Bali, Indonesia.
Now that the Eat, Pray, Love movie opened as a box office hit, starring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert, your wanderlust may rage out of control. If you desire to go beyond the memoir, and beyond the gorgeous movie, with your own Eat, Pray, Love trip – Lonely Planet has the perfect travel resources. And act fast on their contest, to win the chance to make your own “Eat, Pray, Love Journey.”
Visit Lonely Planet’s website for contest details.
Liz Gilbert started her journey with the advantage of international travel experience as a magazine writer, so she may know more than most of us about how to get away from the tourist mentality, but you can do the same by letting the Lonely Planet guides to Italy, India and Bali guide you along the way.
Discover Italy: Experience the Best of Italy, from Lonely Planet is a full-color handbook to finding your passion and purpose in Italy. At the start of her year-long solo trip, Gilbert created an ambitious Italian agenda, covering Bologna, Florence, Venice, Sicily, Naples and more, with a week or weekend in each.
Whether you enjoy spontaneous travel, or are a Type-A agenda master, use Discover Italy to understand the culture, geography and customs. And above all, use it so you don’t waste precious time.
On arrival in Rome, you don’t have look far to witness the raw charm of the historic golden city. The architecture, history, piazzas, and beautiful people are everywhere. You’ll want to spend all your time outdoors, but take an afternoon to travel back in time to Rome’s oldest museum, Capitoline Museum, and explore its collection of classical artworks dating back to the 15th century. The romance of Rome takes a back seat to the famous gelato. Discover Italy points you right to Rome’s four best gelaterias.
Your Discover Italy trip can be whatever you make of it, but the book includes a suggested itinerary for a two-week journey from Rome to Milan. It’s the perfect blend of culture, history, architecture and culinary pleasures. Make sure you take time for hidden gems, like Fiesole, a short bus ride from Florence.
Gilbert found the sinking melancholy of Venice did not bother her. By then, she felt healthy enough to feel the difference between her broken self and the city. Venice, “a one-of-a-kind aquatic masterpiece,” according to Discover Italy, can hardly be revealed in a few days, but the book’s “Don’t miss” list will ensure you see the highlights. An afternoon in the Gallerie dell’Academia can revive anyone’s spirits, although a strong espresso and restorative gelato are recommended before tackling the impressive 14th century collection of Venetian artwork. Returning to Florence, a train ride to Ravenna puts you in awe of the city’s early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, which Dante called “a symphony of colour.” Use the book’s “If you like…” feature to ensure you discover all the related adventures, to make the most of your time in each city. Also take a moment to appreciate these UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Venice and Ravenna, which protects these rare treasures as places of “outstanding universal value.”
It’s not too shallow to suggest you include Naples in your itinerary, specifically for the Neapolitan Margherita pizza, devoured with gusto in the movie. Centro Storico, near the city’s spiritual centerpiece, the Duomo, is literally stuffed with culture, art studios, market stalls and trattorias, serving the pizza you crave. So go ahead and eat your way through Naples! Discover Italy notes that pizza was created there, so it’s a must-do indulgence, even if you have to “buy bigger jeans” the next day. As the Swedish friend, Sofie asked, in the Eat, Pray, Love book:
“Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm?”
Liz Gilbert fulfilled her goal to become a “self-governing individual’ and mastered the Italian language. Part of learning Italian is the joy of total immersion when you can finally order a meal without sounding like a tourist. She surely met her goal of “living for a while in a culture where pleasure and beauty are revered.”
She didn’t need such language skills in India and Bali, where many people speak English. Onward then, to Mumbai. The film’s opening scene on arrival in Mumbai may prepare you for jarring arrival in india. Gilbert knew right where to start, at an ashram in her quest for contentment. It’s there she learned to switch off negative thoughts.
An ashram ‘a place of striving’ where people seek personal and spiritual enrichment. India, Lonely Planet Country Guide suggests that if your quest includes a stay at an ashram, be aware you can’t just show up, as Gilbert did. Most require booking far in advance, and can be a very rigorous, non-vacation experience for beginners seeking spirituality. The culture of ashrams is sparse and complex. The India book lists several things you should know and includes important etiquette advice for visiting ashrams and temples.
If you want more adventure than prayer, meditation and silence in India, make plans for other suggested activities such as camel treks, water sports and yoga.
For most of us, combining the subcontinent of India with Italy and Bali is overly ambitious. If you have to limit yourself to a small area, a first-time traveler to India might stick to the main roads in Mumbai and take time to adjust to the rhythm of this busy city. The architecture, history, culture and food will soon make you feel at home. You may wish to rise early and watch fisherman unload the daily catch at Sassoon Dock, but note that photography is prohibited at the colorful dock. If your time is limited, use a tour guide to see Mumbai’s galleries and museums, most located in colonial-era buildings, or plan a self-guided Heritage Walking tour. Act like a local, eat, shop, and enjoy the entertainment in your Mumbai neighborhood. With an average of 29,000 people per square kilometer, you sure won’t feel alone.
In all cases, as a global traveler, remember to learn at least a few courtesy words in the native language. Lonely Planet makes this easy by including useful phrases on the inside cover of these travel guides. To guarantee a stress-free visit, follow their “Forward Planning” strategy three week before your trip, and get everything in order with your passport, visa, inoculations and hotel bookings.
The essence of Bali seems to be “slow down.” This Indonesian island has such gracious beauty at every turn, there’s no reason to hurry. Meaning is everywhere with spontaneous celebrations, impromptu shrines and a quiet spirituality among the residents.
Nourish mind, body, and spirit by embracing mountains, forests, beaches, and of course, the best hotel spas, which are often open to non-guests. The Bali Encounter guidebook mentions two villages in particular that offer a truly world-class spa experience.
Live, at least for a while, in a world of Bali’s stunning, relaxed beaches. Wander from sun worship to massage, surfing, gorging on fresh fruit, or simply absorbing the beauty around you, in peace. As in the Eat, Pray, Love movie, Gilbert’s quest was not for glamour or superficial beauty, but for her search for herself, in Bali’s idyllic charm.
When you’re ready, pick up the tempo by just getting lost. Although Bali has over 3 million people on its small island, Bali Encounter gives a hint of the pleasure and relaxation you can find if you let go and find your own way to experience the solitude of Bali’s stunning serene baches.
If you fear your heart with stop from total relaxation, pack a lunch and grab a bike for an afternoon journey. There is no shortage of fresh food, with light and healthy menus in cafes that appear like mushrooms after a rain. In an interview, Julia Roberts referred to Bali as being “like heaven on earth.”
Gilbert’s search for solitude and self-discovery had a happy ending. Your Lonely Planet trip plan will surely lead to magical stories too. Whether you want to disappear into yourself, or try again at a new way of life, travel is one of the most enriching ways to explore the world, and find yourself. And take with you this quote from the Eat, Pray, Love movie:
“On your journey everything is a clue, everyone is a teacher.”