With travellers ever hunting for the next ‘hot’ destination, and an increasing demand for packages for solo women travellers, one local traveller is dedicated to designing journeys for women to discover not just the destination, but also immerse themselves in the culture.
Jemma Wilson, whose company Mai Journeys takes women on trips as far afield as Iran, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia as well as Peru, Morocco, Vietnam and India, says travellers want to do more than just skim the surface of a country.
“People are definitely wanting to experience more and more when they travel now. They want to feel like they have really gotten under the skin of a country in the little time they may have.”
Food is one of the obvious ways people get a taste of a local culture while on holiday, but increasingly people want to put the aprons on and try making it.
“We offer cooking classes in nearly every itinerary we have — be it learning to cook tagine in Marrakesh; learning the nuisances of Khmer food in Battambang; or learning the intricate details of Greek island cooking in a local home on Crete … All taught by local chefs or local women.”
Women are also keen to try other local crafts like textiles and weaving, or visits are timed around a particular festival such as Holi Hindu festival every spring in India.
Wellbeing holidays mean there is increasing demand for trips that incorporate yoga or meditation, but Wilson says rather than offer dedicated retreats, she incorporates them into the itinerary so you can sample wellbeing and a bit of wine.
In June she hosted a Yoga, Culture and Cuisine retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and will offer the same next year in Luang Prabang, Laos.
“Our yoga trips are delicately balanced so we have a cultural journey with splashes of yoga throughout.
“Yoga is central to these trips, but not necessarily the main attraction. And it absolutely helps that we have these yoga trips in one place for seven nights where we can unpack, chill out around the pool, drink cocktails, and take part in fabulous yoga and meditation classes plus immerse ourselves culturally where we are.”
Demand for women-only tours is so great Wilson now takes up to five groups of four to 12 each year rather than one or two groups.
There are many reasons women seek all-female trips, one of them being it feels comfortable for solo travellers.
“We have women travelling with us for all sorts of reasons: they have a partner that does not travel; a partner that does not want to travel where we go; they are single and want the safety net of a small group of other women; they are widowed or divorced; they are celebrating a milestone of some sort.”
Making new friends is another appeal.
“Coming on a small group tour like ours means they instantly have a support network, a group that immediately understands, an instant group of friends. You can still have your own time, and everyone is respectful of that, but you also always have someone to have wine with.”
People are always looking for a destination that is a bit different, so what are the hot spots?
“Cambodia and Laos are great destinations for us. Ethnically diverse, gorgeous countrysides, amazing food, incredible cultural arts, festivals, friendly people — and so much quieter than their bustling neighbour Vietnam.”
She thinks Laos is the most overlooked of the Asian gems in the area.
“It is so quiet compared to Vietnam and Thailand, and it is beautiful. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO heritage inscribed town full of golden Buddhist temples, French-colonial architecture, great food, great arts, a nearby fabulous elephant sanctuary and a whole lot of gorgeous boutique hotels.
Jemma Wilson’s tips for the solo traveller:
• Book it! Wherever it is you want to go, book it. Throw caution to the wind and step out of you comfort zone.
• Don’t wait for someone to join you.
• Travelling with a group can be a good solution if you are tentative. Solo travel does not have to mean being lonely.
• Avoid the ‘Single Supplement’ (if you want) by choosing ‘Willing to Share’.
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