Julia Bradbury on travel, motherhood & sundowners

Julia Bradbury on TUI tour in South Africa

The BBC’s travel and nature darling, Julia Bradbury, divulged her travel habits, must-haves and favourite destinations to our digital travel editor.

Having just returned from an epic trip in South Africa, Julia Bradbury waxed lyrical about its sunsets (and corresponding cocktails), wildlife and natural wonders. “The pinkest skies in the world” she said during our call as she took a break from filming her next show – which is top secret, apparently.

One of Bradbury’s favourite places, the trip in South Africa was part of TUI’s new escorted tour offering, which includes destinations like Japan and South America. There were jeep and walking safaris, cooking classes with locals, township and community project vists and taking in UNESCO world heritage sites – not to mention some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world.

We caught up on that, plus what it’s like to travel with kids when you’re in your 40s and how travel improves mental wellbeing. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about South Africa.

I was very excited to go back to South Africa as it happens to be one of my favorite destinations. It's just always been a very compelling place for me to go, so I was absolutely thrilled when TUI announced that this was one of their destinations for the more adventurous traveller.

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It definitely is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations in the world in terms of outdoor adventure travel, because you just have incredible landscapes, beautiful, outstanding wildlife, and it's just such a colourful country with the biggest pinkish skies in the world.

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They're obsessed with them. The sundowner is a whole thing over there. You need to know what the sundowner is and speak the sundowner language. It’s basically a cocktail as the sun is plummeting out of the sky, but for some reason, in South Africa it seems to plummet out of the sky faster than anywhere else I've been in the world.

What are the challenges of travelling so much in your 40s?

So I came to motherhood later in life. I had my first I had my first son when I was 40 – in medical terms, they call you a geriatric mum, which is, you know, quite disconcerting – so I honestly don't feel the difference of travel in relation to my age. For me, the big difference was that I suddenly had young children in tow.

Before, all I had to worry about was: ‘what am I going to wear and have I got enough frocks for the evening and enough walking boots and stuff to do all the hiking?’ Now, I've gone through the bottles and sterilization, you know, the and how-many-clothes and the nappies and all of that stuff you have when you have a young family. It’s actually quite exhausting in itself, because it's just so much more kit to carry around you.

(Image credit: Igor Poleshchuk)

One of my best investments was one of those measuring belts. You hold it up or hang it on a door frame, and then it weighs your suitcases for you. And boy do you need that when you start to take four cases with you which are crammed to the rafters with all your all your kiddy stuff.

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You love to hike. What are the best destinations for walking?

Oh, there's so many places. I mean, that's the great thing about walking – hiking and yoga, those two things you can do anywhere in the world. You can do beach walks, you can do mountain walks, forest walks, you can even do city walks. So that is why it's my preferred mode of transport and my preferred exercise as well. And likewise, with yoga.

In terms of walking South Africa is one of them. The Drakensberg mountain range: we went there on this last trip and when we took people there, and they were blown away by the scenery. If you imagine the Lake District and explode it by 20, those are the kind of views that you get – these carved deep valleys that go on as far as the eye can see, the greenery, the mountains... Visually it's it's really captivating and quite challenging walking as well, which I like.

But then equally, I've been to Costa Rica and the beaches there are wild and wonderful, and to do yoga on the beach somewhere like Costa Rica is just a dream. But I think that you can exercise wherever you are, you just have to try and adapt yourself to the surroundings a little bit and make it work for you.

What are the best destinations for solo travel?

I actually like traveling on my own. For me, I like the I like the space, I think it gives you a lot of time to think it also forces you to be a bit more outgoing and to make a bit more of an effort. If you meet somebody in the hotel bar or if you're on a retreat somewhere and you connect with somebody, I think you make more of an effort if you're on your own.

Solo travel is a really good way of expanding yourself and growing yourself. And it's quite confidence building, traveling on your own.

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How does travelling affect your mental health?

I think when you get to a new place, a new destination, your mind automatically opens you know, you are you are in a different culture in a different environment. And you I think you automatically reset yourself. And you have to try and make yourself more aware of those different surroundings and adjust yourself accordingly.

You know, your behavior might have to be tempered, more you might have to up your energy levels if it's a sort of more rugged destination. I think it's a it's a mental reset. And I genuinely think that anytime that you have to reset yourself, realign yourself, and really think about what you're doing, that for me is always a positive mental experience.

Lottie Gross

Lottie is an NCTJ-trained journalist, an experienced travel writer and an expert in creating compelling digital content. 

Lottie has been in the travel writing business for nearly a decade and has writing and photography bylines at The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i and National Geographic Traveller. She's done broadcast work for BBC Radio 4 and have contributed to a number of guidebooks and coffee table titles during her career.