We have all eaten, prayed and loved our way around Elizabeth Gilbert’s uplifting book and secretly wished we could look as good as Julia Roberts consuming mounds of pasta and gelato in Italy when we’re huddled under blankets with our girlfriends on the couch, sipping wine and planning our own life-changing trips.
We got some fabulous, fun and inspirational women to let us in on their travel secrets. Pour that generous glass of Merlot and settle into your favourite armchair as we explore three types of trips women should take in their lifetime.
As women increasingly embrace the freedom that comes with inner transformation, spiritual travel is on the rise “like never before”, says Peta Panos, Founder and Managing Director of Spiritual Quest Journeys. Panos’ “big why” behind starting the Norwegian-based company nine years ago was to “combine luxurious and high vibrational experiential tours with facilitated profound inner transformation”.
She says women who are drawn to this type of transformational travel are either at cross-roads in their life or have gotten to the point of being overwhelmed, frustrated or exhausted and are determined to take more ownership of their lives and find their purpose.
This is a feeling recent divorcee, Jennifer Rhodes, shares. Rhodes wholeheartedly embraced spirituality and now regularly embarks on journeys to sacred sites – often ancient places on earth with renowned spiritual or magical powers – where she finds the stillness and peace she needs to heal her soul and restore her sense of self.
“When we visit a sacred site we are drawn to, its sacred geometry gets imprinted into our energy field and activates innate wisdom within us. Any unspoilt, natural part of the planet also holds the original energy of the earth and it literally recharges us,” adds Panos.
There’s no worse feeling in the world than anticipating a romantic break with your significant other, only to find yourself crying into your cappuccino in a picturesque country coffee shop while he lounges on the four-poster bed yelling at his favourite rugby team to “score a try already”.
Which is why travel and tourism guru, Robyn Christie, suggests that if you want to enjoy your dream holiday it is best to plan it with those who are “more aligned” to your own goals. This, let’s face it, often means a getaway with a girlfriend (or six).
Christie reveals that a five-day trip with a friend to the South of France was one of those amazing holidays that years later still bring back memories that wrap you in an embrace like a blanket, enveloping you with the sounds, scents and smells of fun and laughter and unforgettable experiences.
“We were drawn by the history, landscapes, culture, food and of course – the wine and chose to self-drive with the help of a GPS. It didn’t take long for us to realise that a GPS wasn’t all that necessary and preferred taking the advice of the locals. It was December, out of season which meant no crowds and very tolerant and friendly locals!”
The villages along the journey were sometimes interrupted by a town such as Aix-en-Provence which Christie says has “a very laidback charm” but they were always keen to get back on the country roads.
“We spent time at the Fragonard Parfumier in Grasse and five years later I get taken back to that happy place every time I spray my fragrance,” she recalls wistfully.
Travel is one of the greatest gifts a woman can give herself and everyone should create a fund that is purely dedicated to travel, advocates travel writer Dawn Bradnick. “Personally, I would recommend that all women take at least one solo trip – book a safari to connect with the African bush, enjoy a wellness or a yoga retreat or an off-the-grid walking trek to reboot,” she says, commenting that travelling alone makes one more present, more observant and able to take in the details to make stronger memories.
Shannon O’Donnell, National Geographic Traveller of the Year, agrees highlighting that Southeast Asia is an “incredible destination” for solo female travellers. “It’s a safe destination and has enough of an infrastructure that you can easily navigate the historic temples, ancient cities and winding back-alleys filled with street food,” she says.
Backpacking solo in Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar are among O’Donnell’s most cherished memories. “The culture is accessible and welcoming and it’s the type of travel that makes for the most transformative experiences.”
According to O’Donnell, women travellers not only want to feel safe on their travels but want to immerse themselves fully in the experience. “Women travellers want the chance to connect, to ask questions, explore places through a unique lens,” she says.
Top 5 destinations for women
There are amazing destinations on the African continent that speak to all three types of travel for women, highlights Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel group marketing and product general manager.
She outlines her five favourite getaways women should take in their lifetimes:
A touch of spice – with its kaleidoscope of sights, smells and tastes, the spice island of Zanzibar is an exotic choice for those travellers seeking a beach-based breakaway with a little extra spice. “Think unspoilt beaches, secluded spots and sunsets paired with cocktails.”
Peaceful, pristine beaches – The Indian Ocean Islands of the Seychelles are the perfect place to stretch out in the sun and embrace serenity or to venture from the beach to the Morne Seychellois National Park with its lush mangrove forests and picturesque hiking trails.
Freedom and adventure – Visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and free yourself from the shackles of your comfort zone as you raft down the Zambezi River, zip line and bungee jump off the top of the Victoria Falls Bridge, then fly over the “smoke that thunders” in a helicopter.
Unique, alien beauty – It’s hard not to feel free in Namibia as you encounter those out-of-this-world scenes of cerulean skies contrasted against desert plains and rusty-red dunes. It’s a wonderland for avid photographers with it’s pure, natural light.
Oldie but a goodie – still a firm favourite with South Africans, Mauritius serves up a rich history, spectacular coastline and an incredible natural beauty where tourists can set out on a catamaran or yacht bound for islands such as Île aux Cerfs, Gabriel or Reunion.