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The Deprivation Vacation

Spirit Rock Meditation Center, in Woodacre, California, also has vegetarian meals and yoga, but it strives to provide inner peace by calming you down—and shutting you up. There's a bare minimum of conversation. "The first couple of days are tough, since humans are primarily speaking creatures. It's one of the things that differentiates us from animals," says Keith Silva, a photographer who has gone three times. But after a few days, Silva says, the silence is liberating. Karen Gutowski, the communications manager for the center, says Spirit Rock draws a clientele beyond what you'd expect: "We have a retreat for lawyers coming up. Talk about a segment of our culture that needs it." (Not talking is a hot topic. In the New York Times Magazine, Karl Lagerfeld declared that silence was chic—and that he was thinking of basing a dinner party on the idea.)

Which leads us to deprivation for kicks. Cosmo Party, an international singles organization, has started Dinner in the Dark—a New York party where there are no lights (waiters wear night-vision goggles). In Berlin, there's Nocti Vagus, a restaurant devoted to the concept (the waiters are blind). If that's not enough deprivation—or depravation—you could pay Videogames Adventure Services to kidnap you. Why on earth would anyone want to be wrapped in duct tape and left in a basement for three days?"No two reasons are alike," says owner Brock Enright. "Just like snowflakes." For some it's simply a new adventure. For others, the joy comes from the anticipation: knowing that at any moment they could be snatched makes everyday life much more exciting. And then, of course, there are the ice hotels in Sweden and Quebec, where visitors make do without heat, snuggling under furs on beds of ice, surrounded by walls of ice. The concept is so popular that Ice Hôtel Québec-Canada CEO Jacques Desbois expects to open another hotel in the Western United States; the properties have also inspired ice restaurants and bars in Reykjavík, Stockholm, and St.-Moritz.

"We have a difficult time finding the value of many things in the modern world," says Alain de Botton, author of The Art of Travel, a philosophical look at why we explore. Take food, for example: de Botton argues that it's hard to really appreciate what we eat because we're missing out on the joy of hunting for it. We live in a world where everything—and then some—is at our fingertips. Indeed, only one thing is missing. "We have to make ourselves uncomfortable to appreciate what comfort is," de Botton says. "We're deprived of deprivation."

Erik Torkells is a senior editor at Fortune.

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