5 Musts For Your Elizabeth Gilbert-Inspired Vacation

There may come a time in your life when you find yourself overwhelmed by the chaos of being, longing for the transformation that travel provides. Times of difficulty may call for you to step outside of your comfort zone and open yourself to new experiences that will ultimately lead to deep healing and growth.

Perhaps you've recently ended a long-term relationship, and you're heartbroken and unsure of what's next. Maybe the death of a loved one has left you grief-stricken, or you wake up one day and realize that the career you've spent your entire life building no longer fulfills you. In these moments Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" might speak to your heart and inspire you to book your own transformational journey.

Elizabeth Gilbert's dark night of the soul came in the form of a difficult divorce, depression, and a realization that she'd lost touch with herself. She set out on a self-discovery journey that eventually inspired her best-selling book. While her journey was incredibly personal, millions of people related to her experience, and the "Eat, Pray, Love" phenomenon inspired many to pack their bags. 

If you're feeling called to create your own transformational trip, designing an itinerary with your personal growth as the focus is essential. Your experience should be specific to you and designed with your personal growth in mind. "Ruin is a gift," Gilbert wrote. "Ruin is the road to transformation." As you journey along that road, you might just find yourself along the way.

Choose destinations that inspire you

"Eat, Pray, Love" isn't a travel guidebook, but it can serve as a blueprint to create your own life-changing experience through travel. Instead of following in Elizabeth Gilbert's footsteps, consider choosing destinations you feel personally called to visit.

You don't have to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find yourself. Perhaps you've always dreamed of hiking through the Alaskan wilderness or working on a sustainable farm in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Instead of indulging in piles upon piles of pasta, you might dream of treating yourself to a vintage shopping spree on the streets of London. You don't even have to visit three destinations — choose as many destinations as you desire.

The "eat" portion of your trip can involve indulging in pleasure and fun. When choosing a destination, focus on reconnecting with what brings you joy. For Gilbert, that was eating all the Italian food, buying bigger jeans, and forging new friendships. The "pray" portion of your trip can be any destination that inspires you spiritually. It doesn't have to be a religious experience, but it certainly can be. For some, this may look like a spiritual pilgrimage, while for others, it could be connecting with oneself in the solitude of nature. While Gilbert eventually learns to love again in the final portion of her trip, the most important relationship she forges during her travels is the self-love and acceptance she finds for herself.

Embrace the sweetness of doing nothing

Trying to jam-pack your schedule full of activities is an easy mistake to make when traveling. After all, there's so much to do, see, and experience, and you want to take advantage of everything. Even so, over-scheduling yourself during your travels can quickly become exhausting, and you might miss out on some of the magic of simply being in a new environment. During your trips, make sure to set aside some unscheduled and unscripted time to wander the city.

Sometimes the most impactful moments during travel happen when you're doing nothing at all, or as Gilbert learned and later wrote about in "Eat, Pray, Love" —  embracing "dolce far niente," or the "pleasure of doing nothing." You might wander the streets of an unfamiliar city, allowing yourself to get lost in the twists and turns. Perhaps you'll stumble across a quaint cafe where you can sip an espresso and watch the locals or meet a new acquaintance who will become a lifelong friend. Simply relaxing on the balcony of your hotel while soaking up the morning sunshine and snacking on treats from a local bakery as you take in the city might become one of your favorite moments during your trip.

Museums, tourist attractions, and must-see spots are worth visiting, but make sure you have time to relax and just be. Allowing yourself the freedom to explore without a destination or objective can be a profound experience.

Consider learning something new

Elizabeth Gilbert chose to learn Italian while experiencing delicious food and passionate Italian culture. During her painful divorce, learning Italian became a welcomed distraction — something that occupied her mind and held her focus enough to function as a life raft while her life imploded around her. As her passion for the language grew, she became increasingly inspired to travel and continue to learn.

Travel and education expand our minds and allow us to move outside our comfort zones. For your "Eat, Pray, Love" experience, consider focusing on trying something new or learning a new skill. Have you always dreamed of getting your scuba certification or signing up for a language immersion program? Look into art classes, writer's workshops, cooking courses, or anything else that inspires you. Let this be your chance to try something new and fulfill a lifelong goal. The sky's the limit regarding the things you can learn while traveling.

Explore your spiritual side

Elizabeth Gilbert longed for spiritual fulfillment and a personal connection with God, which she found through living in an Ashram in India. She intended to find peace through spirituality and was surprised by the challenges she faced and the insights she gained through exploring her meditation practice. Your spiritual journey doesn't have to mimic hers — it should align with your personal spiritual beliefs.

Even if you aren't religious, you can still find spiritual fulfillment through connecting with yourself, other people, or the natural world. If you find spirituality intimidating or don't know where to start, consider signing up for a volunteer experience that aligns with your morals. Giving back to a meaningful cause is a beautiful way to connect with yourself and the world around you.

The Peace Corps offers a variety of volunteer opportunities around the world, including room and board, but you often have to commit to volunteering for at least two years. For shorter-term volunteer opportunities, check out reputable and well-established organizations in the community you will be serving.

Focus on learning to love yourself through solo-travel

Solo travel is the perfect opportunity to find yourself, but it isn't always comfortable. You're sure to make plenty of friends along the way, but there will be times when you will feel utterly alone. Embracing the discomfort of loneliness and learning to depend on yourself in new situations is an excellent way to develop a deeper connection with yourself.

While we all may dream of finding true love during our travels like Elizabeth Gilbert eventually did in Bali, try to keep your focus on developing a sense of self-love. Learn to be your best friend, and treat yourself with all the love you would a friend, family member, or partner. Pour all of that love into your own cup. Take yourself on a cute date to a new restaurant and avoid the urge to spend the meal looking at your phone so that you can learn to love your own company.

"People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants," Gilbert wrote. "But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life." Sometimes, that person turns out to be you.