Torquay wellness professional Jo Surkitt is leading the way for a new type of getaway with her Australian-first tour company, Revitalise Escapes.
The recently launched venture – which Jo describes as “part health retreat, part nature escape” – perfectly combines her expertise in both travel and wellbeing.
Revitalise Escapes offers guided retreats on the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula which are part of a burgeoning industry in transformational travel which meets a growing demand for domestic tour options focussed on mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.
The aim is to not only escape the stresses of everyday life and enjoy yourself in a different setting, but also to rejuvenate and develop life-changing new habits.
“Having worked in the travel industry for many years and wellness for many years, it’s just combining those two passions together which I’m so excited to finally be able to do,” Jo says.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a fair while but, with the kids being young, it was a bit more challenging to have time away.”
The business was scheduled to launch in April last year but was put on hold due to the pandemic.
The first Great Ocean Tour takes place this weekend having sold out in five days and Jo, who herself has travelled to 56 countries, sees it as the beginning of something special.
Each escape for up to 10 people includes a carefully planned itinerary with a variety of tourism and wellness experiences including everything from forest bathing, mindful art workshops and sound healing sessions through to beach walks, spa treatments and ziplining.
A vital part of Jo’s vision was to collaborate with local businesses and support tourism operators in the region.
“I’ve included 25 local businesses in the retreats and tours which is great,” she says.
“We are using all local tourist attractions and the food and beverages are all locally made and supplied, all the wellness practitioners are local – so it’s really great to be able to support each other.
“One thing I really wanted to do was boost the visitor numbers back down here to the Surf Coast, Bellarine and Geelong region.
“So many of my friends in the travel industry have lost their jobs so I really wanted to help create new jobs in this area, especially all the ones out of work which was hospitality, tourism and wellness who were all pretty much closed in 2020.
“Everyone thinks of Daylesford or Mornington Peninsula with hot springs and things like that, but I’m really wanting to raise the profile of Surf Coast, Bellarine and Geelong as a wellness destination.”
Jo thoroughly researched her target audience which, after surveying more than 500 people, she says could be broken into three groups – retirees and semi-retirees, wellness and nature enthusiasts and highly stressed corporates in need of a break.
She says the beauty of Revitalise Escapes is it gives clients the power to choose how they use their time.
“They can do as many activities as they want or none, it is up to them how many they do,” she says.
“I think with last year people have tuned into themselves a bit more and knowing what they need – they are thinking ‘what do I really need on this holiday?’.
“Transformational travel is about discovering new things about yourself – whether it’s a new culture, a new habit or a hobby – people want to find something that’s meaningful and enjoyable and have those lasting changes in their lives from these trips.”
Jo’s own experience informs everything she does after health struggles in her twenties led her on a personal wellness journey.
“I worked in retail travel in the 90s so we used to work ridiculous hours – 14 or 15 hours – and then we’d go out partying at night and it would just be constant,” she recalls.
Jo found herself burnt out and was diagnosed with chronic fatigues and fibromyalgia, conditions that were compounded after she contracted bilharzia while travelling in Africa.
Her body largely shutdown and she was bedridden for more than six months and unable to work.
“I really had to reset and find what I was going to do. I was in my mid to late-20s and I really needed to sort myself out,” she recalls.
“That’s when I got into wellbeing.”
Jo completed a naturopathy degree and studied massage and reflexology, as well as making changes to her diet and way of life.
Inspired to help others do the same, she opened Revitalize Lifestyle which specialises in mindset coaching, nutrition, massage, and energetic healing.
That work continues as she also expands her horizons into the world of wellness travel.
“It’s really good to be able to create this and be one of the first pioneers for transformational travel,” she says,
“I also love where we live – our region is so beautiful.
“I want people to come and explore it.”
Revitalise Escapes launched with a four-day Great Ocean Road Getaway and a two-day City Break Weekend Getaway on the Bellarine. Single, double and triple share options are available, as well as corporate retreats and bespoke tours starting at $500 per person. More information and pricing are available at revitaliseescapes.com.au.