Wellness travel, solo travel and girlfriend getaways are all rising in popularity and one umbrella term, ‘graceful travel’, captures them all. And while ‘graceful travel’ is still a relatively new idea, it’s one we are likely to hear more of as we head in 2021 and the post-COVID travel era.
According to Jurni Chief Executive Officer, Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, ‘graceful travel’ refers to both solo female travellers and groups of women travelling together. And rather than the ‘girls on tour’ vibe of bachelorette/hen weekends, graceful travel is big on exploration, relaxation, slow travel, personal growth and wellbeing.
Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), a world leader in solo-friendly travel for women, is reporting a surge in 2021 bookings from solo travellers, an increase of 76% from 2019.
OAT believes that this is not only an indication of a ‘pent up demand for travel’, but also because solo travellers tend to be resilient and independent-minded. And 85 per cent of OAT’s solo travellers are women.
In a post-COVID world we can expect the popularity of graceful travel (solos and groups) to rise. Think walking holidays, small-escorted tours, adventure travel and wellness breaks. Escaping the four walls we have been staring at for the last few months and getting away to new, open spaces – with close friends in tow – is now a top priority.
Graceful travellers are looking for freedom, independence and adventure – with a little bit of pampering thrown in for good measure. How does South Africa measure up in the ‘graceful stakes’? With plenty of outdoor space, stunning surroundings and out-of-the-ordinary experiences, it ticks all the boxes, for locals and foreign visitors alike.
Planning a trip with your girlfriends? Consider the following:
- Look for establishments that make it easy – and safe
In today’s climate, flexibility is key – especially if travel plans have to change due to illness or lockdown level restrictions out of your control. Look carefully at your accommodation’s terms and conditions and opt for those offering a measure of flexibility when it comes to date changes and the like.
Keep an eye out for those waiving single supplements too. Michelle van der Westhuizen, Marketing Manager at Fancourt in George, believes this is a big drawcard, both for women travelling alone and for those travelling in groups but who would prefer the privacy of their own room: “Fancourt’s Solo Traveller offer means that if you book your trip before 31 October 2020, we’ll waive the single supplement on all travel before 31 March 2021. This means you can enjoy an unforgettable stay on the Garden Route with your friends – but still enjoy the option of your own room.”
Safety is, of course, a given. And not only in terms of new COVID health protocols – but for women travelling alone. The beauty of Fancourt, says van der Westhuizen, is that there is so much to do on the estate, from trail runs, nature walks and an award-winning spa: “Whether you want to laze at the pool or enjoy a round of golf with friends, the estate is safe and packed with things to do.” And if you want to enjoy life outside the estate? “Our leisure team is happy suggest and book excursions for you or your group, be it wine tasting, boat cruises or a hot air balloon trip,” says van der Westhuizen.
For women travelling on their own, look out for things like female-friendly shuttle services, well-lit parking options and room security before you book your trip.
- Make it memorable
Songelwa believes that graceful travellers are looking for exceptional experiences. From yoga retreats and walking tours, to literary festivals and art and food workshops.
Happily, South Africa has plenty on offer. Here are just a few examples listed on Jurni’s blog:
- A biking tour of Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s most vibrant townships, followed by an unforgettable meal at 4Roomed eKasi Culture. Owner and chef, Abigail Mbalo-Mokeona, a former MasterChef South Africa finalist, serves up traditional South African fare with gourmet flare. Think slow-cooked chicken and fennel, sous-vide fillet of beef, topped with rich caramelised onions, pap, umngqusho and fresh garden greens.
- A weekend of cheese-making just outside Tsitsikamma on South Africa’s Garden Route. Book into a cosy cottage with friends, enjoy long walks on the farm and learn the art of making yoghurt, cottage cheese, halloumi, ricotta and more.
- A wander down the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo – grabbing the chance to make traditional, hand-built Venda pots. A wonderful memento of a weekend with friends.
- A lazy weekend in the Natal Midlands, pottering through galleries and sampling the best coffee, cheese & chocolate.
- Art, spa and book days in the sleepy town of Clarens.
- A horse-riding adventure along the Wild Coast.
Of course, more active, adventurous friends are entering stage races (trail runs and mountain bike events), booking ‘slack-packing’ hikes or heading off on memorable, ‘bucket-list’ experiences like adventure marathons or walking tours in far-flung corners of the world. No plans for 2021 as yet? Get your thinking cap on!
- Relax and indulge
The more mature traveller is not (necessarily) looking to rough it. With her best backpacking years behind her, the graceful traveller is now looking for a touch of luxury – and we’re all for blissful indulgence. Grab your girlfriends and book a spa weekend filled with gorgeous treatments, relaxing massages, good food and laughter!
Van der Westhuizen says that The Spa at Fancourt is also home to a heated Roman bath and Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, and Tepidarium: “Our Roman bath has just been refurbed and its soft, warm ozone waters are gentle on the skin – perfect for those sensitive to chlorine. It really is blissful, and you’ll want to spend hours lazing around the spa after your treatments.” While graceful travel is not a new concept, experts predict it is just about to come into its own. Shake off 2020 and plan a memorable, catch-up trip with friends in 2021, or even earlier!