Johannesburg - Alison Botha’s life history is out there for anyone to see in the documentary Alison, now on circuit, but she is able to take an incognito holiday on the Garden Route when the mood strikes her.
What is your first holiday memory?
As a child, our annual holidays were spent in Nature’s Valley in the Tsitsikamma, on the Garden Route. We would go with a few other families and rent a big house, or houses, and have the best times. The days were spent fishing, swimming and playing - any kid’s dream holidays!
What is your favourite place in South Africa and why?
I have to say the Garden Route, and it’s where I live. How lucky am I? I love the combination of mountains and sea, small towns and quaint shops, top-class activities as well as surprise finds, and of course the majestic, natural beauty is breathtaking. Most of our holidays over the past years have been within an hour’s drive of where we live - how awesome is that?
What has been your best holiday and why?
I would have to say it was the time I spent on the Greek islands and the coast of Turkey when I was in my twenties. It was the last holiday I spent with absolutely no agenda and no specified duration. When my money ran low, I would do a few odd jobs, like help behind a bar or do errands into town. I even cut a guy’s hair in Turkey in lieu of accommodation in his tented camp. It all sounds very bohemian, and it was. Days were spent on the beach, on a boat or hiking around in the most beautiful surroundings.
What have you learnt from your travels?
I absolutely love travelling to a country where their culture is significantly different from any other place, but what I have learnt is that there may be different cultures, languages and traditions significant to different countries and groups of people - but essentially, the same humanity is in us all. There is a brotherhood among people that transcends all our outward differences.
Who is your ideal travelling companion?
I love travelling with my mom and my two sons. My mom is grateful for every site she sees and every place we visit. My children bring along the excitement and sense of adventure that makes every holiday so much fun. As a family, we make a big deal of even a weekend or night away - I like that a lot about us. It makes the ordinary seem extraordinary.
Are you a beach bum, culture vulture, or an adrenalin junkie?
I’m not an adrenalin junkie at all - but depending on the place and the type of holiday, I could definitely love lazing around and rejuvenating or going out and taking in the sights. Love them both!
What is your greatest travel luxury?
Although I don’t ever take this on a holiday, most of my travel is for business, so I have to say my luxury item is my travel steam iron.
Do you ever take along travel reading?
My travel reading is very different from what I would choose at home. I prefer mindless, non-challenging reading while travelling - magazines or a novel of the romance or crime genre.
Which place has seduced you?
I love travelling around South Africa because of its vastness and diversity. But the place that seduced my soul would be Greece - not only for the kind of island holiday I might have there now, but because of the special memories I have of working and travelling there in the early 1990s.
What has been your worst travel experience?
I was due to leave on a flight for Joburg early in the morning, and to go straight from the airport to a game lodge about two hours away to do a presentation. I was then returning immediately to the airport to meet my then-husband to fly out on a two-week overseas trip. The night before I ate a dodgy prawn and woke up with the most horrendous attack of food poisoning - I even passed out at one point and woke up on the bathroom floor.
I knew I couldn’t let my clients down, so I made the trip - throwing up in the tiny aircraft toilet, doing my presentation while sitting down so that I wouldn’t fall over and discovering a huge, painful bump on my head from my early-morning fainting in the bathroom.
It was a difficult trip, but I’m glad I pushed through the pain - the clients and audiences were so grateful, and I felt like a hero!
Where is the best hotel you have stayed in? What made it the best?
I have to say in Mexico City, but I can’t remember its name. Wow! In hindsight it’s not my style (which is more rustic and laid-back), but it’s sheer opulence and layout were impressive. Our suite had loads of rooms leading off from one another and every luxury one could imagine, or hadn’t even thought to imagine. The hotel itself was like a village, with courtyards, cobblestone alleys and archways leading you between the different areas. Very grand, very beautiful.
What’s your favourite activity - walking, swimming, riding or driving?
I love driving - and don’t mind long journeys, which I sometimes have to do to get to places where I’ve been invited to give talks. I also enjoy walking - ambling around a new place and even getting lost, which adds to the fun!
What has been the best meal you have had abroad?
I’ve drawn a blank on this one - I obviously don’t have a special memory.
What’s your favourite city?
I’m more a small-town, tranquil beach kind of person, so cities are not my thing, but if I had to choose one for its vibe it would be New York; another for its beauty would be Sydney (and Cape Town, of course); and for culture and history it would be Florence or Prague. However, the one I would like to take my children to because of its uniqueness would be Venice.
Where do you travel to next?
At the moment, most of my travelling is for business so it’s between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban and Port Elizabeth, and I’ll even be going a bit further afield to Botswana and Namibia in the next few months.
Our next holiday will no doubt be somewhere on the Garden Route, perhaps even at one of our favourite places, which is the Pine Lake Marina in Sedgefield. It is a child-friendly (and therefore adult-friendly) resort, with loads of activities and a safe environment for the kids to explore on their own.
We plan a few treasure hunt activities or “solve the mystery” type of games while we’re there and rope in all the available children.