Ed’s letter: Get a life. A lovely, stress-free one

Posted by A on 22 January 2018

Last year my friend, writer Helen Walne, began an interesting journey some of you might have read a bit about: she immersed herself in the sea and has been in a state of bliss ever since.

Being underwater makes her feel, she says, ‘as though I’ve entered a magical world where everything is silent and suspended in shafts of light. It allows me to escape the noise and clutter of the human world and witness another that is so foreign to us that, with its colours and textures and creatures, feels transcendent… And afterwards, it makes the world feel like a gentler place.’

Shinrin Yoku – Forest Bathing. Image by John Brandauer

The Japanese have a forest equivalent to being underwater. They call it shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Jess Nicholson mentions it in her story ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ on page 68 of the February issue. Shinrin-yoku is really not as hokey as it sounds. According to an article on PubMed Central*, visiting a forest increases human immune-boosters and the expression of anti-cancer proteins, plus lowers the levels of blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductivity and muscle tension.

In fact, it was I and not Jess who was meant to be soaking up these health benefits. Jess has two children and a husband to absorb all her stress, while I only have a partner and an indifferent cat. I needed stress release and I knew this worked, because what had inspired the story in the first place was a paddle along this very same tributary in northern KwaZulu-Natal. We’d drifted over dense green depths past thick reeds and fever trees and palms, while birds and monkeys tracked our gentle float. It was like everything in time slowed down, and I felt a deep and dreamy sense of well-being, the exact opposite of stress.

This sense of well-being runs like a thread through all the stories in this issue. Tyson Jopson speaks of a state of grace when motorbiking through Madagascar (page 78), how moving through this remarkable landscape of trees and animals and humans on a bike connects you viscerally to the Earth. Kati Auld describes how she achieved bliss through her taste buds, eating pastéis de nata and drinking cherry liqueur in Portugal’s Lisbon (although that was probably altered state of mind).

There are many places where you can seek out this state yourself in this issue: lazing on the banks of the Vaal River in Parys (page 36), perhaps, or drinking a glass of chilled wine in warm-hearted Jacobsdal, Free State (page 107). It’s Valentine’s, after all. You have the perfect excuse to coax the world into a gentler place.


4 things to look out for in the February issue

1. Tented camps

There’s nothing quite as thrilling as being woken up in the night by the sound of munching in your ear, and yet knowing that you’re safe. And you can’t beat a glamorous tent for romance either. Here are 12 (page 58).

2. A new world of wine

South Africans are good at their wine – and there can never be enough of it. So we were thrilled to discover that there’s a new destination for vineyards we need to put on the map: Jacobsdal in the Free State (page 107).

3. Portfolio: Garden birds

Adam Welz’s brilliant shots of birds in his neighbourhood might encourage you to spend some time practising photography in your own space (page 52).

4. The good-value star

Each issue of Getaway has several inexpensive accommodation options for under R550 per person (some for less) that we think offer good value. This issue we included some experiences too. Look out for the star.


This month’s contributors

Kati Auld – Lisbon, page 86

Kati is a writer and pastry enthusiast with a ukulele, size 7 feet and absolutely no sense of direction. She’s not particularly objective about Lisbon, having fallen in love with it before arriving – but she’s fairly certain that anyone with good taste will feel the same way. Read why it’s the perfect place to have a proper holiday.

Jess Nicholson – Northern KZN, page 68

Always up for an adventure, whether in the heights of SkyRun or the depths of the Nkandla forest, Jess brings her love of literature, being in water and apprehending the vagaries of the human condition to every story. Many people say she would shine on stage but for now she is happy to do so (or report on it) from behind the keyboard – or when times are stressful, from her bath. Thanks to her trip to Kosi Bay and Jozini Dam, Jess has learnt the art of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and managed to vanquish her fear of snakes, strangers and boats.

Adam Welz– Birds, page 52

Adam is an environmental writer/photographer/filmmaker, whose young triplets have somewhat cramped his wanderlust style, compelling him to point his lens closer to his Cape Town home. In between changing thousands of nappies and reporting on transnational wildlife crime, he’s made a ‘phew pheathery photos’ in his fynbossy backyard and around the city. He’s nuts about birds, the square format and Instagram.

Nikki Werner and Brandon de Kock–Food & Wine, page 33

As this goes to press, Nikki and Brandon are in snowy Germany launching the German edition of their book, cook. better. Their cooking philosophy is informed by terroir and technique – the same lens they apply to food and travel. This month’s spread is the last they will be doing for Getaway, but join them for cooking classes, dinners and the Cape Town Ace Camp. See howtocookwithoutrecipes.com.


This column first appeared in the February issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

Our February issue features 12 of the best tented-camps around the country, fun-filled water adventures in Northern KZN, Madagascar by motorbike plus a guide to finding everyday magic in underrated Lisbon.


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