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This week’s question actually didn’t come in through email — it was asked by a new friend of mine whom I met in New York! I thought it would be great to elaborate on her question here.
“I need to do an Eat, Pray, Love trip. Where should I go?”
Ah, Eat, Pray, Love. Is there any book that has been so simultaneously embraced and reviled? (Well, besides The Da Vinci Code, that is. And the Twilight series…)
To those of you unfamiliar with the book, Eat, Pray, Love is the memoir of a woman in her early thirties who was left broken after a terrible divorce. She decided to spend a year around the world: four months in Italy, where she would rediscover pleasure (EAT); four months in India, where she would meditate in an ashram (PRAY); and four months in Bali, where she would learn how to fuse the two (LOVE).
And without giving too much away, she rebuilt her soul in a beautiful way.
I’m on the side of embracing the book, mostly because Gilbert is an absolutely wonderful writer. (Though I think her second memoir, Committed, is a far better book and should be required reading for every engaged couple!)
Now — if you’re looking to do a trip to similarly recover from a difficult time in your life, there are lots of destinations that I recommend. South Africa is a fantastic choice (God, I love it here). Italy or Spain or Croatia — wonderful choices. Turkey could be great. Argentina? Fantastic.
But there is one country that is a slightly better fit than all the rest:
Because no matter what you seek as your therapy, you will be able to find it in Thailand. If you’re looking to restart your life and perhaps make a number of changes, Thailand could not be better suited for you. You will love it: I guarantee it.
It’s a fantastic country, filled with great beauty and delicious food and perfect weather and incredibly kind, smiling people.
I would recommend trying to figure out how you can spend as much time in Thailand as possible — while a two-week trip would be fun, it would take a month or longer for you to make lasting changes in your life.
But Thailand is a perfect place to heal your soul. Here are some ways:
Healing through spirituality — Thailand is a great place to delve into Buddhism, meditation or general spirituality — there are all kinds of meditation retreats in Thailand, including silent retreats.
Healing through learning — If you’re looking to learn a new skill, Thailand offers the opportunity to lean everything from cooking to massage to yoga.
Healing through volunteering — Working for people less fortunate than yourself is a surefire way to put things into perspective. Consider caring for abused elephants at Elephant Nature Park or working with the hidden refugee families in Bangkok.
Healing through nature — Friends of mine have told me that they are most at peace when by the ocean; others are at their best in the mountains. Consider renting a beach bungalow on Koh Chang or a mountain cottage in Pai.
Healing through health — Many people I know came to Thailand to get expensive dental work done for a fraction of the price, or to improve chronic conditions with Eastern medicine. (Plastic surgery and gender reassignment are also popular procedures in Thailand, but I obviously wouldn’t suggest either until you’ve been in a better place for a long time.)
Healing through partying — If you want to blow off steam with buckets, parties, and nights out with new friends, I suggest you make your way to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, one of the world’s biggest parties. Koh Phi Phi is a great party island, too. And don’t forget Bangkok!
Healing through food — With a street cart on every corner, you’re in the right place. 🙂
More for Less
Probably the biggest selling point of Thailand is that it’s an exceedingly pleasant place to spend time for far less than what you’d pay at home. You could live on a backpacker’s budget for $15-25 per day in northern Thailand, $30-40 in Bangkok, and $40-50 in the islands in the south. It will cost less if you rent an apartment long-term.
I wrote about the people I met who were living long-term in Chiang Mai — they found a way to live simple lives filled with limited but fulfilling work, volunteering, good food, and time spent with friends most days of the week.
No matter what you decide, Thailand will have a way of healing you. I promise you that. Good luck.
33 thoughts on “Ask Kate: I Want An Eat, Pray, Love Trip”
I never would have thought of Thailand as one of my ‘top’ places to visit but every time I read you talk about how great it is I’m inspired to start looking into it more as my first international trip!
After my mom got fired from her job she drove around the country and had her own little spiritual rejuvenation. She drove all the way from Ohio to the north Pacific Coast then did the southwest, checking out all the national parks. She called it Drive Camp Drink, haha!
Drive camp drink – that sounds like my sort of healing!
Drive Camp Drink – that sounds like an awesome trip!
I didn’t think you’d suggest just one country, but you’re absolutely right, Thailand really does have it all! Also, it has great infrastructure for tourism, so even if you’re a newbie traveller, it’s super easy to get around and organise stuff to do. Great advice, as usual, Kate!
Great post. I also agree that Thailand does seem to have everything. To me Indonesia (Bali to be specific) and South Africa are also up there. I could see myself living in Bali at the moment, but would definitely pick South Africa if I were a little older and looking for a place to live post-retirement.
I also loved Committed – it’s definitely underrated among Gilbert’s books. And Thailand has long been at the top of my “to visit” list, and your post just reaffirms that!
I sort of had that eat, pray, love moment a year ago, when my mother died somewhat suddenly, and my soul was left feeling crushed and empty. I knew that traveling was the only way to reestablish my connection to the world and learn to love life again. In a year, I focused on 10 different countries in Africa and Southeast Asia- two of my all-time favorite regions. I love Southeast Asia for the culture (people, food, traditions, celebrations) and Africa for the intensely wild and raw natural beauty. Africa was my first choice, for that immediate need to relieve acute depression and devastation. There is nothing more uplifting to me than to be part (as a simple observer) of the process of life. Of the 9 countries I’ve visited in Africa, Botswana has, far and away, the best wildlife and game reserves. Specifically, Chobe National Park, blows the socks off most of the others I’ve visited. Highlights were watching a pride of lions attack a buffalo, and the buffalo’s family fighting back to protect their loved one; camping in the Okavango Delta on an island in the middle of nowhere and having elephants shake the trees above our tents (to get coconuts) at night- a’la Lost; and almost being attacked my a baby(ish) crocodile! Zimbabwe and South Africa are close seconds, but I also love South Africa, as a whole, probably more than most of the 69 countries I’ve visited! Such strikingly beautiful and diverse landscape! I agree that Thailand is a wonderful place for spiritual healing as well. I would add Laos in there, and probably Cambodia (my life seemed a little less dire after visiting the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh). A highlight of that portion of the trip was the Loi Krathong Festival, specifically in Sukothai. It was a pure celebration of life through the lens of the local culture, and I was so lucky to experience that with my entire family.
Sorry for the super-long comment. Your post just really struck a cord! 🙂 Additionally, I love your blog and have been following it since embarking on the travel-blog path myself last fall! I’ve nominated you for a few awards! You can read about and accept them here:
Lindsay, thanks so much for your thoughtful post. I’m glad that you were able to heal through Africa and Asia. And I’m sorry about your mother.
Love it Kate! I’ll now officially be teaching English in Spain next year and am using it as a finding myself experience. I can’t wait and was glad to see that you had recommended it as a possible place to go. Someday I’d love to go to Thailand and I definitely plan on doing it! I will also start reading these two books as I haven’t gotten to them yet.
On my first trip abroad, I spent 8 weeks in Southeast Asia last summer, and cannot profess how much Thailand inspired me, challenged me, and fulfilled me.
Budgeting in Thailand doesn’t feel like a budget at all, people are friendlier, and you can feel your horizon and soul expanding (but not your waistline, keep on walking!).
I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a trip.
I feel like this a sign I needed… Or a post i needed to read. I’m currently in the research stage, and have decided to figure out how I can move to Thailand to possibly teach English. I’m still trying to figure out everything and it can get frustrating at times. there are number of reasons why, it has partly to do with vegetarianism– and, i heard it easy to survive as a vegetarian there. And my soul most def needs all the healing it can get. 🙂
I think the important part of travel-as-therapy is going to someplace different enough that you’re out of your comfort zone. The actual destinations don’t matter as much. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be in a country that has amazing food, and weather, and educational opportunities, and doesn’t cost a fortune.
Actually, looking at that water makes me feel better already. I wonder if I could convince my insurance that a trip to Thailand should count as preventative care?
Very interesting post…I was also expecting you to name more than one country, but it really does seem like Thailand has everything. I can’t wait to see it!
Thailand is an amazing country but I think all of South East Asia is a great choice for a eat/pry/love experience. For starters it is cheap enough to actually afford a long trip, the food is awesome and whether you want adventure, to volunteer, just chill out or party it’s all there for you.
I really hope someday there’s a man’s version of the book called drink, feast, f…I mean, nevermind, that would be inappropriate here. But travel as therapy can be really great, but I think it’s helpful to go after a few of these plans deliberately, as you describe. If you just go backpacking, the amazingness of the trip and whether or not it’s life-changing is often up to whatever happens on any given day, whether it’s meeting interesting people or whatever, whereas specifically going to volunteer or whatever will give you what you’re looking for more reliably. Unless crazy freedom and random wandering are your thing, of course.
Despite being a girl, I would totally read a book like that- maybe you should write it 😉 and definitely agree that these plans tend to be more helpful if done deliberately. With enough room for spontaneity and random wandering, of course. I’ve loved my aimless backpacking trips, but the trips that involved volunteering/purpose/whatever are also really special to me, and probably helped me grow a bit too (or so I like to think).
OCDemon, there is a parody called Drink, Play, Fuck. It’s written from her ex-husband’s point of view and takes place in Ireland, Vegas, and Thailand. It’s actually a funny book and I love it!
Going to Thailand I definitely fell in love
This is the first I have heard of that book and I will definitely be looking for it on my next trip to the book store. It sounds lije exactly what I need.
I agree, Thailand would be a wonderful place for an Eat, Pray, Love kind of trip. I went with the intention of just getting away and sitting on the beach, but it turned out to be one of those life changing trips. After two weeks I returned to the states a different person and made changes to my life that have stuck with me and made me a happier and healthier person. I’m not sure what happened to me when I was there, but it reset my internal compass of what and who mattered in my life. Thailand is a beautiful country, the people are kind, the food is awesome, and it is just one of those safe places where you can let your guard down.
This is exactly what I would need right now … The only question is how to break free of this daily life and job to do so
So true, so true. Even better is the fact that in Thailand you can Eat, Pray, and Love all at the same time.
I’ve never been to Thailand but after reading all your posts about it, it is definitely top on my list. Hope to get there soon! On a side note, have you ever read (or heard of) “drink, play, [email protected]*k?” It is like the guys version to eat pray love, and such a great beach read! I highly recommend it!
I not only read it, I own it! Definitely a fun read.
I fell in love with the images that Eat, Pray, Love conjured in my mind and would love to emulate Elizabeth’s journey. I’ve yet to explore Asia but can’t wait to dip my toes in it’s healing waters.
Thanks for mentioning Koh Chang, it’s actually an ideal place for a retreat. Renting a bungalow is cheap and the nature is overwhelming. Other than Koh Chang, there’s also Koh Kood and Koh Mak which are both smaller islands with very little development.
Love your point of view on this. As crazy as it unexpectedly happened I’m already living my own travel romance story but this reminded me of every other reason on why I want to get to Thailand SO BAD. Great share!
Beautiful post Kate!
I am currently spending 5 months in Vietnam, with a couple week hiatuses to Laos and Cambodia and haven’t experienced Thailand yet, i’m trying to “save” is for something like this, a long term Thai adventure not just a short jaunt through the most popular place, thankyou for ensuring that this country really is as awe-inspiring and life changing as it seems to be!
Much love, Cait
Hi, Im actually to do an travel experience similar to Liz Gilbert’s . I recently separated from my husband of 4 years. I yearn to transform my life in a more meaningful way. You said Thailand is a great place for self healing. I was also wondering if you knew of any other destinations that are similar to Thailand in that respect.
Hi, Erica — honestly, it depends entirely on the person. Some love Bali; I found it a bit boring there. Some love Costa Rica or Spain or Israel or New Zealand. It’s completely up to you.
Hi Erica, I, too have just started researching a 1 year EPL trip…divorcing after 20 years. Maybe we can correspond?
im so desperately seeking healing, weight loss and emotional healing. Live isn’t so much on the list. After 21 in a relationship and 16 of those married, I need to stop letting everyone give me their advice. I almost always travel alone, without fear but I’ve heard some scary stories regarding safety. I am also a vegetarian. Can you please tell me the places you went, how long you and a rough estimate of the cost. Money isn’t so much an issue (most people don’t travel if so) but you don’t find a lot of ATMs in these areas. I’ve been seeking a place that is safe enough bc nowhere is without risk), that has food I can eat, challenges me volunteer work, meet interesting people, see natural beauty in scenery and animals and of course reel safe. I loathe tourism trips as I like to wander off on my own or talk to someone one on one if the time is right. If this meets that criteria, I would live to know where I fly in to and some very basic places to stay. I can stay in plush hotels anytime so that’s not a requirement. I’m so interested. I just need to know where to begin! Thank you for sharing your experience! Best, Karen