This year, I went on baecation to both Bloemfontein and Berlin. Lucky me. I KNOW. Both trips doubled as work trips for both myself and my partner, which is why they were possible. Here’s how to make a vacay in Bloem just as romantic as a trip to Berlin.
1. Romance needn’t come at a premium
There’s something to be said for the non-glamorous baecation. Affordability is sexier than debt. It’s a lot less stressful to live within your means, and stress is no friend of romance. The Free State can be an aphrodisiac if you want it to be. Compared to a return flight to Europe Bloemfontein is cheap AF. And sometimes all you need to light your fire is an unfamiliar place with a bit of charm. The charm, really, is up to you to find. Bloemfontein is neither cosmopolitan nor counter-culture cool. In fact, there’s no pretention at all. No one tried to sell me craft beer, and it was glorious.
2. Nostalgia will get you laid
Bloemfontein might not have Berlin’s cutting-edge artists and world-class techno DJs, but it does have the Macufe Festival which featured some exceptional ’90s R&B legends this year. So while ya’ll were spending your rands at Rocking the Daisies, I was seeing Joe Thomas and Brandy – the music of my childhood – and my 29-year-old self could not have been any happier. I watched Brandy with my brandy! My boyfriend took me to see Joe Thomas, famous for such hits as ‘I wanna know’, ‘Don’t wanna be a player’ and ‘Ride with you’. That outdated bedroom music really did the things. So no matter where you are, remember that nostalgia can get you laid. Also, time stood still when I had a moment with Joe Thomas and he leaned over the edge of the stage, took my hand and sang to me.
3. You don’t need the Berghain to dance
Urban legend has it that the notoriously exclusive Berghain nightclub in Berlin turned away Britney Spears at the door. It’s a world-famous club where you can wait for hours in the queue and still not be allowed to see the inside of its walls. This may be the dream club to party at, with (or maybe without) your beloved … but, in Bloemfontein, club access is both easy and cheap. Nobody’s fronting in Bloemfontein. Also, you can buy a bottle of Klipdrift brandy and dance in your hotel room to music coming from your phone speakers. If you’re real about it, all you need is the right song and you can dance, slow dance, jazz, or grind up on your person anywhere.
4. Places that don’t have Uber might surprise you
So the first thing I realised when I touched down here was that there is no Uber in Bloemfontien. This really encourages romantic walks. In big, bustling cities such as Berlin, this convenience is not something I want to live without. But on a baecation, the idea is to take things slower. You see unexpected things, like chickens on the pavement, blooming sunflowers and sometimes even used condoms. The possibilities are sprawling.
5. Always find the body of water
The equivalent of the waterfront in landlocked Bloemfontein is really just a big pond with willow trees. We sat in Spur overlooking it through a window splattered with bird shit, while we were both a bit stressed about work. The water was calming and beautiful, even romantic. It wasn’t a canal circling the city, like in Berlin, or an endless ocean at the edge of a coastal town, but it was water – reflective and shimmering in the sun. And often, that’s enough. So, wherever you are, find the body of water.
6. Stop trying to have the perfect day
Let go of the idea of the perfect day. Or the perfect trip. Travel, like life and love, can have perfect moments. And you might experience more of them if you stop trying to have the perfect day. Travelling can be unpredictable. You might get sick on your weekend trip (as I did) or have your period on your romantic getaway (as I’ve done) or have a meltdown (yip) or an argument, or miss the bus or the show, or simply see a used condom on your sunset walk. And so what?